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DATA-PROTECTION  September 2011

DATA-PROTECTION September 2011

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Subject:

Re: O'Hara's report on transparency and privacy has anyone had a look at it yet?

From:

Ian Welton <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Ian Welton <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 15 Sep 2011 16:21:04 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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I have not read that report so cannot comment on it. 

A view:- 
Anonymity, places the privacy aspects of information within the realm 
or control of individuals. (Control being a frequently misrepresented 
facet in respect of privacy itself.) Part of the anonymity argument 
then becomes confused with access to historical records in some senses, 
as it provides an ability for the individual to control/write their own 
life story by providing access to those elements suitable for the 
particular realm they may inhabit at any given time. This can cause 
serious tensions where the autonomy made available is misused or causes 
tension or conflict of some sort; but the problem is not with anonymity 
or autonomy, which is where control generally focuses, and the greatest 
dangers arise.

> Whereas I am private in relation to both of those 
agencies because, relatively speaking, they cannot look into the 
private realm.  

Although they may be able to in the public realm, and 
cyberspace has/is being understood as public. (With a great deal of 
lobbying supportive of that ‘fact’, even though there is justifiable, 
and probable cause for much dispute – highlighted by social networks). 
The breaking down of silos of information within various levels of the 
public sector, together with data matching and the depersonalization of 
data appear as facets of that same debate (public/private divide) 
expressed within a particular sphere. Data protection clearly has an 
important purpose here in assuring the rights of individuals are not 
encroached by enthusiastic actions ignoring individual rights. Focusing 
on purpose provides an unwelcome answer to many though. Like public 
censorship these things are not popular within many areas as they are 
seen as controlling innovation and growth utilizing nothing more than 
freely available and public material, which can be leveraged for 
benefit provided a degree of confidentiality is applied to assure there 
is no compromise. (That misrepresented link back to privacy again as an 
imagined association and simplistic focus more directly associated with 
societal issues in relationship management than any rounded privacy 
consideration.) I understand that many may disagree with the 
presentation of privacy in this way. 

In my opinion the debate between 
the common law, DP, HRA or any other legal mechanism of control 
regarding privacy can, from those perspectives be viewed as sterile, as 
privacy will continue to inadvertently cause tensions, either through 
deliberate or accidental apparently well founded individual or joint 
actions.  Leaving a simple question – What sort of world do you want to 
live in?

Ian W

-----Original Message-----
From: This list is for 
those interested in Data Protection issues [mailto:data-
[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Lawrence Serewicz
Sent: 14 
September 2011 10:03
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [data-
protection] O'Hara's report on transparency and privacy has anyone had 
a look at it yet?
Dear All,
I have had a quick glance at the report and 
what struck me was the obvious disdain or dislike for the DPA.  If we 
are moving to a privacy right legal framework (based on HRA) what will 
the legal or procedural framework look like?  I know there are issues 
and problems with the DPA (some of it created by the UKG's own 
implementation of it (amongst other things)), but how do we transition 
from the DPA to a PA (Privacy Act?).

What also struck me about the 
report is the assumption, implicit (perhaps in my mind :)) that privacy 
and anonymity are synonymous or interchangeable.  Privacy is fluid and 
is a state one can move in an out of with relative ease.  For example, 
I go from the inside of my house (relative privacy) to the public 
street (reduced privacy).  By contrast, anonymity is a state that once 
removed does not return.  Once my anonymity is gone, I cannot return to 
it.  This is why we say "They are leaving the public spotlight to 
return to the private sector."  I am not aware of anyone saying "They 
are leaving the public spotlight to return to anonymity."  Furthermore, 
anonymity reflects a state of relational being. I am anonymous to the 
Guardian where I post under pseudonym. (I don't by the way. :)), but I 
am not, nor can I be,  anonymous to the state in regard to Council Tax 
or road tax.  Whereas I am private in relation to both of those 
agencies because, relatively speaking, they cannot look into the 
private realm.  

I suppose the difference is that I can remain private 
even if I am no longer anonymous.  Thus, the danger or seeing a state 
of anonymity, i.e. saying that privacy is undermined if governments or 
firms or people can use technology to de-anonymise statistics to 
identify people through statistical analysis, I would argue 
misunderstands the status of anonymity and privacy. Further, I think 
that argument takes us in a direction that may be unsustainable in the 
long run.

The other strong impression I had was that this work seemed 
driven to support a particular approach the government has on the role 
of privacy and the DPA.  By that I mean the government appears to have 
a view, still unclear to us, of how it sees a PA developing and what 
that means for the DPA and transparency.  The key challenge then is how 
to transition, if that is what the government wants to do, from a DPA 
world to a PA world.  Or, if a P can be bolted onto the DPA 
frameworks.  My guess is that it the legal and the political framework 
are going to get a lot messier before they become clearer.

These are 
just some early thoughts, but I would be interested in your views on 
these issues.

Best,

Lawrence

Principal Information Management 
Officer
Durham County Council
Room 4/140
County Hall
County Durham
DH1 
5UF

0191 372 8371
VPN 77778371

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