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‘Define sensitive data to ensure consumer privacy’


Developing a consistent definition of sensitive data at the national and international level remains a challenge in terms of protecting the privacy of users of an increasing number of online and electronic services, says Pernille Wegener Jessen of the Department of Law, at Aarhus University in Denmark. Pernille adds that general geographic data need not be considered but precise, real-time location data are of concern and the issue of ownership and access to such data must be addressed.

Writing in the International Journal of Private Law, Pernille observes that currently, no consensus exists for the definition of “sensitive data” in data protection and privacy law either in the European or the United States. However, given the status of both regions as major trading partners it is essential in the digital age that such consensus is formed soon while legislation is in a transitional period. Consistent legislation would not only protect consumers and sellers, but also improve confidence across the whole of e-commerce and mobile computing.

Jessen points out that the definition of “sensitive data” in privacy laws will “shape the content of consumer notices and the nature of requests for consent made by behavioural advertisers before collecting, using or sharing customer data for profiling purposes.” If there’s an “app” for it, consumers like to know what data is being gathered by the provider, after all. Mobile devices are equipped increasingly with location technology, including Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), Third Generation Mobile Communication System (3G), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), and Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

Jessen points out in what particular situation geo-tracking might be most sensitive. “The intrusion and loss of integrity related to the processing of geographic location data are apparent when customers are subject to constant monitoring or when geographic location data are combined with other sensitive or demographic data, such as the location of bars, casinos, red-light districts,” she says. She adds that “Personal profiles are established for behavioural advertising purposes on this basis.” Even anonymised location data might compromise and individual’s privacy, so it too must be subsumed in new privacy legislation.

Source: Science Daily