CookieLaw Blog January 14, 2014

Is Privacy the Right Thing to be Talking About?

Online privacy has never been a bigger issue than it became in 2013, and all the signs are that it is only going to get bigger in 2014. 

Thanks largely to Edward Snowden, the extent of state surveillance by governments in the ‘free’ world has been making front page news.  We have perhaps known for many years that they were capable of watching our every move, but what has been revealed is that they are doing this on a much larger scale than most people would have believed.

The standard argument of course is that, in these troubled times privacy must be balanced against the greater good of ‘security’.  Yet this is increasingly seen by many as a poor excuse for the behaviour of intelligence agencies in what are supposed to be countries that champion freedom and fight tyranny.

Slightly less public, but a big deal for businesses (especially technology companies), lawyers and civil rights groups, we have seen huge debates over the future of data protection law in the EU.  Here the talk has been all about balancing the privacy rights of consumers and citizens, with the freedom of business to innovate (and by extension create much needed economic value).

When asked in numerous surveys, people consistently say they are worried about their privacy, and exploitation of personal information for commercial gain.  Yet those same people also use services from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and others which are busy amassing huge amounts of data to create ever more detailed interest profiles, just so they can sell us more stuff.  And people do this without reading the privacy policies that govern how those companies use the data.

Here it’s all about privacy vs. convenience and ‘free’ services.

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