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AfricaMoney | August 20, 2017

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Data Protection conference stresses right to privacy; focuses on health-related data

Data Protection conference stresses right to privacy; focuses on health-related data

Neal Suggs, Associate General Counsel at Microsoft, noted that privacy needs to be recognized as the right of people to be left alone and to not publish their information without consent. (Image: Marie-Lorry Coret)

The 36th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners ended a grand four days of discussions yesterday, October 16, 2014 by providing insights into the importance of respecting data privacy of individuals, government and companies, most particularly in the health sector.

Neal Suggs, Associate General Counsel at Microsoft, conducted a panel discussion on Microsoft on Tuesday within the framework of the conference, and on Thursday, together with Adam Tanner – Fellow at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science of Harvard University – they held the introductory address on the final day of the international data protection conference.

Neal Suggs noted that privacy needs to be recognized as the right of people to be left alone and to not publish their information without consent. Privacy has evolved on several fronts with the right to keep information secret, which forms part of data control, meaning that people have the right to keep information from others.

According to him, the concept of privacy must contain an element of control and within the evolution of this concept; the idea of consumer’s control opens up.

Adam Tanner spoke of the different kind of businesses, which are conducted on the principle of exploiting private information to get money. He referred to such exploitative initiatives as the Busted Magazine which writes up the most popular weekly crime, and an individual must pay the magazine if he or she wants to remove personal information about them that is revealed in such articles.

He added that there are is much intimate information that is frighteningly out in the public realm, such as people’s date and place of birth, blood type, and whether such and such person is HIV positive.

Bojana Bellamy, President of Centre for Information Policy Leadership at Hunton & Williams, stated that the modern information age requires an evolved interpretation and implementation of privacy principles as well as innovative models of co-regulation and compliance.

New tools, such as accountability and privacy tools, are required to ensure effective compliance and to make sure that individuals are protected.

There is a need to translate goals of privacy and fundamental rights into more understandable, concrete and implementable steps to get across to non-experts.

“Risk-based approach does not replace existing law, privacy principles, accountability and regulatory supervision, but it calibrates compliance based on context, severity and likelihood,” she highlighted.

The benefits of a risk-based approach to privacy are heightened effectiveness in protecting individuals and in determining risk in organizations as well.

For her part, Jane Horvath, Senior Director of Global Privacy at Apple, said that customer trust is a fundamental element in the development of the global tech major, and that Apple is fully committed to privacy.

The conference also raised important points with regard to e-health and data protection.

It was mutually agreed that data protection is a crucial challenge to be dealt with when a company is holding health databases, because it becomes more important than ever to build customer trust through transparency and a high-level of implemented safeguards.

Also, it is important to win the adherence of the public to such large-scale and sensitive projects.

With Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA), patients have control over what information can be shared as they can hide certain data online.

Next up, Scott Taylor, HP VP and co-chair of the Foundation Big Data Best Practices Project, went on to state that big data provides unprecedented opportunities to drive innovation in economies, healthcare, public safety, education and transport.

Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner of United Kingdom, concluded on the note that patients might have a trust issue when uploading their data, therefore trust must be inspired in customers as an essential first step.

Finally, Commonwealth privacy regulators of United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, Malta, Mauritius, State of Victoria (Australia) and Ghana, who met under the joint chairmanship of the United Kingdom and Canada, with the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation as an observer, agreed to establish a Commonwealth network, to be known as Common Thread Network.

This network will be aimed at facilitating the sharing of experiences, knowledge and expertise amongst Commonwealth stakeholders, and promoting cross-border cooperation, which is critically important in view of the growth of the cyberspace, data and cloud services.

- By Marie-Lorry Coret

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