Privacy and data protection

Updates

The US House of Representatives passed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), renewing the National Security Agency’s warrantless Internet surveillance program for six years, with minimal changes. The final vote, 256 to 164, focused on the expiring law, known as Section 702 of the FISA, that permits the Government to collect, without a warrant, communications from United States’ companies, such as Google and AT&T, of foreigners abroad, including when those targets are talking to U.S. citizens. Several privacy groups have warned that this would expand the NSA’s surveillance powers. Most lawmakers expect it to become law, although it still requires Senate’s approval and President’s signature. As media reports, before the voting took place, the House rejected an amendment that would have imposed a series of new safeguards. The proposal included a requirement for officials to obtain warrants before hunting for, and reading, emails and other private messages of Americans that were ‘swept up under the surveillance’. Advocates of these changes reminded of the preservation of the Fourth Amendment privacy rights in the Internet era. However, intelligence and law enforcement officials argued that it would limit security officials from gaining access to information the government already possessed.

The government in the United Kingdom (UK) is to amend The Data Protection Bill in order to protect security researchers working to uncover abuses of personal data, removing this way criminalisation of legitimate research. As media reports, the bill will contain a clause making it a criminal offence to ‘intentionally or recklessly re-identify individuals from anonymised or pseudonymised data’. The government has introduced an amendment to the bill providing an exemption for researchers carrying out ‘effectiveness testing’. With this, researchers would have to notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within three days of successfully deanonymising data, and demonstrate that they had acted in the public interest. Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in UK, Matt Hancock, stated: ’We are strengthening Britain’s data protection laws to make them fit for the digital age by giving people more control over their own data. This amendment will safeguard our world-leading cybersecurity researchers to continue their vital work to uncover abuses of personal data.’

Ant Financial, China’s biggest online payment company and an affiliate of the e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, has apologized for default enrolling of its users in a tracking program called Sesame Credit, which monitors personal relationships and behaviour patterns. On a yearly basis, for hundreds of millions of its users, the company offers a breakdown of their yearly spending, which many of these individuals use to share on their own social media. As the media reports, the Sesame Credit program plays an ‘Orwellian’ role in Government’s efforts to use technology in order to keep a closer look on its citizens. The Sesame Credit collects users’ data and shares the analysis with its partners. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), China’s cyber watchdog, called out Ant Financial over users’ privacy breach. They stated that the company has failed to meet the country’s personal information security standards. Reuters reports the CAC said: ‘step up efforts to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the Alipay platform, carry out special rectifications, and take effective measures to prevent similar incidents from recurring.’ Along with their apology, Sesame Credit cancelled the default option.

 

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Privacy and data protection are two interrelated Internet governance issues. Data protection is a legal mechanism that ensures privacy. Privacy is usually defined as the right of any citizen to control their own personal information and to decide about it (to disclose information or not). Privacy is a fundamental human right. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights conventions. The July 2015 appointment of the first UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age reflects the rising importance of privacy in global digital policy, and the recognition of the need to address privacy rights issues the the global, as well as national levels.

 

Frameworks for safeguarding the right to privacy and data protection

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is the main global legal instrument for the protection of privacy. At a regional level, the main instruments on privacy and data protection in Europe is the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of 1981. Although it was adopted by a regional organisation (CoE), it is open for accession by non-European states. Since the Convention is technology neutral, it has withstood the test of time. The EU Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC) has also formed an important legislative framework for the processing of personal data in the EU and has had a vast impact on the development of national legislation not only in Europe but also globally. This regulation has also entered a reform process in order to cope with the new developments and to ensure an effective privacy protection in the current technological environment.

Another key international – non-binding – document on privacy and data protection is the OECD Guidelines on Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data from 1980. These guidelines and the OECD’s subsequent work have inspired many international, regional, and national regulations on privacy and data protection. Today, virtually all OECD countries have enacted privacy laws and empowered authorities to enforce those laws.

While the principles of the OECD guidelines have been widely accepted, the main difference is in the way they are implemented, notably between the European and US approaches. In Europe there is comprehensive data protection legislation, while in the USA the privacy regulation is developed for each sector of the economy including financial privacy (the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act), children’s privacy (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and medical privacy (under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

Another major difference is that, in Europe, privacy legislation is enforced by public authorities, while in the USA enforcement principally rests on the private sector and self-regulation. Businesses set privacy policies. It is up to companies and individuals to decide about privacy policies themselves. The main criticism of the US approach is that individuals are placed in a comparatively weak position as they are seldom aware of the importance of options offered by privacy policies and commonly agree to them without informing themselves.

