The U.S. completed their Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Deal yesterday. If signed by Congress, this will lower trade barriers to the import and export of physical goods. How quaint in the Information Age. Today, the European Union Court of Justice declared the U.S. Safe Harbor policy for demonstrating compliance with the EU Directive for Data Privacy to be invalid. EU 1 : Pacific Rim 0.
I don’t know of the availability of any stats that show the value of global trade in information vs physical goods bought and sold, but I’m willing to guess data is at least more strategic if not already more valuable. Explaining the details of the EU Data Privacy Directive, Safe Harbor, and this new ruling isn’t my objective here. Much of it is very legal in nature and over my head. My goal with my cyber security series is to offer a basic primer on topics I deem of interest. At issue here is data privacy, specifically personally identifiable data or PI.
My 13 year old daughter is uncomfortable with the notion that data can never be fully erased with any certainty. I don’t know why or how she developed this very specific concern, likely something to do with the proliferation of online photos. She is totally aware of the EU’s Right to be Forgotten ruling wherein citizens can demand their online references be deleted by digital firms such as Google and Facebook. Understand that the EU considers personal privacy to be a basic human right.
The irony here is in the arrogance of any U.S. citizens who think we invented personal privacy. Indeed, the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states that, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Or stated more plainly, “Each man’s home is his castle.” Well that was written over 200 years ago. Post-911, the U.S. has conceded leadership on the personal privacy front to Europe.
I probably shouldn’t reveal what I really think because I suspect I’m on the wrong side of history here, but I will. I don’t believe in personal privacy. I want it to a degree but I certainly don’t think of it as a basic human right. I can assure you there was little to no personal privacy when humans were living in caves. Were Adam and Eve not born naked? And yet I do like the 4th Amendment. I believe we need a balance between personal privacy and the benefits that the sharing of personal information ascribes to a society – like security. An example of that is the Patriot Act. This latest EU ruling impacts a more commercial benefit, such as advertising.
I don’t think I’m alone on this one. Anyone reading this is online and therefore highly likely also surrendering a large degree of their personal data privacy to social networks. You’ve probably granted Facebook complete digital rights to more family photos than your parents ever collected in photo albums. There are benefits to sharing. And I don’t believe we ever, ever had complete personal privacy; so I don’t think of it as a basic human right. No man is an island. In the end, I imagine personal data privacy will be determined more by technological capabilities than regulation. Your data is only as secure as your encryption. I’m interested in comments.