Dr Gilad Rosner, the IoT Privacy Forum’s founder, was recently interviewed by the European Alliance for Innovation. Dr Rosner will be keynoting at the 3rd EAI International Conference on Safety and Security in Internet of Things, taking place in Paris in October. An excerpt from the interview:

How would you comment on the recent clashes between governments and tech firms, regarding privacy and security?

The internet age has been a windfall for law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies. The routine collection of personal information through social media, search, mobile phones, and web usage has created enormous databases of people’s movements, activities and communications. All of this comes from commercial endeavor – that is, the internet and social media are propelled by private companies in search of profit. They create the products and they store the data, and so those private data stores represent an irresistible target for data-hungry government entities like the NSA and others.

The ‘government’ is never one thing. Governments are comprised of agencies, interests, and people – overlapping powers and agendas. In the case of law enforcement, different groups have different remits and varying degrees of power. Foreign intelligence gathering is not the same as domestic law enforcement, and the rules that enable and constrain different agencies vary widely. There is a blurry line between lawful and unlawful access to private stores of personal data. The Snowden disclosures gave the world some perspective about just how blurry that line is, and how the governance of intelligence gathering may be porous or insufficient.

Sociologists have noted that states ‘penetrate’ their populations; that people need to be made ‘legible’ so that the state can act upon them. A strong argument can be made that intelligence gathering – for foreign or domestic purposes – is a core characteristic of the modern state. As such, lawful and unlawful access (and who gets to say which is which?) are two sides of the same coin: the state’s desire for information about people. Part of the way liberal democracies are judged is through consideration of their legitimacy. When government actors are accused of hacking into private data stores or otherwise circumventing established legal methods of obtaining access, such as search warrants and subpoenas, that legitimacy is called into question. Still, the line is blurry, and because of the secretive nature of intelligence gathering, it’s difficult to get a complete picture of when agencies are acting within their rights, when company practice facilitates or hinders the transfer of personal data to government actors, and when everyone is acting within ‘normal’ operating procedures.

Read the whole interview here: http://blog.eai.eu/the-blurry-line-between-data-protection-and-coercion/

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