Cat out of the bag

So it’s now in print. Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs. Ahh that’s better

If like me, you’ve known for a little while, the relief of being able to put it up in writing is… well, a bit underwhelming actually. It’s been one of those things that’s been kicking around for so long, a bit like Christmas, that when you finally get there, it’s a bit of a letdown. Except at Christmas I get some new books to read and get to do the ‘oooo, what day is it? Thursday? Really?’ thing

Of course, you have to wonder which superinjunction will break next. I have a bet on with a friend, but we shall see.

All this salacious gossip has quite a serious point. Privacy Law in this country is in a bit of a state right now, and has implications for those of us in the public sector. There are to my mind, a number of key challenges we face:

1. What do we do about twitter/blogs et al outside of our jurisdiction?
2. How can an injunction be ‘real’ if it’s splashed all over cyberspace?
3. To what extent can parliamentary privilege by used to release information?

Asking Twitter to provide details of people commenting is a fruitless endeavour, given that Obama passed legislation specifically insulating US companies from English Law, and frankly, the sheer size of the task makes it unlikely. So given this hosing about of information, public authorities need to take extra care with information. I don’t care about the Giggs and Mosley’s of this world, but I do care about the rest of us without limitless funds. Imogen Morgan (the model who allegedly had ‘relations’ with Giggs) has had a torrid time of it, with little recourse to defend her name or keep her privacy. Cases over the years (e.g. The Bulger trial) have shown that details leak, that papers will print, and that people’s privacy can be easily breached. English Law is currently looking very flaky and unable to protect real people who actually need protecting (as opposed to testosterone fuelled celebs).

The reason why this is important does not relate to the pocket change spent by footballers and high-profile celebs on court orders and subsequent PR campaigns. It relates to information held by public bodies on patients, citizens, planning applications, prisoner details, etc. etc. We have a high ethic in this country of protecting people, and this needs to be paramount. But if we can’t control the information’s diffusion because of the rise of the internet, we need to consider our approach afresh.

A major factor in our world is the Open Government agenda. It continues to push data to the boundaries as we seek to make use of what we have. But to paraphrase a Pirelli ad from a few years ago, ‘Power is nothing without control’. Whilst a local planning application is not of national interest, it may have implications locally. Getting it splashed all over the rumour mill via Twitter, having an MP helpfully raise it at PMQs suddenly brings a matter into the open, often without context or the whole truth. It makes it all the more important for consideration to be given to what is being released.

My point is that this issue heightens even more the need for Security Officers, Legal and staff directly involved to work closely together to ensure that Policy and Procedure is strong enough to protect those that cannot afford to protect themselves. It would be unforgiveable in the current climate to do anything but.

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About Graeme Stewart, McAfee

I work for McAfee as Director of Public Sector Strategy and Relations, UK&I
This entry was posted in Data Breach, ICO, Information Security, InfoSec, Legal, Sophos. Bookmark the permalink.

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