February 17, 2012

SCL Forum Articles 

Five of this issue’s crop are articles stemming from the SCL Policy Forum held in September. Chaired by Professor Lilian Edwards of the University of Strathclyde and hosted by Mark Turner of Herbert Smith LLP, the event itself was an eye-opener and a brain troubler (in the best possible sense). But we cannot hope to represent it fully here – a combination of employer policies, conflicting commitments and author inefficiency means that only a handful of the participants have contributed to this issue. I offer my grateful thanks to those who did contribute, especially as I know that so much had changed in the interim that this was a much greater task than had been originally envisaged.

Those of you who have yet to access the podcasts of the main contributions at the Forum, which are still available on the SCL web site, would be well advised to do so because you will be able to enjoy more of the full flavour of this stimulating event. I would especially commend the keynote from Dr Alessandro Acquisti, whose insights into the behavioural economics of privacy are a useful reminder that we need to remember that regulation can only do so much (the realities of human behaviour will trump it every time), and the acerbic comments of Professor Ian Walden.

Data Protection Reform

While the EU draft data protection reforms have been the centre of much attention over the weeks since the launch on 25 January, you will find only one piece devoted to those reforms in this issue. Paul De Hert and Vagelis Papkonstantinou are to be congratulated on overhauling their paper on the draft Police and Criminal Justice Data Protection Directive but I was pretty relaxed about the fact that we were not focusing on the reforms quite yet. In fact, as the full horror of the process that will turn ‘draft’ into ‘final’ became clear, my enthusiasm for doing anything about them drained away.

The leaked draft and the ‘final draft’ were quite significantly different – and only a matter of days separated them. Despite the fact that the draft has been under consideration and subject to all manner of quasi-consultation, it seems that we are now entering a phase (which many experts think will last for three years) of further consultation. Our own Ministry of Justice has joined in the fun with a call for evidence that appears to ask pretty much the same question that was asked in the last round of consultation (I did wonder if it was satire). Of course, it is right that the European Parliament has its say, but can we cut out some of the special pleading and please get a move on?

It feels terribly like that awful moment while shopping with my wife for a new black dress when I realise that she has taken six items into the changing room. I know that I have to make sensible and constructive comments about each, when in truth they all look the same to me. By the time the fifth item emerges, my comments are childishly enthusiastic as my critical faculties have been exhausted – though I well know that the final decision will not be influenced one jot by any of those comments.


This is the second recent issue of the magazine with an online supplement, consisting of pdfs of articles that I would dearly have loved to include but for which there was no space. The idea is that you might well find the pdf format more user-friendly than our normal online publication method, especially if you are viewing on a tablet.

These articles by no means represent all the material that is of value on the web site but not included here. The massive increase in online viewing of articles, some showing a 1,000 hits within days of posting, show that many of you have changed habits but there still seems a massive appetite for these paper versions.