Today in Punta del Este, Uruguay, is the annual conference of the world's data protection commissioners. It also brings together a large number of people in their orbit, like privacy advocates, practitioners and lobbyists. These are annual conferences, usually held in Europe, but occasionally in other countries around the world, as a "reward" for adopting European-style privacy laws. Uruguay has just adopted euro-style-privacy laws, so it's the host this year. In previous years, other countries that had recently adopted euro-style privacy laws, namely Mexico and Israel, were hosts. Countries that have not adopted euro-style privacy laws, like the USA or Japan, are not deemed eligible to be hosts. In fact, until recently, the US Federal Trade Commission wasn't even allowed to vote in the commissioners' meetings, but was only allowed to attend in a sort of second-class "observer" status. Finally, two years ago, the FTC was admitted as a member of the commissioners' club.
I have nothing against privacy confabulations. There are always a lot of interesting things to talk about in the world of privacy. Of course, all this talk could easily be conducted virtually, using simple Internet technologies, essentially for free. I won't be going to Punta, but I wonder if the Microsoft speaker, who will key-note there, will explain why they changed their privacy rules, as The New York Times reported, in a way that "almost no one noticed". Or if he'll talk about how they use an army of privacy lobbying proxies, including former privacy regulators, as The Economist reported.
I'm sure the conference will provide taxpayer-value-for-money, going by the pictures of the beach and the 5-star hotel in Punta on the Conference website. Flying half-way around the world to hear a Microsoft lecturer on privacy...priceless!