Privacy and data protection


Observations on the 37th International Conference of Data Protection & Privacy Commissioners by John Tomaszewski highlight the 'open' and 'closed' door session discussions on health data and safe harbour, as well as the continuing volitility of the topics, as 'the events in the European Court of Justice and the impending completion of the new General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) made this year’s conference particularly interesting'. 

Privacy has been the common denominator in many discussions at the IGF 2015. The following trends have been emerging:

  • Privacy must be protected on the global level. Joseph A. Cannataci (UN Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy) said that people need ‘safeguards withou borders’ and ‘remedies across borders’.
  • The treatment of personal data must be public and transparent, and that unless the rights to privacy and freedom of expression are considered complimentary, society is unlikely to trust the sharing of data.

For detailed reports from the IGF sessoins consult: Workshop 114 | Workshop 124 | Workshop 153 | 

Last Thursday, the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement was released. The agreement, which was signed one month ago by the U.S. and 11 other countries, immediately generated discontent among Internet Freedom activists. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), TPP 'upholds corporate rights and interests at the direct expense of all of our digital rights'. Most concerns are about intellectual property, as the deal would 'essentially [impose] U.S. copyright laws on the other 11 countries'. Furthermore the agreement has been criticised for infringing on privacy rights, as it prevents governments 'from requiring the use of local servers for data storage'. 

Following critics by civil liberty groups, the new proposal of the surveillance Investigatory Powers Bill in UK has been somewhat watered down, envisaging stronger oversight of the surveillance procedures by security services and law enforcement. Nevertheless, as the bill attempts to codify some of the existing surveillance procedures, more known to the public after the Snowden revelations, it extends the existing surveillance powers such as with requiring Internet service providers to keep records of websites their customers visited for up to 12 months, Engadget reports.

The US Supreme Court must determine whether search engines and data brokers should be responsible for inaccurate information collected and published online. The case of Spokeo v. Robins arose when Robins sued a person search engine, Spokeo, for publishing false reports about him and inaccurate information, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA  protects consumers from faulty infomration being shared about them and requires credit reporting agencies to ensure data they sell about consumers is accurate. The Supreme Court will have to decide how to determine whether harm is done to a person's reputation when a search engine presents inaccurate information about them, and if so how to quanitfy it.

US State Department official Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda 'has rebuffed critics who argue that Europe can only seal a new data sharing deal if US laws enabling electronic surveillance are changed'. The article in Euractiv discusses latest meetings on the topic.



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