However, our support for the emergence of the APEC Privacy Framework has generated some criticism, which I'd like to address. The APEC Privacy Framework was inspired by the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and is concerned with ensuring consistent and practical privacy protection across a wide range of economic and political perspectives.
At the core of the APEC framework is an entirely new privacy protection principle that does not exist in the regulatory frameworks of the 80s and the 90s: the “preventing harm” principle. The starting point is that personal information protection should be designed to prevent the misuse of that information. Since the greatest risk of that misuse is harm to individuals, we need a set of rules that seek to prevent that harm.
Using the reasoning of the APEC framework, global privacy standards should take account of the risks derived from the wrongful collection and misuse of people’s personal information and be aimed at preventing the harm resulting from those risks. Under the “preventing harm” principle, any remedial measures should be proportionate to the likelihood and severity of the harm. Some critics have said that the APEC framework is ambiguous and that the “preventing harm” principle does not look at privacy protection from the point of the individual. However, the focus of the “preventing harm” principle is precisely the individual and what is perceived as harmful by that individual.
Others see the APEC framework as the weakest international framework in this area and support the original OECD Privacy Guidelines because they are based on a simple approach to privacy protection. But is this approach a valid one to address the challenges of the Internet age? In today’s world, virtually every organisation – public or private, large or small, offline or online – relies on the collection and use of personal information for core operational purposes.
At the same time, regulators around the world are acknowledging the fact that they have limited resources to deal with all aspects of personal information protection. And three-quarters of the countries in the world still don't have meaningful privacy regimes in place. We believe that the APEC framework is the most promising foundation to advance privacy protections in those countries. What is wrong then with looking at this very practical challenge in a practical manner and trying to prioritise what really matters to people in an objective, yet flexible, way?
Fortunately, some regulators are also looking at the “preventing harm” principle as a valid way forward. The UK Information Commissioner recently published its data protection strategy which emphasises the need to make judgments about the seriousness of the risks of individual and societal harm, and about the likelihood of those risks materialising. The strategy document goes on to say that the UK regulator’s actions will give priority to tackling situations where there is a real likelihood of serious harm.
An emphasis on harm-prevention is essentially a return to the pragmatic roots of our enlightenment tradition. Purists who declare - for example - a perfect right to control personal information, run into trouble finding practical ways to make such ideal-based systems even begin to work, let alone work fairly. The inherent conflict of interest between a right-to-know and a right-to-privacy CAN be solved, if one remembers something basic... that all of our four great enlightenment institutions - democracy, science, markets and justice - rely utterly on empowered citizens being able to hold others accountable.Reciprocal accountability is the wellspring of freedom and... yes... of privacy too. But only people who know a lot can apply this tool. The one tool that also allows each of us to deter others from doing us harm.All of this sounds a bit theoretical, but it is fundamentally a statement of faith in the pragmatic benefit of empowered freedom. And knowledge is the thing that empowers. I go into this from almost every angle in The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? Congratulations to Google for once again traying to stumble toward a useful and mostly-not-evil path through the minefield of power.David Brinhttp://www.davidbrin.com
Targeted Advertising is beneficial to consumers and it helps Google's finances by making their predicted ROI to prospective advertisers more convincing. We need the Advertisers to pay for these services.However, a non-auto renewing, optional subscription model could be for Google's Services, that would allow consumers complete anonymity except bare essential log-in information and the option of session ID cookies as opposed to persistent cookies. Let each user decide what balance is right for their concerns
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