Wednesday, June 22, 2011

BPN 1573 Privacy is like a pile of waste

If you wanted to plan it, it would not be possible. But sometimes sheer accidents happen. This was also the case with the book De transparante maatschappij/The transparent society presented last Monday in the pressroom of the Dutch parliament in The Hague.

Last year The Dutch research organisation TNO, the Platform for information society ECP-EPN and the government program  Digi proficiency & Digi awareness sat together with the publisher Hans Sleurink of media-Update professional information publications sat together to develop the yearbook for 2011. The yearbook always has a theme and for 2011 the theme privacy was chosen. On June 20, 2011 the eight edition of the Yearbook ICT and society with 22 contributions from 22 Belgian and Dutch ICT and privacy experts was presented

Euro MP Sophie in ’t Veld (left) receives the first copy of the book from Tini Hooymans, Board member of  TNO ( foto © Media-Update/Koos Boertjens)
The presentation of the book took place one day before parliamentary debate on privacy with subjects as cookies, data protection, filters, and net neutrality. So the presentation was in the middle of the political storm. Dutch publishers for example cry foul about the new law requiring checks on every cookie.


As the political privacy debate in The Hague is held in the framework of the review of the European Directive on the protection of personal data, Ms Sophie in 't Veld had been invited to accept the first copy of the book. Doing so she pleaded for international agreements to protect citizens against the harmful consequences of collecting digital data: "international standards have more effect than national laws". She also preferred that users can choose which data can be published and which not: Ï rather see an opt-in than an opt-out. Users have the right to know what happens with their data".

The book presentation also had a public debate. In the room were more than 120 people, many of whom are studying or dealing with privacy. many privacy subjects passed the review, indicating that the subject is hard to grasp and bring down to reality. Jeroen Terstegge, chairperson of the privacy committee of the Dutch employers association VNO-NCW, offered the concept of a protocol for international privacy similar to the Kyoto protocol, which was a United Nations  attempt to unite countries in their efforts to attack the climate change. The link to the Kyoto protocol was clear for many people: "The real problem of the Electronic Patient Dossier, which is being proposed in the Netherlands, is not the collection of medical data, but the context of the data". But the reactions to the proposal solicited various ideas. One participant offered that that mega polluters will not stick to the protocol.  Others wondered whether there will be unity, while there are various opinions about privacy. And someone else suggested: "The more data you have the greater the chaos, but more privacy", which led Mr Bas van Tol of the Police Rotterdam-Rijnmond to the statement: "The police have so many data, but the question is what you can do with them ".

The statement that companies learn faster from their mistakes than government pointed to a communication problem. The introduction of a public chip card for transport has  by the government has shown the inability of proper communication. On the other hand the company for route planning Tom Tom was quick to end the use of their anonymous traffic data by the police. Another example was Google, which was quick to end the collection of traffic data from wi-fi networks in their Streetview project. One of the researchers present put down the statement that privacy should be based on a reciprocal attitude; make clear to the users what happens to their data.

Publication details:
Title: De transparante samenleving, Jaarboek ICT en samenleving 2011
Language: Dutch
Editors: Valerie Frissen, Linda Kool en Marc van Lieshout
Volume: 272 pages
Price: € 29,50
ISBN 97890787 30088
An information flyer in the Dutch language can de downloaded from here.

BPN 1573

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