Friday, June 01, 2007

Who will google Google?

From Eoin O'Dell (via Steve Hedley's Cyberlaw EU list), Who will google Google?

"The Roman poet Juvenal asked Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who will watch the watchers?). In a similar vein, one of Elvis Costello’s more acidic songs of loss is ‘Watching the Detectives’ (lyrics | lyrics with images | YouTube). If Google is the search engine which does (most of) our detecting for us, one of the animating questions of the moment is who is watching the Google detective on our behalf? One answer is provided by Article 29 of Directive 95/46/EC (also here) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.

This is the EU Data Protection Directive, and it is a major plank in the data protection strand of the EU’s information society policy. It has been implemented in Ireland by the Data Protection (Amendment) Act, 2003 (also here) amending the Data Protection Act, 1988 (also here)). Article 29 of the Directive provides for the establishment of a Working Party on the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Processing of Personal Data. That’s a bit of a mouthful, so it’s usually simply called either the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party or even the Article 29 Working Party. It is composed of a representative from each of the EU member states’ data protection authorities (the Irish member is the the Data Protection Commissioner), and of various EU representatives. It is one of many such official and quasi-official data privacy watchdogs; the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) had already founded the International Working Group on Data Protection in Telecommunications (IWGDPT) in 1983. This all might seem more than a bit arcane, except that the Article 29 Working Group is in the news this weekend, as the detective watching Google."

The Article 29 working party has been aound for a while and doing some useful work e.g. in relation to data protection, data retention and PNR passenger data sharing with the US. As Eoin says, it was nice to see it getting a bit of publicity at the weekend.

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