Data Tracking Device

Why data protection authorities are now looking at football


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Data Tracking Device
  • First FIFPRO Player IQ Tech Experience Tour took place in Tel-Aviv, Israel which highlighted how player data is currently being collected and shared

  • Event illustrated need for unions to implement frameworks to manage and control use of player data in the employment context

  • David Murphy, Deputy Commissioner of the Irish Data Protection Commission talks about "eye-opening" scrutiny of players

An array of stakeholders took part in FIFPRO’s inaugural Player IQ Tech Experience Tour in Tel Aviv, Israel – from player unions and legal representatives to organisations such as IBM and FIFA; an event which highlighted the need for professional footballers to have more control on how their data is collected and used in the employment context.

Also in attendance was David Murphy, Deputy Commissioner of the Irish Data Protection Commission. In recent times, the Irish Data Protection Commission has taken strong action against large multi-national technology companies for data privacy breaches within the EU single market.

Murphy said it was "eye-opening" to learn about the extent to which professional footballers are surveilled when it comes to collecting their data.

He said: "The amount of data that's collected and what's coming down the road in terms of the application of AI and new technologies, it's something that I personally didn't appreciate – and representing the Data Protection Authority, I think it's important for us to engage, understand what's happening in different sectors, and apply it to our own thinking about the application of data protection law.”

David Murphy
David Murphy gave a presentation on the fundamental issues of privacy and consent at Player IQ Tech Experience Tour

The role of unions in player data

One of the key takeaways from Player IQ Tech Experience Tour was the need for management frameworks to be put in place so that what happens to players’ data is in their best interest, a space that player unions are well placed to fill.

"It’s important that FIFPRO are active in this area because data protection compliance is built on stakeholder engagement," said Murphy. "You act on behalf of the data subject, so the players in this context, and as the representative body, FIFPRO are well placed to discuss with their employer, and other stakeholders, how their rights can best be implemented in practice.

"What I would advise [players] is that they gain access to the resources that are there to educate them – and FIFPRO is in a good position to help them with that, to understand first of all what their rights are and then work on implementing them, facilitating them and ensuring their data is processed in a compliant manner."

In such a complex and rapidly evolving sector, the need for data education of unions and players is paramount. In particular, Murphy warns of the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

"Across the board, data protection authorities in Europe are looking very closely at that topic," he said. "We have the new European AI regulation coming down the road and we've seen the public and academic comment around what AI means to people's personal information.

"So, for me, because of the amount of scrutiny that players come under, the amount of data that's being gathered on a second-by-second basis, and the application of AI to that, it’s something players need to be very careful about."