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DATA-PROTECTION  September 2012

DATA-PROTECTION September 2012

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Subject:

Last post on RE: [data-protection] Large number of FoI requests from 10 citizens [longish delete if not interested]

From:

Lawrence Serewicz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Lawrence Serewicz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 14 Sep 2012 16:06:07 +0000

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The post is fascinating and interesting. I am not sure how it addresses the issues nor would I agree that either previous post supported or defended Wirral's larger position. I appreciate how the post was written to impute support because my post had failed to condemn Wirral. While not very subtle, it avoided the FOI/DPA issues one post raised in one post and the organisational cultural issues in my post. As a participant, I am quite willing to discuss the DP issues on the list and the organisational issues off list. I, like Jonathan, have followed the issue you raised closely in a number of forums such as Twitter (you and I have corresponded on this issue in the past, which subsequently you blocked my account :)). However, I digress because that is in my personal time rather than work related.

For me the list remains a vibrant and interesting place. I enjoy the excellent work done by so many intelligent people who help me solve the many DP issues I confront regularly. As such the purpose of the list is clearly about data protection issues. There may be spill over into organisational issues and that has to be understood within the context of the DP issue. So far, I have not seen the DP issue as such in any of the posts. If there is one, I am quite happy to dissect it, discuss it, and offer a possible solution.

I appreciate that the DP/FOI role can be constrained by the organisational context, which I explained in my previous posts. The constraints exist in any organisation and in any context. In society and in organisations there is a level of civility and politeness that helps our disagreements from becoming uncivilized and unmanageable. What I am not sure is what the best solution is for the question that seems to be at the heart of the post. It appears that post is asking others to join the fight and potentially incur the same fate so as to demonstrate solidarity. [There are lots of other injustices that I could be in solidarity in opposing and others that I am already in solidarity in opposing.] In that sense, I can see some value in the post because it inadvertently raises an important issue for practitioners.

As officers in organisations, there will always be organisational decisions that we may disagree with at some point. However the final decision rests with the organisation. An organisation is more than one person. At some point, all an officer can do is give their advice or leave. If a person resigned or left every time they had a disagreement, they would run out of places to work. When someone wants to take a stand, they have to ask what they want to achieve and what is the best way to achieve their goal. For some it will be to stay and change within the organisations. For others, it will be to leave. (In political philosophy this is THE question. The issue of the city and man is how does an individual reconcile themselves to a city and the city to the individual. Could we leave every society and found our own? Perhaps that is the allure of cyberspace) However, I digress.

I have studied whistleblowers, and public resignations as they relate to Watergate and the Pentagon papers. (I even had a professor who was a former Chief Of Staff for a Senator. He resigned on principle over the Cambodia bombings). I maintain an active research interest in the topic in my personal time. The question always returns, which is at the heart of the post, what do you want to achieve by resigning or drawing attention to an issue? My professor understood what he was trying to achieve and why he made his choice. For some, the public resignation helps them feel better. For others, it is a chance to shine the light on the organisation. For a few, it is a chance to call others to action. Finally, for a small minority, it is a chance to score some points. For a very tiny number it is purely a matter of conscience. (If you are interested I published blog post on the topic of public resignations).

The same question arises with posts to this list. What are posts on this list meant to achieve? Is this the best forum to discuss the organisational issues within another Council? I have enjoyed [and continue to enjoy] my share of intellectual street fighting. However, the purpose has always been to understand and learn within the confines of the topic and within the appropriate arena. [I do not see this list as an appropriate arena for intellectual street fighting] Perhaps the discussion on the issues regarding Wirral can be done off list. In most cases, the discussion on the list is done with an organisational email rather than in a personal capacity. In that sense, people have a responsibility to their organisation because they can be seen to be acting in their organisation's name. Thus, they will face constraints, which have to be respected irregardless of the topic or issue.

As it stands, the posts have achieved their intended purpose. They have made people aware of the issue. They have also generated discussion of the issue (if only obliquely). They have also called people to act. After that, I am not sure what else future posts will achieve unless they contain a data protection question.

What might work best is if the organisational cultural issue can be raised on your blog. You could then invite list participants to contribute as they see fit within their personal capacity.

Just a thought. I hope it is of use.

Lawrence Serewicz

P.S. As the list has indulged me some very long posts over the past few days, I will refrain from commenting on this topic anymore. I will continue the discussion off-list as it is the appropriate forum rather than on the list.


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