The new landscape of personal data protection is emerging because cyberspace never forgets and we are becoming aware of the need for a balance between privacy and the legitimate use of personal data. So we are entering a phase of consent and privacy notices, data principles leading to less – better still – no data breaches and a pendulum swing towards people controlling what is known about them. It strikes me that what we have is the world’s version of our technology meeting the 8th Commandment about truth and false witness.
GDPR is about our personal information because it matters to us. I find it interesting to consider God’s personal data which he consents to give – he reveals himself to us – we can’t know him unless he does so. And God’s personal data is given not because it matters to him but because it matters to us! Our personal data is gleaned and algorithm-ised so that someone can sell to us or influence us. (Think perhaps of Cambridge Analytica or the quip “if something is free, you are the product” and why we have GDPR.) God’s personal data is given not to get something for himself but to rescue us and give us life.
Personal data is processed according to a lawful basis in 6 categories. We’re all learning what and why and how we store and use personal information about others. When it comes to God, it seems to me that we can process, store and use God’s personal data similarly.
Consent – God tells us about himself so that we may live – have life to the full, Jesus said. Contract – let’s think ‘covenant’ here – where God establishes a relationship with us – think baptism for example – where he binds himself to this relationship even as everyone knows we don’t keep or don’t keep well our side of things. And so Jesus makes a new covenant in his blood and given to us at each Holy Communion. Legal obligation – God isn’t complying with a law because he is the ultimate authority but he tells us about himself through Law and Gospel so we ultimately do not fear him but follow him. Vital interests – yes to know this God is to safeguard others because life is no longer cheap but precious – everyone’s life is precious. Public task – for God so loved the world … that’s why God speaks and why he acts (think the Word made flesh). Legitimate interest – whether one thinks of God as Saviour or Creator, God reveals himself in word and deed doing what God wants and he wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Without God’s revelation of himself we are lost. God’s personal data is communicated to draw us to him and to life – now and forever. For sure, God doesn’t want his personal data distorted or used in vain but that’s because such actions hurt us. And today – Trinity Sunday – is all about us getting our heads around the mystery that God is a Trinity – and then rejoicing that each Person of the Trinity is happy to be known by us because God wants us to live with love rather than hatred, forgiveness rather than fear, hope rather than despair, confidence rather than anxiety, and resilience rather than self-reliance. GS