Looking back at 2013, I saw two big surprises that dominated discussions in the field of privacy.
Privacy is all about the individual human being. So, it's somehow fitting that the biggest privacy surprise in 2013 was created by one individual human being, the courageous whistleblower, Mr Snowden, who opened the world's eyes to the almost unimaginable scale and scope of mass government surveillance. We'll have to wait until 2014 to learn if governments do anything meaningful to improve transparency and oversight of their spy agencies' work. I have low expectations.
The other big surprise of 2013 was something that didn't happen. Europe's much-ballyhooed, and much-flawed, proposal to re-write its privacy laws for the next twenty years collapsed. The old draft is dead, and something else will eventually be resurrected in its place. We'll have to wait until 2014, or perhaps even later, to learn what will replace it. Whatever comes next will be the most important privacy legislation in the world, setting the global standards. I'm hopeful that this pause will give lawmakers time to write a better, more modern and more balanced law.
Meanwhile, all the old trends in privacy continued uninterrupted throughout 2013. The scale of security breaches continued to grow, with new announcements every week of major corporate and government databases being hacked by organized criminals. More countries around the world passed privacy laws modeled on Europe's. The US continued down its path of exceptionalism: the Federal government debated, but did not pass, any meaningful privacy legislation, but many US States actively filled the void with sweeping new privacy laws, fulfilling their historic role as laboratories of potential future Federal laws. Technology advanced, raising new questions and igniting new debates. Law suits and prosecutions came and went, and in my personal case, happily, mostly went.
Whatever 2014 brings, I resolve to wake each day, like a swimmer ready to plunge into the pool, to swim through life like a frolicking dolphin, and to dive beneath the superficiality of the sargassum floating on the surface of the sea.