Saturday 5 May 2012

Berlin calling

An email arrived recently. Did I want to attend a data protection conference in Berlin on Monday, which is a May Day bank holiday in the UK? And did I want to help out by running a workshop on Tuesday to explore whether it would be practical for common personal data breach reporting rules to be drawn up? Common rules in that they were rules that were commonly understood, accepted and actually added value to people’s lives. Not common rules in that they were universally ignored because they were too complicated, burdensome and actually added nothing to people’s lives.

Yes, I thought to myself. I’m up for a bit of that.

Consequently, I am attending the 2nd European Data Protection Day conference. Yes, I know that Data Protection Day is really celebrated on 28th January. But, we data protection folk evidently can never have enough of a good thing.

So, I’m all packed and I’m literally dreading the UK Border Control queues when I return to Heathrow's Terminal 5 on Tuesday evening. I’ve a fun packed day next Wednesday, you see, and I really want to be fresh for those meetings, not exhausted because I’ve been up all night queuing with what may well have become several thousand of my closest friends.

Will I learn anything new next week? I do hope so. And, if I do, naturally I’ll be blogging about it, so you can keep up to speed with the latest gossip too. Given the impressive cast list, I expect a few indiscretions to emerge as the evening proceedings unravel.

What I really want to hear is something different from the usual speakers. These include Florence Raynal, CNIL, France; Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner, United Kingdom; PeterHustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor, Belgium; Prof Dr Juan Antonio Travieso, Professor of International Law at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, and National Director for Personal Data Protection, Argentina; Axel Voss, European Parliament, France; Dr Wojciech WiewiĆ³rowski, Inspector General for Personal Data, Poland; Thomas Zerdick, European Commission, Belgium. And of course, Lord Richard Allen of Facebook fame and Peter Fleischer from Google.

What I would really love is for the speakers to tear up any pre-prepared speeches and start a fresh exchange of views. I don‘t want to hear what I’ve heard a good many times before. Perhaps I get out and about a bit too much, these days. What I really want to know is just how the thinking has moved on from the initial reactions to the Commission’s proposals. Everyone has had a good time to make their initial comments. And the political sands are shifting, too. Member States are continuing to hold their usual cycle of domestic elections, and increasing numbers of politicians, everywhere, are questioning the future of independent EC nation states within a governance structure that tries to create an overarching European super state. Increasing numbers of politicians seem to think that local democracy is actually quite a good idea. Subsidiarity and all that stuff. But that’s not necessarily the message that the European Commission officials like to hear. It doesn't chime in with the concept of one Regulation to rule them all.

If I were a betting data protector, I would suggest that the Euro has a greater chance of remaining in existence by the end of 2013 than many of the key changes proposed in that Regulation.

But let’s see.

So, if you see me prowling around the conference floor or reception rooms, please pop over and say hello. I’ve been developing some cunning data protection plans of my own, recently, and am getting ready to share them with just about anyone who will listen.