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21st Century Privacy Fix

With pressure mounting for new personal data privacy rules, Nancy Libin and Joshua Bercu assess the current state of play in the US and EU.

21st Century Privacy Fix

Since the 1970s, legislators and regulators have realised that the use of new technologies can raise difficult public policy issues, particularly in the area of privacy. They have responded over the course of several decades by enacting laws and regulations to protect personal data. As we enter the third decade of the commercial internet, however, some believe that these laws and regulations have begun to show their age.

Today, technology has advanced to allow increased data storage capacity at ever-declining cost. New, powerful, analytical tools can process unprecedented amounts of data, revealing unexpected correlations and promising breakthroughs in medical research and other areas. And ubiquitous connected devices and sensors that are part of the burgeoning ‘internet of things’ are beginning to automatically share data, some of it personal and potentially sensitive.

The internet of things and big data analytics hold tremendous potential to improve economic efficiency, detect and prevent the spread of disease, protect public safety and national security, and otherwise enhance the quality of life. But some policymakers are concerned that this new technology has outpaced the ability of existing laws to protect personal privacy, particularly in the dynamic global digital economy.

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