This week has been rich in European news concerning data protection. I had a pleasure to participate in a three-day long, interdisciplinary Amsterdam Privacy Conference, participants of which focused on identifying various problems with the current definition and measures adopted to protect privacy (on- and offline). It is fascinating to hear views on privacy from not only lawyers, but also communication officers, IT specialists, etc. If we ever manage to design an effective system to protect privacy that could only happen due to cooperation of all these specialists. Unless of course we decide to abandon all hopes of ever reaching that effective level of privacy protection and stop treating it as a fundamental right, but instead see it as a commercial good - to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Such ideas were also being discussed during the conference.
Aside the academics and practitioners, the European Parliament has also been debating the current data protection rules (Directive 95/46) together with members of national parliaments. The video of the meeting is available online. Interestingly, one of the issues discussed, namely the need to obtain the data holder's explicit consent before processing personal data, has been also the key topic of many presentations at the APC 2012 and almost everyone agreed that this requirement did not fulfil its function of offering effective data protection yardstick.
The Committee on Culture and Education adopted a resolution this Tuesday focusing on the protection of children online. The MEPs are worried that current rules are not compatible with the extensive use of modern technologies influencing children (through smart phones, software etc.). One of the recommendations is to improve the European coordination of hotlines and other contact points where anyone could report illegal content or harmful behaviour. Further development of parental controls as well as age verification systems is needed.