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Let's Celebrate Data Protection Day 2022


Jan 27, 2022 - 3 minute read

Objectivity Blog 416 306
Joanna Plizga-Phillips In-House Lawyer

She is an experienced lawyer in data protection law. Passionate about how law is challenged by new technologies. In her free time, she spends time hiking, cycling or reading a good book.

See all Joanna's posts

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28 January has come and with it Data Protection Day. It was established to help us remember the value of our privacy. Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented in May 2018, we, the web users, are constantly being reminded of it when scrolling long privacy policies or when we’re repeatedly asked for consent to process our data in relation with a number of services we use. Consequently, many of us do not really appreciate the privacy framework — it reminds us of bureaucracy and prolongs the time before we can enjoy a new app. Many of us wonder — is it really worth the inconvenience?

The Benefits of Data Protection Law

The GDPR brought us the effective data protection tools. They enforce lawfulness, transparency and limitation of processing. They empower us — the application users with the control over our privacy. It’s us who decide to whom, when and for what purpose we provide consent regarding processing of our personal data. We have the right to request for our data to be accessed, rectified or erased. We may object to processing or withdraw our consent provided earlier. Of course, with all our rights comes a price, the time to acknowledge the information about the essentials of how our data is being processed. A data controller is required to provide us with the information on the purpose, retention, legal basis of processing and of our rights. Hence, the scrolling through long privacy policies or ticking the boxes.

What If There Were No Privacy Laws?

Since I am lucky to have my personal data protected by the GDPR and earlier — by the European Data Protection Directive, I may not be in the right position to describe the alternate reality of not having data protection laws. However, judging by the countries with weaker or lacking privacy laws, the main threats of such situation are extensive surveillance, uncontrolled profiling by service providers and lack of transparency with regards to personal data processing.

The surveillance may be mostly associated with CCTV monitoring, widely used for security reasons. In its basic form, when it’s positioned to respect other people's privacy, it should not have adverse effects. Still, the surveillance may go as far as including face recognition technology and gathering other data, including cellphone data (e.g. personal data from various apps), social media information, travels and contacts. When such data is combined and used for discriminatory reasons, it may lead to acts of suppression of individual freedoms and deepen social divisions.

Similarly, the profiling - when applied with our consent or acknowledgment it may actually enhance our user experience (Netflix, Spotify). In contrast, when profiling includes individual’s racial or ethnic origin, health status, sexual orientation and social status, it may lead — through AI-driven behavioural analysis — to discrimination, for instance, in the form of reduced visibility or availability of certain offers. The algorithm may even decide to decline you a job offer, loan or mortgage. Additionally, some profiling strategies may undermine individual autonomy and freedoms, by sending customised messages that exploit an individual’s vulnerabilities. This may bring a risk of isolation in filter-bubble and hinder the ability to make informed decisions.

The GDPR fix

It should be emphasised that even with as sound data protection law as the GDPR, we are still, in some situations, subject to profiling or surveillance. However, we have the law behind us and many authorities, organisations and individuals fighting to assure that institutions and corporations follow the regulations. They warrant that algorithms do not hack our brains quite yet. Therefore – let's celebrate Data Protection Day and next time, when you have to go over another privacy policy, think of it as a payoff for privacy in your everyday life.

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Joanna Plizga-Phillips In-House Lawyer

She is an experienced lawyer in data protection law. Passionate about how law is challenged by new technologies. In her free time, she spends time hiking, cycling or reading a good book.

See all Joanna's posts

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