Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recommend blog posts

For researchers working on privacy developments, here are a few suggested links to keep abreast of the latest:

1) Hunton and Williams Privacy Law Blog -
2) Datanomy, the data protection weblog
3) European Digital Rights in Europe (EDRI)
4) Pogowasright - US focussed
5) Privacy Exchange - slightly outdated, but still relevant
6) European Commission: Data Protection Commissioners
7) PrivacyOS - European Privacy Open Space

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ICO Consultation

Having been overwhelmed with plenty of books to read on my to do list, here is just the latest on data protection developments. The ICO is currently undergoing a public consultation (view on this later) into an online code of practice. If you have not yet aired your views, it is still not too late. By way of recap:

The code will provide comprehensive, accessible guidance on the following broad areas:
  • Operating a privacy-friendly website
  • Rights and protections for individuals
  • Privacy choices and default settings
  • Cyberspace and territoriality

We intend to publish the code in May 2010, following a public consultation exercise.

Further details can be found here.

On a different note, Oxford Brookes University and BILETA are hosting a one day event for doctoral researchers engaged in the field of IT, IP and Cyberspace law on September 11, 2009. Please mark this in your diaries. Further details about registration can be found here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How well do you know your privacy policies?

Whilst updating my reading, came across this recent update that EFF has introduced the ToS Tracker, which keeps an eye on 58 website privacy policies. Courtesy of Dark Reading:

The EFF on Thursday launched TOSBack.org, a "terms of service" tracker for Facebook, Google, eBay, and other major Websites. The idea is to give users an easy way of finding the privacy policies used by their favorite sites, and to be alerted when those policies change. TOSBack.org offers a real-time feed of changes and updates to more than three dozen policies from the Internet's most popular online services. Clicking on an update brings users a side-by-side, before-and-after comparison, highlighting what has been removed from the policy and what has been added, the EFF says. The issue of terms-of-service changes -- and how and why they are made -- was highlighted earlier this year when Facebook
modified its terms of use. Facebook users worried that the change gave the company the right to use their content indefinitely. After a user revolt, Facebook announced it would restore the former terms while it worked through the concerns users had raised "Some changes to terms of service are good for consumers, and some are bad," says EFF senior staff attorney Fred von Lohmann. "But Internet users are increasingly trusting Websites with everything from their photos to their 'friends lists' to their calendar -- and sometimes even their medical information. TOSBack will help consumers flag changes in the Websites they use every day and trust with their personal information."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Art. 29 Working Party Opinion on SNS

According to the latest press release, the Art. 29 Working Party has issued an opinion (pdf) on social networking sites ("SNS") . In particular, it addresses how the SNS can meet its data protection obligations by considering who is the data controller (SNS providers; application providers; users are exempt under Art. 3.2 Data Protection Directive, but leaves the possibility that they could have data controller responsibilities); information to be provided by SNS; third party access and whether retention of data under a SNS. In sum, the Art. 29 Working Party provides:

Applicability of EC Directives

1. The Data Protection Directive generally applies to the processing of personal data by SNS, even when their headquarters are outside of the EEA.
2. SNS providers are considered data controllers under the Data Protection Directive.
3. Application providers might be considered data controllers under the Data Protection Directive.
4. Users are considered data subjects vis-à-vis the processing of their data by SNS.
5. Processing of personal data by users in most cases falls within the household exemption. There are instances where the activities of a user are not covered by this exemption.
6. SNS fall outside of the scope of the definition of electronic communication service and therefore the Data Retention Directive does not apply to SNS.

Obligations of SNS

7. SNS should inform users of their identity, and provide comprehensive and clear information about the purposes and different ways in which they intend to process personal data.
8. SNS should offer privacy-friendly default settings.
9. SNS should provide information and adequate warning to users about privacy risks when they upload data onto the SNS.
11. Users should be advised by SNS that pictures or information about other individuals, should only be uploaded with the individual’s consent.
12. At a minimum, the homepage of SNS should contain a link to a complaint facility, covering data protection issues, for both members and non-members.
13. Marketing activity must comply with the rules laid down in the Data Protection and ePrivacy Directives.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rand Report

With the Rand Report finally published, some observations on a few points:

1) Common interpretations of certain provisions of the [Data Protection] Directive (charter for effective interpretation) was needed to ensure that its functions optimally in the future. In particular, reference was also made to the Swedish model, which established a set of regulations using a risk based approach (misuse-orientated approach) without undermining the Directive. According to the report, the “Swedish regulator was convinced that such a route remains legally acceptable without violating the current provisions of the Directive”. The report further commends the Swedish model, by recommending that the Charter should encourage the use of a risk-based approach to the application of the rules focusing on acts of data processing where harm can reasonably expected [read Seipel's commentary on Swedish developments in Nordic Data Protection Law and short commentary here]

