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The protection of privacy and personal data on the Internet and online media

Report | Doc. 12695 | 29 July 2011

Committee
Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur :
Ms Andreja RIHTER, Slovenia, SOC
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 12021, Reference 3608 of 2 October 2009. 2011 - Fourth part-session
Thesaurus

Summary

The digitalisation of information has created unprecedented possibilities for the identification of individuals through their data. Personal data are processed by an ever growing number of private and public instances globally. Personal information is put into cyberspace by users themselves as well as by third parties. Individuals leave identity traces through their use of information and communication technologies (ICT). Profiling of Internet users has become a widespread phenomenon.

The fundamental human right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence, as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, includes the right to the protection of personal data as well as the obligation to establish appropriate safeguards under domestic law in this regard. The Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention No. 108) requires that personal data be processed fairly and securely for specified purposes on a legitimate basis only and establishes that everyone has the right to know, access and rectify personal data processed by third parties or to erase personal data that have been processed without authorisation.

A plan of action is necessary for the promotion of common legal standards for the protection of privacy and personal data on ICT-based networks and services throughout Europe and beyond in the framework of the Convention No. 108.

A Draft resolution Note

1. While welcoming the epochal progress in information and communication technologies (hereafter “ICT”) and the resulting positive effects on individuals, societies and human civilisation as a whole, the Parliamentary Assembly notes with concern that the digitalisation of information has caused unprecedented possibilities for the identification of individuals through their data. Personal data are processed by an ever growing number of private and public instances globally. Personal information is put into cyberspace by users themselves as well as by third parties. Individuals leave identity traces through their use of ICT. Profiling of Internet users has become a widespread phenomenon. Companies sometimes monitor employees and business contacts by means of ICT.
2. In addition, ICT systems are often hacked into in order to gain data of legal entities, in particular commercial companies, financial institutions, research institutions and public authorities. Such access may cause economic losses to the private sector and may negatively impact the economic well-being of states, public safety or national security.
3. The Assembly is alarmed by such developments challenging the right to privacy and data protection. In a democratic state governed by the rule of law, cyberspace must not be regarded as outer space from a legal point of view.
4. The Assembly recalls the fundamental human right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence as guaranteed by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5). This right includes the right to the protection of personal data as well as the obligation to establish appropriate safeguards under domestic law in this regard.
5. The Assembly underlines the need to eradicate the use of ICT to possess or transmit pornographic material involving children, under the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201).
6. Recalling its long-standing support of the right to protection of privacy since its Recommendation 509 (1968) on human rights and modern scientific and technological developments, the Assembly welcomes and supports Resolution No. 3 on data protection and privacy in the third millennium, which was adopted by the 30th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice (Istanbul, 24-26 November 2010).
7. As the Assembly declared in its Resolution 428 (1970) on mass communication media and human rights, “where regional, national or international computer-data banks are instituted, the individual must not become completely exposed and transparent by the accumulation of information referring even to his (or her) private life. Data banks should be restricted to the necessary minimum of information required”.
8. Referring to the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108, hereafter “Convention No. 108”), the Assembly emphasises that the right to the protection of personal data includes, in particular, the right that such data be processed fairly and securely for specified purposes on a legitimate basis only, and that everyone has the right to know, access and rectify their personal data processed by third parties or to erase personal data which have been processed without right. Compliance with these obligations must be supervised by an independent authority in accordance with the Additional Protocol to Convention No. 108, regarding supervisory authorities and transborder data flows (ETS No. 181).
9. The Assembly reaffirms that member states should only agree to transfer personal data to another state or organisation where such state or organisation is a Party to Convention No. 108 and its Additional Protocol or otherwise ensures an equally adequate level of protection for the intended data transfer. Transfers of personal data which violate the right to protection of private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights may be the subject of proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights.
10. The Assembly welcomes the fact that Convention No. 108 has been signed and ratified by nearly all Council of Europe member states – with the regrettable exception of Armenia, the Russian Federation, San Marino and Turkey – and notes that Articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union contain largely the same principles. With the growing globalisation of ICT-based services, it is of utmost urgency for Europe as a whole to adhere to the same standards and seek to involve other countries around the world.
11. While Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereafter “ICCPR”) recognises the right to privacy, the legal interpretation and practical implementation of this article falls significantly short of European standards. The Assembly therefore believes that any global initiative should be based on Convention No. 108 and its Additional Protocol, both of which are in principle open for signature by non-member states of the Council of Europe.
12. Although precautionary technologies and software, voluntary self-regulation by ICT companies and private users, as well as improved user awareness, may reduce the risk of interference with privacy and the harmful processing of personal data through ICT, the Assembly believes that only specific legislation and effective enforcement can sufficiently protect the right to protection of privacy and personal data as required by Article 17 of the ICCPR and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
13. The Assembly deplores that the absence of globally accepted international legal standards on data protection regarding ICT-based networks and services leads to legal insecurity and to the need for national courts to fill this void through the interpretation of domestic laws in the light of Article 17 of the ICCPR and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights on a case-by-case basis. The latter not only exposes individuals to a unequal protection of their rights, but also entails different and changing requirements for ICT companies and users globally, causing virtually unpredictable liabilities.
14. The Assembly welcomes the international co-operation established among independent data protection authorities and supports their efforts to ensure a common international protection of privacy and personal data in the wake of technological progress, as expressed in their resolutions adopted in Madrid in 2009 and Jerusalem in 2010. The Assembly shares their view that Convention No. 108 should be promoted globally, as it is the most advanced set of standards in this sector under public international law.
15. Recalling the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185), the Assembly welcomes that more than 100 states have passed legislation which complies with the spirit of this convention. Under Articles 2, 3 and 4 of this convention, its parties are obliged to consider as an offence punishable under domestic criminal law any intentional access to, interception of, and interference with computer data without the right to do so. Such computer data may include personal data of natural persons or secret data of legal persons on computer networks.
16. Recalling Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164) and Article 16 of the Additional Protocol to this Convention concerning Genetic Testing for Health Purposes (CETS No. 203), the Assembly emphasises the right of everyone to the protection of personal health data, including the right to be informed of, and to consent or not to, any collection and processing of such data through ICT. Medical and health data of persons require the highest level of data protection, as they constitute one of the core elements of a person’s private life and human dignity.
17. The Assembly also recalls the obligation to respect the right to privacy and data protection under the Convention on Access to Official Documents (CETS No. 205), as well as the limits to the protection of personal data under the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (CETS No. 198) and the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (ETS No. 127) and its Amending Protocol (CETS No. 208).
18. The Assembly endorses the following general principles concerning the protection of privacy and personal data in an ICT environment:
18.1 the protection of private life or privacy is a necessary element of human life and the humane functioning of a democratic society; where the privacy of a person is violated, his or her human dignity, liberty and security are at stake;
18.2 the right to protection of privacy and personal data is a fundamental human right, which imposes on states the obligation to provide an adequate legal framework for such protection against interference by public authorities as well as by private individuals and entities;
18.3 everyone must be able to control the use of their personal data by others, including any accessing, collection, storage, disclosure, manipulation, exploitation or other processing of personal data, with the exception of the technically necessary or lawful retention of ICT traffic data and localisation data; the control of the use of personal data shall include the right to know and rectify one’s own personal data and to have erased from ICT systems and networks all data which were provided without legal obligation;
18.4 personal data may not be used by others, unless the person has given his or her prior consent, which requires an expression of consent in full knowledge about such use, namely the manifestation of a free, specific and informed will, and excludes an automatic or tacit usage; consent can be subsequently withdrawn at any time; where consent has been withdrawn, personal data may not be used further;
18.5 where personal data are to be used with the intention to exploit such data commercially, the person shall also be informed of the concrete commercial exploitation in advance; where personal data may be used by others, because of individual consent or the public availability of otherwise anonymous data, the intentional accumulation, interconnection, personalisation and use of such accumulated data shall nevertheless require the consent of the person concerned;
18.6 personal ICT systems, as well as ICT-based communications, may not be accessed or manipulated if such action violates privacy or the secrecy of correspondence; access and manipulation through “cookies” or other unauthorised automated devices violate privacy, in particular where such automated access or manipulation serves other, especially commercial, interests;
18.7 higher protection should be afforded to private images, personal data of minors or persons with mental or psychological disabilities, personal ethnic data, personal medical, health or sexual data, personal biometric and genetic data, personal political, philosophical or religious data, personal financial data and other information forming part of the core area of private life; higher protection should also be afforded to personal data related to court proceedings or the professional secrecy of lawyers, medical professionals and journalists; such higher protection may be effectuated through self-regulatory, technical or legal means ensuring due accountability in case of infringements of data protection or privacy; periods should be specified beyond which such data shall no longer be kept or used;
18.8 public and private entities which collect, store, process or otherwise use personal data should be obliged to reduce the amount of such data to the absolute minimum necessary; personal data should be deleted when they are outdated or unused or where the purpose for their collection has been met or no longer exists; the random collection and storage of personal data should be avoided;
18.9 everyone should have an effective remedy against an unlawful interference with his or her right to protection of privacy and personal data before domestic courts; voluntary arbitration and self-regulatory bodies as well as independent data protection authorities should complement the judicial system in ensuring the effective protection of this right; public authorities and commercial companies should be encouraged to establish mechanisms for receiving and processing complaints against them by individuals alleging infringements of their right to data protection or privacy, as well as mechanisms for ensuring internal compliance with the right to privacy and data protection; unlawful infringements of privacy and data protection should be punishable by law.
19. The Assembly welcomes the fact that the Parties to Convention No. 108 have started to prepare a possible revision of this convention in the wake of technological progress and increasingly fierce commercial competition in ICT-based services.
20. The Assembly therefore calls on:
20.1 the parliaments of Armenia, the Russian Federation, San Marino and Turkey to initiate their ratification of Convention No. 108 without delay, thus enabling their countries to play an active role in the further development of this convention;
20.2 its observer delegations from Canada, Israel and Mexico to initiate debate in their respective parliaments about signing and ratifying Convention No. 108 and participating in its further development. The observer delegations are invited to report progress in this regard to the Assembly in due course;
20.3 the other states co-operating with the Council of Europe, in particular the Council of Europe observer states, Japan, the United States and the Holy See, to promote their authorities’ accession to Convention No. 108;
20.4 the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) to report to the Assembly on the extent to which the domestic legislation of its member and observer states is in accordance with the universal human right to protection of privacy and personal data in the light of Convention No. 108 and its Additional Protocol, and on whether those states which are not yet parties to this convention would consider signing and ratifying it.
21. The Assembly asks the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to:
21.1 seek high-level support from the United Nations in promoting accession to Convention No. 108 by states worldwide, in particular through the United Nations Internet Governance Forum, the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO);
21.2 ensure, through specific internal rules and regulations, the protection of privacy and personal data of Council of Europe staff as well as members of Council of Europe bodies. The broad use of ICT within the Council of Europe and its extraterritorial legal status must not compromise the protection of privacy and personal data. In this context, the position and work of the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Data Protection should be strengthened and the internal regulatory framework revised accordingly.
22. The Assembly calls on the European Union to continue to support broad accession to Convention No. 108 and its Additional Protocol and to become itself a party once the necessary amendments enabling this accession have entered into force.
23. Welcoming international efforts by different stakeholders to ensure the right to protection of personal data in the ICT environment, such as the Madrid 2009 and Jerusalem 2010 resolutions by independent data protection authorities and the various data protection initiatives by the International Chamber of Commerce, the Assembly invites all stakeholders to join forces with the Council of Europe in order to ensure that individual initiatives do not contradict one another or risk being used in order to blur a common approach to the universal right to respect for privacy and personal data or to lower existing legal standards.

