Do we need privacy? Is it important? What is it?

a year ago

Latest Post Privacy by Bjorn Rostron

Do we need privacy? Is it important? What is it?

The below image is from the Office of the Australian Commissioner.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner 

As you can see the Australian Government has an entire department dedicated to preserving what they call a "fundamental human right". Privacy is a nebulous concept that many find hard to define but at its core it is a transaction whereby you give up data (in many forms – physical, or digital) so that you are "protected".

Privacy in the modern world is one of those ideas that is back in vogue. If any of you watched the major tech keynotes this year, you will have heard privacy, security and transparency mentioned ad infinitum. This is because consumers are becoming more vocal around what is happening with their data. As we move into smarter urban environments, the concerns around what happens to this data and how it is used become increasingly important.

Flume in Switzerland
Photo by fabio / Unsplash

So much of our lives are located digitally and considering that the internet is powered via attention means that the exploitation of our digital data is rampant and almost unregulated. The legislation in place to protect our digital data and therefore our privacy is woefully inadequate. Unlike Europe with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) many countries to do not strict laws preventing the misuse of personally identifiable information (PII). Australia for example does not consider geolocation data to be personally identifiable information (PII), see this Conversation piece for more information (Goldenfein, 2017).

Considering the lacklustre way that our online digital data is treated by private companies as well as our own government, I cannot imagine our smart city data will not be treated with any more respect or care. See this data breach in the governments own MyHealthRecord (, 2019). If the regulatory environment remains as ambigious and easy to bypass, data companies will move into the vacuum to exploit our physical data endpoints.

My research is looking into the relationship between smart cities, data and privacy specifically around the aerotropolis to be built around the new Western Sydney Airport.

Photo by Ken Yam / Unsplash

This is such an important thing to get right, and I fear that if we continue down our current path that our future will look increasingly unequal.

Concrete Advice Around Safety

It is very likely that someone reading this post will have experienced a data breach. The excellent Have I Been Pwned by Australian security researcher Troy Hunt is an excellent free service to help notify you if any of your emails are found in the wild.

I would also recommend 1Password for keeping your online accounts safe. Safe in that password reuse is a critical point of failure for many, the ability to create and save unique complex passwords for your online accounts goes a long way to ensure that one breach does not compromise your entire digital life. I also use 1Password to save data that is critical to access but unsafe to store in the cloud without encryption, things like ABN, TFN. You can also upload images such as Driver's Licenses and Passports to ensure that you have access to them in an emergency.

Using a service like 1Password (or Lastpass, Dashlane) does pose some issues around single point of failure. Considering that if your 1Password account is breached then bad-actors would have access to your entire life. Considering the way that 1Password treat their security, it is a much safer option to save your information there as opposed to you trying to remember hundreds of unique passwords.

The service is not free (and that's a good thing) and the prices can be found here.

Again, thank you for reading. I hope you've enjoyed it. If you have any questions or even better tips, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Stay Curious,


Bjorn Rostron

Published a year ago