Abstract Altman's (1977) theory of privacy as a cultural universal is examined by analyzing the privacy mechanisms of the Iban of Sarawak (Borneo). The Sarawak Dayaks live in communal longhouses which appear to offer little physical opportunity for individual privacy. However, the authors found that social mechanisms were utilized to obtain privacy. Thus, despite the communal physical environment of the Sarawak Iban, support is found for a system of privacy. The implications of these findings for other cultures and settings where the physical environment appears to limit control of privacy is discussed.