B Draft recommendation Note

1. Referring to its Resolution … (2011) on the protection of privacy and personal data on the Internet and online media, the Parliamentary Assembly welcomes and supports Resolution No. 3 on data protection and privacy in the third millennium adopted by the 30th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice (Istanbul, 24-26 November 2010) and calls for a plan of action for the promotion of common legal standards for the protection of privacy and personal data on ICT-based networks and services throughout Europe and beyond in the framework of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108, hereafter “Convention No. 108”).
2. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
2.1 actively seek the signature and ratification of Convention No. 108 and its Additional Protocol (ETS No. 181) by the European Union and those member states which have not yet done so, and call on all Parties to Convention No. 108 which have not yet done so to accept the amendments enabling the European Union to accede to this convention;
2.2 encourage and support, through their member states’ Permanent Representations to the United Nations, the signature and ratification of Convention No. 108 by non-member states, in particular those states which are observers to the Council of Europe or are parties to enlarged partial agreements or signatories to other Council of Europe conventions;
2.3 provide adequate budgetary resources within the secretariat of the Council of Europe for the further legal development of Convention No. 108 in line with Resolution No. 3 of the 30th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice, and call on member and observer states, as well as the European Union, to provide voluntary additional funding for such work;
2.4 invite the Parties to Convention No. 108 to:
2.4.1 take account of Assembly Resolution …. (2011) when revising the convention,
2.4.2 not lower the established protection of privacy and personal data:
2.4.3 establish a mechanism for monitoring compliance of parties with their obligations under this convention;
2.4.4 bear in mind Assembly Resolution 1744 (2010) on extra-institutional actors in the democratic system when consulting private stakeholders;
2.5 promote the signature and ratification of the Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) by all member states as well as by non-member states;
2.6 promote the signature and ratification of the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201) by all member states as well as by non-member states;
2.7 ask its relevant instances dealing with bioethics to propose standards for the ICT-based processing of medical and health data under the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164) and its additional protocols;
2.8 bring this recommendation and resolution …. (2011) to the attention of the competent ministries and data protection authorities in member states.

