An open debate on privacy: EU Perspective’s response to President Obama’s challenge

Following the PRISM revelations at the beginning of June, President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged us all to an open debate on the seemingly inherent conflict between state security and privacy rights. With on-line data protection in the throes of the EU legislative process, now would indeed appear to be a good time to discuss privacy – not just from an EU Perspective but from a trans-Atlantic and global one as well.

The disclosure that the US has the potential to spy on each and everyone of us indicates that the interaction between on-line personal data and privacy rights – like a deck of cards flung high into the air after a game of 52 pick-up cards – remains suspended, with no one certain, just yet, where the tricks are going to land.

To frame the debate it would be useful to try and set out what is meant by privacy and data protection. Can the issues be filed under different headings or are they so intermeshed that trying to separate one from the other is an impossible task? This is EU Perspective’s attempt to clarify some of the confusion surrounding the current debate.

The debate will examine and distinguish between the various on-line privacy issues as follows:

Issue 1: “Little Brother” – commercial exploitation of personal on-line data.

Issue 2: “Big Brother” –  State’s access to private data.

Issue 3: “Five-eyed Snoopy” – State on State intelligence gathering and confidential trade secrets.

Issue 4: “Step-brother” –  non-commercial, non-state access to private data (hackers).

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