Citizen 2.0: Privacy, security and civil liberties in a digital society (House of Commons Round Table)
I had the pleasure yesterday to chair the New Statesman‘s Citizen 2.0: Privacy, security and civil liberties in a digital society Round Table at Portcullis House with a phenomenal array of people who Make Things Happen. Many thanks to Dr. Elizabeth McFarlane who organised the event, which was transcribed and will be released as a special booklet in the next edition of New Statesman magazine. From the event Introduction:
The evolution of the “citizen 2.0” society has lead to increasing concerns around privacy, security and civil liberties. It is true that new, interactive technologies have helped deliver a great many benefits. But, the New Statesman is keen to explore the challenges facing industry and Government as they seek ways to reduce the risks, control abuse and defend the freedoms of individuals.The topics we will cover include:
We give important personal information to a range of organisations, from the NHS, to online shops, to the DVLA, to social networking sites. How can we ensure that this personal information is safe? Should the rules on data sharing and protection be strengthened? Who decides what uses are made of personal data? What about data that reveals more than identity such as interests, opinions and online activities?
At a time of increasing concern over civil liberties, what power should the government have to monitor our behaviour online? Would attempts to monitor this behaviour stifle the creativity and freedom that defines the world wide web?
Online Democracy and Freedom of Information
The internet provides a unique tool to engage people in the democratic process, from providing an increasing range of information to providing tools for active participation. Should there be limits be on the tools of digital democracy, and how do we reach those who are not connected?
It was a very impressive list of gathereds:
- Sharon Lemon, Leader, Serious Organised Crime Agency e Crime Unit
- Paul Morris, Head of Government Affairs, Microsoft
- Professor Peter M. Sommer, LSE and Open University
Over the generous hour and a half we had to discuss the issues, we tackled primarily three areas:
- Government understanding of data security (why isn’t there more training on data handling), how to share it between relevant departments (is the flat internet in opposition to the government’s siloed information system?) and what they collect (how much of what is collected is actually needed?)
- the relationship between government and Commercial interests in terms of data ownership (who owns what?), sharing (what are the legal processes by which data is shared?) and security (what can government learn from commercial about data security?)
- how the Person understands both the value of their data (both demographic and behavioural – and both what’s collected involuntarily and what they offer themselves to commercial and public services: why is trust online going down, as the population becomes more web aware?), trust that centralised government will do the right thing (why does local government have a better reputation?) what rights they have to own it and what rights they have to keep it private (90% of the population are aware that they have the right to access personal information)
The Round Table was held at an excellent time, not least because of the controversial announcement in Parliament on Tuesday of a proposed centralised database of all citizen communications (yes, txt msgs included in that too), the recent ruling that Google had to hand over all YouTube behavioural data to media giant Viacom, and the recent ruling against data scraper/advertising organisation Phorm for their likely civil liberties infringements.
I’m looking forward to the transcript, to remind myself of the plethora ground we covered. The greatest take-away was once again realising how innovative people in the world, but how rarely the innovations trickle in to the places of power.
I will link to the transcript when it’s made available online.