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Privacy Perspectives | Maybe 2016: A Not-So-Serious Look at the Year to Come in Privacy Related reading: ICYMI: 2014 in Review and Predictions for 2015




As was noted last week, 2015 was a hell of a year for privacy. It fired off a U.S. president visiting the Federal Trade Commission for the first time in 60 years to talk privacy and ended with the culmination of a historic piece of legislation in the EU that many had begun to despair would ever come to completion.

But it sorta feels like 2015 was only a prelude, no? All of this privacy froth can only portend even more privacy substance.

So, we thought it would be worthwhile to think back to those divination lessons of yore, held up in Prof. Sybil Trelawny’s room in the tower, and take a swing at making predictions for the year ahead.

(NB: “Fun” is part of the IAPP’s values; this piece is offered in that spirit!)

January: Well, it’s time to vote this General Data Protection Regulation out of the whole Parliament in plenary. Just about everyone assumed it was a fait accompli, but, at the 11th hour, Jan Philipp Albrecht, drunk with power, tries to push through an amendment that would add yet more sanctioning power for the DPAs.

“So that these corporate privacy violators can feel the true weight of what they do, we should have CEOs be required to parade naked down the main street of the city in which they house their EU headquarters!” Albrecht declared.

The amendment is roundly defeated, but mostly because no one has any interest in seeing Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook in the buff.

February: It’s presidential primary season in the U.S., more than six months since Joshua Wright resigned, and the FTC is still without a fifth member. How will President Barack Obama choose a Republican nominee?

How about giving it to the Republican runner-up!

On February 19, President Obama formally announces that whoever finishes with the second most delegates will be officially nominated to fill the last commissioner seat at the FTC.

“Except you, Carly,” Obama says to finish the announcement. “The Office of Management and Budget says I gotta find a guy this time.”

March: Canadian Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien gets a boost in funding and support when fresh-faced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declares he is making privacy a priority for his administration.

When reporters ask Trudeau why he felt the need to double the OPC’s budget, he replied, “Because it’s 2016.”

For his part, Therrien reports that, like the rest of Canada, he finds Trudeau “dreamy.”

April: On the last day of the Global Privacy Summit, PostSecret founder Frank Warren’s keynote address is going swimmingly until he pulls up the wrong postcard for the wrong crowd.

“Sometimes I just want to quit my big job, move back to Poland and sing in a band,” the postcard secret reads. “I think there’s a reason my boss’s last name starts with butt.”

The house-cleaning that EDPS Giovanni Buttarelli does in May at the the office of the European Data Protection Supervisor is reportedly just a coincidence. 

May: After 10 years, UK ICO Christopher Graham is getting ready to hang up his spikes, when a staffer happens to mention that he’s currently sitting at a total of 999 enforcement actions.

“Is that right?” he’s heard to exclaim, “well then someone bloody well better find me a county council that’s emailed a spreadsheet to the wrong bloody person. Surely that still happens five times a day around here?”

Later that week, the Rutland County Council is fined 10 quid after it’s discovered one council member had posted “I like to wear pink trousers” on another council member’s Facebook page when he left himself logged in and used the loo.

June: We are half way through the year, and STILL there is no agreed-upon Transatlantic Data Protection Framework that would allow for transfer of EU data to the United States.

Worse yet, lead EU negotiator Věra Jourová has been missing for the last two weeks, with her staff searching for her furiously.

Finally, she is discovered in her native Czech Republic, surrounded by empty pilsner glasses in one of the beer gardens overlooking the city.

“I just can’t do it anymore,” she says, shooing away onlookers. “That Penny Pritzker is just too damn jolly. Hi Věra! What a nice dress, Věra! What have you done with your hair, Věra?!? Those are such nice earrings, Věra! Blech!”

July: At winter’s apex, Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim arrives at work to find he’s been given yet another job.

“Seriously?” Pilgrim shouts into the void. “Now they’d like me to clean the dustbins, too? And mind the windows?”

Told by staffers he’d indeed been asked to take over sanitation duties, in addition to his roles as head of the privacy and information offices, Pilgrim eventually accepts the new role with stolid determination.

“After 18 years in office,” he’s heard to say, “what’s a little more chipping in?”

August: The final three-month period for controllers to register their databases in Colombia has begun and Germán Enrique Medina Bacca’s office is swamped with questions from any number of organizations inquiring to discover if they need to register and by when.

“No Señora,” Colombian DPA Germán Enrique is heard to say, “it is not necessary to register your database of family recipes … Yes, I am sure they are very personal to you, but that is not what we mean by personal data … Of course, I understand you want to abide by the law, but your database of recipes is perfectly in compliance … Yes, I’m sure … I’m in charge of the whole thing, so I get to say so … No, I don’t need to ask somebody else … Yes, you also have a very nice day … Thank you, yes, I will pass that along to my mother. I’m sure she would be very happy to hear that … Goodbye.”

September: Sick and tired of all the corporate contributions to “privacy” conferences, EPIC’s Marc Rotenberg decides to start his own privacy conference, focusing on how to stem the tide of free-flowing data rapidly spreading across the globe, seemingly unchecked.

The event is a success until a brou-ha-ha erupts at the first night’s networking event.

“Really, Marc,” Hunton & Williams’ Bojana Bellamy yells, “I can take a selfie if I want to!”

October: The annual conference of the world’s data protection authorities kicks off in Morocco, traveling to Africa for the second time in three years. For the opening reception, the Moroccan delegation has arranged for a performance of a traditional Moroccan Chaabi dance.

Recently appointed FTC Commissioner Donald Trump is heard to loudly comment, “Really, these women don’t seem all that chubby to me!”

November: Everything is going swimmingly at the annual Data Protection Congress in Brussels, an event attended with renewed vigor after last year’s cancellation, until the closing keynote conversation with Max Schrems and Jennifer Baker, a reprise of 2014.

“With a year to reflect on the ECJ decision, what are your big takeaways?” Baker asks.

“My big takeaway,” Schrems replies, “is this!” At which point, he stands up, pulls an American football out from under his chair, marches to the middle of the stage and violently spikes it, shouting, “In your face, Facebook!”

After Facebook complains vigorously about the incident to IAPP CEO Trevor Hughes, he replies, “Did you see how he used an American football? I really think he’s starting to come around to a different way of thinking!”

December: It’s the end of the year, and U.S. President Barack Obama is feeling particularly sanguine. His eight years in office are coming to an end, and he never did get that consumer privacy bill of rights to get anywhere.

Suddenly, he has an idea!

The media are confused, yet assemble appropriately for a hastily called news conference from the Oval Office, something Obama has only done twice previously. What could be the issue?

“My fellow Americans,” Obama begins, “I have decided to dedicate my post-presidential career to privacy law and the wonderful people at Hogan Lovells have agreed to take me on as a partner…”

The move obviously causes ripples throughout the privacy world.

“Obama and that Eduardo Ustaran in the same offices,” CNIL President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin is heard to mutter to Irish DPA Helen Dixon. “They’ll have to re-name it Hunk-an Lovells…”

In Conclusion: It seems like 2016 will be a wild one, indeed. We hope you’ll let us help you tame it. At the IAPP, it’s our job to give you all the best tools and information we can to help you do your job better.

From all of us at the IAPP Publications Team, we hope you have a fun-filled holiday season, spent with friends and loved ones, and a prosperous and enjoyable New Year. And may 2016 be the year we bring balance to the privacy force.

photo credit: You read like a book via photopin (license)


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