(Willfully omitting TOS and Enterprise due to the lack of ship's computer and sensor sophistication)

In the real world, lots of people are concerned about privacy and data collection policies of companies like Facebook and Google.

I can hazily recall the ship's computer in TNG being used several times to locate a crewman or passenger. Also, all crewman carry communicator pins on their chest. But what about the civilian crew aboard the Enterprise?

Was there any privacy aboard ship? Was this ever addressed in an episode? Obviously I'm looking for in-canon answers.

  • Do you mean privacy as simply not being located by the computer? Or all aspects of privacy?
    – user16696
    Jun 30, 2015 at 3:19
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    There would have to be, the great thing about the philosophy of the Trek Universe is that they have almost every option at their fingertips but their moral and social codes are more advanced than ours. Episode 26 from Season 1 "The Neutral Zone" is a good example of these differences. Jun 30, 2015 at 5:39
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    TNG was not consistent about communicator pins being necessary for locating, but if they were, it would be a good solution, since crew don't wear them off duty and civilians don't wear them at all.
    – user41473
    Jun 30, 2015 at 12:57

4 Answers 4


Yes: Enter Starfleet Privacy Protocols

Ensign Harry Kim referred to privacy protocols being violated by Lieutenant Commander Tuvok while the latter was investigating into an attack on Ensign Tabor and read a letter that Harry's cousin, Dennis, sent from Earth. Tuvok stated that as chief of security, he had authority to suspend the protocols under special circumstances. (VOY: "Repression")


So we know that there is some privacy that applies to Starfleet personnel.

On-screen, we see privacy protocols mentioned several times:

Voyager: Dark Frontier:

JANEWAY: And B'Elanna? Don't access personal databases without my authorisation.

TORRES: Captain?

JANEWAY: There are protocols for observing privacy on this ship.

Voyager: Repression

KIM: You read my mail?


KIM: Isn't that a violation of privacy protocols?

TUVOK: As the Chief of Security, I have the authority to suspend those protocols under special circumstances.

(The case pointed out on Memory Alpha)

(Emphasis mine)

Furthermore, on multiple occasions we see that doors can be locked (although this can be overriden by officers of a higher rank). (kudos cde)

With regards to locating individuals, remember that certain computer commands were restricted to senior officers; I expect this locating function would also be restricted to senior and security officers.

So, in answer to your question, yes, privacy protocols do exist, but the extent of those is not fully explored.

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    Disagree that the original answer should have a downvote -- OP used the location issue as an example of a possible privacy breach, not as a means to define the scope of the question. Though to be fair, I can see how it can be read that way. Jun 30, 2015 at 3:24
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    "I expect this locating function would also be restricted to senior and security officers." Maybe no - it's a semi-military ship, and it would be quite reasonable for a junior ensign to need to know where the chief engineer is.
    – paul
    Jun 30, 2015 at 14:10
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    In regards to locating people, the sensors seem to locate the communicator pin. There were several TNG episodes where the crew member left the pin behind to evade location.
    – Andy
    Jun 30, 2015 at 15:07
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    Not sure that Barclay is really a good example. He was supposed to be on-duty, and wasn't. Barclay probably would have continue to have his privacy if he actually showed up for work on time, and didn't let his holodeck usage interfere with is performance.
    – Zoredache
    Jul 1, 2015 at 7:19
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    Besides, both Riker AND Troi have authority to override someone's holodeck lockout. The average crewmember wouldn't have that.
    – Omegacron
    Jul 1, 2015 at 12:48

With regards to monitoring and the communicators just because you that can be used to locate someone doesn't mean that they are being actively monitored.

Also while there are civilians and certainly star fleet is in general more evolved than we are they are still essentially a military organization and it would make sense that there is the ability to locate people or override a locked door. Furthermore considering the potential danger of their profession/missions the ability to monitor the ship and her crew makes sense. I would imagine with their level of technology and the sophistication of the computer it would nessecarily be recording all events to long term memory or the ability to review it would be restricted.