C Explanatory memorandum by Ms Rihter, rapporteur

1 Introduction

1.1 Preparation of this report

1. Having tabled the motion on privacy and the management of private information on the Internet and other online media, Note I was appointed rapporteur by the Committee on Culture, Science and Education on 8 December 2009. Having been Slovenian Minister for Culture from 2000 to 2004, media policy and new media are subjects close to my heart.
2. The Sub-Committee on the Media organised the Council of Europe’s Open Forum on Privacy and Internet Freedom at the United Nations Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius (Lithuania) on 15 September 2010. This Open Forum allowed invited experts as well as all Forum stakeholders to express their views on this subject at the beginning of the preparation of my report. Note
3. I am particularly grateful for the thematic contributions by Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe; Ms Catherine Pozzo di Borgo, Vice-Chair of the Consultative Committee of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (ETS No. 108, hereafter “Convention No. 108”) and Deputy Government Commissioner to the National Commission on Information Technologies and Liberties (CNIL, Paris); Mr Richard Allan, Director of European Public Policy with Facebook (London); Ms Katitza Rodríguez, International Rights Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Member of the Advisory Board of Privacy International (San Francisco); and Professor Peng Hwa Ang from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
4. Professor Cécile de Terwangne and Professor Jean-Noël Colin from the University of Namur (Belgium) were commissioned to prepare, along the thematic lines agreed in consultation with me, a background report on the legal and technical challenges to privacy and data protection in today’s cyberspace. They presented their joint report to the Committee on Culture, Science and Education in Paris on 18 March 2011. This explanatory memorandum relies largely on the background report, and I am very grateful to its authors.
5. On 18 March 2011, the committee also organised a hearing on this subject with Professor de Terwangne and Professor Colin, as well as Ms Pozzo di Borgo speaking on behalf of the Consultative Committee of Convention No. 108; Mr Michael Donohue, Senior Policy Analyst, Information Security and Privacy, OECD; and Mr Olivier Matter, Lawyer, European and International Affairs, National Commission for Information Technologies and Liberties (CNIL), Paris. The presentations made during the hearing have enriched my report.
6. Representatives of the European Commission and the International Chamber of Commerce were unable to attend the hearing on 18 March 2011. I therefore contacted these two institutions, sending them the preliminary draft resolution for their comments.
7. The Data Protection Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Dr Karel Neuwirt, also provided an opinion on the draft report. I am grateful for this supportive opinion and took account of his suggestions in my final report.
8. In view of the strong international initiatives taken by independent data protection authorities, I also sent the preliminary draft resolution to CNIL and to the Federal Institute of Access to Information and Data Protection of Mexico, which will host the 2011 Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners.
9. I thank everybody who helped with this report, and I hope it will be useful for achieving common standards on the protection of privacy and personal data in Europe and beyond in the age of cyberspace.

1.2 Basic concepts

10. The spectacular growth in information and communication technologies (ICT) has offered considerable opportunities and multiple benefits. Communication networks, especially the Internet, have enabled previously unimaginable services to be introduced, while the efficiency and accessibility of existing services have been improved.
11. However, use of these technologies also presents new dangers for privacy and individual freedoms. There are many dark sides to the fate of personal data on the Internet: data gathered without an individual’s knowledge, data reused for unacknowledged purposes, data kept for months or even years, data passed on to third parties, confidential data circulated and so on. Individuals using the Internet and the whole range of online services that now exist have to a large extent lost control of their personal information. They do not know what happens to it and have no means of checking from afar who accesses it. A string of Internet and new media stakeholders, on the other hand, are familiar with their tastes, interests, movements, the places they frequent, the people they associate with, etc. These facts call into question the right to privacy and to data protection.
12. Privacy, in this context, should be understood not in the traditional sense of a private sphere to be protected and containing a set of private, or even confidential, information to be kept secret but rather as the right to self-determination and autonomy and an individual’s capacity to make existential choices. Note Here we are talking, more specifically, about informational self-determination, that is, individuals’ rights to “know what is known about them”, be aware of information stored about them, control how it is communicated and prevent its abuse. Privacy is thus not confined to a pursuit of confidentiality; it is an individual’s control over his or her image in terms of information.
13. Data protection derives from the right to privacy via the associated right to self-determination. Every individual has the right to control his or her own data, whether private, public or professional.

2 Protection of privacy and personal data in Europe

2.1 Legal standards

14. This section looks first at the binding legal provisions adopted by the Council of Europe. Next, reference is made to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as the only binding universal instrument in the field of privacy. Lastly, European Union provisions are considered, as 27 of the 47 Council of Europe member states are also member states of the European Union. The same approach is used for the list of policy standards below.

2.1.1 Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

15. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, hereafter “the Convention”) guarantees everyone the right to respect for his or her private and family life. Exceptions to this right are allowed if they are in accordance with the law and necessary in a democratic society (that is, they respect the principle of proportionality laid down in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) in order to protect the legitimate interests listed in Article 8, paragraph 2.
16. The Court has expressly extended the scope of privacy to cover data protection, thus signalling that protection of personal data is fundamental to the right to respect for private life enshrined in Article 8. The Court holds that Article 8 requires domestic law to afford appropriate safeguards to prevent any misuse or abuse of personal data. Domestic law must also ensure that such data are relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are stored and that they are preserved in a form that permits identification of the data subjects for no longer than is required for the purposes for which those data are stored. Note

2.1.2 Convention No. 108

17. Born out of concern to strengthen the protection of privacy and other personal rights in the context of developments in the field of information technology, the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data was adopted on 28 January 1981.
18. This convention contains the basic principles of data protection, principles which have been adopted by most national and international instruments in this field and are still relevant today, even if they probably need to be added to. They are as follows:
  • fair and lawful data collection;
  • specified purpose (data stored for specified and legitimate purposes and not used in a way incompatible with those purposes);
  • data quality (relevant, appropriate, up to date, stored for a limited period);
  • special arrangements for sensitive data;
  • data security;
  • right of access, rectification and remedy;
  • possible exceptions for the sake of paramount public or private interests.
19. In 2001, Convention No. 108 was supplemented by an Additional Protocol regarding supervisory authorities and trans-border data flows (ETS No. 181).
20. The Consultative Committee established under Convention No. 108 currently examines possible legal loopholes in the convention, caused by the rapid technological progress of ICT worldwide. The analytical report prepared for the Consultative Committee by Dr Jean-Marc Dinant, Professor de Terwangne and Mr Jean-Philippe Moiny of the University of Namur (Belgium) focuses on technological challenges such as geo-localisation, cookies and traceability with regard to the legal standards under Convention No. 108. Note
21. Until March 2011, the Consultative Committee also pursued a public consultation on the possible modernisation of Convention No. 108.

