Thursday, 28 March 2013

More Maxims for Privacy

I wrote some maxims for privacy a while back, but still I'm looking for that crystalisation of privacy - the "one slider" or "one sentence" that encompasses the foundations, or the basics of privacy.

For the most part privacy comes down to data collection and subsequent usage of that data - the rest is just additions to that. At least if we're concentrating on privacy and not the wider scheme of information management of which I believe privacy is just a sub-speciality, albeit a rather important one.

So, when dealing with information:

"If you don't have a use for it, 
don't collect it!"

For me this sums it up. It links data collection and usage in a way that clearly states that just collect what you need right now; don't even think about the future uses yet. Interestingly I also think that deliberately restricting the data collection right at the start to what you absolutely know you are going to use immediately forces you (the software/system developer) to better focus on the product at hand - "Slow Data" anyone?

In these agile development days however, it is often argued that we'll develop the usages later and collect everything now. How often does this really happen? And, if you really were agile then you'd construct your system initially to do the minimum it needs to and get that out to the customer for their appraisal. If that goes well (or not), then modify as necessary during later stages in your agile development process.

If you're not agile (which apparently is waterfall, though I'm not sure), then you should have worked out what you need and work from there; which again should be self-limiting on the data collection. Surely in a good, fully worked out design you wouldn't be collecting superfluous things?

So, that's it, the essence of privacy as a single sentence; the rest is just layers pertaining to things such as provenance, data retention, purpose, infrastructure etc - that's what makes good information management a whole discipline in itself, of which privacy is one small, but important part.

1 comment:

Erkki said...

Hi, Ian - - I have tried to reach you by mail. I'm a local journalist writing about blogs in our region. Please drop a line at so I can get in touch with you.