The horizontal effect of privacy and the right to data protection : obligations for private entities to uphold fundamental rights

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Title: The horizontal effect of privacy and the right to data protection : obligations for private entities to uphold fundamental rights
Author: Bergholm, Jenny
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Oikeustieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Helsingfors universitet, Juridiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2017
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Eurooppaoikeus
European law
Abstract: The thesis focuses on communication service providers’ responsibilities for ensuring the protection of the fundamental right to privacy and data protection of their customers in relation to law enforcement access to data stored by private entities. It relates to on the one hand what obligation communication service providers have to provide authorities with information and on the other hand, what companies can do in order to strengthen the level of protection for their users. The question is important since it affects the legal certainty for both individuals using the services as well as the companies providing them in a negative way. The research question is approached by analysing the possible horizontal effect of Article 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in order to assess whether companies have a responsibility to apply fundamental rights in their activities on their own initiative. Further, Finnish national legislation on data retention obligations and law enforcement agencies’ access to data stored by companies will be reviewed in the light of EU and CoE law. The thesis also pay attention to what the initiative for an Intelligence Act will have in store for communication service providers. When it comes to conclusions, it will be seen, that the horizontal effect of fundamental rights is a debated area. Also, national legislation provides very few guidelines on how companies should act when faced with law enforcement access requests. In lack of clear guidance and with respect to the global nature of communication services, many companies turn to Corporate Social Responsibility and privacy policies in order to communicate their standing on privacy matters to their customers. This phenomenon will be analysed as an alternative that could help increase awareness on how different communication service providers meet data access requirements from authorities.

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