Monday, 19 August 2013

GDS and privacy

Yesterday's Sunday Times:
Google: we are beyond British law

The internet giant says the High Court has no authority to rule over a landmark UK privacy claim ...

“They don’t respect privacy and they don’t consider themselves to be answerable to our laws on it” ...

Last week Google’s privacy policies came under fresh attack in America after it said that its 425m Gmail users could have no “reasonable expectation” that their messages would remain confidential. The admission came to light in a court filing.

In its submission to the High Court, Google’s lawyers argue that any information gleaned from the search engine is not “private or confidential”. This means that the company is under no obligation to hold it in confidence, they say.
You know where you are with Google. No "reasonable expectation" of confidentiality/privacy.

Similarly, you know where you are with the UK Cabinet Office. Francis Maude, the Minister in charge, told the Information Commissioner's Conference:
Sharing data is a key enabler in our ambition to see public services provided digitally by default ...the census is another area where I want to bust the myths around the complexities of data sharing ... we aim to find effective ways of using and sharing data for the good of everyone ...
The provisions designed to limit data-sharing in government are no more than "myths", in his eyes, and will be swept away by Mr Maude's modernisation plans – spearheaded by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

You know where you are with GDS. Ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, executive director of GDS and senior responsible owner of the pan-government Identity Assurance Programme (IDAP) has told you:
Andrew Nash, Google’s Director of Identity, ran us through the current issues facing identity.He explained how Google aim to grow and be part of an ecosystem of identify providers, and encouraged the UK Government to play its part in a federated system. The UK ID Assurance team and Google agreed to work more closely to define our strategy – so look out for future announcements. Andrew also took the opportunity to walk the Minister through the Identity ecosystem.
Which brings you back to Google and the "reasonable expectation" of privacy – there is none.

The Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG) have worked hard to devise nine privacy principles. And ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken has asked for comments on these principles. But you have to ask yourself whether his heart is in it. PCAG is only an advisory group and GDS can ignore their suggestions.

GDS were asked to produce a version of the nine principles with numbered paragraphs to make it easier to refer to them when submitting responses to the consultation exercise. GDS agreed that this would be a good idea. That was on 20 June 2013. Two months later, and no further action has been taken since.

When GDS held their revivalist The Future is Here event back in January 2013, they got everyone to book their place through Eventbrite, a Californian firm of event organisers. A Californian firm of event organisers who now have all the contact details of 300 civil servants "working across Government and its agencies to deliver our digital ambition statement". A marketing man's dream. So much for GDS and the "reasonable expectation" of privacy.

There has been at least one submission made in response to the PCAG consultation. Compiled by Mark King, it is published in full by the great Philip Virgo. Mr King's submission is masterly and suggests that even if GDS were to agree to the nine principles our "reasonable expectation" of privacy would still be disappointed.

These are the dog days of August, no-one can be expected to respond to consultations while we are all in the doldrums. But come September, if you have any desire to protect your reasonable expectations, it could be worth making the effort to respond.

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