A pixelated gavel

Navigating the Impact of Recent Data Privacy Regulations

A review of the latest data privacy regulations around the globe and their implications
Davi Ottenheimer, VP of Trust and Digital Ethics
April 11, 2024

The recent tide of personal data and privacy regulations around the world prioritize a shift in data relationships among individuals, organizations and governments, granting citizens greater control over their personal data. In addition to the European Union’s growing robust regulatory framework — including GDPR, the Digital Markets Act, and the EU AI Act — we’re seeing progress around the world toward greater protections for individual data privacy. 

Drawing from lessons learned over two decades of privacy breach laws, there's now a clear call for proactive technology innovations. In addition to understanding the “what” of regulation, developers must delve into the "how" of making AI safe. Recent technological advancements in data interoperability — such as W3C Solid — are set to help forge an exciting path towards a more secure and ethically-driven digital world.

Examining Recent Policies & Regulations 

The EU AI Act

The EU has demonstrated a new regulatory focus on rising data integrity breaches, an important and emerging need in line with the early 2000s attention to data privacy breaches. An integrity breach typically refers to an unauthorized or improper alteration, manipulation, or corruption of data or systems. Unlike confidentiality breaches, which involve unauthorized access to sensitive information, integrity breaches involve the unauthorized or unintended modification of data or systems, leading to inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or unauthorized changes. 

These breaches can have serious consequences, including data corruption, loss of trust, compromised system functionality, and potential legal or regulatory ramifications. Examples of integrity breaches include “deep fake” videos and images, bias such as racism in algorithmic decisions, tampering with financial records, altering medical records, injecting malicious code into software systems, or manipulating data to deceive or mislead users. Maintaining data integrity is crucial for ensuring the accuracy, reliability, and trustworthiness of information and systems in various domains, including cybersecurity, finance, healthcare, and critical infrastructure.

The proliferation of digital technologies that include AI means ensuring accuracy in processing and usage has become paramount to safeguarding individuals' rights in addition to existing privacy regulations. The AI Act plays a crucial role in defining the kind of line that would prohibit unlawful processing of data, thereby drawing a clearer goal for application developers to innovate safely and maintain trust in data platforms. 

Setting clear boundaries and enforcement for safe AI systems means the AI Act not only promotes transparency and accountability but also helps to define “strong” protections against unauthorized access, misuse, and manipulation of data. This proactive approach underscores a commitment in the EU to upholding data integrity as the cornerstone of ethical AI governance, aligning with broader efforts to enhance digital resilience and protect citizens' rights in our increasingly data-driven world.

To facilitate adherence to the EU AI Act’s requirements, W3C Solid emerges as a logical choice for AI application developers. And as the AI Act's enforcement mechanisms and implementation strategies evolve, W3C Solid stands out as a versatile and comprehensive solution for ensuring transparency, accountability, and compliance in the development and deployment of AI systems.

Digital Markets Act 

The DMA represents rules for platforms designated as "gatekeepers" in the digital sector to ensure fairness and contestability in digital markets. Effective from March 7, 2024, the DMA imposes obligations and prohibitions on these platforms, marking a notable milestone in digital market regulation. It aims to enhance contestability and fairness by imposing specific obligations and prohibitions on the gatekeepers providing "core platform services,” as designated by the European Commission.

The stringent regulations imposed on designated gatekeepers within the digital sector are meant to foster fairness, transparency, and competition. They encompass various aspects of digital market conduct, including data management, access provision, and anti-competitive practices. Under the DMA, gatekeepers are now prohibited from processing personal data for online advertising without obtaining valid user consent and are required to refrain from using non-publicly available business data in an unfair manner.

Furthermore, the DMA mandates that gatekeepers enable interoperability with third-party services, facilitate access to competing third-party apps, and prevent self-preferencing practices. They must also ensure transparency in data management, providing users with effective access to their data and facilitating data portability upon request.

Solid's principles of user-centric data management and interoperability make it a logical implementation platform for gatekeepers seeking to navigate the complexities of regulatory compliance effectively. By leveraging Solid, gatekeepers can ensure compliance with DMA regulations while promoting fairness and competition in digital markets. 

Biden’s Executive Order on Personal Data

Biden’s recent Presidential Executive Order on personal data marks a pivotal move towards bolstering federal-level data privacy, specifically addressing the alarming trend of large-scale personal data transfers to adversarial countries.

Crucially, the Executive Order underscores a commitment to nurturing a secure flow of data while preserving the principles of an open internet, all while ensuring robust individual data privacy protections. As the United States aligns itself more closely with the legislative frameworks of the UK and EU, it emphasizes empowering individuals with greater control over their own data, moving beyond reactive technology measures to address easily predictable national security risks.

In addition to taking action on personal data protection, the Biden administration recently unveiled a new policy to guide the use of AI at a federal level. These policies emphasize that federal use of AI should protect the rights and safety of Americans and invoke new transparency and accountability measures. The policy also calls for the appointment of a chief AI officer for each federal agency to ensure AI systems are being used safely. 

In this context, enhancing federal measures on data privacy and Safe AI aligns the United States with international standards of individual safety, fostering consistency and efficacy in global data management and protection efforts. Leveraging technologies like Solid and the concept of personal data storage (Pods) offers a practical means today for application developers to more quickly and easily meet the requirements of the Executive Order, ensuring secure data storage, granular access controls, and adherence to user-specified data usage preferences, ultimately strengthening data privacy and security for individuals worldwide.

Beyond the US and EU

While the focus of this blog primarily is to highlight examples from the United States and the European Union, it's crucial to recognize significant developments in personal data regulation and policy around the world. 

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, for instance, has the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) adopted in 2021 by China to regulate collection, storage, and processing of personal information by organizations operating within its borders. Similarly, India in August 2023 passed a Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) to regulate the processing of personal data by both government and private entities, with provisions covering data localization, consent management, and penalties for data breaches. Singapore’s personal data protection commission in March 2024 extended its Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) by establishing guidelines for use of personal data with AI systems that offer recommendations, predictions and decisions. Additionally, we have seen Japan and Korea have taken steps to strengthen their regulations in alignment with global standards, reflecting the universality and importance of data protection rights across many geographical regions. 

Going Above & Beyond Privacy Regulations 

Despite the notable and welcome advancements made by recent policies and regulations in the realm of data safety and AI governance, there remain notable shortcomings and gaps that demand a technology-based approach. Many of the regulations leave the market open to addressing the underlying issues.

A critical limitation of regulators currently lies in the absence of any mention of a standardized framework for responsible and non-exploitative data sharing that all organizations can adhere to. There is a pressing need for software developers to move towards a unified web-based approach that fosters both responsible data stewardship and continued innovation. This is where initiatives like Solid play a crucial role.

With its emphasis on distributed data access and user-centric data control, Solid provides the kind of future that current regulations are demanding now. Its decentralized architecture empowers individuals to maintain ownership and control over their data, provides transparency into processing, addressing privacy concerns and building trust in data sharing environments.

Organizations can proactively navigate the always evolving regulatory landscape by adopting open standards on the web designed to help prevent and detect loss of integrity. Rather than merely striving for compliance, they can prioritize ethical data practices that align with long-term societal interests, and lay the groundwork for a more sustainable and equitable digital future. 

View All Posts

Stay connected

Stay up-to-date with Inrupt and Solid. Receive notifications on the latest features, releases, and new products.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
You have successfully signed up for the Inrupt Newsletter!