Legislation alone will not protect our privacy

Privacy is an important subject in our times. Regardless where you stand on this subject. Everybody wants some level of protection with regard to their personal space. The problem is that the level varies with context and situation we are in. The traditional government approach is to make legislation which provide the norms in this respect. Both on a national and european level regulations are made to protect the citizen. However alone they will fail. As I encounter in my work everyday,complexity of the information society is growing exponentially. Big Data, Internet of Things, Mobile, Artificial Intelligence are just some parts of this.

Current laws are not compatible with those developments. They are in a different mindset, in a different industrial age if you want. The concept of platforms is not acknowledged nor accomodated. They overestimate the role the small nationstate can play in the global information context. There is no concept with regard to personal data that can actually protect the citizen. The difference between personal and non-personal data is usually made which is not as clear in reality as the legislators describe. Finally the role of decisionmaking machines, systems and algorithms as a separate entity is not recognised enough.

All this makes a fundamental rethink of the legal framework with regard to privacy and data protection necessary. Some elements of that are adressed in coming EU regulation but not all.

In my view we need more protection embedded in technology and data. Which functions regardless of third parties, legislation, governments etc. This goes farther than encryption and various known traditional Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PET). More people recognise that fact and that’s the reason blockchain, smart contracts and everything around it, get a lot of attention, also in government circles. It’s all embryonic but it offers a glimpse of promising future with regard to privacy protection. The way forward is start experimenting, failing and learning with these technologies.

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