...but we all know what happened to him
, or, if you don't, try Luke 10:25-37.
I imagine everyone who's interested knows my views on the Samaritans Radar application and if you haven't heard them, you're lucky. Short version, suppose you imagine a committee of well-meaning Pharisees sitting at the top of the temple with a box, saying "Drop a note in here with your address if you want to be informed when travellers set off down to Jericho, so you can offer assistance with their robbery prevention strategies. Since we know all you prefer doing good by stealth, no other details about you will be taken by us, and no travellers will be informed their journeys are being monitored, so as to make the nice surprise when they find out all the greater."
But anyway, when various people pointed out (in great detail and with citations) that SamaritanRadar was pretty dubious legally as well as ethically,it got picked up by the likes of Slashdot
, and a whole bunch of US based techno-libertarians came barrelling into the comments of people like Jon Baines
to explain that none of us have understood how the internet works, DUMMY!
Whereas, to be honest, it's that the techno-libertarians simply don't have a clue about the legal and cultural background over which they are trampling rough-shod. Data Protection laws in Europe don't seem to have an analogue in the States and for a very good reason. Of the 28 Member States of the European Union, a frightening majority of them have been governed as actual, full-blown police states within living memory (a good many of them within my
living memory) and that's leaving out worrying stuff like GCHQ and suchlike over here. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Ceaucescu, Franco, Salazar...the list goes on.
So when the European Union wrote its data protection directives and regulations, at the back of their mind is the figure of the guy in the trench-coat, sitting at the cafe table in the corner, making notes and remembering. Which is why they focus not upon the inherently confidential nature of the data
, but on the processing
of that data - that is, what's been done with it. And if you look at the exhaustive and specific list of sensitive personal data
which requires extra safeguards before it may be processed at all, you will note that a ready reckoner as to whether something's sensitive personal data or not, is "Have people been sent to prison camps [re-education centres, vanished, whatever] on the basis of someone knowing that type of data about them?"
Here's the list:
(a)the racial or ethnic origin of the data subject,
(b)his political opinions,
(c)his religious beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature,
(d)whether he is a member of a trade union (within the meaning of the M1Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992),
(e)his physical or mental health or condition,
(f)his sexual life,
(g)the commission or alleged commission by him of any offence, or
(h)any proceedings for any offence committed or alleged to have been committed by him, the disposal of such proceedings or the sentence of any court in such proceedings.
Look at (e). What the Samaritans Radar app does is scan the twitter feeds of people who are being followed by the people who've signed up for it (there are 1.6million twitter feeds being scanned at present) and, if an algorithm is triggered by a key word which suggests the person being monitored might be sub-clinically depressed or, as a psychiatrist would put it, stark raving bonkers, it sends out an email to everyone who's monitoring that person wherever in the world they may be* and suggests that you DM or email (if you have the email or DM access) or if not tweet the person some concern. If the person ignores you, the Samaritans suggest you also contact their friends or family.
If that's not processing personal data by automated means (s.12 DPA) in a manner likely to cause substantial damage or distress (s. 10) colour me orange and call me a carrot.
So, please, anyone wanting to bob up and tell people concerned about this pestilential app that it's doing no more than draw attention to information the person reading it could easily have seen anyway, remember that guy in the corner table at the cafe, in the trench coat.
*Apparently there's been a big influx of Brazilians signing up to the app recently. That sound you heard was the eighth data protection principle being shattered into tiny little pieces.