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    These are all good points, but the OP is looking for some discussion of this issue from within the shows universe? Do you have any examples of characters in the show talking about the things you mentioned here?
    – KutuluMike
    Jul 1, 2015 at 1:24

We should ask ourselves "how much privacy is there on a modern-day military ship".

The fact is that the close quarters required for any ship basically removes nearly all privacy for everyone on board but the senior officers. While in the STNG universe, the ships are stupdendously spacious, I have always wondered how they managed to pull that off. The physics of carting around extra space for shnicks and giggles, plus the fact that any military ship would require some measure of agility (or at the very least, more agility than the next ship), usually means that you can expect any spacefaring vessel to have all the space of a modern-day submarine, except probably less. But on STNG, we have an amount of personal space that would be embarrassing on a modern-day cruise ship. While technically this is in line with the narrative that the STNG universe has an epic amount of energy to play with, it's still kind of over-the-top. For all intents and purposes, this can only be explained by breaking the fourth wall (and has a whole lot to do with that fourth wall, too, and the camera crew that occupies it).

But hey, I digress. The fact is that if a Galaxy-class starship is remotely comparable to say, a modern-day battleship or even an aircraft carrier, you would expect the enlisted men to have exactly no privacy, except maybe when they're in the shower for the 10 minutes they're allocated every day. You could expect their "personal space" to be roughly a 2x3x3 foot locker, without even their own personal bunk, instead sharing it with someone else when they're not in the process of occupying it. The junior officers would have marginally more privacy, "only" bunking two-per-room, and not hot-bunking. The Ship's captain and second-in-command would have quarters slightly larger than your desk at work, but they would have actual privacy within those quarters. They wouldn't be shared with anyone else. At the same time, everyone is still sharing the same small set of washrooms, even the captain.

This extreme lack of personal space (or any space at all, really), combined with the fact that you're "on duty" pretty much the entire time you're deployed, lends itself to the fact that you'd basically have no real privacy except for what goes on in your head or back at home. I personally can't comprehend how it could be any other way, since everyone is always either working, studying, or sleeping, and there's hardly any space dedicated to anything beyond those three tasks. The only time that someone wouldn't already know exactly where you are by your physical presence would be if you'd somehow managed to escape into the dead space between bulkheads. Having a tracking chip on your person at all times would be barely necessary at all.

  • While the ship's senior officers may have more privacy in the sense that they have a door they can close, they have somewhat less in that a not-small group of people know exactly where they are 24 hours a day.
    – paul
    Jul 2, 2015 at 23:22
  • Other than mentioning elements from the series several times, how is this answer related to STTNG? Statements such as "The Ship's captain and second-in-command would have quarters slightly larger than your desk at work" or "everyone is always either working, studying, or sleeping" clearly do not apply to the Galaxy class as shown on STTNG. Nov 2, 2016 at 22:30
  • I went into this. The only way you could explain the embarrassment of personal space on the Enterprise-D, is with the presence of the "fourth wall". The fourth wall is where the camera and production crew exist, which requires copious space. On a real ship - space or sea - there's so little space for anything, the only kind of camera you can typically take with you is a GoPro. "Cramped" doesn't begin to describe it. Oh hey, wouldn't you know it? Someone's taken one onboard before! youtube.com/watch?v=RqyMXw96CfE
    – Ernie
    Nov 26, 2016 at 0:36
  • And another one, smaller ship: youtube.com/watch?v=5ciZ8UwS4mc
    – Ernie
    Nov 26, 2016 at 0:42

Yes there are privacy controls and places to enjoy peace. The holo decks had safeguards on them, not just for weapons encountered, but also for things that might not be something children should see. Granted, the sessions could be recorded, or erased-but you could enjoy your time and get out, without anyone knowing what you did.

I think it was an episode on TNG dealing with multiple datas, or moriarity's first encounter.

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