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14 September 2010 By Francoise Mukuku

The future of privacy is a theme that strikes me directly. Will ‘privacy’ in ten years be different from what we know today?

I’m a lawyer by training and I know that the law evolves but I cannot get used to it in this context. Because in me lives a victim of violence on the internet, an experience I strongly wish that no girl, no woman would have to face.

So, when the discussion was starting, I went into the room with an empty head, ready to listen, give my opinion and challenge those who say that the future does not belong to us.

What I learned inspired me a lot. Many of the laws need to be reviewed in light of what we know about the internet. But also, two new rights emerged that are completely new to me. They incorporate the new dimensions that the internet adds to our lives: the right to accountability and the right to privacy from design. Users should be able to say: I may make these data available on the net today, but tomorrow, I do not want them to be visible, I shared with my consent then, but now, I do not want it visible anymore.

The thing that surprised me most is the effort to implement privacy rights through the design of technologies, applications and other internet tools and the way this effort is being viewed by different stakeholders.

The main body of those involved in data protection in the European Union are already thinking about it, making sure that the two newly defined rights are part of the legal arsenal. This is under review in the United States, but a regulator who was present at the meeting believes that it does not really make much sense, because many aspects of private life are already recorded in the use of existing technologies. One can guess the sexual orientation of Facebook user from their friend’s list, or by reading wall posts from a person’s Blackberry. The dichotomy between surveillance, control and protection of privacy is a false one and should not be a problem.

But a third voice also held my attention, who says that it is possible to operationalize the two rights, but this operationalization must not rely just on technology, because there are aspects of law and other matters to consider.

It was a good session and I am proud to have chosen it even if the participants did not have time to ask any questions.

The future of privacy: an internet governance issue