We live in an information society where data on persons, companies and the natural world is being collected, processed and disseminated at an increasingly exponential rate. Information is an important tool for the development of a wide array of applications from commercial marketing, business development, healthcare and research. Yet at the same time, the knowledge that personal data is being collected and used without our knowledge makes many individuals nervous and they understandably have a need to protect their own privacy. When French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote about Jeremy Bentham’s eighteenth-century prison design, the panopticon, as a model for the disciplinary power of surveillance in our own age, he could have had little idea of the ways that our society could be ordered and controlled by an increasingly digitalised world of information technologies.
Data protection regulations aim to protect information privacy by controlling the collection and dissemination of data, in particular where it impacts upon an individual’s privacy and his or her personally identifiable information. In May 2018, new European data privacy regulations will come into force, known as the “General Data Protection Regulation” or GDPR. These regulations will replace the 1995 Data Protection Directive, and any companies not in compliance with these new regulations will be subject to heavy fines.