back to article Euro data protection: Great for punters, not for biz - MoJ wonk

A colleague of mine went to a lecture on the European Commission's proposed Data Protection Regulation last week*. One of the speakers was John Bowman, Head of International Data Protection and Policy at the UK's Ministry of Justice. His opening question to the floor was: "How many of you here represent consumer groups?" Not …


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  1. Graham Wilson

    Data Protection -- Why UK, US etc. so consistently gung-ho slack?

    Why are the English-speaking countries, UK, US etc. so consistently gung-ho slack over data protection--they're always the last to implement and they only part do so?

    Is it because they have or had empires? Is because they won the war thus never understood oppression?

    There's got to be some logical reason for this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Why so slack?'

      I think your points about empires and winning wars are probably correct - as well as the governments not understanding oppression, the populace doesn't either.

      I would add to this that I don't think they have ever shaken off the view that we are all just peasants or serfs. Nothing has really changed since the middle ages - except the nature of our masters.

      1. Graham Wilson

        Re: 'Why so slack?' -- Yeah , peasants or serfs makes sense.

        The term 'great unwashed' also comes to mind.

    2. Gob Smacked

      Re: Data Protection -- Why UK, US etc. so consistently gung-ho slack?

      "Is because they won the war thus never understood oppression?"

      I think you're right. My country had its civil administration in fine working order (trying to evade a certain Internet Law here...) before a "particular 5 year period during the last century" and when it was overrun by soldiers, the victors were happy to find all necessary details readily present for their war purposes.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picking Sides

    This is a little worrying. Data Protection regulations should be there for all and understood to be for the common good. This story suggests that sides are being picked and battle lines drawn. it leaves us ordinary peeps out in the cold - MoJ and NADPO on one side and us on the other.

    We need a National Association of Data Protection Subjects - NADS.


    1. nichomach
      Big Brother

      Re: Picking Sides

      That's the idea. They don't want our feedback or involvement. They're doing the usual thing of looking for the "evidence" they'd like to find, choosing the policy they want and then claiming that the "evidence" made them do it; cf Lansley and the Health Service "reforms".

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Picking Sides

      > We need a National Association of Data Protection Subjects - NADS

      That's a good idea. We can put it on a placard - 'Go NADS'

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe they should talk to CNIL (France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés) about how they have been doing their business since 1978.

    And I should note that France's economy does not seem to be in as sorry a state as its insular neighbours', which sort of points towards the fallaciousness of the argument that individual rights (of which data protection is just one) somehow hurt the economy. That coming from a government employee or elected representative is rather very worrying.

  5. g e
    Black Helicopters

    "US and the UK were leading the world"

    So, in other words, the US has commanded to provide more data on people and the best way to do it is to allow biz to collect and hold more then mine it through the usual sneaky and/or cross-border and covert techniques.

    Whenever 'UK & US' is mentioned be suspicious as it usually implies 'Special Relationship'

    To paraphrase Spartacus (the series) 'The US government would put cock in arse'

    Black Helicopter cos there's no Gladiator icon ;o)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ""How many of you here represent consumer groups?" he asks

    But apparently he wanted to hear from businesses. So why not ask "How many of you here represent businesses?". Because he knew the likely response (more hands than from those few consumer groups) would have derailed his rhetorical trickery?

    1. Tom 35

      Re: mmm

      "the costs they would have to incur to meet the requirements."

      Here come some RIAA style math (millions and millions of dollars and thousands of jobs lost).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real problem

    UK government seems to think that businesses form the electorate and that the mob are here just ot serve "business". Hence, the private details, security, education and health of people are seen only as a means of supporting business or the govenment (so that it can help business).

    How about "business" opening its books? Names and addresses of all managers to be published in readily available form, financial details without obscuration and spin, such as investment, profit, loss, charges, tax paid (intelligible and avialable to the average citizen, not just to financial/legal experts), political links, contributions to councils and planning committees and so on.

