More unchecked Data Protection guff in the media

Today’s Irish Times carried a story in the Business section that the ASAI, self-described on their website as the "self regulatory body" for the advertising industry in Ireland, have issued guidelines on the use of cookies in behavioural advertising which will come into effect from September.

Great news but for a few minor facts that seem to have eluded the fact checking doubtless done by the journalist taking the by-line.

  • The ASAI is a voluntary self regulatory body. It is not a statutory agency
  • The use of cookies, especially for online behavioural advertising or tracking is covered under SI336, a piece of Data Protection legislation that came into effect in July. 2011. (i.e. 23 months ago).
  • The DPC has already begun enforcement proceedings to encourage compliance. Among the organisations written to late last year was the Irish Times

So, the ASAI is essentially claiming credit for encouraging its members to comply with the law of the land 27 months late. This is presented unquestioningly in the article as a "good thing" being done by a responsible self-regulating body. But the ASAI is just moving to bring their members into line with the law. Late.

In doing so they muddy the waters for consumers by making it seem that they are the entity to complain to (they’re not – it’s the DPC, who can levy actual criminal penalties and fines). While the ASAI’s move to regulate the on-line data gathering practices of its members is laudable, responsible journalism would have pointed out that that is what the law actually is and this is not a proactive industry response.

"Look at us! Self regulation can work!" is the implied message. (That’s exactly the message by the way that has emerged from lobbyists who campaigned to dilute the protections for individual rights in the Draft EU Data Protection Regulation, and also the message that was trotted out in other industries in recent years with less than stellar results).

Taken in combination with a number of "data protection kills puppies" stories that the Irish Times has been running recently one can’t help but form the view that, in the absence of proper fact checking by journalists someone is st00ging the Irish Times and distorting the paper of record.

After all, this publication of unchecked errors as fact couldn’t possibly be editorial policy (could it?)