Legal Issues Concerning the Web and the Right of Privacy

Veronica portait.jpgVeronica Gutierrez, from the University of Buenos Aires, recently completed her Master thesis at WIT entitled ‘Legal Issues Concerning the Web and the Right of Privacy’. The external examiner was Prof Gerrit Betlem, Chair in EU Law at the University of Southampton and the internal examiner was Dr Viktor Popov.

The aim of the work consisted in analysing the legal issues concerning the Web, which have arisen as a consequence of developing technology. One of the most important advances has been the emergence of numerous large databases that contain information about both physical persons and legal entities. It is possible to say that the illegal or inappropriate use of a database has generated serious threats to the right of privacy. In light of this problem, solutions must be taken in order to achieve, on one hand, the legal and correct manipulation of databases and, on the other hand, the protection of the right of privacy. Nevertheless, the problem is complicated mainly due to the fact that although the Web has international character, the laws that can be applied are based on national legislation. As regards these national legislations, different data protection systems are analysed:

- The European self-determination, which proposes an extensive privacy protection method that requires more government agencies to be created in order to implement it.
- The American self-regulation, which protects privacy through a combination of private rules and industry schemes.
- The Latin American constitutional habeas data right that protects privacy by allowing persons to request the rectification, the update or even the removal of personal data held on a database.

Taking into consideration these existing different data protection systems it becomes necessary to consider privacy protection like an international matter that seeks to harmonise the different legal systems. Presently, this matter has transformed the concept of privacy into a legal issue that claims for a specific and urgent worldwide regulation.

Another aspect that was analysed by the work was the commission of offences or crimes by means of the Internet, types of crimes that in the information jargon are called cybercrimes. Cybercrime has become a fast growing phenomenon over recent years, turning the internet that was designed as a tool to benefit society, into a tool to commit crime perpetrated against persons, organisations or properties. This cybercrime includes a variety of criminal activity that involves, on one side, new kind of crimes committed against computers and information systems such as hacking, viruses, denial of service attack etc and, on the other side, traditional kind of crimes but perpetrated by the use of the internet and information technology, for example pornography, identity theft, etc. Once again the development of an international legal system becomes necessary in order to detect and combat this negative aspect originated with the increase of IT. In addition, several recent legal cases were studied in order to better understand the different ways in which those cybercrimes were solved. Furthermore, internet surveillance is considered as a tool to combat and prevent this growing phenomenon of cybercrime. Different internet surveillance systems were examined such as the American Echelon, the European Enfopol 98, and the system used within the UK. As a final conclusion, it was said that data protection should be considered like a global issue since the internet is an international tool that cannot be owned by only one country and, thus, cannot be regulated by only one government. For this reason a solution to deal with the legal issues generated by the illegal use of IT was proposed. The solution should transcend national boundaries and may result in the creation of organisations or mechanisms to deal with this new concern.

At the end of the viva, a recommendation was given by both examiners that Veronica be awarded a Master of Philosophy degree.

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