Some Thoughts on Information Climate Change

Sir Bruce Slane, New Zealand’s first Privacy Commissioner, at the end of his term of office in 2003 highlighted the importance of privacy by drawing a parallel to the air we breathe: both are invisible and we only notice it once it’s gone. So when Scott McNealy said in 1999: “You have zero privacy anyway, get over it” he might as well have said: “You don’t have any air to breathe, so just stop breathing.” Twenty years later, Mark Zuckerberg uttered: “The future is private” (after taking the opposite view all along since setting up Facebook).

So are we witnessing a positive climate change with regard to privacy and data protection? Doubtless, there are some positive developments. Since the GDPR entered into force 2018, 17 more countries have adopted privacy laws and 163 more privacy tech vendors have started their businesses. However, some signs point in the opposite direction. Our informational and technological environment is changing at what the European Commission once aptly described “breakneck speed”. Some have described this development as causing a “data tsunami”.

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