Ahead of the Curve? Recent trans-Atlantic thinking on privacy that sounds familiar

| February 1, 2010

At the risk of mixing metaphors, it seems that there is movement at the station, on both sides of the Atlantic, on the need for new thinking on how best to respect personal information about individuals and manage the risks to which they might be exposed as a consequence of its collection, use and disclosure.

Throughout 2009 as the word was getting around you could hear the horsemen gathering in the distance, now they can be seen gathering on the horizon.   

On the Western shore, when it comes to the question of the protection of personal information, both the US Department of Commerce and the US Federal Trade Commission are beginning to ask, "is there a better way?". Jon Leibowitz, the new Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, has questioned whether the ‘notice and choice’ model is working. Now they are in the middle of convening three Roundtables on the question.
On the Eastern shore, Vivian Reding, the new Commissioner responsible for Information Society and Media Privacy at the European Commission, gave a forceful address on International Privacy Day to the European Parliament making it clear that she too wanted to rethink the protection of personal information.
Commissioner Reding is already well versed in this area. She was previously Commissioner responsible for information society and media; in which capacity I met her early in her term when she was getting stuck into RFID issues (we shared the platform in Hannover at a CeBIT event). While holding that post, her position became clearer that privacy was a key pre-requisite to deepening trust in the online world. Indeed, her part of the European Commission has put a lot of research funding through the Framework Program 7 into the question.
Discussions with parties close to these developments indicate that thinking undertaken right here in Sydney and on Open Forum in 2007 will be relevant. The Privacy and Trust Partnership sponsored thought leadership papers and forums on exactly these issues. The papers set out the case as to why the current frameworks were (or soon would be) unworkable and set out a new approach as a ‘straw man’ option.
The papers may even become direct input to the trans Atlantic dialogue….
Yes, you heard & saw it here first on Open Forum a long time ago – check out the Privacy and Trust Partnership page.
We need to ensure the movement at the station results in the herd moving along in a way that both protects the individual and encourages innovation; rather than become a stampede in the wrong direction.
Malcolm Crompton is Managing Director of Information Integrity Solutions (IIS), a globally connected company that works with public sector and private sector organisations to help them build customer trust through respect for the customer and their personal information.  He was also foundation President of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, Australia New Zealand, www.iappANZ.org.