Dear FT, here's why you shouldn't be taking lessons about data defence from Cambridge Analytica's ex-staff

As an organisation that has been fighting to protect people's data and privacy since the 1990s, we were left speechless by your redemption of Cambridge Analytica’s former staff ("What Cambridge Analytica’s ex-staff can teach us about data defence”, Gillan Tett, July 24, 2019).

How can we prevent a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica scandal?, Tett asks, yet fails to even mention the core solution that is universally proposed by privacy professionals around the world: comprehensive data protection laws that come with strong, and independent enforcement.

Would a Chief Ethics Offer have prevented Facebook from pursuing a business model premised on the exploitation of people’s data? Had Brittany Kaiser taken more “data ethics” classes, would she have refrained from hiring contractors to hack Nigeria’s president, as the Guardian reported last year? SCL elections broke existing data protection laws under Julian Wheatland’s watch - should we really be taking ethics classes from him?

Kaiser, and the companies she now works with, want “digital property rights” so that people can sell their data. This will do nothing to protect anybody's data, least of all the most underreported victims of the Cambridge Analytica scandal: people with limited resources in countries with zero, weak, or ineffective laws to protect their data.

We work with non-profits around the world who fight for human rights under difficult and sometimes precarious conditions. Those are the people who can really teach us about data defence.

Sincerely, 

Privacy International

Illustrations by Cuántika Studio (Juliana López - Art Director and Illustrator, Sebastián Martínez - Creative Director).

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