January 28 marks the annual observance of Data Privacy Day. First held in 2007 by the Council of Europe as “Data Protection Day,” the event has grown into a international observance that seeks to provide information about personal data rights and protections to consumers of all ages. The United States officially joined in the observance of Data Privacy Day in 2009 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution HR 31, declaring January 28 National Data Privacy Day.
This year, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill commemorated Data Privacy Day with an online talk discussing the importance of securing online personal data and Senator Patrick Leahy issued a statement praising Congressional efforts to protect individuals’ privacy in the online environment.
For our own observance of Data Privacy Day, we’d like to once more draw attention to Bruce Schneier‘s excellent essay on The Eternal Value of Privacy, which offers this concise summary of the problem with unfettered data collection and surveillance:
For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.