[LINK] Professors Call Both Sides Wrong on Privacy

Jan Whitaker jwhit at melbpc.org.au
Fri Oct 27 08:41:05 AEST 2006

At 10:45 PM 26/10/2006, Geoffrey Ramadan wrote:
>Jan I am not suggesting that "free markets" is any reason to reject 

I didn't say you were, but the inconsistency of the application of 
the 'free market' argument by those who focus on economic factors to 
make the majority of their decisions (listen to the business 
community and the government, if you need proof of that!) is 
something that needs to be said as it is an underlying assumption to 
most arguments about public policy. OK, let's assume that. Then all 
aspects of the market must be free and as equitable as possible. 
Expectations of the populace, not special interests, should have the 
higher power to influence where that equity lies. Fact: there are 
more members of the public than their are businesses. In a system 
were 'rights' are not written in the law, as in Australia, but ARE 
expectations of the populace, there will continue to be these broad 
stroke debates.

>In my mind it is clear that there needs to be a balance on both 
>sides. On one side the realities of business to conduct business and 
>collect and process information and other other to side respect for 
>the privacy of the individual. It is not a one sided solution. Is a 
>balance between the two, and in the end its about how much rights 
>people are willing to give up in order to obtain some advantage.
>1) providing information in order to improve MY efficiency in doing something

who is Me? The consumer? There are lots of examples of flexibility, 
but some in some the choice is from the provider, not the customer. 
You need to read a few sets of Terms and Conditions to understand 
that. Business writes itself out of obligations all the time. You 
want to buy this widget or service? Fine, but you must abide by THESE 
rules. They are NOT negotiable. Oh, you want to go to a different 
service provider? Well, guess what, the peak body (business union) 
has already decided what we are all going to do, so good luck.

>2) giving up some of my freedoms (tracking) in order to secure my safety

Give some examples that are backed up with ANY proof.

>3) obeying the road rules in order to have a safe journey

This has nothing to do with providing information. The truckie 
tail-gaiting me in the B-double on the Monash Freeway doesn't know me 
and I don't know them. And even when you do get an identity number of 
the truck and the name of the company, as a friend of mine did last 
year and go to the police to get it attended to, it is highly 
unlikely that anything is done about it. She was harrassed by the 
police for reporting it!

>4) opting into loyalty system to obtain some benefit.

That is by choice. I have a Flybys card but I never use it.

>All of which must be done lawfully.

Currently we are in a hybrid legal environment of self-regulation on 
many of these issues rather than a real set of laws. And in those 
areas where there is written law, the 'business friendly' government 
has limited the terms, handicapped the commissions enforcing them by 
underfunding, putting penalties too low so that there isn't much 
reason to abide by the weak laws, etc. So when you make statements 
about doing things 'lawfully', well, whoop-de-do! That benchmark 
doesn't really say much.

>However, I concede that law may not go far enough in protecting 
>peoples rights. Hence I accept the need for regulations.

I'm shaking my head at that comment. Regulations by whom? Any 
regulations with enforceability are written by government as a result 
of a law. Regulations that don't derive from that are Voluntary and 
have no enforceability. Self-regulation is a joke and not worth the 
time that Many of us on link have put into it in good faith. We are 
Alway outvoted. About the only contribution I can think of that I've 
had lately on one 'code' has been to inform them that they have so 
many holes in it and which ones they had to fill because of the 
existing laws. They didn't even KNOW there were privacy acts in some 
states or privacy requirements in other parts of the law besides the 
privacy act itself.

>I am trying to understand where this middle ground is. But to date I 
>don't get much sense of middle ground. Only that peoples privacy is 
>usurps all else on all situations, a position which I dont believe 
>is realistic.

Nope, you are not hearing the responses. I don't think anyone has 
said that. They have said that Business or economics or efficiency 
should not be the highest justifications for using RFID. They are 
saying that ethical factors, choice, and alternatives to meet a range 
of circumstances need to be at the table as well and that the great 
unwashed which outnumber the businesses should have a voice in the 
matter, be that at the service window or check-out counter or on the 
phone to the call centre, or through their elected representatives in 
government who should have their first allegiance to the voters, but 
often don't.

>I was just pointing out that Business need information to operate,
>which *will* require people to give up some rights (even if just a 
>name and address).

I believe Daryl got this one right -- not ALL businesses and not ALL 
transactions within an individual business and not with ALL 
customers. So to modify your sentence:
Some businesses need some information to operate some aspects, which 
may require some people to give up some rights.

>And given that Business will be around for some time yet, then the 
>debate needs to revolve around how you balance both these needs, and 
>not simply eliminate them (on either side).

With this I agree.


Jan Whitaker
JLWhitaker Associates, Melbourne Victoria
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com
personal: http://www.janwhitaker.com/personal/
commentary: http://janwhitaker.com/jansblog/

'Seed planting is often the most important step. Without the seed, 
there is no plant.' - JW, April 2005
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