Tuesday 17 December 2013

NSA: Data Protection Villain of the Year 2013

Well, who else could it have been? The Crouch End Chapter of the Institute for Data Protection was faced with an overwhelming case to declare America’s National Security Agency to be its  Data Protection Villain of the Year.

What other institution has done more to make people appreciate the potential potholes of large data capture programmes? Has any other institution so quickly united global regulators in fury/impotence/admiration of what they have been alleged to have got up to?

Is there any other institution that has found it so hard to explain to citizens journalists just what data processing is necessary for the purposes of safeguarding national security? To all intents and purposes, it has evidently not yet won the argument. While vast swathes of the population admittedly do not care less, one vocal section of the community has become very engaged in what they see as a fundamental betrayal of their human rights. They’ve very angry, and are applying all the levers the American Constitution can offer.

Is there any other institution that has failed so spectacularly to keep data secret? If we ever needed evidence that data “in the wrong hands” is a toxic liability, then here it is.

Finally, is there any other institution that has caused the national intelligence agencies of other countries to fear that the public may soon focus on what those intelligence agencies might also have been getting up to? Or caused the cloud computing providers of America to fear that their global expansion plans have really hit the buffers?

I rest my case.

The award will take the form of a chant, to be sung softly, by candlelight, by the ICO chorus at the beginning of next week’s data protection carol service in Wilmslow. I understand that the chorus is still working on the tune, but the words will be:

Make us atone for causing data mayhem
Make us feel the wrath of Commissioner Graham

We’re no saint – we are truly a sinner
Pack us off to bed without any dinner

Punish us in ways that are most effective
Beat us on the bottom with the Data Directive

Fine us till our bank balance is zero
Cummon, do it, be a regulatory hero

Show the rest who is the best
At hurting those who’ve just confessed

Make us squeal- we ain’t no fools
We deliberately broke them data rules

Now tell us - what on earth can you do
To stop us from breaking them rules anew?

Your punishments are so petty and frugal
You don’t scare us – we’re so much greater than Google

Absorbing global data night and day
Give it up for the NSA