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Cover Information Technology Law

2. The beginnings of data protection  

Data protection has, at least in western Europe, been seen as a key element of the legal response to the issue of information surveillance. Dating back to the 1970s and 1980s, many data protection laws are, as is the case in the UK, in their 3rd generation of statutes. The scope (and length) of these statutes has expanded significantly although the core data protection principles have remained essentially unaltered. In addition to developments within the EU there have been data protection initiatives within international fora such as the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the UN, and the Asia-Pacific Privacy Charter initiative. As with early UK developments where commercial pressure driven by the need to guarantee the free movement of data to and from the UK played a major role in the introduction of the first statute – the Data Protection Act 1984 – so commercial factors are once again at play with multi-national companies tending to argue that it is easier for them to comply with a global set of data protection rules – even though restrictive of their commercial freedom, than to have to comply with different rules in every country in which they do business.