Thursday, October 11, 2012

Negative aspects of strict personal information protection

To create a whole picture of personal information protection I also decided to study the other side of the argument – too strict personal information protection. Too strong protection of individual’s personal information can also have negative aspects. Kang presented two of them: negative aspect on commerce and it can also affect truthfulness.[1]

 Privacy instruments that require individual’s consent before his personal information is processed can diminish the pool of information.[2] However the requirement of consent does not always apply. Directive 95/46/EC does not apply “to processing operations concerning public security, defence, State security […] and the activities of the State in areas of criminal law.[3] Furthermore, ECHR in Article 8(2) also predicts the exception of interference of public authorities in the individual’s right to privacy if such interference is “in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.[4] Public authorities are therefore allowed to process an individual’s personal information under specific circumstances.

Personal information enables a better selection among consumers and therefore makes marketing more efficient.[5] Kang does not agree with the commerce argument that privacy may cause information blockages. He claims that individuals will, if they benefit from releasing their personal information, spread them.[6] However the commercial argument does not try to deprive the individual from his privacy but suggests him to become more open to information exchange for commercial (and also his) benefit.[7]

The truthfulness argument goes hand in hand with the idea that individuals will try to keep unpleasant information (which can be relevant) away from decision makers, which may cause situations like “the unrehabilitated child molester volunteering for day care,” etc.[8] Kang agrees that the right to privacy can hide relevant information, but on the other hand “secrecy – the international concealment of personal information – does not always amount to lying,” and it is also understandable that people act differently in public as they do at home.[9] Kang also thinks that in most cases of ‘cyberspace transactions’ more personal information collected is than can be justifiable by any ‘need to know’ principle.[10]


[1] Kang, J. (1998, April). Stanford Law Review. Information Privacy in Cyberspace Transactions, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 1193-1294; p. 1217-1220.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Directive 95/46/EC, 1995, Article 3 (2).
[4] The European Convention on Human Rights, 1950, Article 8 (2).
[5] Kang, 1998, pp. 1217-1220.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Kang, 1998, pp. 1217-1220.
[10] Ibid.