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Good Governance and Confidentiality; Preservation of the Public Sphere

Related concepts

Transparency is a value. It is translated in a set of norms: policies, practices and procedures that allow citizens to have accessibility and auditability of information held by centers of authority (society or organizations). The UN definition is: “Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media.”[1]  Feedback mechanisms are necessary to fulfill the goal of transparency. Transparency has become a general requirement for democratic societies. The right to be informed and to have access to the information has been an important issue on modern societies.

Accountability is a value often used synonymously with such concepts as responsibility, liability, and other terms associated with the belief of account-giving. In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies including the administration,governance, and implementation within the scope of the role or employment position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain and be answer able for resulting consequences.

Ethical accountability is the practice of improving overall personal and organizational performance by developing andpromoting responsible tools and professional expertise, and by advocating aneffective enabling environment for people and organizations to embrace aculture of sustainable development.

The UN states: “Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom varies dependingon whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to anorganization or institution. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.”[2]  It is interesting to notice that UN states accountability to whom is defined and surely not absolute.

Confidentiality is the assurance that information about identifiable persons, the release of which would constitute an invasion of privacy for any individual, will not be disclosed without permission except as allowed by law. Confidentiality is a value often associated with several professions (e.g., medicine, law).

Confidentiality has been defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as “ensuring that information is accessible only to those authorized to have access” and is one of the cornerstones of information security. Confidentiality should not be confused with secrecy.

Privacy is the right of individuals to hold information about themselves in secret, free from the knowledge of others. The right of privacy is not new. It is already debated in 1879 when Thomas Cooley described  The right to be let alone (Ezra, 2006) and privacy was already discussed in the ancient Athens and China(Kempet. al.,2007).  Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about them selves and thereby reveal themselves selectively. The boundaries and content of what is considered private differ among cultures and individuals, but share basic common themes. Privacy is sometimes related to anonymity, the wish to remain unnoticed or unidentified in the public realm. When something is private to a person, it usually means there is something within them that is considered inherentlyspecial or personally sensitive. The degree to which private information is exposed therefore depends on how the public will receive this information,which differs between places and over time. The right against illegal in cursion of privacy by the government, corporations or individuals is part international law and of many countries’ privacy laws, and in some cases, constitutions.

Good governance, transparency, accountability, confidentiality and privacy arerelated to trust.  Trust is one of several social constructs. Trust is attributable to relationships between social actors, both individuals and groups. Society needstrust. “… whatever government does, a trusting environment makes it possiblefor government to act”.  (Uslaner, 2004) because it increasingly finds itself operating at the edge between confidence in what is known from every day experience, and possibility of new possibilities.Without trust, all possible possibilities should be always considered, leading to a paralysis of inaction. Trust can be seen as a bet on one of possible futures, the one that may deliver benefits. Once the bet is decided (i.e. trustis granted), the trustor suspends his or her disbelief, and the possibility of a negative course of action is not considered at all. Because of it, trust actsas a reductor of social complexity, allowing for actions that are otherwise too complex to be considered (or even impossible to consider at all); specificallyfor cooperation. Without trust society can hardly function.

To illustrate this point above: imagine we could not trust the baker with our bread or the gas station with our fuel. We would end up walking and baking our bread our self. Trust reduces the cost of transactions. See what happens when there is no trust in the banking system and in politicians. It disorganizes society.

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