In “Adoptees File Human Rights Complaint Against Canadian Privacy Commissioner,” Privacy.org reports on a dispute between the parents and children, mediated by the state:
A group of Ontario adoptees has filed a human rights complaint against Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian after she lobbied the province to amend its proposed adoption disclosure law with a clause allowing people to keep their records sealed. By calling for a veto, Cavoukian “is trying to say that we do not have an automatic right to our birth registration information,” said Wendy Rowney of the Coalition for Open Adoption Records.
I find this interesting first because of the human dramas it represents, of people wanting to know about their heritage, and the conflict with parents who make a mistake, choose to bear a child, but want no part of raising that child. (There’s also an interesting tie to Roe v. Wade, which you may recall was based on a woman’s right to privacy.)
The second thing that makes this interesting is that its an outgrowth of the government collection of data. Before the growth of centralized records, a baby ‘left on the church steps’ could be truly anonymous. There were no records to be had, except possibly in people’s memories. If a family was wealthy enough to send a daughter some distance, she could go under an assumed name, and return, and perhaps get on with her life.
These multiple person privacy issues are extremely hard. A related example is what happens if a sibling gets a genetic test? A great deal about me can be inferred. Should I have a data protection right in that test result? What if two siblings get tested, and the data holder starts performing family inferences?