Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 87–95 | Cite as

Inaccuracy as a privacy-enhancing tool

Original Paper


The accuracy principle is one of the key standards of informational privacy. It epitomises the obligation for those processing personal data to keep their records accurate and up-to-date, with the aim of protecting individuals from unfair decisions. Currently, however, different practices being put in place in order to enhance the protection of individuals appear to deliberately rely on the use of ‘inaccurate’ personal information. This article explores such practices and tries to assess their potential for privacy protection, giving particular attention to their legal implications and to related ethical issues. Ultimately, it suggests that the use of ‘inaccurate’ data can potentially play a useful role to preserve the informational autonomy of the individual, and that any understandings of privacy or personal data protection that would tend to unduly limit such potential should be critically questioned.


Data protection Informational privacy Informational self-determination Privacy Surveillance 



European convention of human rights and fundamental freedoms


European Union


Organization for economic co-operation and development


Privacy enhancing technologies


United States


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Article 29 Working Party. (2007). Opinion 4/2007 on the concept of personal data, WP136, 01248/07/EN. Brussels, adopted on 20 June 2007.Google Scholar
  2. Bygrave, L. A. (2002a). Data protection law: Approaching its rationale, logic and limits. The Hague: Kluwer Law International.Google Scholar
  3. Bygrave, L. A. (2002b). Privacy-enhancing technologies: Caught between a rock and a hard place. Privacy Law & Policy Reporter, 9, 135–137.Google Scholar
  4. Cate, F. H. (2008). Government data mining: The need for a legal framework. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review (CR-CL), 43(2), 435–489.Google Scholar
  5. Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. (2000). Official Journal of the European Communities, C 364, 1–22.Google Scholar
  6. Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 between the Governments of the States of the Benelux Economic Union, the Federal Republic of Germany and the French Republic on the gradual abolition of checks at their common borders, 19 June 1990.Google Scholar
  7. Council Act. (26 July, 1995). Drawing up the Convention based on Article K.3d of the Treaty on European Union on the establishment of a European Police Office. (Europol Convention), Official Journal, C 316.Google Scholar
  8. Council Decision. (28 February, 2002) Setting up Eurojust with a view to reinforcing the fight against serious crime. Official Journal, L 63, 1–13.Google Scholar
  9. Council of Europe. (1950). European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as amended by protocol no. 11. Rome, 4 Nov 1950.Google Scholar
  10. Council of Europe. (1973). Resolution (73) 22 on the protection of the privacy of individuals vis-à-vis electronic data banks in the private sector.Google Scholar
  11. Council of Europe. (1974). Resolution (74) 29 on the protection of the privacy of individuals vis-à-vis electronic data banks in the public sector.Google Scholar
  12. Council of Europe. (1981). Convention for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data, European Treaty Series, no. 108, 28 Jan 1981.Google Scholar
  13. Council of Europe. (1981). Explanatory report to the Convention for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data. European treaty series, no. 108, 28 Jan 1981.Google Scholar
  14. Danna, A., & Gandy, O. H, Jr. (2002). All that glitters is not gold: Digging beneath the surface of data mining. Journal of Business Ethics, 40, 373–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. De Goede, M. (2008). The Politics of Preemption and the War on Terror in Europe. European Journal of International Relations, 14, 161–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Hert, P., & Gutwirth, S. (2006). Privacy, Data Protection and Law enforcement, opacity of the individuals and transparency of power. In Erik Claes, Antony Duff, & Serge Gutwirth (Eds.), Privacy and the criminal law (pp. 61–104). Antwerp, Oxford: Intersentia.Google Scholar
  17. Dinant, J. -M., Lazaro, C., Poullet, Y., Lefever, N., & Rouvroy, A. (2008). Application of convention 108 to the profiling mechanism: Some ideas for the future work of the consultative committee (T-PD). Expert report for the consultative committee of the convention for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data. Council of Europe: Strasbourg, 11 Jan 2008.Google Scholar
  18. Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector, Official Journal, L 201, 37–47.Google Scholar
  19. Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. Official Journal, L 281, 31–50.Google Scholar
  20. European Commission. (2005). Impact assessment annex to the proposal for a council framework decision on the protection of personal data processed in the framework of police and judicial co-operation in criminal matters. Commission Staff Working Document, COM(2005) 475 final, 4 Oct 2005.Google Scholar
  21. European Commission. (2007). Communication from the commission to the European parliament and the council on promoting data protection by privacy enhancing technologies (PETs). COM(2007) 228 final, 2 May 2007.Google Scholar
