One of the issues with improving these systems is that independent researchers with the capacity to help public and private sector organisations improve them rarely have direct access to the systems to the extent that sufficient robust empirical evidence can be generated and analysed with a view to expediting such improvements. Yet the granting of such researcher access fundamentally breaches the privacy of the individuals whose personal data is already compromised by virtue of the fact that it is held and processed on these leaky systems by these leaky organisations.
We already know a lot about improving these systems in ways that would respect privacy but don't implement these principles in practice. So I'm pessimistic that even if we could cut the gordian knot of facilitating empirical research of real world systems without compromising the privacy of the data subjects on those systems it would necessarily help our progress towards a privacy enhanced future. Privacy is complex and difficult especially faced with the forces undermining it:
- convenience and
The first law of technology is that if it can be done it will be done - basically fatal for personal privacy
Commercial sector (not just Facebook's and Tesco's) profits depend on undermining personal privacy
Our own addiction to convenience beats everything, including personal privacy
And the obsessive digital Taylorism of the public (and private) sector bureaucrat - the mindset that there is value only in that which can be measured and controlled - is also fatal for personal privacy.
Actually, faced with such forces the mythical, ethical, superhero researcher with the absolutely secure empirical research system, which enables said researcher to know everything about the commercial/public sector system under examination without knowing anything about the data subjects in that system, is something of a minor problem. Cheery thoughts for a Monday morning.