This week, I’m at the world’s largest privacy conference: The IAPP Global Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C. There are well over 3,000 privacy pros here and, in general, it is quite the spectacle. With a conference this large, there really is something for everyone.
One of the more intriguing sessions I attended was the one where the panelists spoke about the challenges of having meaningful oversight in the Five Eyes countries' national security intelligence agencies.
Our Canadian Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, did a formidable job explaining the state of affairs in Canada, and representatives from the U.K., U.S. and New Zealand did the same for their respective countries. After listening to their remarks, I was dying to ask a question but we ran out of time: Is it ultimately hopeless? Do we have the right privacy protections or does government go too far? Do our efforts at trying to ensure meaningful oversight result in, at best, theoretical protections? Do they work in practice? It seems, when you think of the massive surveillance programs used by the Five Eyes countries, that real privacy is an illusionary concept.
I started to wonder whether any of it really matters. Is having robust oversight of these governmental actions necessary? After all, we can question whether or not they are effective, but, even if they are not, is it adversely affecting us in any tangible way? There’s something troubling in thinking of these issues and, in the end, I guess it encourages me to continue the good fight.
Because, after all, I do believe that privacy and security can go hand in hand.
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