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Successful pre-launch Privacy First Solutions

On 2 December 2014 introduced Privacy First at its office location in Amsterdam (Volkshotel) the Privacy First Solutions initiative. Below is our report on an inspiring evening: 

In his introduction, Privacy First chairman stated Bas Filippini that we should also expect companies to fulfil their privacy responsibilities. Filippini sees Privacy First Solutions as a logical extension of Privacy First's work in recent years.

Quartermaster Martijn van der Veen then explained that the initiative should contribute to the effort to make the Netherlands a guide country on privacy. We are well prepared: excellent ICT infrastructure, companies with know-how and a good investment climate. But companies move too slowly. To get them moving, Van der Veen mentions examples such as comparison sites, knowledge pools between companies and practical seminars. Low-threshold, practical and critical, so that companies can act in a businesslike and privacy-friendly way.

Martijn van der Veen

Companies that work privacy-friendly should be given the stage. First, the founder of Greenhost, Sacha van Geffen, speaking. Greenhost is a growing internet service provider (ISP) that has made privacy a priority. Van Geffen talks evocatively about the company's motives for investing in privacy protection, their role as an ISP in it and developments in recent years. He interestingly links privacy with innovation: ensuring anonymous online traffic of journalists and activists demands high quality from Greenhost. Privacy as a test of competence!

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Greenhost profiles itself with privacy but shares much of its knowledge. The more other ISPs join in with initiatives such as or thinking along with Publeaks or the countless other initiatives, the better the infrastructure becomes. Greenhost has repeatedly urged other providers to become more active in this area, unfortunately still with limited response. With some tips, Van Geffen concludes this interesting contribution. His tips to (ICT-related) companies:
- Make your business suitable and usable for activists
- Educate users on the risks of your product
- Commit to better laws
- Promote the use of secure standards
- Challenge your management.

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After Greenhost, the floor was given to two new ideas, from the National Think Tank. This is an annual event where students and recent graduates get stuck into a social topic for a few months. This year, the theme was Big Data. Privacy came naturally to them, as Eva de Leede and Rolien Sandelowsky explained. They explained two initiatives that met with approval from the audience. The first was Hack-je-Hokje. An individual profile grows around each internet user, providing them with tailor-made selected information. It influences our thinking, without us noticing. With a plugin you crawl into someone else's profile and look through someone else's internet glasses. De Leede explains that the idea started from a kind of indignation, but that as the project progressed they began to think in more nuanced terms. Just think that a search engine has to filter because the number of results would otherwise be too large. With that, there is actually no longer a 'value-free' internet. But how far can you go with that? The second project is the Data Guide, a digital information leaflet for Internet sites. Using simple icons and short texts, websites can quickly indicate what a website does with your data, such as whether or not to store or sell it and under which legislation the site falls.

The Think Tank members also had a question for the room. They are looking for opportunities and resources to make their ideas bigger. Privacy First Solutions wants to support their demand and calls for them to think along with these initiatives.

The evening was a pre-launch of the initiative. We are still warming up, but this evening may go down in the books as successful, both because of the high turnout and the inspiring content. We want to give privacy-friendly companies the stage so that they can serve as examples, and help promising initiatives grow. With a call for volunteers and ideas, this pre-launch finally in a well-attended drinks reception in the Volkshotel café.