Saturday 21 Sep, 2019

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Privacy – It’s Like Y2K All Over Again

There was a certain sense of déjà vu earlier this year, at least for those of us old enough to remember Y2K (and I hope at least some of you are!). All that fuss about cookies and privacy, the doom-mongering (OK, I’ll put my hand up to some of that), and then… nothing. Well, almost nothing anyway. Last-minute guidance changes suggesting that it wasn’t going to be that big a deal after all.

It was all rather reminiscent of the morning of January 1st 2000. Apart from the worse-than-usual hangovers, there were no power cuts, no planes falling from the sky, no sign at all of the predicted apocalypse – not even a bit of mild chaos.

Of course the outsiders’ view of Y2K was that it had all been a waste of time, since they were largely unaware of the amount of effort that had gone into making sure that precisely nothing happened.

Similarly, after years and months of build-up, the May deadline for the ‘cookie law’ has been and gone, and at least superficially it seems not much has changed. The internet certainly hasn’t ground to a halt, and while most of us will have noticed some changes it hasn’t exactly been revolutionary stuff.

But where this differs from Y2K is that it isn’t a one-off event and in many ways, we’re only at the thin end of the wedge. Privacy concerns are not going away, and as the world shrinks and our interactions become more and more joined-up, consumers are going to become more aware of the value of their information. This is especially true of younger demographics – while they may be happy to live their lives online without much concern for privacy now, as they get older they will become more privacy-conscious.

The ICO have this week announced that they have started setting compliance deadlines for some organisations. It remains to be seen what effect this will have, but many commentators were convinced that nothing would ever actually be done. This was always an optimistic view at best, so instead of breathing a sigh of relief and going back to our day jobs, we should be making sure that we think about privacy in almost everything we do.

Conrad’s Privacy session is at 13:40 in Small Room 1

Author: Conrad Bennett
Position: VP EMEA Technical Services, WebTrends