PETs are Dead; Long Live PETs!

An anonymous post at the On The Identity Trail project’s blog, blog*on*nymity titled PETs are Dead; Long Live PETs! calls for increased attention by privacy advocates for technological solutions to privacy problems:

Privacy advocates tend to react to information privacy excesses by seeking stronger oversight and enforcement controls, and calling for better education and awareness. Some are more proactive, however, and seek to encourage the development and adoption of privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs). If information and communication technologies (ICTs) are partly the cause of the information privacy problem, the thinking goes, then perhaps ICTs should also be part of the privacy solution.

It is a thoughtful piece, with a helpful summary of recommendations:

  • PETs are attracting renewed interest and support, after several years of neglect and failure
  • PETs are an essential ingredient for protecting and promoting privacy in the Information Age (along with regulation and awareness/education), but their conception and execution in practice is highly variable and still rooted in last-century thinking.
  • True PETs should incorporate into information technologies ALL of the principles of fair information practices, rather than any subset of them.
  • In today’s Information Age, true PETs must be comprehensive, and involve all actors and processes. Evaluating PETs will increasingly be a function of whole systems and information architectures, not standalone products.
  • It may be more useful to think of privacy-enabling technologies and architectures, which enable and make possible specific PETs.

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