The Gist: A Round Up

There's a lot happening, so let's try to get to it all in a flash. This is the Gist.

The Gist: A Round Up

Save the Children, unless it is inconvenient

The Data Protection Commission of Ireland is an unusual beast. A government entity of a small country, whose funding only just exceeds the state subsidy to the Irish Greyhound Board, which has the job of regulating the largest and most powerful companies in tech.

A few months ago, it issued a draft document for comment on ensuring the rights of children were protected in the online world. It set out fourteen uncontroversial principles for the Fundamentals for a Child-Oriented Approach to Data Processing.

This week, it issued the paper giving the results of that consultation process. The results were sufficiently eye opening that the DPC was compelled to point out the incongruity of some of the bright ideas they had received;

“the DPC was rather surprised by the general tenor of some submissions, particularly from the technology sector or trade associations representing organisations from this sector.”

Apparently, despite the fact that companies such as Facebook have been loudly talking about their focus on child safety and privacy while also pushing to launch products directly aimed at capturing the eyeballs of children, they were not too hot on proposals that would remove ambiguity about what the law in this area actually means. Here’s the DPC again;

“It is notable in this regard that organisations, which purport to already have effective and proportionate safeguards in place for protecting children’s personal data within their service, objected to core aspects of the principles set out in the draft Fundamentals”

The DPC pointed out that their document was only giving specific guidence on legal obligations which already exist in the GDPR. But, despite this already pre-existing set of obligations;

many submissions from industry appeared to want wholesale sections of the document removed without suggesting alternative approaches which would still afford the same high level of protection to child users of services.

Nothing says you’ve got A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking like trying to persuade regulators delete references to the privacy obligations you already have.

When The Levee Breaks

Ireland has been enjoying the fruits of the Government’s evolving Covid 19 policy. Or to put it another way, the infection numbers have ballooned, the PCR test slots are booking up nationwide and the country is at the upper end of per-capita global new infections, despite a vaccination rate in the mid-90%.

In other words, we have “disgraced ourselves again”, as Yeats once yelled at the Abbey audience.

The Government’s 2021 plans were not complicated.

  1. Get adults vaccinated.
  2. Keep children going to school
  3. Reopen the economy and stop paying the PUP

The problem has come now that they have actually achieved each of these stages and the result is widespread infection.

They didn’t have another plan, and the first plan was simply too simple. It wasn’t going to work without the mitigations that would have cost money and stretched the imaginations of the authorities. They were unwilling to do either.

Now they’re trying to invent a new plan on the hoof, in the face of reversing both the school and economic reopenings. We have been here before, at the same time last year, for the same reasons. Apparently, like the Bourbons of post-Revolution France, our rulers are determined to have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.

They will have to hope that the public’s memories are less enduring.

November Dusk