Users calling social media a safe space, beware: privacy is still largely misunderstood online, even if it’s just an audio platform.

Annoyed that ClubHouse (CH) notifies your followers when you enter various rooms? Congratulations! You’ve learnt a fundamental lesson about privacy. 

The annoyance and discomfort you experience when CH notifies your followers about the random rooms you enter is because you feel a lack of control regarding information that ideally you’d want to keep private. 

There is nothing bad or illegal about being a member of rooms with titles such as Oppressed Husband’s Club, Weird Date Stories, Join If You Are Single or — my least favourite — Shoot Your Shot. But they’re weird. And you’d just rather not have people know you’re a member. After all, we decide who we want to tell, what we want to tell, and how much we want to tell. 

Understanding privacy

Anja Kovacs, social researcher and founder director of Internet Democracy, calls privacy a boundary management problem.” Reetika Khera, an assistant professor of economics at IIT Delhi, in her book Dissent on Aadhaar also argues that privacy is about having the power to control information about yourself. It’s linked to your dignity as an individual.

It’s important to understand that when someone says I want to keep this information private”, we cannot assume that it’s because it’s something bad, immoral, evil, or illegal.

Privacy is not about hiding” bad or illegal information about yourself. It is about taking control of what kind of information you choose to reveal to others. 

A fundamental right?

Daniel Solove, a professor of law at George Washington Law School and world-renowned expert on privacy, argues in one of his papers that people usually (and mistakenly) make the argument that only those people want privacy who have skeletons in their closets. Which is again, wrong. People want privacy because they want to (and have a right to) have control over their information. Period. The Indian Supreme Court has held the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of our Constitution. 

In that sense, CH doesn’t have what we call privacy by design”. There’s also the who nominated you” information, open for all to see. I’d rather not have that open. Not because I have something to hide. But because the information is mine to control.

Originally published in Hindustan Times - Brunch.