Data Protection Consultant Emma Godfree has become something of a cult figure in the world of data protection for her short videos featuring snippets of wisdom, bringing the basics of good practice to a wider audience with humour and wit, while challenging preconceptions that data protection is dry and inaccessible.
In this video, she introduces one of her characters aimed at children, Privasaurous
, who with the help of his Lego friend gives viewers a crash course in basic data protection principles. It embodies the principles of our social initiative Project Bijou - promoting ethical data practices through storytelling and shared experiences – as well as Bijou Seeds – which aims at including children in the conversation about rights and responsible data practices. Privasaurous has proved so popular that he now has his own LinkedIn page.
Shortlisted for the 2022 PICCASO Privacy Award
for rising stars in the sector, Emma has a strong interest in GDPR and is building up a portfolio of qualifications to support her knowledge base.
Could you take us through your data protection journey?
EG: In 2019 I decided to study data protection and then in 2020, like so many, I was made redundant. I spent my furlough and redundancy days studying and trying to reach out to others for guidance.
As I didn’t have any ability to practice what I was studying during this time, I decided to apply my knowledge to Star Trek, which helped me identify the gaps in my knowledge so I could concentrate on those areas.
I was lucky enough to be hired shortly after I was made redundant, which meant I could actually practice what I had learnt. After about a year I moved into consultancy and since then, I have been trying to make data protection fun and engaging for all.
What inspired you to start these videos? Who are they aimed at and what would you like them to achieve?
EG: It was a conversation with another DPO about trying to make training as engaging as possible. I had already started making the stop motion videos for children, but we spoke about doing something simpler for adults. A way to show tiny snippets of data protection information but with a fun twist. Not polished and tidy, but messy and a little fun. That’s where the Lego figures on sticks came from. I find that, as long as you make things colourful and silly, children will engage. Adults are a little harder to capture.
With a little bit of humour and some Lego figures, I have found that people just like watching them to perk up their day.
Privasaurous, on the other hand is something I have wanted to do for a little while. I love puppets in all forms, so I wanted to try a sock puppet for kids. Took me a little while to find the right kind of sock though, but there he is in all his dino socky glory.
I laugh a lot whenever I make a video, the one that I made for you was made with my partner as I needed 3 hands. It’s one of the main reasons I keep doing them if I'm honest. The day I stop laughing is the day I stop making them and find another way of making data protection fun.
What sort of reactions have you had to them?
EG: The Lego videos are quite popular. They make people laugh (they make me laugh), and because they are short, they’re easily inserted into training or talks which is great. People have also started to think about how they engage staff within their organisations. Some have even taken the idea and used it to create their own videos using their pets, which fills me with joy.
Privasaurous however, has been the most popular creations I have ever made. I could never have predicted the response I had to his first video. People love him, especially when it comes to helping children understand data protection. He’s fun, he’s a dinosaur, what more could you want. I recently gave him his own LinkedIn profile to try and compartmentalise some of the projects I have going on, and people have started to connect with him. Just brilliant.
How important do you think it is to use creative thinking to disrupt and deconstruct stereotypes surrounding data protection issues?
EG: It's so easy to become bogged down with how things are currently done. Long notices, legal terminology, things of that nature. But it's massively important to consider that not everyone communicates in that way. Not everyone understands what we mean by lawful basis and DPIAs, ROPAs and international transfers.
By creating something different, you capture people’s imagination. You allow them to think outside the box but more importantly you give them permission to do it. To try it. Even if it fails.
I'm just doing what I love, in context of a subject that I love and others can do the same. But we have been so focused on the regulation that we forgot who it is for. The people we work with, the individuals who will visit our sites and use our services. It's all for them, it’s all to protect them and their data. So, in essence, we are charged with helping them understand the regulation and get past the challenges of the terminology.
How would you like to change and challenge people’s perception of data protection?
EG: I think people expect data protection to be dry, boring and overwhelming. It can be hard to find the right information within the guidance out there. Individuals find it hard to locate their rights in the myriad of information in a privacy notice for example.
It's all too easy to keep doing things a certain way simply because ‘that’s how they’ve always been done’, without giving much thought to other methods.
Any subject can be entertaining if you approach it in the right way. Adding the unexpected to training for example can help, like discussing whether you need ID verification from Darth Vader, or using Lego figures to get across a simple message.
What is it about Project Bijou that resonates with you?
EG: Without others sharing their experiences and guidance with me during my studies, I would not be here. It’s important to me to share what I have learnt, just as it was important to me that others did the same.
It’s by sharing these experiences that we support and encourage others to become part of the community, to do the right thing, and to use data in the right way.
History is shared through storytelling, and I don’t believe that data protection and privacy should be any different.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to people engaging with data protection?
EG: Boredom and complexity.
We need to consider how to communicate it to people who don’t have the passion for data protection I see in those who choose it as a vocation. Children who need to know but won’t sit in front of a power point presentation for 30 minutes. People who are neurodiverse will learn in many different ways. Why do companies put the rights section 3 pages into their privacy notices, why isn’t it the first thing individuals see?
These are the type of things we should be working to change. If we change how people see data protection, we can change the way it is received outside of our community.