Information law or data law is a specialist field of legal practice looking at all laws that regulate specifically information or data. Not IT or technology generally but specifically data. All kinds of data, including personal, confidential, credit, health or environmental. And data about all sorts of things, like land, cars, advertising, law, judgements, people, logistics, or credit histories.
The processing or use of data requires a global legal framework. Information is at the centre of the global digital economy and for many data is the new oil. But up until recently the applicable laws have been neglected and have not been seen as a specialist area. Often they are dealt with separately and not as a whole. You need to consider them collectively.
Information law is not “access to information law”, which is only one aspect of it. It is also much more than just data protection law (which applies only to personal data). About half the world (especially Europe) call it data law whilst the other half call it information law but it is really the same thing.
Some people refer to it as information compliance and in many ways, they are the same thing. Law often falls within the broader topic of data governance, risk and compliance (data GRC).
Data rights is a connected issue
For many people, data rights are also human rights and should be given equal status. The law often deals with the rights that people have to data but it also deals with obligations and interests. Who has the right to data comes up in many contexts, like the copyright to a database or whether a data subject has a right to access their personal data.
Who is an information or data lawyer?
An information lawyer is a lawyer who focuses on this particular area of law. They apply the law to data issues. They enable (or empower) organisations to use (commercialise or process) data responsibly with governance, risk and compliance in mind.
What is information law?
It is made up of various laws that all have information as their subject matter. There are many other laws that incidentally deal with data but these are the main ones that primarily concern data.
- Access to information law (or Freedom of Information law) dealing with the freedom of information.
- Data protection law (or Protection of Personal Information law) dealing with the protection of one kind of data, being personal data.
- Data localization laws that require data to stay locally in a specified area.
- Information security regulation that requires different people to secure information.
- Data crimes or crimes related to data, like hacking.
- Interception of data by people and law enforcement, including the monitoring of communications.
- Electronic communications regulation covering the communication of data by means of a data message.
- Liability for information that harms others.
- Trade secret law (relating to confidential information).
- Property rights in the information and determining who owns information or data?
- Information contracts, like data sharing agreements or data use agreements and the licensing of data assets (like databases).
- Governmental powers regard information, like investigatory powers.
- Asset-backed financing of information assets like a database.
There are also specific laws that deal with specific kinds of data. For example, there are credit laws that deal with credit data (or consumer confidential information).
Common data law questions
- Can public bodies share information with other bodies or between their different departments?
- Can employers lawfully monitor their employees?
- Is the information that organisations provide to public bodies (like regulators) at risk of disclosure?
- Who actually owns data or database?
Actions you can take
- Find a solution that you have regarding information or data by contacting us.
- Find out more about information law by buying and reading a book on Information Law published by Thomson Reuters.
- Learn more about it by attending a conference, like this conference.
- Find out more about Microsoft’s views on data law by reading their blog.