Privacy has come under hard scrutiny in Italy as of late, especially as some manoeuvres to revamp a couple of government digital platforms (namely, IO and Immuni) so as to implement the EU Digital COVID Certificate in the Italian cyberspace have triggered interest by the Data Protection Authority. The latter decided to forbid the use of the IO app as it was since, reportedly, said app was in violation of several GDPR articles.

Politicians and economists have contended that the Authority barring a State-developed app from becoming the de facto digital wallet for the new Certificate is just yet another useless piece of red tape.

However, is this really the case? Is it true that data protection (and data governance) policies are simply yet another encumbrance which makes the public action slower and slower, whilst, if there is something that this post-pandemic age is asking governments around the world, this is precisely the ability to get rid of irresolution and, again, of red tape?

Well, it turns out the Italian Authority was true, and that it was not a mere matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. GDPR requires health-related data to be handled with special care (unsurprisingly), and what is more a technical review of the app’s codebase shows that it used to make surreptitious invocations of third-party services. After a while, PagoPA, the State-owned company whose core business revolves around the IO app, agreed to update their platform as per the Authority’s requests.

However, what happened in Italy should raise an alert. Data protections, indeed, is still regarded as a mere encumbrance by most of us, who are neither jurists nor philosophers. Practitioners, executives, entrepreneurs need to be persuaded that privacy is a huge enabler of a better, more efficient management of data at large through more “secular” arguments.

It has been many decades from “The Use of Knowledge in Society”, Hayek’s seminaly work on information economics, yet I strongly believe it is high time for it to make a spectacular comeback.