Council Of Europe Warns Over Data Protection Rights

Data center with server racks in a corridor room. 3D render of digital data and cloud technology

Council of Europe warns ‘bleak’ international picture invites erosion of human rights including data protection, amidst consumer concerns

The Council of Europe has warned that human rights including data protection are under threat by the “bleak picture” created by international crises such as the conflict in Ukraine and economic turbulence.

The warning coincides with the annual Data Protection Day on 28 January, a date initiated by the Council in 2006 to commemorate the Council’s Convention 108, the first legally binding international treaty in the data protection field, which opened for signature in January 1981.

The Council’s data protection commissioner, Jean-Phillippe Walter, said there was a “strong temptation” in the current climate to restrict rights including data protection.

“This bleak picture has implications for our human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to data protection,” he said.

Image credit: CERN/
Image credit: CERN/

Surveillance threat

He said governments and organisations could resort “too conveniently” to surveillance technologies involving “unwise” processing of personal data.

The Council was formed in 1949 with the mission of protecting human rights and the rule of law in Europe, but countries  as far afield as Argentina, Mexico, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia and Uraguay have acceded to Convention 108.

Walter said the fast-paced digitalisation of society and “reckless” use of technology by multinational tech firms were key risks for consumers.

Cloud software company Zoho said there was a “concerning” disconnect between consumers, who feel their data isn’t sufficiently protected online, and companies who feel they’re doing enough.

Online protection

Zoho Europe managing director Sridhar Iyengar cited research from Cisco that found 43 percent of consumers feel their data isn’t sufficiently protected online, while 96 percent of security professionals said they felt their organisations had the required processes in place for ethical data privacy.

“There is a clear gulf that should be addressed to ensure consumers feel that their data is protected,” Iyengar said, calling for greater transparency in companies’ data protection policies.

The growing use of artificial intelligence systems – which draw on vast amounts of data – is a concern for the Council, which called for robust legislation regulating the field.

Research lab CERN, along with the European Space Agency (ESA), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), said it was planning a webcast for later on Monday to mark the date, focused on artificial intelligence and personal data.