"Big Data" and Data Privacy / Protection Law

Written by: Jamie Krisman
Published on: 3 Jul 2014

Jamie Krisman

Jamie Krisman moved from private practice to work as an in-house lawyer with music publishers, Warner/Chappell Music and now works for the specialist insurance firm, Robin Simon, which has now become Alternative Business Structure, Triton Global Limited. Her expertise lies in advising private clients and insurers on all forms of music publishing contracts and digital media, as well as broader intellectual property matters; she has a particular interest in Information Technology companies and professionals and breach of copyright and data protection issues.


This year saw London’s first Technology Week held from 16-20 June and was initiated as an opportunity to showcase London’s role as the digital capital of Europe. Throughout the week there were a number of events to bring together the best and brightest tech professionals to share brilliant new ideas, build business relationships and help cement London as a top tech global hub. I took the opportunity to be part of this exciting week by attending the “Big Data” breakfast meeting at Level39, Canary Wharf, where around 250 leading entrepreneurs and business people gathered to assess how “Big Data” is transforming British business. Big Data is not a new concept but is currently the buzz phrase in tech circles to emphasise the increasing value placed on collecting and utilising large volumes of data. An interesting analysis was made by Clive Humby, a data scientist and inventor of the Tesco club card that “data has become the new oil”, the catalyst being when it became more costly to delete data rather than store it.  

London’s tech scene is rapidly growing. The likes of IBM, Virgin Media and British Airways have committed to taking on almost 2,000 new apprentices. Furthermore it is estimated London’s digital tech sector could grow by 5.1% a year, creating an additional £12bn of economic activity and 46,000 tech sector jobs by 2024. The meeting focused on  three main areas where huge potential for investment and reward can be gained by the improvement of business’ ability to harvest improved ways to collect and analyse data.

“HealthTech” is an exciting area driving the London tech industry’s growth. In March Deputy Mayor of London Kit Malthouse announced plans to establish London as the ‘HealthTech capital of Europe’ through the establishment of Med City – a sister cluster to Tech City that will form a London-Oxford-Cambridge ‘Golden Triangle’. 

Big Data analysis could potentially unleash an abundance of insight and knowledge into how we tackle diseases and improve treatment, for example in matters related to heart disease by plotting heart rhythms to predict when angina attacks are likely to occur. 

The second area for investment is “AdTech”. AdTech accelerators such as The Bakery, an incubator launched in collaboration with the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, are helping the next generation of London AdTech start-ups get off the ground and solidify London’s status as a global creative hub.

And thirdly, “FinTech”; London’s Financial Tech start-ups have also experienced huge levels of investment and growth, benefiting from the City’s status as the financial capital of the world.  FinTech start-ups in the UK and Ireland raised over £400m in investment between 2008 and 2013, with growth in UK companies outperforming that of Silicon Valley in the same time period. The growth trend in Fintech is largely being driven by rising demand from the financial industry, its clients and customers, for mobile, analytic, cloud regulatory compliance, and data security solutions. A recent example of investment being Santander’s announcement to partnership with peer-to-peer lenders Funding Circle, the first time a High Street bank has offered crowd funding support to small businesses. 

Big data offers enormous scope for understanding societal behaviour and peoples willingness to engage. It can allow the design of efficient and realistic policy and administrative change. Also, however, it brings ethical challenges, for example when big data is used for predictive policy-making, raising issues of justice, equity and privacy and “big-brother” style society policing.  There will also undoubtedly be tension between the recent European Court of Justice’s recent decision that individuals have the ‘right to be forgotten’, i.e. the right to have search engine results (such as Google) removed where they affect privacy rights and the collection of data and data protection issues.  This has a significant potential to lead to legal uncertainty for firms to navigate an ever increasing complicated and rapidly evolving data protection landscape and emphasises the requirement for all businesses to be fully up to speed on data privacy and protection law.