The politics of privacy – does privacy matter?

A few weeks ago I attended Privacy International’s 20th anniversary party – a fascinating event, celebrating a truly admirable organisation which has done sterling work over the last twenty years, from a time when privacy seemed to be very much a ‘niche’ subject, one that most people didn’t think mattered much at all. Over the last few years, however, that seems to have changed – privacy issues regularly make headlines, from lost data to the sell-out of Chinese dissidents, from ID cards to data retention. Emphasising that, one of the two keynote speakers at the party was Nick Clegg – and this was BEFORE the first of the UK’s leadership debates, so before Clegg had etched himself on the public consciousness. He spoke powerfully, quite eloquently, and fairly passionately about privacy – and at the same time, since he and we all knew that the election was just aroung the corner, he used the occasion as an ‘electoral address’, suggesting that his party, the Lib Dems, was the best party for privacy, and would protect all our rights much better than the other two. No to ID cards. No to centralised databases for Data Retention. No to fingerprinting our children….

….well, now he’s become the ‘kingmaker’, it will be interesting to see how high up his agenda privacy really is. Is it one of the points he makes to his potential coalition partners? Will he get his way? It’s a very interesting test of both his political will and his judgment as to the views of his supporters. We should know in a week or two….

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