Daniel Cressey, "Fisheries science falls foul of privacy rules", Nature 6/6/2012:
A little-noticed tweak to one of the European Union’s many rules and regulations is leaving fisheries scientists struggling to access vital data. […]
At the heart of the problem is information from devices called Vessel Monitoring Systems, which are attached to many European fishing boats to record their position, direction and speed. From these data, the boats' fishing patterns can be reconstructed, allowing researchers to assess fishing activity and, for example, examine the environmental impact on specific areas.
In 2009 a new European Commission rule was brought in, restricting who could access what data within the EU. This rule took some time to filter through, says Hinz, but it is now becoming apparent that the very detailed fisheries data needed by some academics are no longer available. The bodies in charge of the data will only release information that has been aggregated over areas measuring about 5.5 kilometres to some academics, which is not detailed enough for many studies, Hinz says. […]
The commission adds that the body charged with overseeing the use of data and privacy within the EU, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), recently ruled that information from vessel monitoring systems is classed as personal data in some circumstances. This means that the information may be subject to data protection rules, making it more difficult to release it to scientists in a format in which individual boats may be identifiable.
As preposterous as this seems, we should be careful not to conclude (as some people apparently have) that European privacy laws makes it impossible for any speech data ever to be published for research purposes. Without investigating the details of the regulations in question, I presume that individuals are free to waive their right to privacy with respect to a specific recording or quotation. The alternative would be to forbid anyone from ever being quoted in a newspaper or on the radio or television, since the resulting stories become part of a generally-accessible database by virtue of being archived on the publisher or broadcaster's web site.
And people continue to be quoted and recorded in Europe's newspapers and broadcast media every day — though perhaps the European Data Protection Supervisor is looking into the matter.
[Via Stewart Baker, "Privacy Rots from Head", The Volokh Conspiracy 6/8/2012]