Let’s Not Talk About “Privacy”

Rather, What are “Fair Information Practices”?

Many of us “turn off” when the p-word is mentioned. We’re going to have to get rid of it, so we can have a more substantive and real conversation about where our data is going. With a cute cat picture.

Totally unrelated cat picture

So to prepare for that p-less conversation, read the OECD guidelines below, and think to yourself, does ANYONE who gathers my data really provide these protections to me?

Bob Gellman has been working on these issues for over 40 years and has a great summary of Fair Information Practices on his website. To me, despite some versions put forth by the Obama White House, it seems that the version that has best stood the test of time, is the OECD one. Originally released in 1980, it was reaffirmed in 2013 in “that the balance reflected in the eight basic principles of Part Two of the 1980 Guidelines remains generally sound and should be maintained” — which is also amazing when you consider their statements that:

“as compared with the situation 30 years ago, there has been a profound change of scale in terms of the role of personal data in our economies, societies, and daily lives,” and that “[t]he environment in which the traditional privacy principles are now implemented has undergone significant changes.”

While they “introduced a number of new concepts to the OECD privacy framework, such as privacy management programmes, security breach notification, national privacy strategies, education and awareness, and global interoperability”, the basic guidelines remain. Here they are:

OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data:

  1. Collection Limitation Principle. There should be limits to the collection of personal data and any such data should be obtained by lawful and fair means and, where appropriate, with the knowledge or consent of the data subject.
  2. Data Quality Principle. Personal data should be relevant to the purposes for which they are to be used and, to the extent necessary for those purposes, should be accurate, complete, and kept up-to-date.
  3. Purpose Specification Principle. The purposes for which personal data are collected should be specified not later than at the time of data collection and the subsequent use limited to the fulfillment of those purposes or such others as are not incompatible with those purposes and as are specified on each occasion of change of purpose.
  4. Use Limitation Principle. Personal data should not be disclosed, made available or otherwise used for purposes other than those specified in accordance with [the Purpose Specification Principle] except: a) with the consent of the data subject; or b) by the authority of law.
  5. Security Safeguards Principle. Personal data should be protected by reasonable security safeguards against such risks as loss or unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure of data.
  6. Openness Principle. There should be a general policy of openness about developments, practices and policies with respect to personal data. Means should be readily available of establishing the existence and nature of personal data, and the main purposes of their use, as well as the identity and usual residence of the data controller.
  7. Individual Participation Principle. An individual should have the right: a) to obtain from a data controller, or otherwise, confirmation of whether or not the data controller has data relating to him; b) to have communicated to him, data relating to him within a reasonable time; at a charge, if any, that is not excessive; in a reasonable manner; and in a form that is readily intelligible to him; c) to be given reasons if a request made under subparagraphs (a) and (b) is denied, and to be able to challenge such denial; and d) to challenge data relating to him and, if the challenge is successful to have the data erased, rectified, completed or amended.
  8. Accountability Principle. A data controller should be accountable for complying with measures, which give effect to the principles stated above.

These make a lot of sense. I’ll be referring back to these again later. Thanks to Bob for fine work covering the history (since the 1970’s) of how we try to ask for things we have yet to ever receive in any substantive form.

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