Swedish Transparency

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I spent New Year’s Eve in Sweden and it is always interesting again to see that Swedes are much less concerned regarding privacy than people in most other European countries. Especially services like requesting the holder of a car including type, registration date and location by just sending a SMS with the license number to 72503 or getting detailed information about the salary history and financial standing of a person on ratsit.se for only a small fee would not be possible and accepted in most other European countries.

This is not surprising if you have a look at a Eurobarometer report from 2011 stating that only 33% of the Swedes are concerned about over-disclosure of personal information. The EU average is 72%. The revelations about the Swedish government spying on Russia to support the NSA and opposing to the planned reform of the European Data Protection Regulation confirm that privacy is not a big concern in Sweden.


Germany’s new DPC supports governmental spyware

The christian-democratic politician Andrea Voßhoff will succeed Peter Schaar as Federal Data Protection Commissioner (DPC). Her election is criticized because she did not care about data protection so far: She supported the data retention that was declared unlawful later on, and demanded the online searching of computers with spyware by governmental bodies and the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Green politician Konstantin von Notz says in a guest article for German Handelsblatt that this is just another part of the government’s try to weaken fundamental rights protection of German citizen.

Since Christmas is close when hope and happiness is celebrated in many parts of the world, I still hope that her new role will change Mrs. Voßhoff’s mindset and she will become a strong supporter of the right of informational self-determination and privacy 😉

On this note, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Privacy profession likely to explode

As European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx stated at the IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress: “I would not be surprised if the privacy profession would just explode in the coming years.”

700 participants and nearly 40% more than last year at one of Europe’s biggest privacy congress that took place from 10-12 December in Brussels show that his prediction is likely to happen. You can read about the most interesting discussions and quotes on Twitter.

Hot topics at the congress were recent developments regarding the EU Data Protection Regulation, but also Privacy by Design. I moderated a session about Current and Future Privacy Trends with Facebook’s Head of Policy Erika Mann and Aurélie Pols, who stated that many people say: “Yeah, privacy by design. We do it. But that’s not the reality at most companies.” I totally agree and I consider the concept of Privacy by Design as very important, but there lacks a clear definition in the upcoming data protection regulation about what it really means in practice and which level is adequate.
Siobhan McDermott, Chief Policy Officer at AVG, made a funny but true statement in our session that “NSA is looking for a privacy pro, although I don’t think anyone is crazy enough to take that job.”

NSA supports German IT industry

The NSA spying affair lowers the trust in U.S. IT companies. Customers especially from the European and Asian market try to avoid products and services provided by U.S. technology companies including Cisco, IBM, and Microsoft. IBM reported a 22 percent revenue decline in China in October and Cisco expects a 8-10 percent drop in this quarter. A study even predicts a loss of $22 to $35 billion for the U.S. cloud industry over the next three years as a result of the NSA’s recently revealed surveillance programs.

At the same time IT companies from Europe (except UK) and above all from Germany see an increased demand for their products and services, especially from Asian countries. There is a real run for IT Security made in Germany.
An economic decrease of its IT industry will put additional pressure on the U.S. government to better constrain and control the surveillance measures of the NSA. So there is hope for privacy.