The desire for privacy is common among people all over the world. Privacy legislation is used to protect people's right to privacy while in their own home. In many countries, privacy legislation also is in place to protect people's privacy in matters of information about their health and finances and to protect the privacy of their communications. Privacy legislation also can protect one's dealings on the Internet. These laws can vary from one country to another, but because privacy is somewhat of a universal concern among people everywhere, many of the laws have similar characteristics.
Most people assume that when they are in their own home, they have a right to privacy. Under typical privacy legislation, others are not permitted to enter, search or look into a home without the owner's permission. Of course, this would not apply to someone on a public sidewalk looking through a window that has an open curtain, but it might apply to someone walking onto the property to peer through curtains and into a bedroom. Privacy legislation can even protect one's home from being entered or searched by police or government officials if they do not have specific legal permission.
In many countries, patients are protected from private information about their health being given to others without their permission. One example in the United States is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, which has provisions that protect the security of patients' health information. The protected information can include data about the patient's status, care, medical history and even payments made or owed.
Financial privacy legislation protects customers of banking institutions or other financial firms from having information about their finances revealed. Legislation concerning communications privacy is based on the fact that, in many forms of communication, the sender of information has a right to assume that only the intended receiver or receivers of the information will hear, read or have access to it. These laws can cover things such as written letters, emails and private conversations. One example of an act that might violate certain privacy legislation is recording a private conversation without the knowledge of one or more people in the conversation.
Privacy legislation also can protect one's online dealings. Along with the protection of emails, this might in some cases include protecting one from having his or her Internet usage tracked or from having private information or photos posted online without his or her permission. Some privacy legislation also prevents a person's information that he or she willingly posts online, such as on a social media website, for being used in certain ways, such as a potential employer using it to make a hiring decision.