Tuesday 10 April 2012

What is it about data protection, European politicians and plagiarism?

London buses occasionally appear in packs. As do European politicians who run into trouble over plagiarism accusations. They may be busy guys, but they really ought to properly credit their sources. Actually, I’m posting this blog with a sense of irony, as I seem to spend increasing amounts of my time these days on the concept of creating a common data protection language, so data controllers can be persuaded to use common words and phrases to describe common types of processing operations, and offer users common sets of choices. Which ought to be a good thing. And all this is with the blessing of our political (and regulatory) masters. So, it’s with a sense of rough justice that I refer to some politicians who like to share the same language when expressing opinions – but who don’t receive the same degree of respect from the rest of us when this happens!

In the spate of just a few weeks, Hungarian President Pál Schmitt announced his resignation, as a plagiarism scandal around his doctoral thesis unfolded; EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn (from Austria) has been asked to explain how an expert group could have found 76 cases of plagiarism in his 1987 doctoral thesis; while Germany’s Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg faced a plagiarism scandal over allegations that he had lifted passages of his law dissertation without correctly attributing them in footnotes or bibliography. Apparently, Guttenberg wrote his dissertation for the University of Bayreuth in 2006, receiving the top grade of summa cum laude. It was published under the title, "Constitution and Constitutional Treaty: Constitutional developments in the USA and the EU." With a subject like that I can understand why anyone might be tempted to seek inspiration from a variety of sources. But, for the sake of fairness, I’m sure he made lots of it up all by himself, too.

At least European politicians are educated folk, with time on their hands to address weighty academic issues. I’m not sure that academic research is an essential prerequisite of today’s British politician. A private education probably helps, but intellectual brilliance isn’t always required.

To those who are tempted to lift my prose from these blog pages – please feel free to spread the word as widely as you can. But remember, thanks to Google word search, it’s pretty easy these days to find the sources of most of the good stuff. So if I am copied, please credit me.

And I’ll do my best to respect those who inspire my words, too.


Image Credit:
It's not what you think. Really. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaeZzDdGKio