Saturday, March 10, 2007

UK Information Commissioner calls for international harmonization

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner of the UK is calling for international privacy standards, particularly focusing on the ongoing squabbles between Europe and the United States. (See: UK official calls for international privacy standards.).

I agree that harmonization should be a goal, but I am concerned that this may lead to a "lowest common denominator" system which would reduce the protection that some jurisdictions afford to their citizens' privacy. The following quote suggests this may be the outcome:

"There could be 'scope for less bureaucracy, less emphasis on prior authorization and a more concrete focus on preventing real harm', he said."

"Privacy" is not just about preventing fraud and indentity theft. Most modern privacy regimes are about giving people choices about how (and whether) their information is collected, used and disclosed. Reducing emphasis on "prior authorization" would likely undermine this.

Canada's PIPEDA, for all its faults, has shown that you can have a comprehensive privacy law that is based on consent and still permits legitimate business use of personal information.

1 comment:

Tim Trent said...

Sitting in the UK I agree with your thoughts here. In Marketing by Permission I've published some additional thoughts.

To me the idea of congruent global laws is a pipe dream. We can't even harmonise a single set of laws in the EC member states for the same directive! How can we possibly call for it globally?