European Data Protection Day: where are we?

Today we are celebrating the European Data Protection Day. This is a joint initiative by the European Commission and the Council of Europe to raise awareness of how people's personal...

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Today we are celebrating the European Data Protection Day. This is a joint initiative by the European Commission and the Council of Europe to raise awareness of how people’s personal information is dealt with and their rights to data protection.

This date is chosen as a reminder of 28th January 1981, when the Council of Europe adopted the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, the first legally binding international instrument related to data protection.

But this is a long time ago, and personal data has evolved and become a really hot issue in the ICT public policy arena since then. Let´s see why…

Technological progress and globalization have profoundly changed the way our data is collected, accessed and used in the last years and the perspectives are showing that this trend is not going to decrease. At the contrary, it seems that it is going to increase, due to the development of new and innovative services that are based on data, such as Big Data, as the next big thing, or Cloud Computing, amongst many others.

Some policy analysts are considering personal data as the new oil, the future oil (and also some politicians…but this is another debate!)

Why the new oil? It is true that the smart use of data has enabled the launch of innovative and more personal services very helpful such as advertisement online, geo-localization, social networks, mobile apps and many others that require a better and ad hoc service and the need to collect, use and analyze personal data intensively.

In today´s high competitive world, every business wants to be much closer to its clients as a way to earn market differentiation but also to offer improved “pret-à-porter” services which better respond to specific and personal customers’ needs. This is affecting all kind of industries as we offering more and more fitted services, very closed to customer’s requisites; so new uses require a review of the current regulation that has become outdated very quickly.

However, we have to bear in mind that we need to approve a smart and flexible regulation that will allow and foster the appearance of new actors and services that could be useful for the society as a whole, such as e-Health services for example. At the same time, we need to ensure an adequate protection of personal data, avoiding the feeling that people are nude in the Internet world or making more difficult small and innovative companies to flourish, due to strong administrative barriers. Digital trust in Internet is key for future services.

The balance is difficult to reach so it is a challenging exercise!

As already mentioned in a previous post, data protection regulation is currently under debate worldwide. The OECD is currently reviewing its OECD privacy principles to better adapt them to market´s reality. But it is also under every region in the world: in Europe, the USA and also in LatinAmerica or in Asia, and even considered as a priority in some public policy agendas. This is the case in Europe, with the European Digital Agenda.

Let´s just briefly mention last week´s events around data privacy reform in Brussels: On 22nd January, MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht (EP’s Rapporteur on the report on the review of EUdata protection reform) and Paul Nemitz (Director of Fundamental Rights and Citizenships at the European Commission) participated at a Panel discussion organized by the European think tank CEPS under the title “(R)evolution: the EU Data Protection Reform”. Albrecht commented that the current reform could be considered a Revolution in terms of more harmonization and Data Protection as a Fundamental Right and just an Evolution because it intends to adapt the current rules to the new technological environments. Nemitz agreed that Evolution is more adequate as we are building on what already exists.

It is well known that USA and EU perspectives are quite different in this area and on 23rd January, the same speakers repeated at the US think tank “Future of Privacy Forum” debate. Albrecht and Nemitz were rather defensive in the face of some strong US positioning. Some white papers on consent, definition of personal data and jurisdiction/applicable law were presented.

Parallel to this, MEP Voss, the Shadow Rapporteur on data regulation for the EPP, organized 5 series of stakeholders Roundtables with telecoms, ICT sector, Industry Associations, Advertising industry and Banking and Insurance.

Also this week at the European Parliament, discussion continued in various Committees and the first votes took place in non-lead IMCO and JURI Committees, with proposed changes to certain issues such as consent, Right to be Forgotten, profiling, etc…

The EU Irish Presidency is also active: The Irish Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, addressed Members of the European Parliament and stressed the commitment of the Irish Presidency, which will strive to achieve agreement on key aspects of the Data Protection package.

And this is just the beginning!

Telefónica is also very involved in this area and has launched two years ago several initiatives to boost digital trust, as we believe that confidence is key for us and our customers when using new and innovative services, even for specific users, such as children. Concerning our perspective on data protection, Telefónica considers essential to adopt a flexible future regulation which will allow European companies to innovate but ensuring at the same time the sufficient guarantees for users. Telefónica is active in the data protection debate and will soon issue a book gathering the different perspectives on privacy regulation but also how this regulation should evolve. But this will be in a future post….

Meanwhile, Happy European Data Protection Day!


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