Today is Data Protection Day, the day when we celebrate the anniversary of Convention 108 opening for signature. Convention 108 is the first legally binding international law aiming to ensure that the fundamental rights of individuals are respected in the context of personal data processing activities. Each year when January 28th comes around, I ask myself what we can do to ensure that such fundamental rights are respected. This year, I would like to take a few moments to emphasize the privilege that we experience as citizens of Europe, our rights protected by the GDPR and ever-more active enforcement on the part of Supervisory Authorities. According to David Banisar (see here) more than 150 countries and territories have comprehensive data protection laws; that sounds great until you understand that just over half – approximately 57% – of the global population live in a jurisdiction that affords them with data protection.*
Data protection shouldn’t be about haves and have-nots. As a people, as a society, we need to work together to ensure that greater protections are afforded to those who reside outside of European borders. As I frequently argue, there is no time like now for organizations to adopt global data protection compliance frameworks based on internationally recognized principles. The adoption of such principles and the consequent organization of data processing activities in a fair, transparent, secure, and accountable way has true potential to to uphold fundamental rights like the rights to privacy and data protection. Citizens across the globe deserve such protections and it is a moral imperative that organizations start to look at data protection in terms of its potential to serve society and promote equity. I sincerely hope that we will see organizations moving in this direction in the name of fairness and equality. Doing so will foster a better, more sustainable data-driven world, the world we want to live in.
*It should, of course, be emphasized that the mere presence of a legal framework does not guarantee the actual protection of rights and that enforcement plays a fundamental role in ensuring respect for data protection rights.