Privacy International defends the right to privacy across the world, and fights surveillance and other intrusions into private life by governments and corporations. Read more »


Where strategies seem to fail: policy laundering

We have sustained some losses that will take many years to remedy, but it is not hopeless. The purpose of this talk is to point out how we may continue to engage and influence policy.

One residual area of concern however is the conduct of international organisations. I get worried whenever the EU, G8, the CoE, the ICAO, ASEAN and other such institutions come forward with international standards and model law. These institutions do not practice public deliberation, do not allow for opportunities to inform debate, and do not respect the principles of the open society. We have not been able to successfully penetrate these bodies to prevent some of their more invasive anti-terror policies, whether it is data retention, biometric identity documents, transfer of travel information amongst many others.

We need to find a way to bring these institutions and their claims of 'international obligations' under democratic scrutiny. Or else all our strategies are for naught as Government launder their bad ideas through international institutions.

But to end on a higher note, if I have one lesson for today it is that I was most impressed by the strategy of co-operation and the creation of coalitions. When privacy commissioners issue their powerful statements, whether it is in this conference, the European conference, or the Article 29 Working Party, these statements have a certain amount of strength. When we work together it is heartening. The UK Commissioner signed the forward to the LSE Identity Project report; Alexander Dix and a number of other commissioners signed on to letters that civli society wrote expressing concerns regarding EU policies; David Loukedelis has positively engaged with us. This is a promising relationship.

But there just isn't enough of this. I don't see a regular positive engagement between civil society and the commissioners. Of course we do have a number of tense moments, but that is fine; something that my colleagues Simon Davies and Marc Rotenberg have called 'constructive tensions'. We need to find a path forward that will build on this further; after all with these coalitions we can bring forward all these other strategies and create a culture of privacy protection and inform public debate. And as we have seen on a number of occasions, the more people know about these policies the less they like them.