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How To Celebrate Privacy Day (And How Not To)

Wednesday, Jan. 28, has been designated International Data Privacy Day, and I'm still not sure how to celebrate. Should I invite all of my friends and family over, then go in the bathroom, lock the door, and make an entry in my personal diary? Or maybe we should all put on funny hats and go outside with noisemakers, screaming, "It's none of your friggin' business!!" Ah, those holiday traditions.
Wednesday, Jan. 28, has been designated International Data Privacy Day, and I'm still not sure how to celebrate. Should I invite all of my friends and family over, then go in the bathroom, lock the door, and make an entry in my personal diary? Or maybe we should all put on funny hats and go outside with noisemakers, screaming, "It's none of your friggin' business!!" Ah, those holiday traditions.Seriously, though, I'm a little confused. Who is this international day of observance for? It can't be for private citizens -- we already know the value of our privacy and how much we treasure it. If anybody's going to celebrate my privacy, I wish it could be the other parties out there who seem to disregard it on every other day of the year.

How about the commercial entities that regularly harvest my data for email, snail mail, and telemarketing campaigns? Maybe they could celebrate by spending one day respecting the "Do Not Call" list, which they flout regularly by inundating me with robocalls.

Retailers and other handlers of credit card data could spend the day actually trying to build a viable defense against data loss and theft. Or maybe we could just tar and feather some of the executives at TJX or Heartland Payment Systems and post the video -- along with their addresses and Social Security numbers -- on YouTube. That might be more festive.

In Washington, it might be a good day to roll back the entire portfolio of federal wiretap laws, which seem to allow any agency to eavesdrop on our telephone, email, or text conversations at will -- even if we haven't done anything remotely suspicious -- and give immunity to all of the telecom service providers that help. Maybe we should celebrate it like Sadie Hawkins day, and let citizens eavesdrop on government officials for a day.

On the Web, Privacy Day could be an opportunity to tell all of those social networkers and personal bloggers that they really shouldn't be posting their street addresses and job-related gossip online. Maybe American Greetings could create some online greeting cards for these folks. "A friend cordially invites you to shut yer friggin' yap." Or, "T is for the thoughtless way you give away others' personal information; M is for the many useless bits of information you've shared about yourself; I is for I really don't want to be on your friends list...Put them all together, they spell TMI: Too Much Information."

How about the criminals, who have built an entire economy around our personal data? Maybe today should be the day they exchange greeting cards and cakes, all bearing the Social Security numbers of their victims. Or maybe we should all get IRC accounts and collectively send *them* some spam.

In the end, I'm not really sure how to celebrate International Data Privacy Day because it seems like very little of my privacy is really my business. The concept of respecting my privacy is a gift I'd like to bestow upon others. So far, though, they don't seem to want it.

This sounds like a job for Hallmark.

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Kirsten Powell, Senior Manager for Security & Risk Management at Adobe
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5