14.On 3 December 2018, we launched a call for evidence asking for views on how the processing of personal data by private companies impacted human rights. While we recognise that there are concerns around the use of personal data in the public sector, as highlighted in the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty on the digital welfare state, we decided to focus our attention on the private sector given the current speed at which private companies are increasing their acquisition and use of data, and the consequent impact this has on individuals.
15.Through the course of the inquiry, we received 31 written submissions. We also took oral evidence from a range of witnesses including the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry representatives, data brokers and Google, as well as specialist lawyers, academics, and journalists. We are grateful to everyone who gave written or oral evidence.
16.We invited six individuals from diverse backgrounds to observe our oral evidence sessions. These individuals were not experts in data, technology, or human rights matters, but instead were ordinary members of the public. The aim of inviting these people to the session was to hear their reflections on the oral evidence. In particular, we wanted to understand whether the data practices of private companies seemed acceptable to them or whether any of the evidence worried them. We are grateful for their input into our inquiry. A summary of some of their reflections is included in the Annex.
17.We note that there have been many other reports into the harms and risks that result from the advancement of internet-related technologies. These, among others, include the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s recently published Online Harms White Paper and the House of Lords’ Communications Committee’s report: Regulating in a Digital World. Our inquiry sought to add a new perspective to this debate by specifically focusing on how human rights may be violated by current practices in relation to the processing of data online and whether the current rules and regulations are sufficient to protect human rights.
9 United Nations Human Rights, , 11 October 2019
10 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Home Office,
11 House of Lords, Report of the Select Committee on Communications, 2nd Report of Session 2017–19, , HL Paper 299
Published: 3 November 2019