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How does privacy stay our business?

No-one was quite able to assess the implications of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) when I mentioned it in this column last year. That situation appears to be unchanged.

The EU-inspired legislation is a means to an end where the aim is to safeguard privacy and security in the face of corporate intrusion. The measures are proving a right pain in the proverbial for business but there are other consequences too.

For instance, it quickly turned into an effective way of dumping unwanted junk mailers. I can’t be the only one rejecting pleas to “stay in touch” from people I’ve never heard of.

There’s also a lot of peddling out there. Firms who were flogging business advice this time last year now claim to have oodles of expertise on how to comply with the new regulations.

A friend of mine insists GDPR merely takes the existing Data Protection Act (1998) - which already covers info held on computer and paper systems - and formalises matters so that ignorance of data-holding responsibilities is no longer a defence.

A further new requirement is for ‘active consent’ which means your prior agreement is needed before personal data can be stored and used. That’s why you’ve been deluged by emails encouraging you to click some button or else look at an updated privacy policy that you never knew existed in the first place.

As for consent, every time you’ve agreed in the past for a website to use ‘cookies’ you were signing up to allow a third-party to store away information on your browsing activity. That arrangement is set to continue.

Sadly, none of these well-intentioned controls help the poor souls who have been struggling to get a secure service from TSB bank. Nor will it help the millions whose personal data was ‘culled’ from their social media accounts by shady outfits like Cambridge Analytica.

There are still a lot of serious fraudsters out there. Remember that the next time a cheery Facebook post urges you to share the name of your first pet or your middle initial.

Privacy is about keeping things our business, not theirs.

When inequality means loss of freedom

We hear much about gender inequality, yet one aspect that rarely gets a mention is the tendency in the UK to jail women for comparatively less serious crimes.

More than 13,500 women are imprisoned each year. They are more likely than men to be locked up for non-violent offences despite the fact that many are victims as well as offenders. More than half (53%) report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child.

Nearly two-thirds are jailed for six months or less. Sentencing of this kind has been criticised for being enough time to lose a home or child custody but too short to provide real rehabilitation.

Women are held in 12 prisons in England. There are no women’s prisons in Wales.

The situation is not just unfair but increasingly unsustainable. Justice Secretary David Gauke has been dropping hints in the media that things are likely to change.

Let’s hope that he’s found a copy of 'Transforming Rehabilitation - A Strategy for Reform', published by the Ministry of Justice in 2013 and then promptly forgotten.

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