“You know how to whistle, don’t you Steve? You just put your lips together and blow,” Lauren Bacall says in To Have and Have Not. Apparently Bacall’s simplest remarks sounded like jungle mating calls. It’s all about nuances in privacy, too. This week you could be forgiven for imagining some Australian leaders wanting to wash the term metadata right out of their hair. The media and social media continue to question the clarity of the policies, and there are radically divergent views from many sources. It’s not an all-or-nothing issue, and the comments and questions posed by Narelle Clarke in Computerworld this week are both sensible and timely. The data retention debate has also raised the old Scott McNally proposition about us having zero privacy with an opinion piece in The Australian Financial Review about the horse having bolted. Such a literal approach to privacy misses the nuances and ignores the value of privacy settings and the commercial benefits organisations gain by having their customers trust them.
Meanwhile, the federal government has softened its requirements around offshore hosting of Australians' data held by various departments but not the prohibition against offshore hosting of health information covered by the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record Act. It has been a very interesting week for health privacy news in our region, with the Australian Office of the Privacy Commissioner investigating the survey issued by the Department of Health in respect of the troubled personally controlled electronic health record review, and the New Zealand Office of the Privacy Commissioner investigating several instances of unauthorized snooping of New Zealanders’ health records. Again, the devil is in the details and implementation: EHealth is not an all-or-nothing proposition with regard to privacy as the strong rules on patient consent enabling the eHealth roll out in Italy demonstrate.
In other developments, business opportunities are flourishing in privacy. This week iappANZ welcomed Glentworth, a firm that helps clients manage the information journey, as a new corporate member, and this article on the astrophysicist-turned-data-scientist makes for good reading. High-quality surveillance is also being eyed by some of our major corporations as a growth area, and the proposed data retention rules are proving a boon for those in the business of offering virtual private networks. The news that Google and Yahoo are both seeking to raise their appeal through greater encryption functionality signals that the business case for privacy is alive and well and the value of data for marketing again shoots home the importance of gaining and retaining consumers’ trust, which ultimately holds the key.
A sad week for us all with the passing of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, but happily, privacy is anything but dead.
Enjoy your weekend, and if you are in Melbourne, please come for drinks on Monday afternoon and meet some privacy luminaries like Helen Lewin, John Pane and David Templeton. I would love to meet you, too.
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