Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Note: This post is part of a series on the Mid-Atlantic Privacy Compass. Over the following weeks, Commissioner White will explore each of its Compass Points in greater detail.
Organisations must reject the notion that innovation and speed require sacrificing values and embrace the possibility of “Privacy and…” not “Privacy or….”
Innovative organisations, regulators, and other stakeholders, must work together to develop well-defined systems of collaboration to allow innovation in responsible ways that respect rights. Ideas and technology can then be tested in recognized and formalized trials and “Sandboxes” that allow for a controlled environment and due consideration of various factors.
Restrictions on activities can be challenging, but challenges often inspire greater and more innovative creativity. Acting responsibly means that organisations cannot trample on rights simply to take the easy path.
For the purposes of the Compass, Responsibility is found where Ethics and Oversight meet - where knowing the right thing to do meets knowing that you will be held to account. Organisations must take ownership over their actions and reject the notion that innovation and speed of operations require sacrificing values.
Often, privacy is framed in the context of counterbalances, as we have been told we must choose between privacy or technological advances, or national security, or any number of other laudable goals. As I've written in the Mid-Atlantic Privacy introduction, this is a false dichotomy. Privacy is essential to the functioning of our societies, so solutions by their very nature must embrace privacy as an essential element. The solution is not to choose "privacy or" something else but to develop a strategy for "privacy and...."
To continue our nautical metaphors, privacy is not an anchor but is more like ballast - an essential component that improves the stability and functioning of the ship. If we omit it for the perceived sake of expediency, we only create problems that will arise when the seas get choppy.
Responsibility does not solely fall on organisations. Oversight bodies and stakeholder groups have a responsibility to participate constructively in the process. All of these participants are needed to develop well-defined systems of collaboration so that technological and data processes are formed in responsible ways that respect the rights of the individuals. The burden cannot be placed only on the organisations - everyone must share the load.
Regulators around the world have developed "sandboxes," or structures where innovative organisations can test and experiment in a controlled environment and in close coordination with oversight expertise.
Of course, we know something about sand here in Bermuda, which is famous for its pink-tinted beaches. With that and the Compass Point of Responsibility in mind, I am delighted to announce just such a local program to assist organisations through direct input from my office: the Privacy Innovation and Knowledge-sharing (or, "Pink") Sandbox. I will be announcing more details in due course, but if your organisation might like to participate, please contact me to express interest. By the nature of our community, we are a collaborative space where interactions between participants are convenient. I am sure you will find Bermuda to be an ideal testing ground.
Some organisations resist these types of programs as limitations or restrictions. Again, I make the argument that restrictions are a critical component of any creative process and can inspire greater success. Recall the story of the NASA engineers helping Apollo 13 return home, forced to build an air filter using only the spare parts already on the spacecraft. Or pianist Keith Jarrett, who in a live jazz concert in Cologne played perhaps his greatest performance, in part because the piano he was using had poor playing keys that he was forced to avoid. Challenges can help us become more innovative, making different connections in our brains to solve puzzles in new ways.
Responsibility means learning to operate in challenging circumstances. It means that organisations cannot simply take the easy way. They must consider their ethical responsibilities and individuals' rights, and become more inspired for it.
Alexander McD White
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