January 28 is Privacy Day. I love the privacy profession. Privacy Day is a good day to reflect a bit, and January is the time for new resolutions. Here are mine:
1) Take the high road: I've chosen a career built on the fault lines of privacy, and it's my job to help people cope with them. This stuff matters, real people get hurt every day, and I should try to be worthy of it. Can you imagine the anguish of a teenager who would jump off a bridge when his privacy was invaded?
2) Respect governments: Governments are full of contradictions. One arm regulates privacy while another arm operates vast surveillance systems. Show respect for governments by fighting every day for the rule of law, especially where the rule of law is weak.
3) Streamline: Privacy is a field that has spawned a complicated compliance bureaucracy. Meet your compliance obligations, but paperwork is not your life's mission. Don't become entangled in it like a turtle in a fishnet.
4) Be a lawyer, not a martyr: don't let people hold you accountable for stuff over which you have no control. I've been through years of criminal prosecution for not stopping a single video upload, in a world of billions of videos. I'm a lawyer and a privacy professional. I'm not a scapegoat for the sins of the Internet.
5) Stay pragmatic: Privacy law has always been a tussle between two schools: the realist/pragmatists and the aspirational/fundamentalists. Follow the pragmatists' lead: take a look at the eminently reasonable and pragmatic leadership shown by the UK Information Commissioner's Office new cookie disclosure:. Leave privacy-as-a-beautiful-fiction to the poets.
6) Strong backbone: emulate people who have the backbone to deny requests for users' data from law enforcement, when law enforcement doesn't follow the rules. Admire the backbone it takes to make these statistics public.
7) Help the courts resolve the law's conundrums: you're not a court, and don't try to resolve real-world conflicts between the Right to be Forgotten and Freedom of Expression. The world will throw these knots into your lap and ask you to untangle them. Throw them back to the courts where they belong.
8) Operationalize: Privacy is a field full of reality-divorced rhetoric, and it always has been. The legislative debate in Brussels over revising the EU privacy laws is wandering through whacky, weird wonderland. As privacy professionals, our job is to operationalize privacy rules. If the law-composers in Brussels are writing a score that no human musician can play, what good is that?
9) Cherish your private zen-zone: I swim a lot. It helps me focus and stay calm. Privacy issues are becoming more intense, laws and lawsuits are proliferating, criminal laws are being invoked more frequently. I start most days with intense swim training: After 8X50 descending set fly, I can face just about anything.
10) The best is yet to come: Tech will evolve, faster than you think. Internet services will get more personalized. Big Data will get bigger. Government surveillance is increasing. Security attacks will become more dangerous and sophisticated. Machines and nanotech will be able to record and remember everything.
And you, dear privacy professional, should steel yourself to stare into the luminous face the future.
Happy Privacy Day!