E-commerce and privacy: How private is 'private'?
The British public remains sceptical about the protection of their online data, presenting a challenge for online business owners, argues Carl Parslow
To the uninitiated, law can often seem like a different language – and nowhere is this truer than with online data protection. For the average internet user, it’s easy to feel as if there is some barely concealed conspiracy going on, with Facebook, Google, and Amazon all selling their personal data to the highest bidder for nefarious purposes.
If you’re someone who knows how online data protection works, you may scoff at this notion – and you might be right to. Still, scoffing does nothing to ease the fears of the 79 per cent of the British public who believe their online data is under threat and want more personal control over it.
There is genuine cause for concern when it comes to some of the big names. Facebook, in particular, has essentially privatised a lot of its users’ private information, at least according to a law professor from Columbia University. And, away from the big companies, there is also a reason to worry about the law surrounding e-commerce. Being a relatively new industry, there are a lot of legal grey areas.
Just to give you an idea of how recent this legal issue is, the two laws that all e-commerce sites should follow were both written less than 20 years ago: the Data Protection Act 1998 (which was updated on the 1 December 2016) and the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002.
As a result, more important than explaining to customers that their data is safe is making sure that their data actually is safe. Recognising this gulf between the law as it currently stands and the very legitimate concerns of customers is the first step.
Facebook goes on to outline precisely what it does with its users’ information and, in doing so, it is obeying the law.
Carl Parslow is a partner and head of property and personal law at Parslows