Tuesday 13 October 2020

Why have I joined the LinkedIn Data Protection Reform Group?

1.    There is an ongoing debate on the rights that data controllers should have, compared with the rights that private individuals should have. There’s also an ongoing debate on what role our national Data Protection supervisory authority should play in developing and enforcing privacy laws. Opposing views are passionately, genuinely and sincerely held, & I see little prospect of agreement on a middle course. But, I see no reason for declining to contribute to policy discussions just because I know that others will disagree with me.


2.    Many opinion formers believe the GDPR is a gold standard containing data protection requirements that all countries should aspire to, and that any deviation from the GDPR necessarily dilutes privacy protections / rights to an unacceptably low level. I disagree. I see the GDPR as a step too far. The provisions impose very considerable administrative burdens on many data controllers, not all of which do much, if anything, to respect legitimate privacy rights.


3.    During the long discussions in the early part of the last decade which eventually led to political agreement amongst EU nations that the GDPR should be adopted, the UK’s negotiating team frequently argued against the imposition of onerous and bureaucratic provisions which set out in considerable detail how organisations should be required to run their privacy programmes. The UK now has an opportunity to review these initial reservations and develop laws that allow a more pragmatic approach which still delivers robust privacy protections for individuals. Some commentators do not wish to reopen these discussions. I disagree. Where there is evidence that the current provisions are unduly onerous or unworkable, we should ask whether there a business case exists to alter them.


4.    Complexity is costly.  The more complex the rules are, the more resources may be required to provide assurance about the extent the organisation fully complies with the rules. Complexity provides consulting organisations with a stream of work, but it hinders smaller organisations that can’t access tailored compliance advice. Complexity also frustrates individuals who try to exercise information rights, only to learn that obscure exceptions to the rules actually result in them having fewer rights than they realised. 


5.    Data protection should be fun. Our relationship to work is one of the most important things in our lives. We should query the motives of those that have used the GDPR to develop vast bureaucracies that are ultimately pointless. While the key to corporate success is convincing people that you are worthwhile, I meet an increasing number of privacy professionals are experiencing burnout. They feel trapped in a system that makes their work seem both joyless and endless.