Contested and Misunderstood: The value of privacy and data protection for sex workers

Contested and Misunderstood: The value of privacy and data  protection for sex workers


This paper is the second in a series of resources developed by the European Sex Workers’ Rights Alliance (ESWA) as part of its Digital Rights programme that explores the intersecting issues of sex work and digital rights.

Privacy-enhancing strategies help our community to work safer, establish boundaries, maintain a worklife balance, and navigate the risks posed by the stigma and criminalisation of sex work. However, in recent years data collection from sex workers by governments and companies has been steadily increasing as digital technologies become more widespread in every part of life. In the face of intensified data collection, sex workers’ privacy is being eroded, and the safety barriers and strategies they have developed are failing. In addition to increased data collection, new national and European laws and regulations that undermine and attack citizens’ right to privacy are being drafted with a lack of engagement and consultation with impacted communities.

In this paper, we first examine the literature on the concept of privacy and highlight its purpose and its importance in sex workers’ lives. We then analyse the result of the qualitative data collected from sex workers through focus group consultations ESWA held in 2022, to explore the importance and the place of privacy in sex workers’ lives, as well as to identify the needs and demands of the sex worker community. Lastly, we set out our recommendations to relevant stakeholders to address the issues outlined throughout this paper.


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