There is a variety of technologies that can have a strong influence on the fundamental right to privacy, for instance web trackers, mobile services running on smart phones, and big data applications. Moreover, technologies aiming at enhancing user’s privacy can have an impact as well – on the one hand, they can help to enforce fundamental rights, on the other hand, they can also cause particular risks if the technology is not efficient.

What are the risks of web trackers for privacy?

Web trackers can cause a variety of risks for privacy. The most famous example for the usage of web trackers is personalised advertisement, adjusting advertisement according to the websites and search terms a user had visited before. However, there are also more dangerous possibilities of data analysis, especially if data was harvested from web servers and used for profiling, causing the risk of exploitation, misuse and discrimination. This might concern e.g. insurances (in particular health insurances) and companies offering services to evaluate the credit-worthiness of individuals.

What are the risks of mobile services running on Mobile/Smart Devices?

Mobile devices can contain information on vast parts of the personal and possibly professional activities of their users and additionally their peers. All that information is stored and processed on a single device, which would typically stay connected to the internet constantly. At the same time, security breaches with regard to certain apps or operating systems occur on a regular basis. While there is a raising awareness concerning those issues on mobile devices such as smart phones, it has to be noted that this is not caused by the higher level of data integration and higher amount of online-based services of mobile devices (especially compared to a desktop PC), but by a subsequent increase.

What are the risks of big data applications for the individual's privacy?

The use of big data is difficult to be addressed by the existing legal framework and its principles. Even if data is used statistically, it might cause severe threats to privacy. For instance, it might be hard to assess whether data was anonymised or not, given the fact that many anonymisation mechanisms of the past might prove ineffective when evaluated against big data matching algorithms. Moreover, big data could be used in order to prepare automated decision-making. While the data concerned not necessarily would be considered personal data, it could still involve significant risks for the individual when being matched against such data, e.g. misinterpretation.