Experts to hash out global data privacy rules in Madrid

4th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Participants of the 31st International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy hope to reach an international standard on data protection.

Madrid – Experts from around the world gather from Wednesday in Madrid for a three-day conference that aims to hash out international standards for the protection of privacy and personal data.

US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as well as national privacy commissioners are among the over 1,000 who are expected to take part in the event, billed as the world's largest forum dedicated to privacy.

The Spanish Data Protection Agency, an independent control authority monitoring compliance with data protection regulations, is organising the 31st International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy.

"The lack of harmonised regulations causes difficulties to citizens when it comes to exercising their rights, which benefit from different levels of protection depending on the state in which their data are being processed," it said in a statement.

Participants hope the international standards reached at the gathering will serve as the basis for a universal, binding legal instrument on data protection.

An extensive international consensus already exists to limit data processing to the purposes for which they were gathered and the need to ask users for their consent regarding international data transfers.

With the rise of the internet the number of sources of personal information for databases -- from gambling websites to dating services -- has multiplied, deepening concerns over data privacy.

While firms say they have been able to offer study data that is stripped of personal details such as names and e-mail addresses, researchers have been able to re-identify people by correlating anonymous information with the digital trail left by people on the internet in chat rooms and blogs.

The problem was highlighted in 1997 when a researcher was able to identify the medical records of the then governor of Massachusetts, William Weld, by correlating birthdays and postal codes and information published by the state government's insurance commission.

Repeated high-profile data losses by British government departments, including the child benefit and tax records of millions of people, have also stressed the need for greater privacy protection.

The previous international conference on data protection and privacy was held in Strasbourg, France. Previous events have been held in Hong Kong, Sydney and Montreal.

AFP / Expatica

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