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Changing the Conversation: Why Thinking “Data is the New Oil” May Not Be Such a Good Thing

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

Information is power and Big Data is fueling our economy, prompting many to consider data the new oil. Clearly the value of data—particularly personal data—has never been as dynamic, exciting and potentially dangerous as it is now.

But is thinking of data as the new oil really such a good thing?

For data artist Jer Thorpe, the answer is no.

More from Jedidiah Bracy


Why I Became A Privacy Professional—And What Privacy Means

By Phil Lee, CIPP/E, CIPM

Long before I became a privacy professional, I first graduated with a degree in computer science. At the time, like many graduates, I had little real notion of what it was I wanted to do with my life, so I took a couple of internships working as a database programmer. That was my first introduction to the world of data.

I quickly realized that I had little ambition to remain a career programmer, so I began to look at other professions. In my early twenties, and having the kind of idealistic tendencies commonplace in many young graduates, I decided I wanted to do something that mattered, something that would—in some way—benefit the world: I chose to become a lawyer.

More from Phil Lee


French Court Takes On the Privacy and Hate Speech Dilemma

In my last Perspectives blog post, I discussed how, in order to curtail online hate speech, privacy sometimes needs to take a back seat, as anonymity is often used as a privacy shield by some propagating hate.  While online services can—and sometimes should—require posters to use their real names to discourage hate speech, the U.S. government cannot require the use of real names to fight legally-allowed—even if repugnant—hate speech online because of First Amendment protections for ugly free expression that anonymity promotes.

Such a limitation of government action against anonymity, for those publishing hate speech, does not exist in France, however. An ongoing French case involving Twitter and anti-Semitic tweets raises interesting issues concerning anonymity, privacy and hate speech.

More from Christopher Wolf


The Transatlantic Divide Over Data Privacy Rights

The following exchange occurred during a conversation between a representative of a U.S. technology company and a European data protection authority (DPA):

Company representative: Your data protection law is making it impossible for us to offer our technology in Europe!

DPA: It is your technology that has to adapt to our legal system, not the other way around!

The question of whether legal requirements should determine how technology and business models are structured, or whether the law should bend to technological and business imperatives, is at the root of the many of the differences between the EU and U.S. approaches to data privacy. And the differing status of privacy as a constitutional or human right underlies how this question is dealt with in the two systems.

More from Christopher Kuner


Bridging the EU-U.S. Privacy Gap

By J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP

Privacy has always been a difficult concept to define, and privacy issues are complex.

For Europeans, privacy is a human right, while for Americans, privacy tends to be about liberty. It’s often thought that the Holocaust and the rise of totalitarianism in 20th century Europe have been the catalysts behind the region’s strong privacy and data protection regimes.

A recent book by Edwin Black, in detailed research, examines Nazi Germany’s use of the computer’s forebear to aid in systematic genocide. These Hollerith machines and punch cards helped the Third Reich organize and carry out the atrocities of the Holocaust. And in post-war Europe, the widespread use of surveillance and coercion informed and empowered the Stasi, the KGB and other totalitarian enforcers.

But is that the real reason the U.S. and Europe have such seemingly differing cultural constructions of privacy?

More from J. Trevor Hughes

Privacy on the Ground

Why Are German and U.S. Practices so Similar, if Their Regulatory Structures Are so Different?

Our previous post began to explore findings from almost one hundred interviews of leading corporate privacy officers, regulators and other privacy professionals in five countries—and what they can teach us about how the structure of the corporate privacy function can affect the success of measures to protect privacy.

We ended that post with a surprising finding: The two countries in which privacy officers were most empowered, and most involved in shaping firm strategy, couldn’t be more different in terms of their regulatory substance and form—Germany and the U.S.

More from Deirdre Mulligan


“You Just Don’t Understand”: The Current EU–U.S. Privacy Battles

For someone who has received his legal education in both the EU and the U.S., and has long worked in both worlds, the current political skirmishes between the two concerning the proposed EU data protection reform have been both entertaining and disappointing. Entertaining, since observing the two largest political and economic entities in Western world engage in a game of one-upmanship over which has the best system for privacy and data protection can often be amusing. Disappointing, because it is obvious that each side has an imperfect understanding of each other’s system, and because the energy they have been putting into such tit-for-tat battles could be better spent trying to reach an accommodation between them.

More from Christopher Kuner