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Data Protection Law & Policy

Current Issue (June 2015)

Volume: 12 Issue: 6

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About Data Protection Law & Policy:

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

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Privacy and democracy in the 21st century

 

‘Privacy protection is a prerequisite to individual security, self-fulfilment and autonomy as well as to the maintenance of a thriving democratic society.’ This solemn statement of the Canadian Supreme Court was cited by David Anderson QC as a central justification for his stance in the statutory review of the operation and regulation of investigatory powers in the UK. It should not take much convincing to believe that privacy allows us to think, create and choose. The suppression of personal privacy is bound to lead to certain choices and behaviours. Crucially, privacy is an ally of freedom because, among other things, it empowers citizens against the state. In other words, privacy is a necessary ingredient of democracy and, as a result, privacy intrusions should always be resisted. But life is more complicated than that.                                               

‘A Question of Trust’ is the title of Anderson’s report of the investigatory powers review. That title reflects the fact that a modern and realistic society needs to strike a balance between absolute privacy and sweeping surveillance. Anderson points out that even the European Convention of Human Rights approves of interference by the powers of the state with the right to privacy in certain limited situations - typically in the interests of national security, the prevention of crime and the protection of health. But for such powers to be truly legitimate and respected by the population, the authorities behind them need to be trusted. Trust can and should be sought, but above all, it must be gained. Here is where the need for the right conditions and processes becomes obvious, particularly given the complexities of the world we live in - ranging from the challenges presented by ever-evolving technology to the fast-paced and global nature of human interaction.

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