The Growth of Privacy; an Exploration of the Evolution of Privacy in Our Lives and Work

JANUARY 27, 2020

I have been thinking a lot about privacy lately; fairly constantly to be honest, an unhealthy amount perhaps – but then, it is an occupational hazard.

The word “privacy” has many layers, and levels of significance, extending from the relatively trivial to the most fundamental essence of our being.

I have also recently been set a challenge: to write (and publish!) daily for 20 days.

In the context of this challenge, I had to choose a theme, and having thought about it (there it goes again, the thinking) it seemed to me that privacy was the obvious, or at least, an essential, place to start, at least in terms of where I am today.

But the theme involves two words, the second is “growth”. Growth is a word that has been a good and faithful servant for me; one that performs many duties. There are two senses that immediately spring to the fore: personal growth, particularly in the context of privacy and what that means in terms of where I am and what I am doing today, and a wider growth or evolution of privacy in the world.

My journey to this point has taken many twists and turns, which often makes me think of the joke told of a tourist lost in rural Ireland on a lonely country road who stops to ask an old man for directions to her destination, to which he responds “Well, if I were you, wanting to go there, I wouldn’t start from here!”

I certainly never started in the right place, but then again I don’t think any of us can ever really hope to do so, other than by sheer random chance. We end up wherever we are, and no matter how unsuitable a place it may seem in which to start; start there we must.

One of the iterations of my evolution that ultimately led me down a deeper path in the consideration of privacy, and its more technical legal manifestation of data protection, was marketing. In writing on marketing, particularly the marketing of professional services, I have often repeated that “it is not about you”.

Those rare professionals who actually engage in any marketing at all often start with an intent focus on themselves: their skills, their expertise, their qualifications, their experience, their technical brilliance and so on. And that is the foundation upon which many base their marketing; I have been and remain guilty of it myself. But it is very thin and impoverished soil in which to try to grow a relationship.

Therefore the mantra that I have always adopted in marketing oneself as a professional is that “it’s not about you”. It’s about the person that you can help; what matters to them, how they see the world and their problem, which is perhaps preventing them from seeing the solution. So, it’s not about you; it’s about them; their perspective, their language, their experience.

And yet, when I start on this challenge, I find that the first thing I have to do is break my own rule. For if I am going to start any kind of exploration of the journey that has involved the growth of privacy as far as I am concerned, then it’s going to have to start with me.

Some background and context as it were, and where that personal growth has come from. Which will hopefully provide you, if you chose to accompany me, with some insights, a little more depth, and a better understanding of where I’m coming from, which I hope might help to enrich and inform your own perspective in this area.

Where this will lead I have no idea and can promise nothing. All I can offer are my best endeavours on the journey.

If I were you I would probably not start from here.

But then again here we are.

And so, where else are we supposed to start?


flor mccarthy

Flor McCarthy is one of Ireland’s leading lawyers and a recognised expert in marketing. He has particular expertise and hands-on practical experience in privacy, data protection and GDPR issues for marketers. He is certified by the Law Society of Ireland in Data Protection Practice and lectures lawyers on data protection practice and compliance. He is managing partner of a multi award winning niche legal practice. He has been in private practice for over 20 years and has been elected by his peers to sit on the exclusive Council of the Law Society of Ireland, the governing body for Irish lawyers.

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