Culture is future »

09.24.2014

Contribution : “The « cultural » challenge of personal data is not only political, but is also at the heart of western civilization” by David Lefranc and Amandine Quenton


Personal data does not have a “cultural” value in the sense of having a literary or artistic dimension.
They are “cultural” because they reflect social behaviors.

The current use of personal data impedes our cultural values. It is inherently prejudicial to everyone’s private life. It is a technical means through which our society becomes a society of absolute transparency and memory.

A society of absolute transparency leads people to social conformism.  Who wants to have a secret garden, or even an amorality/abnormality sphere, takes the risk of being exposed and stigmatized. The society of absolute transparency makes an injunction to the individuals of having one and only private and public life, consistent and acceptable. The Internet is, at the same time, the place for expression of individualities and the place where deviances are dying. It creates an illusion of richness, while it sterilizes people by reducing them to their lifestyles.

The society of absolute memory is a society that does not forget faults, a society that is going to reduce elderly people to youthful mistakes. A world without forgiveness; the Internet is worse than a criminal record. It is a society that will refuse people the right to make mistake and that will always watch the one who pretend that he changed with suspicion. The persistence of data distorts the human being’s relationship to time, the time of his life. Now he knows that he will be judged on all of his acts since he was born and not according to his current personality. The personality becomes abstract, as it is not linked to the age of the person.

The “cultural” challenge of personal data is not only political, but is also at the heart of western civilization. (David Lefranc)

Personal data are disseminated through multiple means. Social networks are far from being the only ones. We leave tracks almost at each connection to the Internet, and even when turning on our phones: geolocalization, mobile applications  gathering health or fitness data, buying habits, etc.

“Classical” websites on which we browse also collect our personal data.

These collections are mainly for advertising purposes.

It is particularly difficult to control or limit the spread or the access by third persons to our personal data: we disseminate them sporadically and their cross referencing allows reconstituting easily a substantial database.

However, as far as “voluntary” diffusion is concerned, some measures exist, which can be adopted in order to limit the communication of personal data to third persons. Different kinds of measures can be mentioned. They are to be combined and come under:

  • The Human: beforehand, vigilance and reflection before any diffusion of personal data, and control afterwards;

  • The Process: the establishment of “good practices”;

  • Technique: the use of technical solutions (as softwares for example) that enable the securing of the Internet network or to limit the tracking.

However, the implementation of such processes requires to be aware of the risk implied by the diffusion of personal data.

This awareness cannot exist without the implementation of educative initiatives. (Amandine Quenton)

It would be totally vain to dissuade people to use social networks, browsers or connected applications. Only education appears as the suitable measure. But a major challenge is emerging. Indeed, if we need to educate young generations, then the target audience will be made up of teenagers and young adults, which are precisely the ones who praise social networks, as a result of a powerful social conformism (at school, high-school, college, etc.) and a need for developing its relational network. They may also be the ones who foresee the less the future impact of their personal data on their personal or professional future.

Assuming that awareness is audible for the targeted audience, what do they need to be taught? Do they need to learn duplicity, resistance techniques against business intrusion?

On the philosophical level, the answer should be positive: resistance should get organized to twist massively the relevance of collected data. On the legal level, the individual will take risks in altering the sincerity of his declarations on the internet, until putting himself in danger on a legal or civil point of view. In order to regulate the use of personal data, the first question to ask is to know to what extent positive law compels the individual to transparency and sincerity on the Internet. (David Lefranc)

“Universal Declarations” have the advantage of being normative instruments identically implemented in all the subscribing States.

Consequently, a “Declaration on personal data” on the model of the “universal Declaration on the Human genome” could be an interesting and seducing tool.

Nevertheless, this implies a prerequisite, which is that all subscribing States have a common vision of the object to protect.

Indeed, as it is recalled in the preamble of these texts, the signatory parties act in accordance with common principles and ideals.

Yet, this could represent an obstacle to the adoption of a Universal declaration on personal data.

Indeed, States, and especially societies of which they are made up of, have differing visions on personal data.

European countries for example are far more concerned about their protection than the United-States.

Consequently, such a text, adopted right now, would be a compromise text that would not allow a satisfying protection level.

Beforehand, awareness at the international level is essential. Once again, this will require education for the populations on the protection of their data and privacy.

If personal data have a business dimension for some companies, and if the concept of privacy differs from one country to another, it appears, however, that their protection can be supervised. The condition would be that a certain level of convergence would be reached beforehand on the international ground. (Amandine Quenton)

 

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