These two approaches – US and EU – to privacy protection have generated conflict. The main problem stems from the use of personal data by business companies. How can the EU ensure that data about its citizens is protected according to the rules specified in its Directive on Data Protection? According to whose rules (the EU’s or the USA’s) is data transferred through a company’s network from the EU to the USA handled?

A working solution was found in 2000 when the European Commission decided that EU regulations could be applied to US companies inside a legal ‘safe harbour’. US companies handling EU citizens’ data could voluntarily sign up to observe the EU’s privacy protection requirements. Having signed, companies were required to observe the formal enforcement mechanisms agreed upon between the EU and the USA.

The so-called Safe Harbor Agreement was received with a great hope as the legal tool that could solve similar problems with other countries. However, it was criticised by the European Parliament for not sufficiently protecting the privacy of EU citizens.

In a turning point for data transfers between the EU and the USA, in October 2015, the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) struck down this long-standing agreement and declared the Safe Harbour Agreement to be invalid. The Court found that the European Commission had failed to examine whether the USA afforded an adequate level of protection equivalent to that guaranteed in EU, but simply examined the safe harbor scheme. It found that in the US, the scheme is applicable only to undertakings that adhere to it, whereas public authorities are not subject to it, and national security, public interest and law enforcement requirements prevail over scheme. The US scheme therefore enables interference by public authorities, whereas no such limitations exist under EU law.The Court also found that the powers of national supervisory authorities could not be diminished other than by the Court.

Given the high importance of privacy and data protection in the relations between the USA and the EU after the Snowden revelations, it is likely to expect higher pressure to find a post-Safe Harbour Agreement solution.

Events

Actors

(ISO)

More and more standards and guidelines developed by ISO cover issues related to data and information security,

...

More and more standards and guidelines developed by ISO cover issues related to data and information security, and cybersecurity. One example is the 27000 family of standards, which cover aspects related to information security management systems and are used by organisations to keep information assets (e.g. financial data, intellectual property, employees’ information) secure. Standards 27031 and 27035, for example, are specifically designed to help organisations to effectively respond, diffuse and recover from cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity is also tackled in the framework of standards on technologies such as the Internet of Things, smart community infrastructures, medical devices, localisation and tracking systems, and future networks.

(UN OHCHR)

Challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age (such as surveillance and interception) are among the is

...

Challenges to the right to privacy in the digital age (such as surveillance and interception) are among the issues covered by activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. At the request of the UN General Assembly, the Commissioner prepared a report of the right to privacy in the digital age, which was presented to the Assembly in December 2014. The office of the Commissioner also organises discussions and seminars on the promotion and protection of the right to privacy in the online space, and collaborates on such issues with the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

(UNHRC)

Privacy and data protection online has been the subject of many UNHRC resolutions.

...

Privacy and data protection online has been the subject of many UNHRC resolutions. General resolutions on the promotion and protection of human rights on the Internet have underlined the need for states ensure a balance between cybersecurity measures and the protection of privacy online. The Council has also adopted specific resolutions on the right to privacy in the digital age, emphasising the fact that individuals should not be subjected to arbitrary of unlawful interference with their privacy, either online or offline. The UNHRC has also mandated the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy to address the issue of online privacy in his reports.

(ECHR)

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the

...

The European Court of Human Rights deals with privacy through the prism of Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It adjudicates on cases brought on against Council of Europe member states accused of being in violation of one or more articles of the Convention. The ECHR has a broad view of what it deems to be protected as ‘personal data’ as any information related to a person (identified or identifiable), which falls under the ‘private life’ part of Article 8. Its most recent high-profile case on the issue found the Hungarian government in breach of Article 8, due to its broad surveillance law.

(CoE)

The Council of Europe has been actively involved in policy discussions on the issue of net neutrality.

...

The Council of Europe has been actively involved in policy discussions on the issue of net neutrality. In 2010, the Committee of Ministers adopted a Declaration on network neutrality declaring its commitment to the principle of net neutrality. Later on, and in line with the Council’s Internet Governance Strategy, the Committee adopted a Recommendation on protecting and promoting the right to freedom of expression and the right to private life with regard to network neutrality, calling on member states to safeguard net neutrality in legal frameworks. Issues related to net neutrality and its connections with human rights are also tackled in events organised and studies conducted by the Council.

(PI)

Privacy International’s work is varied, in terms of both subject matter and actions.

...

