Privacy Advisor

Book Review: The Future of Privacy

January 28, 2014

By K Royal, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

Being a strong believer in taking a pragmatic approach to compliance, I was incredibly pleased to read The Future of Privacy by Eduardo Ustaran, CIPP/E, published by DataGuidance. In general, I find the books available through the IAPP to be thorough, on point and useful to privacy professionals. This book went the further step and was actually fun to read and useful to those of the general public who have an interest in privacy.

Ustaran writes in a manner that is easy to comprehend and practical, yet steeped in substantive law. It’s like sitting comfortably with an expert who shares his insight and expertise as a conversation—at times relaxed and sometimes highly animated. And the timing for this book is perfect. At no other time in recent history have privacy and its challenges been at the forefront of global news.

The Future of Privacy is divided into three parts: “Catalysts,” “Policy Making” and “Compliance.” “Catalysts” provides a simplistic yet robust summary in three chapters covering of the evolution of technology, the value of data and data globalization. We start with the terminology: Information Superhighway, the Internet of Things, the cloud, cookies, social networking and the mobile ecosystem. This foundational coverage continues with analytics, Big Data and behavioral targeting.

Part I segues into Part II, “Policy Making” with frank coverage of the globalization of data. Ustaran clearly believes that the prohibition on data exportation prevalent in many nations’ laws is exasperating. It is also naïve in the technological age in which we live and function. Part II discusses regulating technology, policy-making, interoperability and incentivizing compliance. Ustaran recommends “just in time” regulation that is lean and consistent. Within these three chapters come the concepts of Privacy by Design, a global privacy blueprint and mutual recognition.

The book concludes with Part III on “Compliance,” perhaps the most critical section for privacy professionals. In Chapter 7, we start to see more of Ustaran’s European roots. He discusses the evolution of transparency in the use of an individual’s data, recognizing the debate about whether individuals have true control over the use of said data, anonymization, privacy and security by default rather than design and finally, the role of safe processors. He continues this discussion in the next chapter from the perspective of data as an asset—which may be controversial to some privacy professionals. He is clear that irrespective of a privacy professional’s belief in the idea of data as an asset, our roles depend on managing this idea and being committed to finding the right approach. The concluding chapter of the book addresses accountability in an era of competing regimes, uncertainty of law and the cost of consistency. He supports privacy within an organization as a team effort and advocates for the use of privacy impact assessments. He tackles the topic of global privacy compliance and advocates for the EU’s Binding Corporate Rules as a corporate framework. Ustaran concludes with two sentences: “We just need to get cracking because the future is here. Now.”

Generally, I read privacy and/or compliance books because I must in order to do my job. It’s rarely amusing or captivating, even when the book is well-written by a noted expert in the subject matter. Yet, this book is different. And the difference is in the presentation and writing style. The law is provided through thoughtful analysis wrapped in delightful examples and honest opinions. Whether you are new to privacy law or already immersed in its depths, this book is one that you should have—and not just on the bookshelf. Take notes in the margins, because you are just as likely to find yourself disagreeing with various points, questioning their validity or simply taking a deeper look into certain elements. This is the challenge of such a book; rather than merely absorbing the law dryly and reciting it back iteratively, it initiates thinking processes. It dares you to skim across and engages you in thought-provoking analysis.

Ustaran presents his beliefs without hesitation, but in his forthrightness, the reader responds with the same honesty—whether in agreement or not. This is the power of such a book, defining one’s own professional and personal belief system about privacy and forming a foundational understanding of technology and policy-making. I do not know if a global compliance program is truly achievable, but like many other privacy professionals, I have to attempt it. I agree with Ustaran in that the future is here and we need to stop playing catch-up and develop a workable regulatory framework where there is a basic understanding of the role data plays and how to be transparent in that use. I highly recommend this book for privacy professionals and anyone else with an interest in data handling.

K Royal, CIPP/US, CIPP/E, is privacy counsel at Align Technology and has over 20 years of professional experience in the legal and health-related fields.