As PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden continues to do his run across the world in a bid to get a place to settle safely, free from the threat of extradition to the US, where a barrage of charges await him, one can’t help but wonder what the situation at home is. Previously I have opined that the privacy brigade has no solid talking points if pros and cons are discussed objectively from a value perspective.
While there is indeed concern about the misuse of personal data or at the least the lack of disclosure on its collection and use, that has seen companies like Google pay hefty fees and forced to initiate remedial action; the benefits of shared personal data greatly outweigh any downsides as fueled by any consumers active imagination.
Invasion of privacy implies an unwelcome intrusion, where permission has not been sought or requite awareness done. Snowden is in equal measure a hero and a villain, depending on who you ask. That is has blown up, dragging into the limelight many large companies whose services we use on a day to day basis, is the same happening back home on our popular platforms?
That it happens is not the big issue but that it is not communicated clearly or backed by a policy that can be interrogated and argued. A blanket mining of personal data in stealth, despite all good intention is a stinker. I am yet to meet someone who will decline to authorize the use their data for purposes that will add value to them in the context of their experience.
Interesting times lie ahead for us, as we flip the digital switch in our dealings with government. How will the data that will be collected by government agencies be handled? How will government handle rogue elements who will want to access the data? Will they cement themselves as the single source of truth from where other organizations can feed from?
Before this issue gets to a level where it has either been sufficiently abused or raises enough voices to draw due attention, the government must take leadership in both driving policy and education of the citizen on the benefits of “smart privacy”. Smart privacy would allow one to know who is accessing uniquely personal identifying information and for what purpose, providing an audit that would leave all parties comfortable transacting in personal data while preventing rogue data peddlers from hiding in the very same shadows that government agencies, as evidenced by Snowden’s expose also currently use.