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    Computerworld Opinion: You say ‘shameful secret,’ I say ‘privacy’

    At Computerworld, Jay Cline has an opinion column about how multinational corporations need to discuss privacy with their employees to ensure data security.

    Currently, momentum is building among Western multinationals to seek approval from the European Union for their binding corporate rules (BCR) on privacy. Once they have that approval in hand, these companies are rolling out training on the new rules around the world. But when they do so, they often find that when it comes to the topic of privacy, Westerners and the rest of the world are often talking at cross purposes.

    Quite simply, the concept of individual privacy rights doesn’t translate into the collectivist cultures where over half the people in the world live. A combination of language problems, foreign concepts and privacy values that aren’t shared means PowerPoint presentations produced in New York are falling on deaf ears in Shanghai, Mumbai and Johannesburg.

    Take China, for example. U.S. multinationals trying to break into the Chinese market or tap Chinese engineering talent are setting up shop in southern China. When the topic of privacy arises, they are finding that the Chinese have a very different idea of what it is. The Mandarin word for privacy — yin si — generally translates as “shameful secret.” According to Lu Yao-Huai, a professor at Central South University in Changa City, a person asserting a need to withhold personal information could easily be seen as selfish or antisocial. […]

    Companies pursuing BCRs and needing employees around the world to connect with and adhere to their new privacy policy can’t wait for world peace and understanding. So how can they navigate through the multicultural labyrinth of privacy?

    One obvious way is to translate privacy-training materials from English into local languages. Another is to try other words besides “privacy.” We have a hard enough time in English-speaking countries deciding what privacy means, so why impose our problem on others? Similar concepts that may carry the water include modesty, solitude, anonymity and personal safety, in addition to the EU’s preferred “data protection” construct.

    Another way is to express privacy as an instrumental good for the larger group rather than an individual right. For example, “Protecting data privacy is good for our company because it gives us access to new markets”; or, “Privacy is good for society because it elevates the level of respect and decency”; or, “Privacy is good for our country because it increases our respect around the world.”

    One Response to “Computerworld Opinion: You say ‘shameful secret,’ I say ‘privacy’”

    1. steph Says:

      Thanks for the tip. The description of the different (or barely existing) concepts of privacy in Asia and Africa is very interesting.

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