Privacy International’s work is varied, in terms of both subject matter and actions. Their three main areas are ‘Building a Global Privacy Movement’, ‘Challenging Data Exploitation’ and ‘Contesting Surveillance’, while their actions include research (Privacy 101 explainers and broad-ranging reports) and legal action. A majority of its most recent work has skewed towards issues of surveillance around the world, with a specific focus on Kenya, which relies heavily on its Privacy International Network.

Hivos
(Hivos)

World Bank
(World Bank)

Freedom House
(Freedom House)

Access Now
(Access)

Pew Research Center
(Pew Research)

G7
(G7)

G20
(G20 )

US Congress
(US Congress)

Instruments

Conventions

Link to: Convention on Cybercrime (Budapest Convention)-482 (2001)

Judgements

Case of Barbulescu v Romania - European Court of Human Rights (2016)
Google Spain SL and Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) and Mario Costeja González Case - Court of Justice of the European Union (2014)

Resolutions & Declarations

IPU Resolution: 'Democracy in the Digital Era and the Threat to Privacy and Individual Freedoms' (2015)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Standards

Request for Comments (RFC) dealing with Privacy and Data Protection (2015)

Recommendations

Other Instruments

Suplementary act on personal data protection within ECOWAS (2010)
Patriot Act (2001)

Resources

Articles

Apple vs FBI: A Socratic Dialogue on Privacy and Security (2016)
2016 Data Threat Report (2016)
Trends in Transition from Classical Censorship to Internet Censorship: Selected Country Overviews (2012)
Policy and Regulatory Issues in the Mobile Internet (2011)

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
Securing Safe Spaces - Online Encryption, online anonymity, and human rights (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

Expert and Non-Expert Attitudes towards (Secure) Instant Messaging (2016)
Personal Data Storage in Russia (2015)

Reports

Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions 2017 (2017)
Drones and Privacy by Design: Embedding Privacy Enhancing Technology in Unmanned Aircraft (2016)
Enabling Growth and Innovation in the Digital Economy (2016)
One Internet (2016)
Encryption: A Matter of Human Rights (2016)
A New Regulatory Framework for the Digital Ecosystem (2016)
The Impact of Digital Content: Opportunities and Risks of Creating and Sharing Information Online (2016)
NI Trend Watch 2016 (2015)
Freedom on the Net 2015 (2015)
OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015 (2015)
Global Internet Report 2015 (2015)
Government Request Report (2015)
Taxation and the Digital Economy: A Survey of Theoretical Models (2015)

GIP event reports

The Legal Framework for Countering Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online (2017)
Where and How to Protect Legal Interests in the Digital Era (2017)
Addressing Access to Remedy in the Digital Age: Corporate Misconduct in Sharing and Processing Personal Data (2017)
Big Data and Conflict Prevention: Balancing Opportunities with Challenges (2017)
Recent Cyber Incidents - Patterns, Vulnerabilities and Concerns (2017)
Artificial Intelligence, Justice and Human Rights (2017)
Realizing Rights Online: From Human Rights Discourses to Enforceable Stakeholder Responsibilities (2017)
Key-note Speeches on the Future of the Internet (2017)
Digital citizenship, Integration, and Participation (2017)
GAC Meeting with the ICANN Board (2017)
Cross-Community Discussion on Next-Generation gTLD Registration Directory Services (RDS) Policy Requirements (2017)
At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and Regional Leaders Wrap Up – Part 2 (2017)
GDPR and Its Potential Impact: Looking for Practical Solutions (2017)
International Trade Agreements and Internet Governance (2017)
EuroDIG 2017 Welcoming Address (2017)
Domain Names Innovation and Competition (2017)
Data Protection, Digital Trade and Development (2017)
Report for EBU Big Data Conference 2017 (2017)
ICANN58: GNSO Registration Directory Services (RDS) Policy Development Process Working Group Meeting (2017)
ICANN58: Public Forum 1 & 2 (2017)
Report for Symposium on The Future Networked Car (2017)
Report for ITU CWG-Internet - 4th Physical Open Consultation Meeting (2017)

Other resources

Internet Legislation Atlas (2016)
Security and Privacy Handbook: 100 Best Practices in Big Data Security and Privacy (2016)
Security for All: An Open Letter to the Leaders of the World's Governments (2016)
The Twitter Rules (2016)
Privacy Level Agreement [v2]: A Compliance Tool for Providing Cloud Services in the European Union (2015)

Processes

Session reports

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12th IGF 2017

WTO Public Forum 2017

WSIS Forum 2017

IGF 2016

WTO Public Forum 2016

WSIS Forum 2016

WSIS10HL

IGF 2015

 

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