Steve Barnes' World of Happiness

Data Privacy Day.

January 28 by calendar date, apparently originated in Europe in 2007 as a day of awareness about online safety. This month, Tim Cook is on record as marking data privacy as one of the top issues of the century. "Days" are used to commemorate everything from millennia-old religious holidays to decades-old confections, but I agree this issue is relevant enough this era to deserve a "day."

Apple seemed the company to actively elevate the day to commoner consciousness, I think. In addition to their press release about its significance, they published an awareness-raising parable called "A Day In The Life Of Your Data", illustrating how data collection might apply to a typical family.

Sometimes, when showing off "examples" of things – games, apps, movies; stuff that pertains to their business partnerships – they'll feature an exemplary selection of the day front and centre on their marketing. But a type of exemplar they've never featured is a data collector, so it feels more like an active than a passive statement to see Facebook spotlighted within the proverbial "Figure 1."

I think Tim Cook's remarks at the Computers, Privacy And Data Protection conference fell short of referencing Facebook by name, but they certainly described features of the recent picture painted by media with respect to American politics as they've been seen to relate to social media.

Did Mark Zuckerberg show up to speak at this conference? Not that I'm aware of – though one report's quotations seem to suggest he frames Apple's upcoming privacy measures as an attack on Facebook in particular, even though they apply to all third-party developers as well as all of Apple's apps obtained through their app stores.

What I think is most needed is a spotlight. To draw a parallel: some animal rights activists sought to promote veganism by sharing disturbing video of inhumane animal raising and slaughter far and wide. While the animals' suffering is the worst part of that, and such activists seek leverage through circumventing thoughtfulness by beelining straight past emotion to shock, it at least raises attention among the previously ignorant. A widespread route to raising awareness about the issue to genuinely compassionate people – without shocking them – would be superior.

That's the kind of spotlight I mean. The Internet is so benevolent and so abusable, but plenty still have no practical, mentally apprehensible idea how and to what extent it might be abused. How many people would want to know more if they could see, in a flash, say, every existing profile of them that existed across all data collection companies?

I don't suppose Apple is in a position to make that happen - especially not if they're true to their principle of data minimization. But that's the spirit of the "Day In The Life" document. It's one good step, and clearly not the last.