How does the cookie crumble? Whose spyware is acceptable?

What is the difference between the Larry Page’s claim that making Google wipe data after six months would hit Flu Protection and a Ministerial claim that spending umpty £billion on data retention and Interception Modenrisation would help the War Against Terror”? This morning I also received an eloquent lawyer plea “Please kill this cookie monster to save Europe’s websites“.  


Public debate on information governance (including the use of monitoring technologies) is about as realistic as that on MPs expenses. How would you feel if your neighbour could google your expense claims? Now think about all those with access to your on-line search and shopping records because you clicked on some unintelligible gobbledeygook. Did the MEPs get it wrong? Or, for once, did they get it right?     


You may wrestle with firewalls and anti-virus but do you even think about the governance routines or security standards of the search engines you use, the websites you visit – let alone the social networks to which your children bare their souls or the always-on services to which you subscribe to keep your operating system or security up-to-date.


The Director’s Round table on Information Governance organised by EURIM last year raised many difficult issues. Part of the follow up is a competition for succinct material, suitable for YouTube, to explain these: not just in the context of retrofit security, but as part of the basic planning for new databases or integrated systems to support innovative policies or services.


Is the choice really between “Drowning in Data Leaks” and “Death by Data Protection” ?


How can we reconcile calls for “sharing to enable professionals to better co-operate to protect the vulnerable” with calls to oppose the creation of “big-brother honeypot databases”?


Are Internet techies any more, or less, trustworthy than bumbling bureaucrats?


Are websites any more or less trustworthy than call centres?


If cloud computing is the answer, what on earth was the question?


We have dangerously ill-informed and simplistic debates on the issues of information governance that go to the heart of democratic accountability in an Information Society that appears to be increasingly reliant on electronic identities and databases.


How do we protect personal information and yet use it effectively for the benefit of all citizens?


EURIM tasked a sub-group to try to digest the morass of material on information security and data protection and put it into context: governance regimes that promote the provision of information that is fit for purpose, when and where it is needed – as opposed to tick box garbage protection motherhood, routinely ignored or over-ridden by waiver routines and exemptions.


The key is, of course, leadership from the top. That raises the question of how to convey  complex messages of effective information governance to those who set the policy frameworks within which our databases, websites and social networks operate – whether public or private sector, under UK, European, US, Chinese, Indian or other jurisdiction.


The group’s answer was to invite organisations with key skills and a flair for innovation in delivering a web-based message (suitable for YouTube) to take up this challenge in a competition.


The judges will be drawn from the Class 0f 2010 (the prospective parliamentary candidates standing at the next General Election). The winner will be the one that receives the greatest number of votes, as cast through a web-based voting procedure.


The group attempted to summarise the messages in an animated Powerpoint presentation, a short accompanying supporting text and a suggested voice-over script. Thesel are available on the EURIM website . There you will discover the 7 Information Governance gremlins – ‘Iglens’ – which the group believes any governance regime must include and manage. You will also find a references to the best of the material found by sub-groups looking at security by design, value, quality, sharing and Identity governance – as well as at information assurance/security and data protection. 


Of course you will be able to able to think of better ways than animated powerpoint. But the challenge is not for slogans and partial messages – that would be far too easy. It is to illustrate how complex messages can be conveyed in a balanced way to an audience that is representative of those who will be making the political decisions of the future (the candidates standing in the next election). They will judge which entry does this best.


And the prize is KUDOS: publicity for the skills and imagination of you and your partners.


My deputy, Dave Wright, is a fount of pawky (it is in the dictionary) quotations.


The one he used for this exercise was: “We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems” . John W. Gardner


P.S. I you wish to submit an entry or suggest who should be invited to do so, please e-mail [email protected].