2) Recommendation 2: improving the effectiveness of the Adequacy rule and facilitate the use of alternatives to the adequacy rule (it is all about “contracts” to enable the transfer of personal information from one organisation to another in a non-EEA country) [Only criticism is that this should not impact on the everyday processing such as the internet (uploading of files containing peripheral personal information such as news report; book or article should not be brought within Art. 25; even if the interpretation should be stretched, then the exemptions under Art. 26 ought to be embraced]

3) Develop more suitable privacy policies – in particular, reference is made to encouraging clearer guidelines for data controllers on communicating their policies to data subjects with reference to Creative Commons model of intellectual property right licences. In a Creative Commons model, certain standard types of licences are developed which can be communicated to end users through short, easy to understand descriptions (e.g. “attribution”, “non-commercial”, “no derivative works”,...). A comparable approach could be adopted with regard to privacy policies, by providing summary notices based on such standardised descriptions. These should be relatively easy for interested consumers to understand [on this note, any privacy policies ought to complement the existing Data Protection Directive and national Data Protection Acts 1998 - for those unfamiliar with a Privacy Commons model, a short commentary]

4) The Chief Privacy Officer role may be identified as an alternative to a privacy policy, there mainly to provide for accountability within an organisation. Regulations should be designed that would make Chief Privacy Officers personally responsible and/or criminally liable for willingly engaging in risky, unscrupulous or irresponsible behaviour by their organisations regarding the use of personal data. This would be comparable to the model of the Chief Privacy Officer in certain organisations in the US, which hold real decision making and enforcing power and are highly respected both within their organisations and by regulators and DPAs [on this recommendation, whilst making CPOs accountable, yet verging onto “criminally liable” is one which would be considered too onerous a measure and would likely inhibit “would be” Privacy Officers (data protection officers in the UK). Furthermore, the level of responsibilities by Privacy Officers in an organisation may be varied and it is unclear whether they would be considered to be solely responsible only for the oversight of privacy rules. In other words, CEOs, Directors may also play a role].

See also Commentary from:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review

Whilst ploughing through Privacy Advocates (and marking to complete), particularly on the role of the Privacy Consultant (in the UK, data protection/privacy officers), came across this sage advice:
"The role of academics within the privacy advocacy community raises larger questions about the responsibility of intellectuals within the society. Should academic work be driven by the pressing social problems of the day?... Here is Stanley Fish's advice..."Do your job; don't try to do someone else's job, as you are unlikely to be qualified...don't confuse your academic obligations with the obligation to save the world; and don't surrender your academic obligations to the agenda of a non-academic constituency... don't cross the boundary between academic work and partisan advocacy, whether the advocacy is yours or someone
else's...The job of the academic is not to change the world, as Karl Marx said, but to interpret it"
Thought provoking analysis for privacy researchers!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Data Protection Developments

The ICO has recently published its press release entitled: Data Protection in the EU: promising themes for reform:

The Review of the EU Directive prepared for my Office by RAND Europe has been presented to participants at this conference as a draft. The presentation by Neil Robinson and Hans Graux has highlighted their main findings and short and long-term recommendations. Peter Hustinx has added some very perceptive and important observations. We plan to publish the final version of the RAND Report in May – shortly before the conference which has been convened by Commissioner Jacques Barrot. We have always been clear that the RAND study is intended to provide food for thought and to stimulate debate. It is a not a blueprint for reform, still less does it contain the draft of a new Directive. We are equally clear that any reform will take many years, but the debate must start somewhere. That debate has started here in Edinburgh today. As the draft Edinburgh Declaration which will be discussed tomorrow makes clear, the fundamental role for Commissioners in this debate is that of Leadership

The press release goes into detail over the strengths of the DPD including:

The Directive is comprehensive, broadly-drafted and sets out a basic framework
of protection, drawing on OECD and Council of Europe approaches.
• It sets standards which are widely seen as “High” and has a strong Human
Rights resonance, with sharp focus on fundamental rights’ and freedoms.

• It has given people important and usable access and other rights.

• The basic Data Protection Principles have stood the test of time well
and are flexible in their drafting and application.

• The Directive seeks to be largely neutral in terms of technology.

• The Directive can claim significant success in harmonising DP rules and promoting an internal market across the European Union.

The press release also identifies the following:

There must be more emphasis on the benefits of maximum and genuine transparency, for example:

• Privacy by Design and the use of published Privacy Impact Assessments.

• There is much more scope to encourage and require organisations to adopt Privacy Policies, make them easily available and – of course - hold them to account for fulfilment.

• There is more scope for trust marks, accountability agents and 3rd party certification.

• More controversially, perhaps, we can envisage greater use of self-certification.

• And we must improve the use and content of Privacy Notices, getting the right information to the right people in the right language at right time.

More details can be found in their press release (pdf).

Update: The full report is now available including its recommendations with commentaries from Out-law and H&W.