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Simple, Transparent Privacy

I am encouraged by the shifting dialog I note that is tasking place within the community of privacy professionals as that group sees more and more non-traditional perspectives joining its ranks.

One of my persistent frustrations since I first became involved with privacy issues a decade or so ago was that there were far too many lawyers and far too few of anyone else. I joined the International Association of Privacy Professionals in 2003 as editor of the member newsletter and quickly immersed myself in every aspect of what was being discussed by the board and at editorial planning sessions and at the events I attended.

It became clear to me at that time that much of what I heard was lawyers talking to lawyers and, while it was important, it wasn’t that exciting.

To the credit of the IAPP’s leadership I have seen that dynamic change. Slowly at first, but in recent years it is evident that other voices are being sought out and new ideas are being heard. Last summer at the Navigate conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire some of the most compelling presentations were given by artists who challenged the attendees with creative and thought-provoking looks at what privacy means and how it affects people.

I have always believed that privacy as a concept in the digital age should first seek to empower the individual, not satisfy the regulators. As such, it should be easy and it should be transparent.

So while reading an article on GigaOm this morning entitled Designing for freedom: Meet the people putting user experience at the heart of online privacy, you can imagine how excited I became to read about a movement by technology designers that recognizes most users of technology are folks like me who value simplicity, and that the hardware and applications and interfaces of tomorrow must aggressively pursue that ideal.

At the same time, and in the wake of the recent wave of massive data breaches that have affected major brands, I have been reading and hearing of deep thinking going on in certain circles that suggests there may finally be a recognition that a failure to address data privacy in a meaningful way represents an existential threat to a corporation’s well-being. We’re not talking about an exercise of short-term crisis management but a potential shift in corporate governance at the board-level.

And it’s about time, wouldn’t you say?

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