2.1.3 Convention on Cybercrime

22. The Convention on Cybercrime (ETS No. 185) of 23 November 2001 was drawn up by the Council of Europe but is open for signature by any state in the world. Note It requires establishing as criminal offences the breaching of data confidentiality by unauthorised access or illegal interception, interference with the integrity of data through their alteration or suppression and interference with the integrity of the system. States parties also have to establish the offences of computer-related forgery and computer-related fraud in order to prevent malicious tampering with data.
23. In addition, parties must enable their authorities to obtain expedited preservation of data, including traffic data, in order to make them available for investigations. A signatory state can be required to preserve and disclose data under mutual assistance arrangements.

2.1.4 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine

24. Personal health data are among the most sensitive personal data. The protection of privacy and personal data is therefore regulated in Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164) and Article 16 of the Additional Protocol to this convention concerning Genetic Testing for Health Purposes (CETS No. 203).
25. The right of everyone to the protection of personal health data must include the right to be informed of, and to consent to or not, any collection and processing of such data.

2.1.5 Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

26. Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed in New York on 16 December 1966, provides that: “(1) No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” This is the only binding provision protecting privacy at global level.

2.1.6 Articles 7 and 8 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights

27. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union Note has been legally binding since the Lisbon Treaty came into force. While Article 7 of this Charter enshrines the right to privacy in the usual terms, Article 8 departs from tradition by securing a separate right to protection of personal data within the general catalogue of fundamental rights. Article 8 provides that everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning himself or herself; the data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on a legitimate basis (consent or some other basis laid down by law); and everyone has the right of access to his or her data and the right to rectify them. Compliance with these rules must be subject to control by an independent authority.

2.1.7 European Union Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC

28. Directive 95/46/EC of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data Note took up, in greater detail, the principles contained in Convention No. 108. However, it offers improved protection rules on a variety of points. It has established criteria for making data processing legitimate. The catalogue of the data subject’s rights has been extended. Right of access includes the right to know the source of the data and the logic used to process them. The directive establishes the right to object to processing of personal data and the right not to be subject to wholly automated decisions. In addition, the controller is required to give certain information to the data subject. Currently, the European Union data protection law is undergoing a reform.

2.1.8 European Union Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive 2002/58/EC

29. Directive 2002/58/EC of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector Note is a specific directive complementing the general directive (95/46/EC) for regulating data protection in the electronic communications sector. It lays down an obligation to ensure confidentiality of electronic communications as well as traffic data and location data, with some exceptions. It introduces a duty to ensure data security, now coupled with a requirement to notify of any serious risks to data. However, this requirement applies only to providers of publicly available electronic communications services. The directive also deals with the use of cookies and sending of spam.

2.1.9 European Union Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC

30. Directive 2006/24/EC of 15 March 2006 on data retention requires providers of communication services (Internet, fixed and mobile telephony, fax) to retain systematically everyone’s traffic and location data for periods of between six months and two years. Note This directive is currently being revised.
31. Data retention and access to such data by law enforcement authorities has become a politically important aspect in fighting crime and terrorism. In this respect, the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (CETS No. 198) and the Convention on Cybercrime could serve as international legal references, as well as the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (ETS No. 127 and CETS No. 208).