    "Goverment" needs a strong reminder that it is elected by and for the populace. "Business" is one of the activities of that populace in order to feed, clothe, house and provide itself with more than the bare necessities. Business is not an end in itself, nor is it the purpose of the people.

    This terrible misconception seems, to me, to be behind ignorant ideas such as those reported in this article and behind ridiculous systems such as the bonus culture (if a bloke on a large salary needs a bonus to do his job, he is not the right one for the job. Strangely, worse paid people seem not to need a bonus) and hire and fire attitude.

    1. Graham Wilson

      Re: The real problem -- But how?

      "Goverment" needs a strong reminder that it is elected by and for the populace. ..."

      By definition, logic or common sense, it's clear that other governments and their diplomats [a la recent WikiLeaks], government departments, high-level public servants, business and their lobbyists all have intrinsic advantages over the hoi poli/great unwashed in influencing governments. And governments themselves are party-based which further filters out noise from the electorate. Moreover, it's an absolute fact of life that these protagonists use this power either for their own advantage, their organization's advantage or some other political advantage.

      English-speaking countries have had a stalemate for several centuries. They've not been invaded nor have there been any full-scale revolutions. Thus the status quo remains, and we end up with pretend democracies with lots of distracting noise that diverts attention from the real issues. The pretense is so good we even try to force pretend-democracy onto countries such as Iraq!

      So what to do? We could introduce 'la Terreur' and put Robespierre in charge, however, very few of us would ever have the stomach for that, and besides--as we've seen with Robespierre--that's an extremely risky business no matter what side of the fence one's on. Just think, we'd even have to stop playing Crysis 2, Shotgun 2 Total War, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and or turn the plasma TV off.

      In essence and as the names of the games infer, we've lost the ability to change democracy, instead we've devolved to the point where we're only playing simulated mock versions of once what we did for real.

      The System's so entrenched it's like a stable quantum state. To effect a change of state would require things to be done that are the subjects of these games, and I--as most--aren't going to do that (reading El Reg is far more preferable). ;-)

      Franky, I reckon we've little option but to roll over yet again.

  8. ADJB
    Big Brother

    Problem?, What problem.

    "In short, the MoJ has set up a numbers game where the ministry wants to say that the vast majority of respondents are opposed to costly changes to the Data Protection Act. however, an embarrassing number of data subjects writing in support of the changes proposed in the Regulation would make that claim “sort of difficult”."


    There is already a well tried and tested way round this "problem" in consultations.

    One response from a business represents (say) 10,000 people with that view, i.e. the number of people employed by said business.

    10,000 responses from individuals count as 1 against as they all represent the public.

    Therefore the one business reponse outnumbers the 10,000 public responses by 9999 and you have the "vast majority" you require.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the role of government is...?

    Quote: "...the government’s view was that the Regulation was all about protecting the citizen..."

    Yes... that's why we have a government. To represent the people and - in particular - to protect its weakest members from exploitation. This is a very revealing statement - it reflects the feeling that there has been a quiet revolution, and the government has fallen into the hands of (and is directed by) wealthy individuals who run large businesses. It has grown so strong that a businessman is disturbed that regulation isn't designed for him (over the rights of 'ordinary' citizens).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They were ignoring our rights during the good times too. The Phorm debacle in particular has been going on since 2006 one way or another, and was the main reason this country was taken to court by the EU commission.

    And now they want to use the excuse of tough economic times to justify ignoring those same rights some more?

    It's a red herring. Nothing more. This government has always been about making things easy for business, regardless of the impact it might have on the public and their privacy. It's no coincidence that Patricia Hewitt ended up working for BT and that Norman Lamont ended up working at Phorm.

  11. Bluenose

    The rules of hierarchy

    Everyone is subordinate to the ruling party who can do what they want subject to certain very loose and easily ignored constitutional controls.

    Everyone is subordinate to big business, by which I mean those large money rich monolithic businesses who employ lots of clever lawyers and accountants.

    Joe Public is subordinate to everyone and has no rights other than those which may occasionally be provided by government/big business working in collusion. Bear in mind that such rights can be amended to strengthen/weaken them based on when the next election is to be called and how much money is needed for said ruling party to fund its election campaign.

