The Parable of the Jewel in the Robe tells the story of a poor man whose wealthy friend, unbeknownst to him, sews a priceless jewel into the lining of his robe. The poor man continues living in poverty, content with what he has and no idea he has been gifted the jewel until he learns about it when the two cross paths again.
This story is at the heart of Project Bijou, a social initiative launched in May by Guernsey’s Office of the Data Protection Authority to share stories, knowledge and experiences related to ethical data use, and to support and encourage positive cultural change around the treatment of data and foster discussions beyond compliance.
The word bijou means jewel, said Commissioner Emma Martins, adding the project name represents the jewel each individual has when it comes to their data and its protection. The project is not about preaching the importance of data and how to best protect it, but “allowing people to recognize that they have it within themselves,” Martins said.
“What you do with (your data) matters today; it will matter tomorrow and it will matter next year. We want to help you have the tools to make the decisions that are right for you, to make decisions in an informed way. It’s giving people the gift of information,” she said. “We have this wonderful privacy community around the world and it’s just extraordinary. The energy, the integrity in that community is wonderful. We need to spread that out so everyone gets their jewel and then shares that.”
Project Bijou launched in May and will continue over the coming year. Its launch week highlighted virtual content — including videos, podcasts and blogs — from local and international contributors on the effects of data harms on people, the role culture plays in data, the benefits of looking at personal data well and more.
“If we can relate to something then it starts to play a much more important role in our values, in our behaviors, in our culture and the way we live our lives, and if we can engage then we can start to make better, more informed decisions,” Martins said. “We’re not talking about statistics. We’re not talking about spreadsheets. We’re not talking about clouds. We’re talking about people.”
The idea for the project was born from the recognition that data protection regulators have an obligation to not only enforce privacy regulations, but also to “support, engage and educate the community,” Martins said, along with an understanding that the conversation has to extend beyond regulators and privacy professionals.
“Every single second of every single day we are pushing out data, and every single second of every single day something is happening with our data,” she said. “So, the conversation first and foremost has to go beyond those that have a vested interest to say this is a community conversation because there is community impact.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic derailed plans for an in-person conference, organizers turned their focus to a virtual offering, opening doors to contributors from around the world who bring a wide array of perspectives, Martins said.
The goal is that sharing these perspectives and shifting the conversation around data protection from policy and compliance to a focus on people will trigger conversations and engagement, leading to a cultural shift, Martins said.
“What we want to maximize is the power of the individual connection, so keeping people engaged, interested, bringing more people into the fold,” she said. “Even if you improve the decision-making around personal data protection of one person, that’s good. Then there can be momentum that’s built. This is the beginning of what I would like to describe as a community conversation that extends way beyond launch week and is a pillar of our communications and support of our local community, and hopefully broader, as well.”
Photo by Long Truong on Unsplash
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