2.2 Policy standards

Assembly Resolution 428 (1970) containing a declaration on mass communication media and human rights
32. In its Resolution 428 (1970) containing a declaration on mass communication media and human rights, the Parliamentary Assembly established already more than 40 years ago that, “where regional, national or international computer-data banks are instituted, the individual must not become completely exposed and transparent by the accumulation of information referring even to his (or her) private life. Data banks should be restricted to the necessary minimum of information required”.
33. This resolution followed up Recommendation 509 (1968) on human rights and modern scientific and technological developments, which had called on the Committee of Ministers “to study and report on the question whether, having regard to Article 8 of the [European] Convention on Human Rights, the national legislation in the member States adequately protects the right to privacy against violations which may be committed by the use of modern scientific and technical methods”.
34. The resolution was adopted together with Recommendation 582 (1970) on mass communication media and human rights, which reaffirmed the earlier appeal by recommending that the Committee of Ministers consider “the establishment of an agreed interpretation of the right to privacy provided for in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, by the conclusion of a protocol or otherwise, so as to make it clear that this right is effectively protected against interference not only by public authorities but also by private persons or the mass media”.
Assembly Resolution 1165 (1998) on the right to privacy
35. In its “Declaration on mass communication media and human rights”, in Resolution 428 (1970), the Assembly defined the right to privacy as “the right to live one’s own life with a minimum of interference”. Almost 30 years later, the Assembly specified in Resolution 1165 (1998) that, “in view of the new communication technologies which make it possible to store and use personal data, the right to control one’s own data should be added to this definition”.
36. The 1998 resolution contains guidelines intended to supplement national privacy provisions and covering various legal proceedings and penalties to be made available to individuals whose privacy has been infringed.
Assembly Resolution 1797 (2011) on the need for a global consideration of the human rights implications of biometrics
37. The Assembly recently adopted Resolution 1797 (2011) on the need for a global consideration of the human rights implications of biometrics, which calls on member states to, inter alia, “promote proportionality in dealing with biometric data, in particular by limiting their evaluation, processing and storage to cases of clear necessity, namely when the gain in security or in the protection of public health or of the rights of others clearly outweighs a possible interference with human rights and if the use of other, less intrusive techniques does not suffice”.
Committee of Ministers Resolution (73) 22 on the protection of privacy of individuals vis-à-vis electronic data banks in the private sector
38. The Committee of Ministers developed the first set of political principles through its Resolution (73) 22 on the protection of privacy of individuals vis-à-vis electronic data banks in the private sector. Note Through the adoption of this resolution, on 26 September 1973, the Committee of Ministers considered that it was urgent, pending the possible elaboration of an international agreement, to take steps to prevent further divergences between the laws of member states in this field.
39. Resolution (73) 22 defined, inter alia, that “information relating to the intimate private life of persons or information which might lead to unfair discrimination should not be recorded or, if recorded, should not be disseminated; rules should be laid down to specify the periods beyond which certain categories of information should no longer be kept or used; without appropriate authorisation, information should not be used for purposes other than those for which it has been stored, nor communicated to third parties; the person concerned should have the right to know the information stored about him, the purpose for which it has been recorded, and particulars of each release of this information; every care should be taken to correct inaccurate information and to erase obsolete information or information obtained in an unlawful way; electronic data banks should be equipped with security systems which bar access to the data held by them to persons not entitled to obtain such information, and which provide for the detection of misdirection of information, whether intentional or not”. Such standards seem still pertinent in the current ICT era.
Committee of Ministers Resolution (74) 29 on the protection of privacy of individuals vis-à-vis electronic data banks in the public sector
40. Resolution (73) 22 was complemented a year later by Resolution (74) 29 on the protection of privacy of individuals vis-à-vis electronic data banks in the public sector. Besides a comparable set of standards, Resolution (74) 29 stated that, “especially when electronic data banks process information relating to the intimate private life of individuals or when the processing of information might lead to unfair discrimination, (a) their existence must have been provided for by law, or by special regulation or have been made public in a statement or document, in accordance with the legal system of each member state; (b) such law, regulation, statement or document must clearly state the purpose of storage and use of such information, as well as the conditions under which it may be communicated either within the public administration or to private persons or bodies; (c) that data stored must not be used for purposes other than those which have been defined unless exception is explicitly permitted by law, is granted by a competent authority or the rules for the use of the electronic data bank are amended”.
Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R (99) 5 for the protection of privacy on the Internet
41. Recommendation (99) 5 is aimed at Internet service users and providers. It contains “guidelines for the protection of individuals with regard to the collection and processing of personal data on information highways” to be incorporated in codes of conduct. These guidelines set out principles of fair practice for privacy and data protection in Internet communications and exchanges.
Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)13 on the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data in the context of profiling
42. Adopted on 23 November 2010, Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)13 proposes supervision of the widespread phenomenon of profiling (see sections 3.2 and 4.2 below). The appendix to the recommendation contains principles that should ensure fair and lawful profiling. A list of cases in which profiling is lawful is provided. The controller is required to limit the risk of error, take security measures and provide data subjects with information about his or her profiling activities. With certain exceptions, individuals are entitled to access their data, correct them, be informed of the purpose of the profiling and the logic used to attribute their profiles and, last but not least, object to use of their data or to a decision taken solely on the basis of profiling.
Resolution No. 3 of the European Ministers of Justice on data protection and privacy in the third millennium
43. In Resolution No. 3, adopted on 26 November 2010 at their 30th ministerial conference in Istanbul, the Council of Europe Ministers of Justice show their support for bringing Convention No. 108 up to date in order to find ways of guaranteeing protection of personal rights in the face of the new challenges posed by technology and the globalisation of information. This updating should meet ministers’ concerns with regard to issues such as transparency, effective exercise of rights, data security breaches, jurisdiction and applicable law in respect of virtual and trans-border relationships (for example, cloud computing and social networks) and liability.
44. The ministers note that Convention No. 108 is currently the only potentially universal binding legal instrument in the field of data protection. It could therefore become the universal instrument demanded by national data protection authorities. The ministers consequently invite parties outside the Council of Europe to take part in the updating process.
United Nations guidelines concerning computerised personal data files, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 14 December 1990
45. The United Nations General Assembly adopted on 14 December 1990 guidelines concerning computerised personal data files. Note
46. These guidelines are the only political standard established by the United Nations since the entry into force of Article 17 of the ICCPR. They state that information about persons should not be used “for ends contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations”.
OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data of 1980
47. The OECD Guidelines of 1980 Note contain what are known as “fair information principles”. These basic principles of data protection are almost identical to those in Convention No. 108. But, unlike the latter, they are not legally binding.
48. The OECD is currently reviewing its data protection guidelines with a view to modernising them. Most of the OECD member states are legally bound by European Union law and/or Convention No. 108.
Madrid Resolution of 2009 adopted by data protection and privacy commissioners
49. The 2009 Madrid Resolution Note was the result of joint work by data protection authorities in 50 countries under the leadership of the Spanish Data Protection Agency. It is intended to provide a model incorporating universal standards of data protection, thus covering data protection values and principles that are safeguarded on five continents.
50. In addition to standard aspects of data protection, this resolution contains new elements such as proactive measures (procedures to detect and prevent security breaches, appointment of a data protection officer, privacy impact assessments, etc.) and the accountability principle, which calls for internal arrangements that can be used to show that the controller is complying with data protection rules.
Jerusalem Resolution of 2010 adopted by data protection and privacy commissioners
51. At their 32nd International Conference in Jerusalem, from 27 to 29 October 2010, data protection authorities adopted a resolution calling for the organisation of an intergovernmental conference with a view to developing a binding international instrument on privacy and the protection of personal data. Note
52. This initiative was responded to by the 30th conference of the Council of Europe Ministers of Justice in their Resolution No. 3 on data protection and privacy in the third millennium (see above), which invited non-European states to accede to Convention No. 108 and supported its modernisation.

3 Technology-related challenges to privacy and data protection

53. Ever greater computing power and storage capacity and ever-increasing connectivity are making possible the development of new technologies and applications that constitute a genuine challenge to privacy and data protection. They often entail bulk collection of personal data on citizens, on-line buyers, social network users and so on, sometimes without their knowledge, and an increasingly common use of identifiers (such as IP addresses, RFID tag identifiers and session identifiers) enabling a user to be linked with his or her actions, geographical position or personal data. Moreover, these data can be analysed and correlated to infer further information, for profiling purposes, for example. Lastly, the storage and passing on of collected or inferred data increasingly tend to be beyond the control of the data subject, who is powerless with regard to the use, and sometimes misuse, of these data.
54. The consequence is an increased risk of data leakage and tracing of individuals, thus infringing their privacy. It is therefore necessary to look at a number of emerging or changing technologies, their effects and operation, as well as the potential dangers that they pose to privacy and data protection.
55. The European Commission commissioned a comparative study on different approaches to new privacy challenges in the light of technological developments, which was presented by its authors LRDP Kantor Ltd. (Cambridge/London/Oxford) on 20 January 2010. This study proposed some modernisation of the European Union Directive 95/46/EC on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. Note

3.1 Convergence of communication systems

56. Changes in communication systems and information-sharing/information-delivery services are leading to ever greater convergence between these various systems, resulting in less and less transparency regarding the actual tools used and, above all, a loss of control over the dissemination of information that circulates or is aggregated, reformatted or forwarded.
57. Thus, the telephone, equipped with computing power and storage capacity, has become “smart” (smart phones); a computer can be used to telephone; videoconferencing is available on MP3 players; behind a fax number may lie an e-mail address; and calls to a mobile phone can be rerouted to a landline before arriving in the voice mailbox of a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service consulted on a PC. These examples show how very complicated it is for a user to determine the type of communication system being used and especially where the data sent or received are going to or coming from.
58. Mention may also be made here of developments such as Microsoft’s Outlook Social Connector, which can show a person receiving an e-mail the sender’s Facebook status. This illustrates the ever increasing confusion between hitherto clearly separate spheres and the risk of unwanted disclosure of data that this allows.

