Privacy’s new clothes

November 4, 2010 at 6:55 pm 1 comment

Europe is gearing itself up to update the way it deals with privacy in today’s modern society.  After almost a year of public consultations, hearings, conferences, the European Commission has finally published its first substantive document outlining how it wishes to play out the review of Europe’s Data Protection legal framework.

This is only the first step in what is likely to be a long and arduous process.  But let’s leave the nitty gritty of the document to the army of lawyers, managers, government officials and activists that are undoubtedly leaving no syllable unturned in assessing the legal, business and fundamental rights ramifications of what the Commission is proposing.

I for my part would just like to take a step back and have a look at what exactly we are trying to achieve.  In today’s modern and digital society, data has become a valuable traded commodity.  An entire industry has been built around the ability to store, ship, sell and manage all forms of individual data and its broader implications on privacy have not yet been fully comprehended. This however is where the problem begins –  our modern societies thirst for information and our quest for efficiency, convenience and security has come into direct conflict with our own proclaimed fundamental rights.

But where does that leave Europe’s citizens and is a trade off needed?  Consumers and citizen’s are becoming increasingly transparent not only through their own behavior in the internet but new technologies allow for a more targeted tracking, profiling and storing of data. In return consumers receive convenient and tailored user experience, services and applications.

The question remains, can Europe tailor a regime that will ensure citizen’s privacy in the digital age without dampening innovative technologies and services?

Or will a child cry out that the Emperor is naked?


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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at

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