Have you ever been on an elevator and the only other person in that elevator is standing too close to you, in your personal space, as opposed to their designated corner? Talk about awkward! But, if that same elevator already had four or five people on it, standing that close to the person would feel absolutely normal. Same goes for a bus ride. Or a lineup at the grocery store.
I use these examples on occasion when I try to explain to people that doing privacy law is difficult because privacy means different things depending on culture and context. All you have to do is change the context of any given situation slightly and you can create (or alleviate) privacy problems in a big way.
The global context and cultural differences we enjoy as human beings on this planet make it very difficult for people entrusted with privacy to do it right. There is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach that will work every time. Even our beloved privacy principles (you know, the ones that are found in the Schedule of PIPEDA) are not universally embraced and can pose problems if you try to implement in other parts of the world.
I’ve just finished providing training to a diverse group of CIPP/C students in Vancouver this week. Each of them had a unique perspective and it was clear from our discussions that each had equally unique tasks in implementing privacy properly for their organization. I’m confident that our approach to the materials will help them along their way, but it did give me another opportunity to pause and reflect on what I think is one of the biggest challenges for our profession: diversity. It can be a great thing, but it does force the privacy professional to be creative, nimble and ready to think outside the box. We definitely don’t work with a cookie-cutter paradigm, but that's also what keeps things interesting in our line of work!
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