3.2 Examples of new technologies

Geo-location
59. Increasingly sophisticated and accurate methods exist to establish a user’s geographical position, whether directly through data from his or her terminal (using a GPS chip, increasingly common in mobile phones) or through the network to which the user is connected (by triangulating GSM stations or using databases containing the location of WiFi networks – consider the data collected by Google Street View cars in this connection Note).
60. Electronic management of public transport also makes it possible to track users’ movements, for example, when they swipe their travel cards. A user’s position is sometimes stored or notified to third parties without informing the user or obtaining his or her consent, opening the way to movement tracking, profiling of absences from home, etc. This calls into question the freedom to move around anonymously.
61. Even more perniciously, geo-location data from photographs (such as those taken with a mobile phone), combined with face recognition technologies as found in software such as Apple iPhoto® and Google Picasa®, enable the location of a person in a photo to be determined without his or her knowledge.
User traceability
62. Contrary to popular belief, browsing the Web leaves far more indications than where we go and what we do in real life. Surfing the Internet leaves various people with a record of what has been done (IP address, service provider, page from which user has come, browsing history, etc.). Tools such as IPv6 addressing and cookies (see below) make it possible to identify individual computers and therefore their users. The situation is unlike that in real life, in that there is no question of strolling along the information highways, visiting virtual shops, reading a newspaper or showing an interest in an advertisement – without this being known. One has to wonder about such constant transparency, which would surely not be accepted in the real world.
Ipv6 addressing
63. Because of the proliferation of systems connected to the Internet, the address space defined by the IPv4 standard Note has been exhausted, jeopardising the growth of the web. The Ipv6 standard has been created in response, providing a much larger number of separate addresses. Note By way of illustration, Ipv6 would allow every individual on earth to have several dozen billions of addresses for his or her own personal use.
64. An IPv6 address can be allocated to a device in a variety of ways, one of which uses the device’s physical address (MAC address) to generate an Ipv6 address, thus linking traffic to the device and even directing it to an individual. Other methods avoid this situation by generating addresses semi-randomly or using an address server that assigns them automatically. Note
65. Whether or not an IPv6 address can be used for identification will therefore depend on either the default settings of the system used or the expertise of the user.
Cookies
66. The arrangements concerning cookies are defined by the web browsing protocol (http) and enable a web server to send to a user’s browser a series of data, which the browser will send back to it upon subsequent visits (only to that particular site). A cookie has a limited lifespan, determined either by closing of the browser or by an expiry date. Cookies are thus stored locally by the browser, usually on the user’s hard disk.
67. Cookies are used by web servers for session management and personalisation, but they can also be used for tracing. Moreover, it should be noted that, upon visiting a site, a browser may receive cookies from third-party sites because the original site includes content from those third-party sites. This technology is often used for audience monitoring and profiling for advertising purposes.
68. Although the most common browsers allow users to manage and even block cookies, these functions are seldom used, either because of ignorance or simply because blocking cookies would make Internet browsing unfeasible.
Smart grids
69. Power distribution grids are now migrating towards a smart model (smart grids) that incorporates information technology in order to optimise generation and distribution, the aim being to match generation and consumption as closely as possible, thus leading to energy savings, avoidance of power cuts, etc. A smart grid is based on smart meters fitted with sensors and linked through a network to a system that collects, collates and analyses consumption data.
70. Smart meters send the operator real-time consumption data, enabling consumers to be profiled: absence or presence in the building, use of appliances with an energy signature and so on.
71. Moreover, within the building itself, appliances can also be connected to the smart meter, not only reporting consumption instantaneously but also allowing the meter to influence this consumption, for example, by automatically adjusting the temperature of a thermostat or turning off air-conditioning at times of peak consumption.
72. Here again we are witnessing bulk collection of data that can be linked to a person or group of people, enabling their attributes and behaviour to be pinpointed. The risk of uncontrolled disclosure is even greater when this information is collected by third parties, as in the case of Google’s PowerMeter system. Note
RFID and the Internet of Things
73. RFID (radio frequency identification) is an identification technology relying on three components:
  • a tag, which is attached to or incorporated in the object to be identified;
  • a reader, used to read the tag when it is within range;
  • an information system, which receives data from the reader and processes it.
74. The tag consists of an antenna and an electronic chip containing, as a minimum, an identifier. When a tag is read by a reader (using electromagnetic waves), it sends the reader its identifier. The tag structure is very simple, allowing mass production at a cost permitting use on a massive scale, usually just a few pence. Note Contact with the reader is not required to scan the tag; the scanning distance can vary between a few centimetres and a few dozen centimetres, or even further, depending on the type of tag.
75. RFID tags are used for stock and supply control, collecting road tolls, management of supermarket stocks, check-outs and after-sales service, luggage tracking at airports and as a means of identifying animals. In some cases, tags may be implanted in human beings – for example, to ensure the safety of children or the elderly, or, on a lighter note, to monitor access to and manage drinks orders in discotheques. Since the identifier is specific to a particular tag, the latter’s movements – and therefore the movements of the person or object to which it is attached – can thus be tracked in relation to readers. Since tags are read from a distance, users are not necessarily aware when they are being scanned, which may lead to data leakage or tracking without their knowledge. Simultaneous scanning of a large number of tags allows tagged objects or persons to be identified almost instantaneously in the immediate environment, thus again facilitating profiling of tagged individuals.
76. Various technical solutions now exist (and more continue to be developed) to limit the scope for misuse of RFID technology. But they often add significantly to the manufacturing cost, hindering large-scale deployment. Recently, the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party of the European Union endorsed a Framework Privacy Impact Assessment for RFID applications. Note
77. The Internet of Things takes the idea of the Internet and identification a (big) step further, with the vision of a world in which everything is interconnected, not just people but also things. The Internet thus emerges from the strictly virtual world to include objects from the real physical world using technologies such as RFID, near field communication (NFC), geo-location and sensor networks. Here, the connected objects function largely independently, being able to acquire and transmit information collected through sensors, process it and interact with users and their environment.
78. Although the Internet of Things is a young field, where scientific and commercial applications are still in their infancy, it is clearly based on bulk collection and processing of information, most of which can be either directly or indirectly linked to individuals and, by this very fact, present a threat to their privacy.
Web crawlers
79. A Web crawler (also known as a Web spider) is software written to scan the Web automatically and index content visited, thus providing data for search engines in order to make searching more effective and facilitate access to information. It works by analysing the pages visited, following hyperlinks recursively.
80. Some malicious crawlers analyse pages to harvest e-mail addresses for spam. Others may also browse pages to aggregate and correlate data collected and infer further information.
Biometric data
81. Biometric methods, based on an individual’s physiological attributes such as fingerprints, retina, voiceprint and DNA, are increasingly being used to authenticate individuals (verify their identity), whether for electronic payments, border control, access control, face recognition or other purposes.
82. Biometric data must first be collected before they can be compared with the template to confirm identity. This requires storage of a large amount of personal data, some of which, such as DNA, is an invasion of an individual’s privacy, which includes his or her ancestry and descendants.
83. The Assembly recently adopted Resolution 1797 (2011) and Recommendation 1960 (2011) on the need for a global consideration of the human rights implications of biometrics, which specifically addressed the protection of personal data and privacy.
Privacy by design
84. The term “privacy by design” refers to a set of principles drawn up for the design, development and operation of information systems in order to ensure that privacy and data protection aspects are properly taken into account at the design stage and that these systems therefore comply with statutory and regulatory requirements in this field.
85. Ms Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (Canada), is the person behind this initiative, which is based on respect for the user, transparency regarding data collection and processing and refusal to compromise by sacrificing privacy to other goals. The basic principles are security measures that are proactive, data protection by default (any exceptions having to be approved by the data subject) and data protection embedded in information systems, rather than being an add-on, and extending throughout the life cycle of the data collected.
86. These principles are applicable not just to information technology but also to business practices and physical infrastructure. There is a website on this topic, Note which, besides providing a general introduction, illustrates the applicability of the approach through numerous case studies, thus demonstrating that it is possible to design efficient systems satisfying business requirements without necessarily sacrificing data protection.
Cloud computing
87. Cloud computing is a recent paradigm of IT. The term covers both the services accessed and delivered through the Internet and the information systems and hardware/software providing these services.
88. The “cloud” allows considerable flexibility in managing and allocating resources, with the investment model based more on usage-related invoicing, as well as for integrating services between and within organisations, irrespective of geographical position.
89. Various tiers of cloud services are available, the following being the three main ones:
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The services provided are infrastructure services – principally system hardware and software – and connectivity; infrastructure management is left to the customer;
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): The services provided take the form of a platform, consisting of infrastructure but also a software environment enabling customers to develop or run their own applications; overall management is therefore shared between the service provider and the customer;
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): The provider here supplies the customer with a complete applications solution, covering both infrastructure and application software. Such services are offered, for example, by salesforce.com for business management and by Google through Google Mail, Google Documents, Google Calendar, etc.
90. Cloud computing is thus an extension of the security perimeter towards the Internet, where it is extremely hard to exercise effective control. The user entrusts data storage to a third party, the service provider, who hosts the data and processes them in a manner often unknown to the user. This necessitates a genuine relationship of trust between user and service provider – trust that may be reinforced by contractual guarantees. The main challenges concern protecting cloud data, preserving their integrity and maintaining appropriate access control.
Deep packet inspection
91. Data circulating on a network are usually transmitted in the form of packets comprising header and content; the header contains the information needed to allow the network infrastructure to deliver the packet to its destination.
92. Filtering of network traffic to authorise transit – done mostly by firewalls – is based on routing data in the packet header, usually the message source and destination. Deep packet inspection is based on content-related criteria, analysing not just the header but also the body of the message, that is, its content.
93. This method is obviously more costly in terms of time and resources. It allows information system security to be improved by detecting and filtering out malicious content. However, it can also be used for surveillance or censorship purposes.

