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Black Mirror Season 6: "Joan is Awful" Episode: Insights from a Data Protection Law Perspective

If you are reading this, it means you have watched the first episode of Season 6 of Black Mirror, titled "Joan is Awful." I have also watched it. As a data lawyer, the only thing that crossed my mind while watching the episode was how much we should consider the "consent" mechanism as data owners.

The episode provides a striking legal analysis from the perspective of data protection law. It explores how personal data can be jeopardized in the digital age and addresses concerns regarding privacy. When Joan consults with her lawyer to take legal action against Streamberry, the responses she receives vividly highlight our helplessness when we fail to contemplate how our personal data is collected and used.

The episode revolves around a character named Joan, whose personal data is turned into a public broadcast without her knowledge. Every detail of Joan's personal life, including her private life, love life, career, and even past relationships, is shared with the world through a fictional platform called Streamberry, making her personal data completely exposed to the public.

Disturbed by the sharing of her data, Joan decides to take legal action against Streamberry and consults her lawyer, only to discover that the entire show is a mixture of CGI (computer-generated imagery) and deepfake technology. Through deepfake, the actress in the series (Salma Hayek) portrays Joan's role without actually playing it in reality, using manipulated images. We can empathize with how Joan's life is ruined in this manner. Unfortunately, when Joan and Salma Hayek consult their respective lawyers to resolve this issue and halt the sharing of their personal data, they do not achieve the desired outcome.

Undoubtedly, the episode reminds us of the importance of privacy and the protection of personal data. The public broadcasting of the intricacies of Joan's life can be regarded as a significant intrusion upon an individual's privacy rights. It once again highlights the significance of data protection mechanisms in preventing the unwanted exposure of an individual's private life and the loss of control over data sharing.

The collection and processing of personal data through the fictional platform Streamberry also highlight an important legal issue. The collection and processing of individuals' personal data should be carried out in accordance with principles of privacy. However, the scenario presented in the episode raises ethical and legal concerns, such as the uncontrolled sharing and manipulation of Joan's personal data.

As a data lawyer, my legal implications are as follows:

  • In terms of the rights of the data subject:

As known, everyone has the right to have their private and family life respected. In this context, everyone also has the right to demand the protection of their personal data. Joan also has the right to demand the protection of her personal data, including all personal data collected by Streamberry. Therefore, she can exercise her rights, such as being informed about her personal data, accessing that data, requesting its correction or deletion, and learning whether the data is being used for its intended purposes.

  • In terms of the legality of surveillance in public places:

When Joan consults her lawyer, the lawyer explains that Streamberry continuously listens to Joan's every detail through devices, including her phone, as a method of data acquisition. This situation is compared to the common experience we often encounter in our daily lives, where after Joan talks to a friend about a specific product, an advertisement for that product appears on social media. In reality, Joan is constantly monitored by Streamberry through IoT (Internet of Things) devices surrounding her, such as her mobile phone. Even her most private moments are recorded. Under the principle of proportionality, constant surveillance even in her private sphere can be considered a serious violation of the right to privacy.

In terms of fulfilling the obligation to provide information:

When Joan consults her lawyer with the intention of taking legal action against Streamberry, her lawyer tells her that she gave consent to all of these actions, and Joan feels helpless at this point. The company, in fact, absolves itself through the details in the terms and conditions that are often unread or unnoticed by anyone, known as the 'fine print.' Can the obligation to provide information about such extensive data processing activities really be hidden in a user agreement that is not paid much attention to (perhaps it was presented separately, we are not familiar with the details here)?

Consent, under the GDPR, is a specific, informed, and unambiguous indication given by the data subject through a statement or clear affirmative action, indicating that they agree to the processing of their personal data. It is debatable whether Joan provided informed and conscious consent. On the other hand, it is also necessary to question whether Streamberry fulfilled its obligation to inform Joan by providing a clear, understandable, and concise notification.

As for Salma Hayek, the situation is different because she has completely sold her digital image to the streaming platform. I believe the position she has fallen into, which can be seen as 'degrading,' is an attorney's mistake because it did not lead to the inclusion of provisions that involve any actions by Joan that may cause astonishment or embarrassment in society, such as going to the toilet.

In conclusion, Black Mirror's episode 'Joan is Awful' creates significant awareness about privacy, data protection, and individual rights by conducting a legal analysis of personal data. This episode highlights the potential risks and legal responsibilities associated with the collection and dissemination of personal data. Therefore, it is of great importance to implement necessary regulations and measures for the protection of personal data.

Furthermore, 'Joan is Awful' emphasizes the importance of legal regulation regarding deepfake technology, which has seen a significant increase in recent times. It vividly illustrates the potential consequences we may face if ethical and legal purposes are not taken into account when utilizing deepfake technology.



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