Musings of Frank Work, Alberta Privacy Commissioner

I just listened to an IT.Can seminar where Frank Work spoke about the current privacy landscape from his perspective. Some of his thoughts:

We are awash in data that we can’t seem to turn into anything useful. For example, the data that was available on the attempted airplane bomber. Comments were made by the US government that they had intelligence about this individual. Frank’s point is that they really only had data – they were unable to turn it into intelligence.

He sees a trend for organizations to collect huge amounts of data, and try to turn it into intelligence later. That is at odds with privacy laws that require reasonable collection.

As he puts it, don’t try to drink the whole ocean – consider what you want to achieve before you start collecting.

He also believes that airport body scanners are just security theatre, and that we are surrendering privacy for no real gain. We seem to be in a position where we wrongly welcome more surveillance regardless of whether it is reasonable or relevant to the issue.

He also sees a problem with PET, or privacy enhancing technologies. PET refers to using technology to make otherwise invasive things less invasive – such as blurring faces. While PET is good if information has to be collected, we should still question the collection in the first place. Some info just should not be collected.

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