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2016 Looks Set To Be A Big Year For Data Privacy

shutterstock_367033322If data privacy was big news in 2015, it is set to dominate the headlines in 2016, both
in terms of the business world and in our personal lives.

Whether it’s email, data in the cloud, ISPs, search engines, mobile/desktop apps,
government agencies or how your Internet habits are monitored at work, privacy
issues are going to at the centre of many debates and, no doubt, the focus in a number
of high profile legal cases.


No ‘safe harbour’ left

2016 has started with confusion for US-based Internet service providers with users in
Europe. These companies appear to be operating in a legal limbo since the European
Court of Justice (ECJ) declared the ‘safe harbour’ agreement between the US and
Europe null and void. The law, which, since 2000, has forbade the transmission of
citizens’ data out of the EU without certain protections, has been deemed invalid. As a
result, there is currently no framework for the collection and storage of personal data
between the two continents.

Right now, big corporations, such as Google, Apple and Microsoft, have to create
‘model contract clauses’ to authorise the transfer of data out of Europe in order to
guarantee an adequate level of protection that meets EU regulations – a significant
financial and administrative burden for the companies involved.

Clearly, this needs to change soon, so we can reasonably expect that to happen during
the year. In fact, a new ‘safe harbour’ agreement is currently being negotiated, the
impact of which should soon become apparent. Companies in either region hoping to
expand into each other’s territories will have to be aware how the changes will impact
upon their operations.


Droning on about privacy

In 2015, we saw massive proliferation in the use of drones and governments are
beginning to take action to regulate their use. The US Federal Aviation
Administration has started the registration of all drones weighing more than 250
grams. Some city authorities, such as New York, are going further and seeking a ban
on the use of these devices within city limits.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, a EU committee published an extensive report on
the use of civilian and commercial drones last year. It’s thought that EU regulation on
the use of drones will be hammered out during the year.


More data laws?

Increasingly, more and more private users, as well as businesses and organisations are
encrypting their data. This ‘zero-knowledge’ approach to data encryption has led to
concern by law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. While the Obama
administration has said it won’t outlaw this practice, changes to the Investigatory
Powers Bill in the UK could give state bodies the powers to access encrypted data.
The bill was presented in the House of Commons last November and the committee is
set to publish its findings some time this month.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament recently approved the EU Privacy Directive,
essentially limiting the amount of data companies can collect and store on individuals
as well as other organisations. Certainly, big data applications and consumer profiling
could be significantly more challenging under the new regime. Companies breaking
the rules could see fines of up to 5% of their global earnings. Clearly, if this were to
happen to the likes of Google or Apple, the cost would be huge.


The Internet of Things

2016 will see IOT technologies come under scrutiny too. Many of these devices
collect sensitive information, such as health data. In the US, the Federal Trade
Commission has said it will be focussing on such technologies after delivering a
significant report on the subject last year. No doubt, similar organisations in other
countries will be eyeing up developments here with some interest.

With all these big news stories set to develop throughout the year, 2016 will certainly
keep privacy experts on their toes. One thing is for sure – it will be more important
than ever for companies to ensure that they are aware of the changes in the legislatory
environment and are compliant in all their business dealings.

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