Data privacy at DLD
A few weeks ago it was all about tech innovations at CES 2012. This week, though, it’s been all about DLD, or ‘Digital Life Design’, the network dedicated to uniting an informed community with interest in the digital age and what it means for the media, commerce, business and the customer.
Data protection and internet privacy is the current buzz topic the world over. Today, representatives of Google and Facebook are due to give evidence at the Leveson enquiry on press intrusion. Google has also released a new set of privacy laws. And the world is still discussing the implications of SOPA and PIPA following the protests last week and the likelihood of an impending arrest of the team behind Megaupload, one of the biggest sources of pirated content on the internet.
But at DLD, the speakers are more interested in discussing how internet-based companies deal with individuals’ private data. Reding has made a series of sweeping statements regarding data privacy which have drawn an angry reaction from the blogging community, chief among them being the proposal for all countries’ law enforcement services to pool their information regarding suspect individuals, while placing tighter restrictions on individual companies’ uses of private data.
The two conflicting statements that best sum up the problem with data privacy are as follows. Reding first claims that ‘Personal data is the currency of today’s digital market. And like any currency, it needs stability and trust’. This is true, but will be especially ironic for big companies like Google and Facebook, whose cache of personal data is their lifeblood and who, under the proposed new restrictions, may find their pocketbooks considerably thinner. But whether or not the EU demands their surrendering of private data, they and other data-based business models may find themselves at the mercy of the individuals by means of which they monetise, with a proposed piece of legislation on the ‘right to be forgotten’ allowing users to request the deletion of certain personal information kept on the internet.
So, who is likely to benefit from these proposals?
They have, of course, been done for the benefit of consumers, who will have the power to request the removal of sensitive information on the internet and from storage by companies. This will be of particular use to those wishing to remove damaging content from social networks, which currently there is no permanent way of doing. Proposals would also require companies that store data to notify users of breaches, allowing for better awareness of the movements of hackers among the general public. How this relates to data stored in press archives, which are governed by an additional set of rules currently being furiously debated at the Leveson enquiry, remains to be seen.
This could also be of benefit to the European governments at large. Currently, there are at least 27 separate kinds of regulations that govern piracy in the EU. These take over 2 billion Euros a year to enforce. A single set of laws would certainly be a more financially sound measure for the EU at large, and would also alleviate the complexities of cross-country legal issues relating to privacy.
If it sounds like the EU is providing the perfect steps to gang up on smaller tech start-ups, this may not be the case. While it will certainly make the initial phases of development more difficult for start-ups, particularly with regards to users’ ability to request removal of data, it would be better for the later stages of a start-up’s development when they look, as many do, to expand. It would also eliminate international competition if all start-ups are governed by the same rules. And with an increased transparency it may even increase consumer confidence.
Larger companies such as Facebook have found negotiating some stringent European privacy laws difficult, so it’s not hugely surprising that they were apprehensive about the specifics of the laws proposed. But Facebook’s spokesperson indicated that they were confident that the measures would promote economic growth and do much to appease the rights of their most valuable asset – their users.
Clearly, these proposals are in need of a lot more consideration before they are close to becoming laws. And with the likelihood of cloud computing and storage becoming the norm in the next decade, the race to complete this potentially game-changing legislation before the ‘net changes again is on.
What do you think of the proposals? Would you support a European-wide law on data privacy? And is this bad, or good news for SMBs? Let us know what you think in the comments, or tweet @btbizdirect with the hashtag #btbizdebate.