DPI16_Banner_300x250 WITH COPY

These are uncertain times. User trust is at an all-time low; the models upon which governing data-use principles were built are outdated, and it’s time for a shift in how policy people and engineers work together in order to address these problems.

Those were just some of the takeaways from a highly attended and wide-ranging RSA session Wednesday on “Hot Topics in Privacy,” moderated by IAPP CEO Trevor Hughes, CIPP, and featuring a panel of chief privacy officers from Google, Microsoft and McAfee.

But first they addressed the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the NSA.

Google Senior Privacy Council Keith Enright, CIPP/US, CIPP/G, started the session by making one thing clear: Google didn’t play the role in the “Summer of Snowden” some thought it may have, given the headlines at the height of the NSA surveillance revelations last year.

“One thing that’s important to understand … is that we did not grant direct access to the government to internal Google systems. We have no evidence that such access actually occurred,” Enright said.

Despite such allegations, knowing what governments are doing with the data of their citizenry is certainly important, Enright said, adding that transparency is key if accountability is a desired outcome. He added that without accountability, there can’t be change. Ultimately, Google’s success depends on user trust, Enright said, and the Snowden revelations turned user trust on its head.

Microsoft CPO Brendon Lynch, CIPP/US, said government surveillance is a complicated issue, because security professionals see it as a security issue while privacy pros see it as a privacy issue.

“And both are right,” Lynch said.

McAfee Vice President and CPO Michelle Dennedy, CIPP/US, CIPM, stressed it’s essential for the public to recognize that when we talk about government access to data, we’re talking about governments—plural, as in not just the United States.

Enright highlighted  the kneejerk reaction by some to restrict the global storage of data. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, has recently called for a separate European Internet. That’s not the right move, the three panelists agreed.

“There’s been an emotive reaction to move to some sort of localization data,” Enright said. “But it’s important people understand localizing data does not prevent government access.”

Trevor Hughes, Michelle Dennedy, Keith Enright and Brendon Lynch.

Indeed, it would be the wrong approach, Dennedy said. “Balkanization of data is the easiest way to lose control for the average citizen and the easiest way for users to lose control of their data.”

Lynch agreed, saying he could “understand the temptation of those discussions. But there’s no silver bullet for this thing.”

Hughes noted that there’s now a lot of discourse over public policy both in the U.S. and in Europe. In the U.S., the FTC has been active—especially recently, in settling privacy violations. The White House has stepped in, introducing a Consumer Bill of Rights, and it will soon hold a number of workshops on Big Data. It’s also initiated a number of multi-stakeholder workshops on developing self-regulatory codes of conduct when it comes to privacy-threatening technologies.

Notice and Choice

Current models of public policy are based on the Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs)—pillars of which are notice and choice. But such concepts are strained in these times. Nobody reads privacy policies, and, as such, even informed users tend to simply yield to the default that’s offered them. So how do we move forward if the pillars on which we base fair practices no longer apply? Hughes asked the panel.

“Current applications of FIPPs are strained because of a reliance on notice and consent, but there are other principles such as accountability that perhaps need to be invoked more,” Lynch said. “The vast majority of people just want to be safe; they want the use of data to be providing value to them in an appropriate context. As we look forward to a world where computing is more ubiquitous and data collection is more ubiquitous, the Internet of Things and ‘wearables’ won’t necessarily have a user interface to have a notice-and-choice moment.”

A notice is an aspirational quality, but a notice is also a thing. It’s a verb. Engineers love verbs. How do we deliver that physically? That’s the language we need to speak with our engineers. And if you’re an engineer coming to your legal people, it’s okay to say ‘I don’t understand what the flip you’re talking about. Tell me in zeroes and ones and not with (vague concepts like) reasonable.’ It’s really hard to code ‘reasonable.’

McAfee VP and CPO Michelle Dennedy, CIPP/US, CIPM

Logistically, notice and choice may not be viable, he said. “Just the sheer volume is going to make it difficult to make decisions about the collection of every piece of data impossible.”

Lynch said the solution may lie in shifting some of the burden to the providers of the latest technologies.

“Responsible use, organizations being accountable and better expectations of what privacy norms would be is going to be key,” Lynch said.

Dennedy said the FIPPs are pretty good ideas, but we’ve over-relied on legal notice. Deciding how to treat data generated from the Internet of Things, context will be key, she said.

“What happens when you get in your car? Is the data going to Google or your optic provider to say your prescription is off today? We need to start with the basics,” she said, noting Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law’s assertion that, no matter what the philosophy or intention, “Code is law.”

“This is a vast opportunity to design something that follows all 11 FIPPs,” she said.

But with context and giving users choice, how do we go about it?

Enright said there are three elements to think about. First, it’s now clear that a privacy policy isn’t the way to get users to understand what’s happening with their data at a fundamental level. Second, the technology itself is grinding up against old legal traditions and analogue laws. And finally, users are changing. “Possibly as quickly as the technology is changing. All over the world, users are getting more sophisticated,” he said.

While the legislative policy community works to try and solve these problems, consumers are moving a whole lot faster and aiming to use technology in new and creative ways. All of this is to say that there’s no clear answer, he said. But it will be important to continue to listen to users so innovative legislation isn’t happening in a vacuum.

“Keeping our fingers on the pulse of users and what they’re asking for is going to require a very, very thoughtful process,” he said.

Lynch agreed that you can’t make assumptions about privacy norms and what people want. Some people want different data experiences than others do. Some want fine-grain controls; others don’t really care and just want to make sure they’re safe. There’s a spectrum.

Written By

Angelique Carson, CIPP/US


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Spots Going Fast

With the top minds in the field leading this exceptional program, it's no wonder it's filling quickly. Register now to secure your spot.

Be Part of Something Big: Join the Summit

Registration is open for the Global Privacy Summit 2016. Discounted early bird rates available for a short time, register today!

Data Protection Intensive Returns to London

Registration is now open for the IAPP Europe Data Protection Intensive in London. Check out the program!

P.S.R. Call for Speakers Open!

P.S.R. is THE privacy + cloud security event of the year, and you can take a leading role. Propose a session for this year's program.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»