Thursday, 20 November 2008

Data protection and the internet

. Two events this week have exposed the problems with data protection in the internet age. On the one hand we had the widespread publication of the identities of the parents of Baby P despite a court injunction. Now we have the widespread publication of the leaked BNP membership lists which are still widely available despite a court injunction.

I have made no bones about the fact that I think the publication of both things was wrong. In the case of Baby P's parents it moved beyond the question of whether people could be trusted and into the realms of whether it would damage any pending prosecutions. Similarly, the case with the BNP list is; despite deploring the BNP's hypocrisy in portraying themselves as 'victims' when there members have been involved in 'outing' 'Reds' there still remains the right to privacy.

Although the vast majority of people who see the list will have no intention of in any way using the information on it we do have to recognise that not all people are as responsible in how they deal with these situations. Thinking that everybody will behave as responsibly as we know we would is just plain utopian and naive to be blunt and this is especially true in emotive cases. It is psychological projection; taking your own emotions and values and projecting them onto other people. Anybody who deviates must merely be 'venting'. It is seems obvious to me that some people on the Liberal Democrat Voice thread would move well beyond 'venting' given half a chance. Maybe I am 'paternalist' but I do feel a balance has to be struck; not because I don't 'trust people' but rather because I don't trust *everybody*.

Once the information is out their however it is hard to stop spreading; it is absolutely true that the membership list is still out there and will continue to be; once the cat has bolted out the bag it's hard to stop. So, we are caught in a bind; on the one hand we want the most freedom possible and want to eschew regulation but on the other we are presented with the very real problems caused by the open availability of that information. I don't know what the solution is but I hope I can start a debate....


nickysam said...

When data are obtained from the data subject, the data controller must let them know the identity of the data controller, the purposes for which the data will be processed and any further information required to enable processing to be fair. Data protection should be a major concern for individuals, especially, Internet users.

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Darrell G said...


I agree but what can be done when people in sensitive positions decided to use that data??