Articles filed under Privacy

With our lives increasingly documented online – whether this takes the form of professional personas on LinkedIn, personal updates on Facebook, political views on Twitter, selfies on Instagram or damning reviews on forums – it has become virtually impossible to forget our past. Younger generations are sometimes publishing (either purposefully or inadvertently) their every thought, picture or video for the internet to archive in perpetuity.

Although users of social media and cloud storage services may think they are in control of their data, anything which becomes publicly visible is often quickly indexed by search robots. Once any content has been ranked on Google (or other search engines), it is often difficult to later remove this content from search results. Even if a social media account is later deleted, copies of any posted content may be stored by archive engines, making the removal process even more complicated.

This situation has led to much debate over the so-called “right to be forgotten” with ensuing case law and legislation attempting to grapple with the issue.

“Big Brother is Watching You” ― George Orwell, 1984

Although he wrote his dystopian masterpiece even before ARPANET was a twinkle in the eye of the US Department of Defense, Orwell described the essence of a society in which words, actions and even thoughts are constantly monitored. In 2018, the society he described is no longer fiction: GPS and smartphone apps track our location, Alexa sits in our homes listening to our private conversations, Google knows what we are thinking sometimes even before we do, and we feed Facebook a constant stream of personal data to enable advertisers to sell us stuff we don’t need or persuade us to vote a certain way.

Data is the new oil and most businesses now obsessively gather information on their customers, employees, website visitors and anyone else they come into contact with. Some of this Big Data is useful – either to the business or their users – but much of it is simply collected and stored (this is known as Dark Data). But although the EU has attempted to safeguard the privacy rights of its citizens with the GDPR, and privacy campaigners such as Max Schrems have made inroads to challenging the collection of data by Silicon Valley, the vast majority of people still willingly (or unknowingly) trade their personal data in exchange for a multitude of internet services.

Although much of this raw data is valuable in its own right, organisations which can find the links between different data silos, and effectively see how an individual navigates the internet and conducts their life, ends up with refined – and far more valuable – data. The way to link all the pieces of individual data and create a data trail is through the use of tracking.

privat

After all of the 2016 drama, the start of a brand new year is a welcome development in itself – a clean sheet for a script yet to be written. However, 2017 will not be without challenges and the same applies to the world of privacy and data protection. Many of the big issues that arose during 2016 will need to be addressed in 2017. New questions will no doubt emerge.

When the CJEU’s ruling in the Google Spain case (Google Spain SL, Google Inc v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Mario Costeja González) appeared on 13 May 2014 it sent shockwaves through the internet. Almost no-one had expected it, partly because it was almost the diametric opposite of the opinion of the Advocate General a little less than a year before, but more because it seemed, to some at least, to have enormous implications not just for Google but for the whole balance between privacy and freedom of expression.

Legal Web Watch is a free monthly email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

This month: The Google Spain decision on the “right to be forgotten”; Google Panda 4.0; Delia’s legal web picks.

In recent years, privacy and data protection have become business critical issues whose significance is only set to increase. Due to the combined effect of three factors – the evolution of technology, the realisation of the strategic and commercial value of personal data, and the globalisation of data-reliant activities – we find ourselves at a crucial crossroads. The implications of devising an effective legal framework to regulate the use of personal information are crucial for the future of humanity, our freedoms and our economic wellbeing.

Press regulation is taking an awfully long time. Lord Justice Leveson reported last November and, after an initial spurt of activity when 2013 was young, everything’s gone still as the Privy Council – really just another word for the cabinet – mulls over two competing draft Royal Charters, at length. We may know later this year whether the press’s draft or that agreed by the main political parties will be adopted, or if there’ll be some fudge. But in the meantime, the delay gives us time to look at what the new legislation and the competing Royal Charters would achieve.

The system will have three building blocks: a Royal Charter to underpin a regulator, and two pieces of legislation: the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which further underpins the Royal Charter, and the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which provides for the press to set up a self-regulator.

If either Royal Charter ends up being adopted, and if a press self-regulator is recognised as meeting the recognition criteria, then it’s the Crime and Courts Act 2013 that will give individual publishers a reason to want to sign up to be regulated by it – not just “traditional” news publishers but any relevant website or blogger, like you and me.

Internet cookies have been in the spotlight under EU data privacy law for quite some time. When the European Parliament was formally asked to consider the original draft of the e-privacy directive by the European Commission in August 2000, nobody knew what type of requirements would end up applying to one of the most frequently used tools on the web. However, when in October 2001, the Parliament issued a substantially revised version of the draft directive incorporating a prior consent requirement for the use of cookies, it became clear that this was a sensitive and controversial issue.

It is sometimes difficult to comprehend how, in the not too distant past, anyone could book a hotel without looking at TripAdvisor or could invite someone out for lunch without checking a user review published in Toptable or london- eating. Today, we rely on the collective wisdom of total strangers (although not necessarily to the operator of the website) to make important decisions like where to stay during a holiday abroad or where to take a key client for lunch. This is the spirit of Web 2.0 – the latest reincarnation of e-business and one that is proving very rewarding for a new breed of hugely popular websites.