Introduction Since time immemorial, information has been collected and exchanged about individuals. In the words of Earl Ferrers: ‘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 Such activities range from the collection and storage of personal information by government for a multitude of reasons and purposes, to the gossip exchanged at local meeting places. Apart from the fact that increasing computerisation has facilitated the collection and storage of such data, the much-used phrase ‘the global village’ encompasses the notion that exchange of information can now take place on a worldwide scale. This is converted into practical reality by the growth of the internet, which was recorded as having almost 2 billion users in June 2010, representing a growth of almost 450 per cent since the beginning of the decade. 2 These users come from diverse backgrounds, encompassing domestic, educational, governmental, and commercial sectors. As was pointed out by the UK government prior to the Data Protection Act 1998 :

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 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.