The conflict of interest issue - our response
The record needs to be set out in full regarding the “conflict of interest” claim relating to 80/20 Thinking and Privacy International. I have no objection to public discussion about the matter, as long as the facts are laid out in full, rather than relying on a twisted, abbreviated account.
Will people please read our report to Phorm. Read it in its brief entirety. Once you’ll do, you’ll realise that there are no conflicts whatever. In that report we argue that the system should be opt-in, that there are unresolved questions, that the matter of legal compliance is irrelevant to the issue of intrusion.
For example, from page 10 of our PIA:
"Phorm liaised with the Home Office to assess whether its system could infringe the UK law that regulates communications surveillance. The Home Office concluded that Phorm's system is consistent with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and does not intercept communications. While this conclusion is a fair interpretation of Phorm and the system's capabilities, communications monitoring still takes place. Even if the Home Office's conclusions were appropriate and relevant, it would mean that if an ISP or any government wished to conduct similar monitoring of communications for segmentation purposes, albeit with consent of the user, then they may indeed do so and yet still be compliant with UK law. This could indeed give rise to a worrying situation."
Yes, FIPR has lodged a detailed complaint with the ICO. That complaint dealt with matters outside 80/20s remit. There is no conflict there.
Is there a conflict between our role in PI and our role in 80/20? Absolutely not. See above. My view is on the record at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7280791.stm Read beyond the headline.
People have asked: “Why are they doing this?” “Why are they advising the evil empire?” Two reasons. First, we believe that engagement is more constructive than non-engagement unless there is no alternative. As PI we have directly engaged companies such as SWIFT, Microsoft and eBay with positive results for privacy.
Second, the British Public, who apparently SO support PI, donate an average of £130 a year to us. We receive more from citizens of India, even during the height of the ID card battle. I, for one, haven’t drawn a salary from PI for eighteen years. That is not a sustainable situation. Nor is it for my staff. Our supporters believe in an ideal, but some seem to believe we must be willing for us to go to our graves principled but penniless. There is a Thatcherite condition that prevails. Namely, that many supporters will make financial contributions to people like us as long as they have some sort of formalised stake in the enterprise. We never played that game.
What is 80/20 Thinking? Check out www.8020thinking.com and find out the details. Or go straight to http://www.8020thinking.com/ethics.html and you’ll see that in fact this company is very much in the advocacy realm, and is intentionally set up to distribute fifty percent of its profits to NGO civil liberties campaigners in developing countries.
Please allow me the pleasure of a small personal reflection. It seems to me, looking back over nearly two decades as an activist, that people were always willing to hail me – and PI – as heroes and visionaries, on the strict condition that we reflected everything without deviation or hesitation that they personally believed. On CCTV, ID cards, children’s fingerprinting, US relations, police powers, DNA databases, going back further to the crypto wars and even further back in dim history to CLI and the telephone battles of the early 1990s, you were always there for us as long as we agreed with you on every point.
So we disagree on one paragraph, namely, our point that personal information has been removed from the Phorm system “as defined in the UK DPA”. If you want to demonise us for making that observation, then go ahead. At a personal level, I find that level of aggression unnecessary. I understand you are concerned about alleged endorsement, but let me reassure you that if we ever endorsed a product, you’d know about it. The last time we endorsed anything was PGP in the era of Phil Zimmermann.