January 28, 2016, marks the 10th Anniversary of Data Protection Day. Conceived in 2006 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and first celebrated January 28, 2007, Data Protection Day is a global effort to raise awareness of an individual’s right to data protection – one facet of the fundamental human right to privacy. It also serves as an opportunity to inform citizens not only of their rights under current data protection regulations, directives, and laws, but also how to exercise those rights efficiently and effectively. In the past, Data Protection Day events have included conferences, workshops, awareness festivals, press releases, product launches, and school events for students of all ages. In 2015, more than 39 European countries and organizations officially registered their Data Protection Day celebrations with the Council of Europe. Known as “Data Privacy Day” outside of Europe, many other countries celebrated data privacy last year including Australia, Canada, India, Japan, and the United States.
Why January 28th? Because January 28, 1981 was the day the Council of Europe presented the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data to all European nations for adoption. Also known as Convention 108, it provides a means to regulate the collection of personal data and to protect the individual from abuse and/or misuse of that data. Convention 108 was, and still is, the only legally binding international instrument in the data protection field.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, it is because data protection has been a hot topic in the news lately. On December 17, 2015, the European Commission announced an agreement had been reached between the European Parliament, the Counsel of the European Union, and the European Commission (known as the “trilogue” meetings) on sweeping EU data protection reform initially proposed in January 2012. Where now a patchwork of conventions, directives and regulations govern data protection throughout the European Union, the stage has now been set for a profound overhaul of the current system via the newly agreed upon General Data Protection Regulation which will exist on a supranational level to harmonize data protection in the EU.
What makes the timing of this agreement and this 10th Anniversary of Data Protection Day all the more sweet is the fruition of a bold declaration made by the European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioner Vera Journova on Data Protection Day 2015 of their commitment to make data protection reform a reality:
“We must conclude the ongoing negotiations on the data protection reform before the end of this year. By the 10th European Data Protection Day, we are confident that we will be able to say that the EU remains the global gold standard in the protection of personal data.”
For more information on Data Protection / Data Privacy Day 2016 celebrations happening in your part of the world, consider checking out the Council of Europe’s official Data Protection Day homepage. For events outside of Europe, consider exploring the National Cyber Security Alliance’s official StaySafeOnline.org page for events. We all have a fundamental right to privacy; why not make this year the year we all learn a little bit more about what that right fully entails. Happy Data Protection Day, everyone!!
Assistant Law Librarian for Reference
Emory University School of Law