  22. Gallup Organization. (2008). Data protection in the European Union: Citizens’ perceptions, Analytical Report, Flash Eurobarometer 225, Feb 2008.Google Scholar
  23. Gutwirth, S. (2002). Privacy and the information age. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  24. Ham, S., & Atkinson, R. D. (2002). Using technology to detect and prevent terrorism. Washington, DC: Progressive Policy Institute.Google Scholar
  25. Hildebrandt, M., & Gutwirth, S. (Eds.). (2008). Profiling the European citizen. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  26. Hustinx, P. (2005) Data protection in the European Union. Privacy & Informatie, 2, 62–65.Google Scholar
  27. Isabel-Cecilia Del Castillo Vázquez. (2007). Protección de datos: cuestiones constitucionales y administrativas (El derecho a saber y la obligación de callar) (p. 621). Cizur Menor: Aranzadi, Thomson Civitas.Google Scholar
  28. Kargupta, H., Datta, S., Wang, Q., Sivakumar, K. (2003). On the privacy preserving properties of random data perturbation techniques. In Proceedings of the Third IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, pp. 99–106.Google Scholar
  29. Lenhart, A., & Madden, M., (2007). Teens, privacy & online social networks: How teens manage their online identities and personal information in the age of MySpace (p. ii). PEW Internet & American Life Project: Washington, DC, 18 April 2007.Google Scholar
  30. Levi, M., & Wall, D. S. (2004). Technologies, security and privacy in the post-9/11 European Information Society. Journal of Law and Society, 31(2), 194–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Liu, L., Kantarcioglu, M., & Thuraisingham, B. (2008). The applicability of the perturbation based privacy preserving data mining for real-word data. Data & Knowledge Engineering, 65, 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lyon, D. (Ed.). (2003). Surveillance as social sorting: Privacy, risk and digital discrimination. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Lyon, D. (Ed.). (2007). Surveillance studies: An overview. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  34. Marx, GT. (2003) A tack in the shoe: Neutralizing and resisting the New Surveillance. Journal of Social Issues, 49. Accessed at 2 Aug 2008.
  35. Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC). (2007). Sharing, privacy and trust in our networked world: A report to the OCLC membership. Dublin: Ohio, 29 Oct 2007.Google Scholar
  36. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). (1980). Guidelines on the protection of privacy and transborder flows of personal data, adopted in the form of a recommendation of the council concerning guidelines governing the protection of privacy and transborder flows of personal data. Paris, 23 Sep 1980.Google Scholar
  37. Pfitzmann, A, Hansen, M. (2008) Anonymity, unlinkability, undetectability, unobservability, pseudonimity, and identity management—a consolidated proposal for terminology. Version v0.31, 15 Feb 2008.Google Scholar
  38. Poullet, Y., & Dinant, J. -M. (2004). Rapport sur l’application des principes de protection des données aux réseaux mondiaux de télécommunications: L’autodétermination informationnelle à l’ère de l’Internet. Report for the Comité Consultatif de la Convention pour la Protection des Personnes à l’Egard du Traitement Automatisé des Données à Caractère Personnel. Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 18 Nov 2004.Google Scholar
  39. Ringelheim, J. (2006). Processing data on racial or ethnic origin for antidiscrimination policies: how to reconcile the promotion of equality with the right to privacy? Center for Human Rights and Global Justice Working Paper, No. 13. New York, 2006.Google Scholar
  40. Taipale, K. (2007). The privacy implications of government data mining programs. Testimony before the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary.Google Scholar
  41. Van Den Hoven, J., (ed.). (2005). Managing identity, privacy & profiles. Alter Ego Deliverable 1.3. SOTA Delft Technical University, Delft, 25 May 2005.Google Scholar
  42. Van Den Hoven, J., & Vermaas, P. E. (2007). Nano-technology and privacy: On continuous surveillance outside the panopticon. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, 32(3), 283–297.Google Scholar
  43. Weitzner, D. J., Abelson, H., Berners-Lee, C. H., Hendler, J., Kagal, L., McGuinness, D. L. et al. (2006) Transparent accountable data mining: new strategies for privacy protection? Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Technical Report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  44. William, B., & Chiasson, M. (2005). If Fair Information Principles are the answer, what was the question? An Actor-Network Theory Investigation of the Modern Constitution of Privacy. Information and Organization, 15(4), 267–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yuste., O. E. (2001). The relevance of the data protection principles set out in the Convention and its Additional Protocol. In Council of Europe. In Proceedings of the European Conference on Data Protection on Council of Europe Convention 108 for the protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data: present and future, Warsaw, Nov 2001, p. 56.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for European Studies (IES), Research Group on Law, Science, Technology & Society (LSTS)Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)BrusselBelgium

Personalised recommendations