I am swimming currently – not drowning … yet! – in a sea of data protection. The new world of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) comes into being 25th May and to be compliant and to use the data currently held, things have to be done by each congregation and by the ELCE. As always when considering how we live together – in this case globally – it is a matter of competing rights. We have a right of privacy while groups have a right to use information to provide services. We may give consent to some data but the laws of the land also say what we must reveal when asked. We have a right to be forgot-ten but others have rights that some things are remembered. And we can go on …
GDPR is a recognition that information about us affects us and it is seeking to manage the competing interests in a beneficial way for everyone – but particularly so that we, as individuals, have rights over what is known about us.
Why is this all so necessary? I think if we lived in a village and knew the villagers we’d quickly appreciate the importance of one’s reputation. It is something we have very little control over. I liken it to a white board or screen over our heads showing details about us that have been put there by others. We can’t control the information on the screen; the messages broadcast. (That is why the 8th Commandment is so important – and why I quip that we should agree to abide by it before we’re allowed to use any social media!) What is said about us affects us and our relationships.
Today in the global village it is said that we reveal how we want to be seen by others by our social media accounts but we reveal what we’re like by our browsing history. And as there is no privacy in the cyber world thus we need – increasingly it seems – things such as GDPR. Information – words – data are powerful – and we like to use what is powerful for ourselves.
I do find it interesting to consider that God – who by definition is most powerful – who knows what we’re like – knows who we are on the inside so to speak – and there’s certainly a mixture of thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and behaviours! – still desires to relate to us. God knows us personally and when he uses words it is never for his own benefit – always for ours. God wants us to live life well – which is why he is merciful and kind towards us (thank you, Jesus!) and why he calls us to follow Jesus in how we think, talk, and behave in this world. How we do that is very much up to us – each day – and while we may never be perfect at it, we can learn and grow in living this way because God keeps being merciful and blessing us – even as we will also feel the consequences of our own behaviours.
And what does God want us to do in terms of personal data? I think it is encapsulated in a phrase in a verse in Ephesians (4:15) – the phrase ‘speaking the truth in love’ – which for me is the guidance – my GDPR so to speak – to inform how and what I should communicate, no matter what format I’m using.
Words, data, information are powerful and are best used truthfully and with love. GS