Privacy

Key data protection challenges for 2021

Data globalisation after Schrems II Browsing the web. Using apps. Communicating electronically. Shopping online. Working from home. Life as we know it relies on data flowing across geographical borders throughout the world. However, international data transfers have never been more scrutinised. Following the ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in […]

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ICO concludes Cambridge Analytica investigation

Although the internet was born out of a military research project, many of its original advocates touted its democratic potential to provide a platform for free exchange of ideas and creativity. But there were always voices of warning that the mass connectivity resulting from a global network could lead to something more Orwellian. The creeping […]

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NHS contact tracing app: teething troubles

Back in June, I wrote about the long delayed COVID-19 app, which was supposed to form a key part of the contact tracing system, famously hailed by Boris as “world beating”. The app was eventually launched on 24 September and has, according to government figures, been downloaded almost 20 million times. Although two million people […]

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Information Rights: A Practitioner’s Guide to Data Protection, Freedom of Information and other Information Rights

Retaining the position it has held since first publication, the fifth edition of this leading practitioner text on information law has been thoroughly re-worked to provide comprehensive coverage of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR. Information Rights has been cited by the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and others, and is used by […]

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How healthy is your data?

Can technology improve our health and transform healthcare? A whole panoply of tech companies are working on a range of products and services which aim to answer these questions in the affirmative. The burgeoning industry which has been dubbed “medtech” has already led to some fascinating (and controversial) partnerships, perhaps most notably involving Google Deepmind […]

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What happens to my data?

Increasingly, the information we need and use every day is stored, accessed and controlled online. We have become accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of being able to access significant swathes of information about ourselves, our business and the world at the tap of a button. Many of us accept that such convenience comes at […]

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Max Schrems: the return

In the wake of growing data protection concerns around the turn of the century, a framework dubbed “Safe Harbor” was agreed between the EU and the US in 2000, which essentially permitted transatlantic free-flow of personal data. Towards the end of 2015, as a result of one of several legal challenges brought by prolific Austrian […]

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Why privacy is the key to Facebook’s fake news problem

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook seem to be in the news all the time at the moment, from Facebook’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica saga to Mark Zuckerberg’s failure to appear before the “international grand committee of elected officials” in the Houses of Parliament in late November last year. The issues that Facebook face seem, on […]

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The Internet, Warts and All

The Internet, Warts and All: Free Speech, Privacy and Truth by Paul Bernal is not a law book; it is a book about seeking to understand an environment – the internet – in which the law operates. It is a book about law, but “It is also … about technology, about politics, about psychology, about […]

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The right to be forgotten – updated

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.

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Tracking: your digital trail

“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.

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Privacy in 2017

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 […]

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