Category Archives: Privacy and Data Protection

European free flow of data initiative within the Digital Single Market

As part of the Digital Single Market strategic actions the European Commission announced its will to maximise the growth potential of the digital economy is a “European ‘Free flow of data’ initiative that tackles restrictions on the free movement of data for reasons other than the protection of personal data within the EU and unjustified restrictions on the location of data for storage or processing purposes”. In addition, the initiative “(…) will address the emerging issues of ownership, interoperability, usability and access to data in situations such as business-to-business, business to consumer, machine generated and machine-to-machine data. It will encourage access to public data to help drive innovation”. Recently an Inception Impact Assessment was published. The document is found here.

Privacy and Data Protection

The ePD (Directive 2002/58/EC on privacy and electronic communications) concerns the protection of privacy and personal data in the electronic communication sector. The ePD was reviewed and amended in 2009 in the context of the review of the telecoms regulatory framework by Directive 2009/136/EC of 25 November 2009. Recently the Commission has published its “Evaluation and Impact Assessment of Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications)” as part of its REFIT project. Available at

Council of Europe report on mass surveillance

In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, the Council of Europe produced a report on mass surveillance noting that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was deeply concerned about the “mass surveillance and large-scale intrusion practices hitherto unknown to the general public and even to most political decision-makers. The report further noted the “lack of adequate legal regulation and technical protection at the national and international level; and/or its effective enforcement. It pointed out that a number of Council of Europe member states were affected by the US mass surveillance activities, including via partnership of their national intelligence agencies with their US counterparts in the bulk collection of data, from people for whom there is no suspicion of any wrongdoing. The report emphatically declares: “The surveillance practices disclosed so far endanger fundamental human rights, including the rights to privacy (Article 8 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)), freedom of information and expression (Article 10, ECHR), and the rights to a fair trial (Article 6, ECHR) and freedom of religion (Article 9) – especially when privileged communications of lawyers and religious ministers are intercepted and when digital evidence is manipulated). These rights are cornerstones of democracy. Their infringement without adequate judicial control also jeopardizes the rule of law.”




Brennan Center report in impact of NSA overseas surveillance on privacy of Americans

Recent discussions on the topics of privacy and technology in the US have in turn shone a spotlight on how government agencies engage in surveillance inside the US. Thus, there has been much debate about how the FBI is seeking backdoors to bypass encryption on smart devices and on how the NSA engaged in bulk collection of the phone records of American citizens.

However, this Brennan Center Report indicates that the overseas surveillance endeavours of the NSA, authorised under Executive Order 12333 and shrouded in secrecy,may be impacting Americans’ privacy much more than most might assume.

International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance

The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance (the “Necessary and Proportionate Principles” or “13 Principles”) show how existing human rights law applies to modern digital surveillance. Drafted by a global coalition of civil society, privacy and technology experts in 2013, they have been endorsed by over 600 organizations and over 270,000 individuals worldwide.

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the right to privacy in the digital age

This document is the outcome of Resolution 68/167 of the United Nations General Assembly, which requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare and submit a report on “the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance and/or the interception of digital communications and the collection of personal data, including on a mass scale”, to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session and to the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session.

Pew report on Americans’ attitudes towards surveillance, privacy and security

The surveillance revelations from Edward Snowden have focused a spotlight on the relationship between privacy and security in the digital age. Some argue that those with “nothing to hide” have nothing to fear. Others argue that surveillance powers on the part of both states and companies have gone too far and need to be reined in if fundamental human rights are to be preserved in democracies.

A new Pew Research Center survey indicates that privacy rates highly in American considerations of daily life, and that they feel a sense of pervasive ubiquitous surveillance, as well as a loss of control regarding data about them collected.

ou can download the report here.

Report on Surveillance by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA)

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) publishes a report on fundamental rights protection in the context of surveillance, which maps and analyses the legal frameworks on surveillance in place in EU Member States.

Focusing on so-called ‘mass surveillance’, the report also details oversight mechanisms introduced across the EU, outlines the work of entities tasked with overseeing surveillance efforts, and presents the remedies available to individuals seeking to challenge such intelligence activity.

Protecting the public from security threats and safeguarding fundamental rights involves a delicate balance. Brutal terror attacks and technological innovations making possible large-scale communications data monitoring have further complicated the matter, triggering concerns about violations of the rights to privacy and data protection in the name of national security protection. The Snowden revelations, which uncovered extensive and indiscriminate surveillance efforts worldwide, made clear that enhanced safeguards of these rights are needed.

By demonstrating the complex considerations involved, this report underscores how difficult it can be to address what are often seen as competing priorities, and contributes to the continuing debate on how to best reconcile them.