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Data Protection Law & Policy

Current Issue (July 2015)

Volume: 12 Issue: 7

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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

Keeping up with technological evolution

Achieving the right balance between the protection of our privacy and the potential to exploit the data we generate is equally critical for human freedom and mankind’s future prosperity. Ignore privacy as a human value and we risk losing a big chunk of our ability to make choices. Restrict the opportunities presented by what our data says about us and we will have killed the next stage of our development as a species. As grand and sensationalist as those points may sound, much evidence and a lot of clever academic thinking, show them to be true. So, it is extremely important that we are able to find that right balance. That balance will hardly ever be an unmovable, straight line that separates right and wrong. That balance is a movable target that will need recalibrating as we go along. What is necessary is an understanding of the factors that affect most directly the issues at stake so that policy makers, legislators, regulators, privacy professionals, lawyers and decision makers can address them.

Here is a pretty obvious starting point: both privacy as a social issue and data protection law as a legal discipline, are intrinsically linked to the evolution of technology. To truly understand the significance of this statement, we actually need to go back in time a bit before computers became the data crunching tools of choice. It is the transition from the made-to-order approach, that ruled the manufacturing world for centuries to the assembly line approach pioneered by Henry Ford and the like, that marks a way of thinking that forms the basis for the need to regulate privacy. At the beginning of the 20th century, most manufactured items were essentially unique. They were made by one or more craftsmen in response to a particular need for that particular item. The Ford Motor Company revolutionised that concept by introducing such an efficient way of building cars through an assembly line that the low cost of production made the iconic Model T affordable to the masses. Mr Ford and his contemporaries anticipated a latent need and put their minds to work to make it happen.

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