My excuse is that a combination of holidays, Easter and our imminent financial year end have conspired to put me off my stride, so I find myself with three days of April left to redeem myself.
It's often difficult to find a blog topic so I had a quick look through my 'back catalogue' of blogs to see whether inspiration would strike. In some ways it did, but not in the way I thought it might. The thing that did strike me is the proportion of blogs that are about intellectual property and data protection/security. When I was flicking back through my recent tweets I noticed that an even larger proportion of tweets (80%+) have been about data protection than anything else. When I started using social media I assumed that my tweets and blogs would more or less represent the split of work that I do. As most of my work is corporate M&A and private equity it's a bit surprising that data protection and data security are so well represented in my 'social media output'. So why is this?
I suppose it's a combination of factors, the main one being that company and commercial law isn't an inherently exciting topic. On average we get a new Companies Act less frequently than we get a new Pope and it certainly doesn't generate anything like the same media coverage; new court judgements on the law of contract tend not to hit the 10 o'clock news; in the grand scheme of things most people are blissfully unaware of these things, and even those of us who need to know about these developments don't find them newsworthy or exciting - we just need to know about them to do our jobs properly.
Many people might say that the same is true of data protection, but they'd be wrong. If you have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account, an Amazon account, an eBay account, a Google mail account, a Tesco online shopping account or a RingGo parking account, then you need to know about data protection. If you've ever commented on Trip Advisor or booked a flight or a train ticket online, then you need to know about data protection. Why? Because these organisations know more about you and your buying and other habits than you know yourself. Does that bother you? Possibly not, but it does mean that you can be tempted with things that may be of interest to you. You may view this as helpful (wouldn't it be great if you didn't get pestered with adverts for things that you've no intention of buying?) On the other hand you might, like me, begin to wonder whether the day may be coming when you never hear about things that may be of interest to you (because 'they' would rather you didn't buy them) and instead you only ever hear about things 'they' would like you to buy.
Within the last couple of weeks we've had a news article about the boss of one 'media giant' saying that he's scared of another media giant, which he accused of abusing its dominant position by creating a 'digital superstate'. You may well regard these kinds of statement as scaremongering and/or a publicity stunt, but there's no doubt in my mind that if, for example, I go online to search for a restaurant in a city that I'm planning to visit for the first time, I've no idea what information is used 'behind the scenes' to generate the results. I can't help wondering whether I'm being nudged in one direction rather than another (or 'manipulated', if you like). On 12 July 2012 I blogged about this topic and recounted a tale in which one of the big UK supermarkets tried to drive me to drink. You may laugh, but since Edward Snowden recently revealed close connections between big US online providers and the US intelligence agencies, you have to wonder where it will all end. The only reason it's a concern is the fact that we tell these organisations so much about ourselves. Don't say I didn't tell you.