4 Usage-related challenges

4.1 Data processing

By government authorities
94. Growth of ICT-based e-government is leading to networking of government authorities. This change rests mainly on data sharing between authorities, the creation of lookup files and huge data warehouses and the interconnection of previously separate databases. This model raises serious questions concerning privacy. The previous “silo” model of government, in which each body had its own separate data for its specific statutory mission, was presented as a safeguard against an omniscient state for which its citizens would be totally transparent. “Practical obscurity” was the key to balance in relations between government and the public. This safeguard has disappeared in the name of efficiency. Questions now have to be asked about individuals’ control over the data collected on them, the transparency of data interchange and the proportionality of processing.
95. Use of unique identifiers for the purposes of interconnection and transverse access to an individual’s data has further increased the risks of loss of control and failure to respect proportionality. Concerns relating to processing of personal data by public authorities have been heightened by the fact that such processing is used as the basis for decisions such as granting of a pension, recognition of special status, assessment for tax purposes or opening of a criminal investigation.
96. Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, condemns the erosion of privacy by state counter-terrorism measures in his report to the 13th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Note Many states have dramatically expanded their powers in the name of national security and public safety, including overt and secret surveillance, the interception of communications and profiling of persons.
97. The Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (CETS No. 205) tries to balance the right to information with the protection of privacy and personal data.
By commercial bodies
98. Personal data have an economic value. This value is significant in three respects:
  • for providers of Internet-based services: knowing the profile of Internet users interested in products or services and being able to break down this interest in detail (web pages visited, links clicked on, frequency of visits, etc.) allows them to choose the best way of presenting what they offer;
  • for commercial users of databases containing personal information: gathering data from every possible source allows them to build up extremely full databases that can be used and sold on for marketing and mailing;
  • for actual operation of the Web: most services offered on the Internet are free in appearance only. It is user exposure to advertising that finances them. The business model is based on marketing. The latter will be all the more profitable if recipients’ profiles are accurate and allow advertisements to be targeted effectively. Note
99. In each of these three examples, collection and collation of data to create user profiles have become vital operations. Yet in all too many cases these operations occur without the knowledge of the people concerned. They often entail use of data for purposes other than the original one. And the amount of data collected inevitably raises the question of proportionality. For example, is it necessary, or simply customary, for search engines (such as Google) to keep all the words entered by a particular individual (identified by a cookie) for months on end? Such a set of words is usually incredibly revealing of the user’s interests, activities, plans, etc.
100. The National Commission for Information Technologies and Liberties (CNIL) has been monitoring and punishing violations of privacy and data protection in France since 1974. While in the past, 90% of the cases pursued by CNIL involved violations committed by the public sector, today 90% of all cases concern violations by the private sector. The number of cases tripled between 2005 and 2009. In its decision 2011-35 of 17 March 2011, CNIL imposed a fine of 100 000 euros against Google in France for having collected and processed secretly a large amount of personal data derived from Wi-Fi networks and the Google Location Server while taking pictures through mobile cameras for Google Maps and Google Street View. Note
By employers
101. ICT has given employers surveillance tools that would have been unimaginable in the past. Magnetic access cards tell the network operator who is where at what time, whereas ordinary keys gave no such indications. Closed-circuit Television (CCTV) allows both visitors and staff to be watched. Staff surveillance also occurs through monitoring of Internet browsing and e-mail use on company systems. For employees working off site, geographical location and tracking systems allow fleets of taxis, broken-down vehicles or driving vehicles to be managed remotely and their movements to be monitored in real time.
102. ICT also provides tools of insight. Many employers use the Internet to find information about prospective employees. Google and Facebook, in particular, thus play the part of informers, revealing to a future employer many aspects of the applicant not included in his or her CV.
103. Among famous privacy violations by employers, the case of Deutsche Telekom seems particularly serious. In 2005 and 2006, top managers of Deutsche Telekom (in Bonn, Germany) had hired a private detective to investigate alleged information leaks within the company. Deutsche Telekom had secretly used its access to mobile phone data and computer data of staff members and journalists. Following the revelation of this scandal through the media in 2008, the German Parliament and the public prosecutor in Bonn started investigations. Deutsche Telekom subsequently established the post of a company data protection commissioner and sought damages from the top managers, who had been fired in the meantime.
104. The Consultative Committee on Convention No. 108 is currently analysing the need to revise Committee of Ministers Recommendation No. R (89) 2 concerning the protection of personal data used for employment purposes. A report prepared for the Consultative Committee by Mr Giovanni Buttarelli, Assistant European Data Protection Supervisor of the European Union, formulates proposals for the revision of this Council of Europe recommendation. He suggests that “it would be necessary to prohibit more explicitly activities which consist, even occasionally, in the processing of personal data for the direct and primary purpose of remote monitoring (physical or logical) of work and other personal conduct. Employers should abstain from using the results of this unlawful processing, even when employees are aware of it”. Note
By individuals themselves
105. In many cases, individuals are not fully aware of the impact of their actions when on the Internet. Web 2.0 has given them an opportunity to interact, comment, publish content themselves and continuously share knowledge, photos, videos, news, moods, etc. However, the spread of information on the Internet sometimes considerably exceeds what might be expected. The example of information drawn from public Facebook pages and automatically attached to e-mails by e-mail software without the senders’ knowledge has already been mentioned above. The power behind the Web robots that provide data for the search engines allows the retrieval from scattered sites of information that was published for what was believed to be a limited audience. Something written for a specific circle (a comment on a forum, for example) is therefore likely to reappear, removed from its context and juxtaposed with other information.
106. Once information (text, pictures or video) has been published, it is no longer possible to control what happens to it. Deleting it from the original site will not prevent it from continuing to exist wherever it was copied or downloaded prior to deletion. And there is really no chance of ensuring that the use made of the information (for example, on the other side of the world or by persons unknown) will respect the purpose for which it was originally published.
107. This loss of control is particularly disturbing because it is coupled with an “eternity effect”. Unlike human memory, the electronic memory erases nothing involuntarily. Data can perpetually be retrieved from the past unless it has been decided to spend time and energy deleting them (when it is actually possible to delete them).
108. Individual acts of spite are also a cause for concern. Publishing defamatory or confidential information on Facebook, posting a private or humiliating video on YouTube or placing a false article about somebody on Wikipedia can cause immeasurable damage in off-line life.

