Governments, privacy & data

No, I don’t particularly trust government with my data – but then I fully expect all organisations to at some time abuse the trust I’ve placed in them.

There’s two types of problem here – errors (a polite way of saying ‘incompetence’, and ‘breaches of trust’ where data given in good faith is then used for a different purpose.  In so many ways the web makes these errors & breaches of trust transparent – I’m sure these things went on in the past, but folk just didn’t know about them.

The only answer is to take responsibility for your own privacy.

The long term solution would be to have an efficient personal recourse & compensation  system. At present there is no commonly agreed straightforward way to alert a company to loss or misuse of your data – and no sense of an appropriate value for compansation.

A friend who had £500+ stoln through a credit card fraud “fixed” the problem with one phone call to Lloyds TSB (well done them for dealing with it so quickly). But he’ll be without £500 for 10 days or so: what’s that worth?  And for all the background fraud protection that does go on in business, nobody seems to be asking why the data was in the wild in the first place.  In the particular case of financial data, chip & pin doesn’t seem to be the answer: fraud rose after its introduction.  If we customers can help by changing our behaviour, then being guided on what behaviour to change would be a good start.

The Government’s reward for finding lost families data is less than the commercial rate for name & address data; appended family & financial data would cost several times more than the reward offer for a single use of the data.

One can only wish the Data Privacy Consultation well; i’ll look into it to see if I can contribute, constructively. The folk I’ve met from the Information Commissioner’s office have always been just the kind of folk you’d want in charge of your data. I hope they can spread some of their good karma & thinking to other government departments & businesses.

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