The monthly law journal which covers all aspects of data protection and data privacy: data transfer & outsourcing, marketing and e-marketing, freedom of information (FOI), employee monitoring, privacy compliance, online data acquisition and consent, personal data, website compliance and emerging technologies such as behavioural advertising, cloud computing and smart grids. / read more
Talking about data being the new oil has become a bit of a cliché. Nonetheless, on a recent trip to the Middle East, it did not escape me that the locals definitely see it that way. Discussing the value of data and how to protect it with Abu Dhabi government officials is quite an eye opener. That part of the world is not particularly known for its strict regulation of personal data or the application of fair processing principles. With its all too visible oil-fuelled economy, crazy architecture and ambitious outlook, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Middle East cares little about privacy and data protection. However, the opposite is true, as any country seeking to embrace the information economy is likely to be looking at the most effective ways of protecting data. The point here is that in the same way that internet technology is seen as an enabler of progress, governments around the world are actively considering how to look after the data that fuels that progress.
There are two immediate lessons to be learnt from thinking about data beyond the usual parameters of Western policy making: data is valuable and data is global. By now, it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the collection and exploitation of data is directly linked to the greatest business success stories of the 21st century. It is, of course, our duty as a society to ensure that the pace of exploitation is sustainable and indeed lawful. But when looked at afresh, the value of the information generated through our daily use of technology is unmistakably huge and very attractive to both developed and developing economies. Here is also where the global dimension fits in. The use of technology is a universally present feature of the modern world and therefore, it is patently obvious that the availability of data resulting from that use is a global phenomenon.
Against this background, Europe is progressing with its reform of the data protection legal framework. The recent partial agreement within the confines of the Council of the European Union of its preferred approach to the legitimate grounds for the processing of personal data and of the supervisory regime has been hailed by some as a bit of breakthrough. Three years of discussions between the EU Member States’ governments have finally yielded a compromise on two difficult issues. Hurrah! Many hours and months of discussions await but the future European data protection framework is already shaping up in a fairly recognisable way.
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