Why Privacy by Design Is Still Relevant

April 7, 2016
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2 min read

The concepts behind the Privacy by Design movement are decades old. The first papers laying the groundwork for the theory were published by Ann Cavoukian, Ph.D., in the 1990s. But just because the concepts are so timeless doesn’t mean you should ignore them or assume that anyone has paid attention to them in your organization.

As Cavoukian wrote, privacy “cannot be assured solely by compliance with regulatory frameworks; rather, assurance must ideally become an organization’s default mode of operation.” So true — and even more important today.

Look at the trend toward embracing bring-your-own-device (BYOD), using more cloud-based services and outsourcing your network infrastructure and apps; all of these need to be considered and designed with privacy at the forefront.

Seven Tips for Better Privacy Practices

Similar to security by design — a close relation — there are best practices for how to handle change management across your enterprise infrastructure. Here are some foundational principles of the movement, as outlined by Cavoukian, as well as why they are still relevant and important.

1. Proactive, Not Reactive — Preventative, Not Remedial

Make sure privacy is considered before any project begins. You don’t want to come in at the end of a project, when an app is about to be completed, and handle issues when it is too late to truly rectify them.

2. It Should Happen by Default

Make sure your systems are set up in such a way as to provide the best private operations by default. “If an individual does nothing, their privacy still remains intact,” Cavoukian explained. That is a good strategy, but sadly, many systems today come with default settings that provide the opposite.

3. It’s a Win-Win

Adding these considerations should be a win for both the enterprise and the individual. At the same time, it shouldn’t take anything away from the code or project underway. It isn’t a question of privacy or security; it should be both.

4. It Should Be Embedded Into a Design

Privacy measures should never be bolted on as an afterthought. When it’s included from the beginning, “the result is that privacy becomes an essential component of the core functionality being delivered. It is integral to the system, without diminishing functionality.”

5. Strong Security Measures Are Essential, From End-to-End

You need to ensure life cycle management of your data. Too often, I see this missing in many code and project reviews.

6. Being Open and Transparent Matters

Having transparent policies and measures is also very important. Remember trust but verify? It still applies. Don’t rely on security by obscurity or obfuscation. Let the sunshine in.

7. Keep It User-Centric

The more you let the user know what is going on and make your code user-friendly, the better.

David Strom
Security Evangelist

David is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, video blogger, and online communications professional who also advises numerous startup and well-establish...
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