12 wishes for online privacy….

It’s that time of year for lists, predictions and so forth. I don’t want to make predictions myself – I know all too well how hard it is to predict anything in this world, and even more so in the online world. I do, however, have wishes. Many of these are pipe dreams, I’m afraid, but some of them do have some small hope of coming true. So here they are, my twelve wishes for online privacy…

  1. That I don’t hear the ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide…’ argument against privacy ever again…
  2. That governments worldwide begin to listen more to individuals and to advocacy groups and less to the industry lobby groups, particularly those of the copyright and security industries
  3. That privacy problems continue to grab the headlines – so that privacy starts to be something of a selling point, and companies compete to become the most ‘privacy-friendly’ rather than just paying lip service to privacy
  4. That the small signs I’ve been seeing that Google might be ‘getting’ privacy do not turn out to be illusions. Go on, Google, go on!
  5. That my ‘gut feeling’ that 2012 could be the peak year for Facebook turns out to be true. Not because I particularly dislike Facebook – I can see the benefits and strengths of its system – but because the kind of domination and centralisation it represents can’t be good for privacy in the end, and I don’t believe that the man who said that privacy was no longer a ‘social norm’ has really changed his spots
  6. That the ICO grows some cojones, and starts understanding that it’s supposed to represent us, not just find ways for businesses to get around data protection regulations…
  7. That the media (and yes, I’m talking to YOU, BBC), whenever they get told about a new technical innovation, don’t just talk about how wonderful and exciting it is, but think a little more critically, and particularly about privacy
  8. That the revision to the Data Protection Directive (or perhaps Regulation) turns into something that is both helpful and workable – and not by compromising privacy to the wishes of business interests.
  9. That neither SOPA nor PIPA get passed in the US…
  10. That the right to be forgotten, something I’ve written about a number of times before, is discussed for what it is, not what people assume it must be based solely on the misleading name. It’s not about censorship or rewriting history. It really isn’t! It’s about people having rights over their own data! Whose data? Our data!
  11. That the Labour Party begins to put together a progressive digital policy, and says sorry for ever having listened to the copyright lobby in introducing the Digital Economy Act! 
  12. That we start thinking more about the ordinary privacy of ordinary people, not just that of celebrities and politicians… 
These are of course just a sample of the things I could say – but if even a few of them start to become true, it would be a really good start. Here’s wishing….

8 thoughts on “12 wishes for online privacy….

  1. I hope you'll forgive me for disagreeing with point 6. The Information Commissioner is not supposed to represent the public. There's nothing in FOI or Data Protection that makes him an advocate for the punter against the data controller. As a regulator, he's supposed to make sure that the legislation is properly applied, and this may well mean outcomes that the public don't like. In short, the ICO should be liked / disliked by everyone in equal measure. Having said that, even as a dispassionate regulator, the ICO is definitely cojonally challenged, especially when it comes to dealing with the private sector.

  2. True enough – perhaps I should say that I'd like the ICO's remit to change so that it should represent us. Government and business are powerful enough, and we as individuals get squeezed all too easily…

  3. Good list Paul. Problem with ICO is that rest of govt thinks it IS there to stand up for privacy, and gives it that role in internal discussions – then is surprised when the result is unbalanced.

  4. Good point, Ian. One of the big points with the ICO is that its remit is far from clear from many directions – I suspect they're also confused internally as to what they should be doing, who they should be representing, and how. It needs reassessing and restating, loud and clear.

  5. I'd say one of the big problems with the ICO is that it's woefully underfunded; they're a tiny office with few staff and a miserly budget.If we dont' give the ICO the resources to be effective, we shouldn't be surprised when they're not…

  6. Agreed. They need resources, they need powers – but they also need the cojones to use the powers they've got. They enforce on easy targets (most often local councils) but barely enforce on businesses at all. A new ICO with more independence, more funding, more expertise – and a clearer agenda, particularly in terms of working for individuals against the power of corporate or governmental misbehaviour.

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