    The agenda that drives the needs of both the ruling party and big business is set by the media. Big business pays for the agenda and the ruling party falls over itself to support the published agenda. For example, big business needs cheap workers (preferably free), the media says all benefits recipients are scroungers and the ruling party immediately passes laws that make it compulsory for benefit claimants to work for free in order to gain work experience.

    If we the public want to get back power then we need to take it. We need single issue politicians to be elected whose sole role is to reestablish the power of the electorate and not to obtain directorships, well rewarded speaking tours and other such income generators as obtained by the current gang of politicians. Problem is such single issue politicians don't exist or if they do they cannot fight the good fight because the media will see it as being in the public interest to print a whole load of stuff obtained from ancient facebook pictures, posts or comments in order to undermine their credibility as we the public are incapable of actually separating the past from the present. Also we thing that sexual activity is something that politicians should be castigated for.

    1. Graham Wilson

      Re: The rules of hierarchy -- Good idea but impracticable.

      "If we the public want to get back power then we need to take it."

      As I said in an earlier post above, it's a nice idea but won't work--it hasn't for at least two centuries.

      If you've a practical, workable plan then let's hear it.

      ...But I'll up-vote you anyway.

    2. fatchap

      Re: The rules of hierarchy

      you say all that like it is a bad thing

      1. Bluenose

        Re: Re: The rules of hierarchy

        Don't get me wrong, I think that this current opportunity could improve my financial position. Current business plan works on the following basis:

        £5 charge for every business and £2 for every public body that has my details but does not actually need them.

        £1 for every time a business processes my data in any way, shape or form in the EEA and £3 every time they ship it overseas to be processed.

        No payment equals a written request from me to delete the information and if they don't a legal claim will be filed for emotional and physical distress due to the lack of sleep I am suffering from wondering if my data has been lost, stolen or provided to a third party without my agreement.

        Should see me with a regular income of at least £40/year for the next decade or until Dave and his mates decide that I am a scrounger and should be tarred and feathered paraded up and down the street with a sign over my head saying I am a criminal for wanting my rights. Similar to people who make joke tweets about blowing up airports

  12. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

    We need SOME regulation, Minister

    How we might lose our rights is the real question. sir.

    Here's a handbook for killing them:

    1) Weaken data privacy rights.

    Solution: Data laws against preventing cross-indexing, retention limits and consent to strengthen privacy. Tough titty if you must be careful with people's data.

    2) Create draconian powers that can quickly fetter sites without due process.

    Solution: Allow only when fettering is clearly in the PUBLIC interest (think child porn, clear and present danger....). Exceptions are defined by search warrants and court orders. The web is now the new media. Apply old-media rules/concepts that protect freedom of expression, access to information, and civil liberties when "regulating" the web. Don't burn media or printing presses (pun intended).

    3) Prevent citizens from gaining access to their public record/biz-collected data.

    Solution: Don't let it happen. Make personal data access easy and legal.

    4) Prevent citizens from calling public officials to account when they champion narrow interests vs public interest.

    Solution: Civic action, i.e. bitch and vote: And if the narrow/public distinction is unclear Congressman/Senator/Minister, please say and do nothing, that usually works best.

    Remember that the public is watching.

    So how is the US/UK doing so far on a scale of 1 - 5

    (1: very bad ---- 5: very good).

    Here's my entirely unscientific scoreboard.

    1) I give us a 2. Will improve when data-retention and privacy laws are more universally respected, understood and applied

    2) Jury is out but, I'll give us a 3 (neutral)

    3) Another 3, maybe a 4

    4) A little better, we could be holding onto a 4 (but for how much longer?)

    Average score: 12-13/4 = 3 -3.5. Not brilliant, but holding neutral. I'd rather see a clear 4-5 world and leave that to my kids. nurtured with constant vigilance. What sayeth thou?

    Your comments are welcome, and a little up and down voting never hurt anybody

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