Data Protection Day: Addressing the challenges of globalization and technology

Data Protection Day is an annual event instituted by the Council of Europe to make the general public aware of personal data collected on them, and their rights with respect to privacy and protection of personal data . January 28, 2011, the 5th annual Data Protection Day, was also the 30th anniversary of the Council of Europe  Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention 108). The Convention is “a cornerstone of privacy and personal data protection in Europe”.  To mark this 30th anniversary, a high level meeting was held by the Council of Europe and the European Commission to address the new challenges of data protection brought about by globalization and technology. Streaming video of presentations of the meeting “Data protection 30 years later: from European to International Standards” offer a diversity of stakeholder and national viewpoints.

The ability to create, exchange, store and use information ubiquitously is dynamically changing business, social, healthcare and political landscapes worldwide, concurrently creating opportunities for economic and health benefit, as well as threats to individual privacy, national security and intellectual property rights.  Guaranteeing individual right to privacy in this changing environment is a challenge: how can data protection be assured without stifling innovation? what level of surveillance is possible in cyberspace that covers multiple jurisdictions? what enforcement mechanisms are necessary?  While individual nations have their own privacy legislation, definitions of data ownership and rights; the meaning of accountability and responsibility, the definition of fair information practices, the harmonization of national policies, and laws and enforcement mechanisms across national boundaries all need to be addressed within the context of modern realities.

The Council of Europe has issued a document soliciting public opinion on modernization of Convention 108. This document outlines, and asks for feedback to, specific issues relating to  the scope and  principles of the Convention;  the rights, sanctions and remedies comprising data protection and applicable law; mandates of data protection authorities, regulation of transborder data flows,  and role of the consultative committee.  Feedback is required via e-mail before March 10, 2011.

These issues are being addressed in nations around the world. We need to keep abreast of these discussions and participate where we can to help shape an environment of transparency, accountability and trust.

Other Resources:

Data Protection Day Activities in various countries

Sharply differing attitudes towards privacy in Europe and America are a headache for the world’s internet giants, Economist, June 17, 2010.

Commercial Data Privacy And Innovation In The Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework: This document  from the United States Department of Commerce Green Paper by the Internet Policy Task Force examines “policy approaches that reduce barriers to digital commerce while strengthening protections for commercial data privacy, cybersecurity, intellectual property, and the global free flow of information.”

Policies on Data Protection -- European Commission DG Justice

European Union’s Data Protection Legislation

European Privacy and Human Rights (EPHR) 2010: by Privacy International, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Media  and Communications Studies (CMCS) of a study funded by the EC Special Program “Fundamental Rights and Citizenship: 2007 – 2013”.