Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Confidential information

should be kept confidential. Requests to keep information confidential should be respected. There are only very rare occasions where it is right and proper to breach confidentiality.
There are also vast amounts of information which, although not confidential, are best kept to oneself. It is information which does not need to be shared with other people.
I am the keeper of both sorts of information. Most of us are.
I do not put things up on the internet for the public consumption of others unless I want to share it with the world. This blog gets read in China and Russia and other distant parts of the world so I try to be careful - for readers there as well as myself. I am not about to breach national security, nor am I going to share information which should not be shared.
The Australian government however is thinking differently. Nicola Roxon, our Attorney General, gave a speech yesterday. In it she indicated that the government is moving towards favourably considering the idea that vast amounts of personal and private internet and other telecommunications data should be kept for a time so that our every move can be monitored.  It is an Orwellian move more in keeping with North Korea's government than a supposedly democratic twenty-first century state.
Does the government really need to know that a friend phoned last night? Oh, we might have been plotting to put some knitters on stage? Or that I had an e-mail to say that someone's grandson is critically ill? Oh his grandparents might harm someone else in their grief and frustration?
Claims that data would be secure and that it would only be used by government are a nonsense. No data is secure. Anything can be hacked.
And it does not even take hacking. A short submission to the government with the words "in confidence" was put up on a government website for the world to see. As it is probably not too much damage has been done - although some has been done. It was removed from public view when it was pointed out to them that the submission was intended to be confidential but, if they cannot get even that right, how can they be trusted with vast amounts of infinitely more confidential information?


Frances said...

Cat: Is there a difference between information being "private" or "confidential"?
I am thinking here of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which now collects at least some information in person, orally, rather than by completing and posting a form. In that the collector is a local person, I feel that my privacy has been violated. Whether or not they can keep that information confidential when they can put a local face to it, is reliant soley on their personal integrity.

the fly in the web said...

Quite agree with Frances.
In France a local woman (daughter of the maire)came to take the census.
I told her we could read and write French, so would deal with the form ourselves.
No,that would not do...she was there to question us.
It took some time...looking up the relevant legal details and writing them down for her...before she would leave.
Not only foreigners complained....she was known for a loose mouth and her father no better.

catdownunder said...

Hello Frances - hope all is well with you?
I suppose it is a little like splitting hairs to suggest that there is a difference between "confidential" and "private" - "confidential" to me implies information which definitely should not be made available to everyone whereas "private" is implies information which we would prefer not be made available to everyone.
The former has legal and other connotations and the latter is most definitely a matter of respect for the individual!