Thursday, July 5, 2012

Individual’s interest in control over personal information


Why is an individual interested in his personal information? Basho in her article in her article “The Licensing of Our Personal Information: Is It a Solution to Internet Privacy?” cited a German court, which explained that “if someone cannot predict with sufficient certainty which information about himself in certain areas is known to his social milieu, and cannot estimate sufficiently the knowledge of parties to whom communication may possibly be made, he is crucially inhibited in his freedom to plan or to decide freely.[1] Privacy threatens influence individuals participation on the Internet – consequently individuals present themselves online with false personal information or even avoid situations when their personal information might be exposed.[2] And in order that an individual can fully enjoy benefits of the Internet, he must be protected against use and misuse of his personal information without his approval.[3]



Basho also presented findings that individuals are more likely to expose their personal information on web sites that have published their privacy policy. Such privacy protection feeling might often be misleading since, more that 90 percent of such web sites fail to fulfill what was given in the privacy policy and furthermore, the majority of individuals do not even read the statements.[4]

This can be considered as evidence that individuals can be very naïve when it comes to the Internet privacy issues. They trust web sites and their privacy policies without even reading it. On the other hand it also shows that individuals are concerned about their privacy since, as presented, they share more of their personal information on a websites with a published privacy policy. However, this information can also lead towards the conclusion that ‘privacy label’ is a good product that sells. World Economic Forum predicted that there will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by the year of 2020.[5] They differ in the ways in which they collect personal information since it can be volunteered, observed or inferred.[6] If the privacy label sells, there is a huge market for it. People obviously want their personal information to be protected. If 90 percent of relevant web sites fail to fulfill their promises in relation to personal information protection, measures how to prevent such failures need to be enacted.

When it comes to ownership and consequently trading with personal information, the questions arise as to who the beneficiaries of such trade are.[7] It is logical that different information raise different amount of interest and are of course used for different purposes and it can be concluded that different personal information have a different values.[8] World Economic Forum predicted a development of different online protection for different range of personal information as it is in ‘real’ world.[9]

Directive 95/46/EC has also laid different rules and protection requirements for different personal information. Article 8 sets out special rules for the processing of special categories of data: personal data “revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, and the processing of data concerning health or sex life.”[10] This sensitive personal information can be published online only with explicit the consent of its owner or if the owner has manifestly published information himself.[11] Photos on the other hand, are only considered to be sensitive personal information if they are clearly used to expose sensitive personal information about an individual.[12]


[1] Basho, 2000, p. 1517.
[2] Id. p. 1518.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Basho, 2000, pp. 1521-1522.
[5] World Economic Forum, 2011, p. 13.
[6] Id. p. 14.
[7] Id. p. 17.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Directive 95/46/EC, 1995.
[11] Article 29 Data Protection Working Party:, 2009, p. 8.
[12] Article 29 Data Protection Working Party:, 2009, p. 8.