Privacy and data protection
Introduction Since time immemorial, information has been collected and exchanged about individuals. More than 25 ago Earl Ferrers remarked that: ‘The collection of personal data is as old as society itself. It may not be the oldest profession but it is one of the oldest habits.’ 1 Unsurprisingly nothing has happened to break this habit. It is not an overstatement to say that the internet has revolutionised
individuals. Such information may be generated by any internet user whether on behalf of government departments, commercial entities, charitable organisations, educational institutions or private individuals – anyone who has access to the internet. This is potentially a worldwide activity. When the existing Data Protection Directive was adopted in 1995 less than 1 per cent of the world population had access to the internet – the current fi gure is 40 per cent and a total of approximately 3 billion users. 2
This chapter is devoted to a consideration of the way in which the law is able to deal with abuses of the global information infrastructure in so far as this relates to information about individuals, whether true or false. This will involve a study of whether, and in what manner, the use of computers and computer networks to process and transfer increasing quantities of personal data can compromise an individual’s privacy, or facilitate acts that threaten the individual’s reputation or integrity, together with an analysis of the legal response to these issues.