Tuesday 30 September 2014

The RTBF myth busters hit the street

I’m impressed.

Either the European Commission’s internal visual design teams have had a new boss, or this summer’s crop of interns have been allowed to produce a document that looked great even to them.

However it happened, I do congratulate whoever was responsible for signing off this factsheet which explains elements of data protection law in such a visually engaging manner.

Lots of colour, great fonts, nice use of a discrete watermark, the text was easy to follow.

This factsheet was on the “right to be forgotten” – and designed, in part, to lower public expectations on how strong a “right” it actually was. Six myths were presented, which were then demolished (in plain English, rather than in Eurospeak):
  • Myth 1: “The judgment does nothing for citizens”
  • Myth 2: “The judgment entails the deletion of content”
  • Myth 3: “The judgment contradicts freedom of expression”
  • Myth 4: “The judgment allows for censorship”
  • Myth 5: “The judgment will change the way the internet works”
  • Myth 6: “The judgment renders the data protection reform redundant”

Yes, you can write about data protection in terms that citizens can understand.

It’s instructive to compare this document with language used in the Article 29 Working Party’s latest missive.  Why oh why, if the Commission is capable of writing in such a direct style, doesn’t the Working Party issue documents like this? Is it done deliberately, to ensure that very few journalists actually use the press release?

OK, it may be a question of resources, or perhaps the Working Party may feel it necessary to couch its language in more formal terms, as lawyers are generally more comfortable reading such texts. But our world moves far beyond that inhabited by lawyers – and the Working Party should do more to reach out to European citizens, using language they are more likely to comprehend, rather than restrict its focus to a small data protection elite.

If only the Working Party could hire the same visual design teams / interns. Then, perhaps, more of their material might reach a wider audience.  Failing that, they might like to use the team that prepares the ICO’s documents, as they are written in Plain English, too.

Some Working Party opinions, after all, are quite useful – but it is a shame that so much of their stuff is so hard to read.