4.2 Profiling

109. Last year, the Committee of Ministers adopted Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)13 on the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data in the context of profiling. Note Profiling consists of applying algorithms to aggregated data to reveal correlations and develop profiles. The latter are used for individuals, in order to determine how they are to be treated (whether or not as tax evaders, marketing targets for a particular product, possible terrorists on the move, etc.). Profiling for business purposes (see above), security reasons or other motives is easy to do, using widely available data (traces, search engine queries, etc.) and cookies, for example.
110. Profiling meets legitimate social needs and interests: risk analysis, fraud identification, market segmentation, matching supply and demand, etc. However, it may unjustifiably deprive some individuals of access to certain services. The existence of profiles leads to information being filtered, sorted and selected according to the recipient. This is overwhelmingly true of marketing information today. Will it be the case for all information tomorrow? Profiling may also be a tool of discrimination. How is it possible to challenge a profile or its inappropriate use? Most of the time, the individuals concerned are unaware that these profiles exist, and the people using them have no understanding of the basis on which they have been developed. Lastly, profiling raises serious concerns as to proportionality. The amount of data collected and the periods for which they are kept are in many cases out of all proportion.

4.3 Data retention

111. Data relating to Internet and new-media use constitute a gold mine of information for police investigations and crime prevention. Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, provisions have been adopted at the European level to harmonise the circumstances in which content data, traffic data and location data can be kept for the criminal authorities. These data cover the duration, date, recipients and location of all communications, the volume of text messages and e-mails, etc.
112. It is interesting to see the changes in these provisions. The 2001 Convention on Cybercrime provides that states may, at an authority’s request, require expedited preservation of specified data for a maximum period of 90 days, whereas the Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC of 15 March 2006 requires providers of communication services (Internet, fixed and mobile telephony, fax) systematically to retain everyone’s traffic and location data for periods of between six months and two years. The evaluation of this directive is ongoing.

5 Conclusions

5.1 Self-regulation

113. While technology raises concerns, it also provides answers. The technical design of tools can ensure that data collection is minimised. The exercise of rights (of access, rectification and objection) can be facilitated through online procedures. The default settings for data disclosure options can be limited rather than set at full. Thus, the private sector can meet the concerns raised in this report by applying the principle of “privacy by design”. It can also adopt or encourage Internet users to use privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs). However, private-sector regulation should not be limited to technology but should also cover existing customs and practices in this sector, as described above.
114. A study on the economic benefits of privacy-enhancing technologies, which was prepared by the private consultancy firm London Economics in July 2010 for the European Commission, analyses the opportunities of privacy-enhancing technologies applied by companies and individuals. Note
115. One of the weaknesses of self-regulation is that it depends on the initiative and goodwill of the people concerned. It is clear that collective awareness raising inevitably puts pressure on them and can increase their motivation for reasons relating to their image or that of an entire industry. Another weakness lies in the fact that, unlike legislation, self-regulation is not the result of bringing together different points of view in order to find a balance. Since the rules are mostly laid down by a single category of people, they reflect only the concerns taken into consideration by those people and their own view of a socially and economically acceptable balance.
116. Self-regulatory measures should support and supplement statutory rules. They would undoubtedly strengthen the latter’s effectiveness. They ought to be widely encouraged but, given their weaknesses, should not take the place of national or international legal standards. In order to be successful, a good self-regulation programme should: provide added value and contribute to proper practical application of the principles and rules enshrined in the legal framework, taking into account the specific features of the various sectors; involve all stakeholders concerned, including data protection authorities, in the preparation phase, in a transparent way; provide for robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, which would foster the trust of individuals; and create a mechanism for its regular review and improvement.
117. However, improved effectiveness will inevitably depend also on raising and extending users’ own awareness.

5.2 5.2. International law

118. Existing legislation is too ineffectual and has too many shortcomings in its data protection rules. Convention No. 108 and the general European Union Data Protection Directive were drawn up before the advent of the Internet. It was impossible to take account of the global dimension of information services and any virtual and trans-border context when these data protection rules were drawn up. The frighteningly widespread lack of clarity in the system and the pernicious opportunities for surveillance could not have been anticipated.
119. The relevant provisions most certainly need to be updated, and this should entail the incorporation of new principles such as data minimisation, increased liability and better security (including requirements relating to breaches of data security). Individuals’ rights should be strengthened (right to object, including objection to automated decisions; right to data deletion). Transparency requirements should be established or redesigned.
120. Compliance with legislation could be improved by, amongst other means, strengthening the powers of regulatory authorities and introducing the right to take legal class action. Machinery could also be set up to check national legislation before ratification of Convention No. 108.
121. Convention No. 108 is the only existing and advanced set of standards in this sector under public international law. Therefore, it is necessary to promote accession to Convention No. 108 by as many states as possible globally and to start the drafting of a new protocol to this convention in order to adapt the established standards to new challenges.
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