Privacy pollution

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Marie Shroff, the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand, recently spoke to the growing challenge facing privacy advocates, and the public in general, in the face of technological innovations that may erode our personal protections:

“So what do I mean by ‘privacy pollution’? It’s an idea I see as having some similarity to air pollution: where small blots of contamination build to form blankets of smog. In themselves, they are relatively minor – specks of soot or puffs of smoke – but in combination the effect can be overpowering. Like environmental contaminants, privacy breaches run from serious even criminal, across to minor annoyance…

The key thing is the fact that bothersome material accumulates. Yes, it is pretty insignificant to receive a piece of unwanted SPAM or yet another telemarketing call, but most people receive quite a few unsolicited and unwanted phone calls, letters and emails each week…

The overall effect is that these tiny but insidious measures combine together to shape our behaviour. Together, they contribute to a climate where private space, thoughts and choices are encroached upon and subtly eroded. We must strive to find some way not only of limiting the impact that this has on each of us, but also to find spaces in which we can be free.”

A excerpt from speech delivered by Marie Shroff, the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand, at the Forum on Privacy and Technology in the 21st Century in Wellington.

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