- At Kemp Little, we are known for our ability to serve the very particular needs of a large but diverse technology client base. Our hands-on industry know-how makes us a good fit with many of the world's biggest technology and digital media businesses, yet means we are equally relevant to companies with a technology bias, in sectors such as professional services, financial services, retail, travel and healthcare.
- Kemp Little specialises in the technology and digital media sectors and provides a range of legal services that are crucial to fast-moving, innovative businesses.Our blend of sector awareness, technical excellence and responsiveness, means we are regularly ranked as a leading firm by directories such as Legal 500, Chambers and PLC Which Lawyer. Our practice areas cover a wide range of legal issues and advice.
- Our Commercial Technology team has established itself as one of the strongest in the UK. We are ranked in Legal 500, Chambers & Partners and PLC Which Lawyer, with four of our partners recommended.
- Our team provides practical and commercial advice founded on years of experience and technical know-how to technology and digital media companies that need to be alert to the rules and regulations of competition law.
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- We bring our commercial understanding of digital business models, our legal expertise and our reputation for delivering high quality, cost-effective services to this dynamic sector.
- Acting for market leaders and market changers within the media industry, we combine in-depth knowledge of the structural technology that underpins content delivery and the impact of digitisation on the rights of producers and consumers.
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Big Data: ICO guidance
In its paper entitled “Big data and data protection” published last year, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides its view of the issues surrounding big data and privacy and serves to contribute to ongoing industry debate.
Big data is an area in which the capabilities of the technology and the range of potential applications are evolving rapidly and the full extent of the implications of big data is yet to be fully examined. The ICO’s agenda is to ensure that whilst many are excited about the benefits of big data, the related privacy risks must be sufficiently addressed.
The ICO believes that the emerging benefits of big data do not conflict with key data protection principles and safeguards. The ICO does not accept the argument that data protection principles are not fit for purpose in the context of big data, but believes that there is sufficient flexibility inherent in the data protection principles that allow big data analytics to thrive in a privacy-compliant world.
What is Big Data?
Big data is a term used to describe high-volume and high-variety generation of data and the far-reaching possibilities presented through analysing it. Typically, it is characterised by volume, variety and velocity of data, and by the use of algorithms, using ‘all’ the data and then repurposing that data.
There has certainly been a lot of hype surrounding big data in recent times. Some see big data merely as a continuation of the processing of data that has always been done – the only difference being that very large volumes of data are now being handled. Such use may be closer to traditional business intelligence analytics even though it may be marketed as big data. Where the processing represents a continuation of what has been happening previously, then the ICO recognizes that it is unlikely any new issues in terms of data protection will be raised.
However, within perhaps the true application of big data, increasing amounts and types of data are being captured all the time and our ability to analyse it, often by using algorithms embedded within innovative software and utilising new research techniques creates ever more complex data protection issues. When the US supermarket Target in 2012 deployed a statistical model which correctly inferred based on purchasing data that one of its customers was pregnant this highlighted some of the privacy concerns of the application of big data; questions were raised about how a person can realistically consent to someone pulling all kinds of disparate data together and running an algorithm over it to learn all sorts of potentially detailed bits of personal information about that individual which are not generally predictable or foreseeable unless you are told what each search is?
Big Data and Data Protection
The ICO recognises that there are many instances of big data analytics that do not involve personal data at all. Using climate and weather data are examples of areas where big data analytics can enable new discoveries and improve services and business processes, without using personal data.
However, there are many examples of big data analytics that do involve processing personal data, and these are the applications where the privacy risks must be addressed. Such big data analytics may use data from monitoring devices on patients in clinical trials, mobile phone location data, data on purchases made with loyalty cards and biometric data from body-worn devices.
Big data analytics also has the potential to create new personal data. For example, social media and other data about an individual could be analysed to find out about that person’s lifestyle as a factor in determining their credit rating, or whether they are at risk of developing a medical condition. Similarly, sensors in cars provide vast amounts of data about the car, but this can also be used to identify patterns in people’s driving behaviour, which can help to inform decisions about their insurance premiums.
Why is Big Data important to the ICO?
Big data analytics increasingly uses observed, inferred and derived, rather than provided data. By repurposing personal data that an organisation has collected for one purpose and then decides to start analysing it for completely different purposes (or to make it available for others to do so) then it needs to make its users aware of this. This is particularly important if the organisation is planning to use the data for a purpose that is not apparent to the individual because it is not obviously connected with their use of a service. This can be problematic in terms of providing privacy information, because individuals may be unaware that this data is being collected and processed. This makes transparency even more important because the processing is not obvious to the individuals concerned.
The ICO warns businesses to ensure that they process personal data fairly and in a transparent manner when undertaking big data initiatives. In particular, businesses using personal information in big data projects should check whether they have a right to use the data in that context or whether they need to obtain consent from individuals to use the data for the purposes they intend.The ICO has said that companies need to update their privacy notices and make sure individuals are aware if they find new purposes for processing personal data when processing that information that were unforeseen when consumers were first told of the purpose for which their data was to be used.
Why is this important to you?
Before businesses can make use of big data in any given scenario, it is crucial that each use case demonstrates a legitimate business purpose for using the relevant data. Often a privacy impact assessment may be required to document a variety of privacy issues that may be applicable, included (a) obtaining individuals’ consent, (b) the laws and regulations relating to data governance/transfer, and (c) legal restrictions relating to monitoring, recording or tracking user activity.