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The digital revolution is well under way which we increasingly see in our daily lives. New technology is altering the ways our personal data are being gathered and processed. European Data Protection Day on 28 January is therefore an opportunity to remind us of the growing need for robust personal data safeguards in these times of fast-moving digital change.

The digital age has led to the widespread use of computers, the internet and digital technologies. This is profoundly affecting social relations, business, private and public services which are more and more interconnected through smartphones and other connected devices. As a result vast amounts of data, often personal, are being amassed and processed in increasingly complex and opaque ways.

Many benefits but challenges remain

People around the world are reaping the benefits of these changing times: Search engines provide access to a wealth of information and knowledge; and social networking allows people around the world to communicate, express opinions and mobilise support for causes they feel passionate about. Technology and personal data processing are also indispensable tools for state authorities in their fight against crime and terrorism. Big data, a technology allowing the collection, storage and analysis of large amounts of information to identify patterns and predict behaviour, is also being harnessed in many ways to gain new insights and enhance productivity.

But despite this, substantial challenges exist. Regulators and lawmakers need to keep track of the pace and complexity of change. Mass surveillance and technologies allow globalised storage and processing of personal information and bulk access to data that may infringe the right to privacy and freedom of expression. Massive data sets can be further analysed to spot patterns yielding unprecedented insight into human behaviour and private life. Algorithms can be used for automated decision making. All this can be a worry if, for example, a person’s health or financial situation can be inferred by corporations using automated artificial intelligence to set health insurance premiums or to offer credit.


The Journal of Information Rights, Policy & Practice is an open access, peer reviewed online journal which aims to encourage interdisciplinary debate of current information rights issues.  It strives to be truly interdisciplinary and encourages discussion of issues faced by those in policy and practice, as well as academic commentary.

The Journal is published by Winchester University Press.