Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hokey Pokey in Sochi

Czar Vladimir is not your average oligarch who can blow 50 billion to throw himself a party.  But even that much money can't buy you love, with the terrorists plotting to get in, and people with a conscience staying away.  And Vlad and his cohorts are being driven nuts by this anti-gay-talk-fuss, especially since "there are no gays in Sochi", according to Sochi's mayor.  

Kremlin alpha males don't hum Broadway show tunes, but still I'm wondering "How do you solve a problem like Vladimir."  Here are some different solutions: 

Hug a Thug!  Engagement, appeasement.  Some argue that confronting Putin's homophobia would only make things worse for Russia's gay community.  Of course, similar arguments were made at the Berlin Games of 1936, and we all know how that played out. 

What happens in Vladivostok stays in Vladivostok!  Some argue that it's a purely domestic issue if Putin's pliant Duma passes homophobic legislation.  Perhaps homophobia plays well down on the dacha.  It has certainly stirred up vigilantes, skinheads and bully-boy homophobic attacks on the Russian LGBT community.  

Vlad the Bad.  Some argue that Vlad should be ostracized, like a bad boy in the back of the bus.  Any corporate or political leader seen shaking the hand of the poster-boy of homophobia now risks a reputational backlash from his or her employees, citizens or customers.  

Vlad the Cad.  Others think this whole thing is pure camp.  In the school of "you can't make this up", Vlad has said in recent interviews that he knows some gays!, he likes some gays (he cited Tchaikovsky and Elton John!), and he has no plans to arrest gays in Sochi, as long they leave the children alone!  Seriously, outside Uganda, does anyone on the planet still talk like this?

Vlad the Mad.  Others fear a darker future.  Once the party is over, and once the international media have left, will Vlad be mad?  Will Vlad settle his scores?  Will Vlad gulag the gays?  

To get ready for his moment in the spotlight, Vlad got a facelift to look his best.   For my part, I salute the athletes at Sochi.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Turning our Backs on 2013

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.