The online landscape from legal perspective in 2014
by Małgorzata Jankowska-Blank, head of the legal department at Gemius
Event of the year
The so-called “right to be forgotten” (C-131/12) has changed the online landscape. In short, the ruling passed by the EU Court on 13 May 2014 said that:
- even if the physical server of a company processing data is located outside Europe, EU rules apply in certain cases,
- search engines are controllers of personal data,
- individuals have the right - under certain conditions - to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them.
This was of huge importance to the whole online landscape. Lawyers and online specialists had to face many questions on how the publishers or service providers should operate from now on in order to reconcile the right to be forgotten with freedom of expression.
Success of the year
One might say “that's one small step for a business, one giant leap for online industry”. Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, stated during an event held on Digital Action Day 2014 that in the beginning of her mandate she thought her portfolio was all about telecoms… We can see it, and that’s exactly as I see it, as a proof of the fact that our policy makers in Brussels finally started understanding that the internet business is a key driver of the European economy.
Failure of the year
In the reality where pretty much almost everything we do already is or will be an online activity, where most users reach for more than one device to surf the internet and many global companies have technologically advanced means to collect data across these devices, we need to finally acknowledge that the attempt of solving tracking problem with the cookie consent and other technologies like placement is a failure. The idea behind it seems profoundly wrong, as cookie is not by default equal to tracking.
Personality of the year
Lucy H. Koh - a California District Judge, dubbed the “Silicon Valley Judge”. Her decisions shape our reality without our acknowledgment. She copes with the most crucial problems and questions of the technological era on daily basis, deals with the yet unadapted law, trying to reconcile the needs of online business with the consumers privacy concerns. She presided over privacy suits against Google Inc. LinkedIn Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. and oversaw the three-year patent battle between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Her judgments should be a fundamental lecture for all those who are interested in the online reality trends, as they contribute and shape the modern online law.
Trend of the year
E-privacy as a global trend became something more than just a fancy and catchy term - it’s a real deal for online industry. And a kind of nuisance, especially at the beginning, when implementing the “cookie-law” directive in Europe. However, a mix of legislation tendencies backed up by policy makers in Europe and US, together with the aftermath of the PRISM scandal, changed the status quo of the internet. The net was earlier perceived by many mostly as a space with no limits when it comes to gathering all kinds of data. The massive scale of the changes that happened in this field found its reflection in the Apple’s policy: while launching iPhone 6 and iOS 8, the company published a message from its CEO, Tim Cook, about the company’s commitment to iUser privacy.
Prediction for 2015
The new General Data Protection Regulation will revise the current EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. It is supposed to extend the scope of the EU data protection law to all foreign companies processing data of EU residents and provides for a harmonization of the data protection regulations throughout the EU. We need to be ready for what this regulation may in fact brings.