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Privacy watchdog is on the case

The island's first privacy watchdog said he planned to visit community groups to find out how the collection of personal information affected people.

Alexander White will also canvass businesses as he considers what should be included in guidelines for legislation.

His role as the island's Privacy Commissioner means he will be in charge of implementation of the Personal Information Protection Act 2016.

Mr White, a lawyer from the United States, said: “Over the next month or two, I want to get out and meet as many of the different business groups as I can, but also different community groups as well to find out what issues are most important to people.

“I find that once you start talking about what privacy is and you start putting it in context to them and saying, ‘did you know that this app that your child was using was actually sharing their GPS location?', it starts to get them thinking about it; it starts to get them asking more questions.

He added that “online behavioural advertising” was a major concern for many people.

Mr White explained: “That is a jargon term for making those kind of personalised profiles based on what websites you go to — if you go to a shoe shopping site and then to a ski resort site, maybe then the very next ad you see will be about ski boots.

Mr White, who was the deputy chief privacy officer for the South Carolina Enterprise Privacy Office in Columbia, South Carolina, said that protection of personal information was largely unregulated in many places until recent times.

He added: “I think what we've seen in some recent elections around the world is that we have micro-targeting of individuals based on a profile that was built on that individual and so our very world view is being shaped by the way people are using our data.”

Mr White said that the “line starts to blur” with increased use of technology and cited a “scandal” after a fitness tracker company posted online routes taken by runners, which led to the publication of images that appeared to show the outline of foreign military bases because soldiers ran around the perimeters.

He said: “That's an example of one of those unintended consequences of data being used for some other purpose.

He admitted that privacy regulations were difficult to explain in simple terms.

Mr White said: “I think the best way to say it is that privacy is putting an individual in control of information about themselves.”

The Pipa passed more than three years ago was designed to uphold personal information rights in electronic and hard-copy form held by all businesses, organisations, charities and government departments.

Some substantive elements of the legislation have yet to be enacted because it was thought that would help give organisations time to become compliant.

Mr White said he hoped the introduction would be phased in with some of the more straightforward parts, such as naming privacy officers in organisations, coming into effect first.

A government spokeswoman said last week: “The next steps in implementation of the Act will be agreed upon once the Premier, who is the minister responsible for the Personal Information Protection Act, and the recently appointed Privacy Commissioner have met to discuss how the Act should be enacted.

Privacy expert: Alexander White, the new Privacy Commissioner for Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

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Published February 14, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated February 14, 2020 at 12:13 am)

Privacy watchdog is on the case

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