Data Privacy Day fails to excite efforts to strengthen data privacy

Data Privacy Day is an “an international celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information”, according to a website devoted to the day. It was started in 2009, when Congress passed legislation recognizing Jan. 28 as National Data Privacy Day.

“Over the past few years, privacy professionals, corporations, government officials and representatives, academics, and students in the US, Canada, and 27 European countries have participated in a wide variety of privacy-focused events and educational initiatives in honor of Data Privacy Day. They have conducted discussions, examined materials and explored technologies in an effort to bring information privacy into our daily thoughts, conversations and actions,” the website explained.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea. Pat Clawson, CEO of Lumension, told Infosecurity that Data Privacy Day is the “tag wagging the dog. It’s not that the idea is wrong, it just seems unsupported.”

“It's amazing that we can get Congress to mark a day to recognize data privacy, but we can’t get data privacy legislation through Congress. In itself, the day becomes an oddball event”, he opined.

The Data Privacy Day website talks about how this is an opportunity to educate the youth about data privacy. “I’ve got high schools kids, and I can promise you they’ve never heard of this”, Clawson observed.

Instead, Clawson believes that the efforts should be focused on getting data privacy legislation passed at the federal level, or at least at the state level. He noted that only a few states have data privacy legislation in place. He cited the Massachusetts Data Protection Law as a model for other states to adopt.

On the national level, Clawson cited laws put in place by Germany, the UK, and Singapore as examples of strong data privacy laws that could be used by the US government as a model. For example, the UK has strong penalties for violators.

“Protecting our data as a nation is the cornerstone of how we go forward in protecting intellectual property that we work so hard to build”, he said. “We need to understand the value of that data in creating the next generation of jobs in this nation. We need to be able to take advantage of what we invest our energy, time, and money in inventing and have the opportunity to build it here first. But we lose that when it gets stolen and sent overseas”, he added.

“How do you get the American public on board with the importance of data privacy? I don’t think it will happen through Data Privacy Day. It has to get into school. We could do public service announcements, and we need to educate businesses,” Clawson said.

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