Data Protection & Privacy

Data Protection, Jurisdiction, and Intermediary Liability

When a government submits a request to access data, such as for a criminal investigation, the task falls to the organization hosting the content to release it. Yet, what happens if information that is deemed important was written by an agency that is legally registered in, say, country A, hosts their website in county B, but published the story in country C? Legal jurisdiction across borders is already complicated, yet the global nature of the Internet only exacerbates its complexity. Furthermore, the promise of the Internet as a vibrant place for discussion and information sharing has been upheld thanks to the concept of intermediary liability. It refers to legal protections that enable Internet service providers (ISPs), digital media platforms, and others to support expression without being directly responsible for the material stored on or moving across their networks. Without them, services would be much less willing to accept user-generated content for fear of potential civil and/or criminal liability. With increasing requests to access data by governments, it is key that the journalism support and media development community understands the myriad legal frameworks as well as their rights when it comes to cooperating with law enforcement agencies – particularly with regards to issues surrounding press freedom, freedom of expression, and journalists’ safety.

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