Maysoon El-Ahmad on March, 2018


Internet data by its nature is a global commodity which transcends national borders, making the way we manage it on a national and international scale a very delicate task.

Data sharing and data management is becoming an increasingly difficult task as different countries start to adopt different rules, regulations and policies when it comes to how companies and governments use personal data.

For example, Germany forbids marketing to specific ethnic groups, while America does not. In the US certain companies are prohibited from disclosing information to foreign governments while in Europe, the data privacy of consumers is strictly protected and companies are restricted in how they can transfer data outside the bloc.

Running a business in an ever changing world already comes with challenges. This new paradigm adds increasing complexity and risk.

While a data economy presents many opportunities, it comes with new complexities that many are not prepared for as such, data privacy laws continue to evolve.

This evolution includes focused effort by nations to protect individuals:

Europe is a trailblazer in this space. On the 25th May 2018, the EU will undergo the greatest change in decades to its data protection laws when the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) come into force.

Given the global nature of our digital world this could impact Australian businesses who have a footprint in Europe including; an Australian digital media or advertising business with an office in the EU, or whose website targets EU companies, or whose websites references customers or users in the EU, or a business that tracks individuals in the EU on the internet and uses data processing techniques to profile individuals to analyse and predict personal preferences, behaviours and attitudes.

These new laws will force Facebook to completely change its approach to personal data for their European users. Facebook commercially exploit “sensitive personal data for advertising purposes” which is forbidden by the new GDPR, and punishable with fines equal to 4% of the company’s global turnover.

The EU is also wanting to force US tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft to hand over electronic evidence across borders when investigating serious crimes. The proposed law would apply to any company that does business within Europe, no matter where its data centres are based.


  • Digital borders are becoming a growing global issue. As more companies start to operate cloud networks of giant data centers this could mean an individual’s data can reside anywhere.
  • Tensions are building between the tech giants and governments. Should this tension increase, a ‘digital war’ between countries could prevail as each looks to protect its own citizens.  As data fast becomes one of the most valuable assets in our digital economy, this could be the new arms race.
  • We expect to see the proliferation of ‘data privacy law’ consultants assisting companies to navigate the new laws locally and internationally to avoid any potential data breaches that can cost them thousands if not millions of dollars.
  • We see a not too distant future where the United Nations will impose universal laws that transcend borders. These new human right laws will aim to protect individual’s personal data which may spark increased tension between countries if the laws are in opposition to their own laws or commercial interests.
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