5th October 2017

I recall growing up in an age without the information overload which exists today. The benefits of advances in technology cannot be disputed but as we know there are also downsides. One such downside is the potential for misuse of our data. When I grew up the main concern of people who wanted more privacy was being “ex-directory” in the phone book. Now phonebooks are rarely used and likely to go the same way as the Yellow Pages – which is due to stop printing from 2019.

Maintaining a degree of privacy nowadays can be much more difficult. At the press of a button very sensitive data can be passed to millions of people. Think about the data various organisations hold about you, mainly in electronic format; medical records, your educational records, dealings with both public and private bodies, tax and benefit issues, finance issues, data from loyalty “points” cards such as where you shop, when you are likely to shop, what products you tend to buy at which time of the day on which day of the week not to mention your Internet browsing history detailing your interests not only about shopping but also political and social. Your smart phone, if you have one, records your physical movements, tracking your location making it possible to know where and when you’re likely to visit places.

I remember as a child my disbelief at a suggestion that in the future adverts would be tailored to individuals as they walked past – how times are changing.

The Data Protection Act 1998 provides protection for individuals on issues around use of their data. The world is ever changing and therefore new laws are to be introduced. The Data Protection Bill is currently passing through Parliament with a view to being approved by next year. It will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 with a new framework and strengthen sanctions for the misuse of data. Some points worth noting from the proposed new act are:

  1. It will become easier to withdraw your consent for use of personal data.
  1. The definition of “personal data” will expand to include IP addresses, Internet cookies and DNA.
  1. Reliance on default opt out or pre-selected “tick boxes”, which are often ignored, to give consent for organisations to collect data will become a thing of the past.
  1. It will be easier for customers to move between service providers.
  1. It will be easier and free for individuals to require an organisation to disclose personal data it holds on them.
  1. Social media platforms will be required when requested by individuals to delete all information
  1. There will be a right to be forgotten.

The bill brings into UK law European Union regulation of data protection for individuals. The government has confirmed the decision to leave the EU will not affect the implementation of these data protection regulations. Given the number of businesses which operate across borders international consistency around data protection laws and rights is crucial both to businesses, organisations and individuals.

At Ben Hoare Bell LLP we have specialist solicitors who deal with data protection issues for individuals. If you need advice on this area please contact us on 091 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk.

Blog by Richard Hardy, Partner