Brussels Privacy Symposium 2022 Report
On November 15, 2022, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Brussels Privacy Hub (BPH) of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) jointly hosted the sixth edition of the Brussels Privacy Symposium on the topic of “Vulnerable People, Marginalization, and Data Protection.” Participants explored the extent to which data protection and privacy law including the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other data protection laws like Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD) safeguard and empower vulnerable and marginalized people. Participants also debated balancing the right to privacy with the need to process sensitive personal information to uncover and prevent bias and marginalization. Stakeholders discussed whether prohibiting the processing of personal data related to vulnerable people serves as a protection mechanism or, on the contrary, whether it potentially deepens bias.
The event also marked the launch of VULNERA, the International Observatory on Vulnerable People in Data Protection, coordinated by the Brussels Privacy Hub and the Future of Privacy Forum. The observatory aims to promote a mature debate on the multifaceted connotations surrounding the notions of human “vulnerability” and “marginalization” existing in the data protection and privacy domains.
The Symposium was started with short introductory remarks by Jules Polonetsky, FPF’s CEO, and Gianclaudio Malgieri, Associate Professor at Leiden eLaw and BPH’s Co-Director. Polonetsky stressed the importance of understanding that privacy increasingly intersects with other rights and issues. Malgieri offered an overview of VULNERA and incentivized participants to reflect on important questions, such as whether data protection law could serve as a means to address human vulnerabilities and marginalization.
Throughout the day, there were two keynote addresses by Scott Skinner-Thompson, Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and Hera Hussain, Founder and CEO of Chayn, a nonprofit providing online resources for survivors of gender-based violence, followed by three panel discussions, a brainstorming exercise with the Symposium’s attendees in four different breakout sessions, and closing remarks delivered by FPF’s Vice President for Global Privacy, Gabriela Zanfir- Fortuna, and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), Wojciech Wiewiórowski.
This Report outlines some of the most noteworthy points raised by the speakers during the day-long Symposium. It is divided into seven sections: the above general introductions; the ensuing section, which covers the remarks made during the Keynote Speeches; the next three that summarize the content of the discussions held during the panels; the sixth one that touches on the exchanges audience members had during the breakout sessions; and the seventh and final one that provides highlights of the EDPS’s closing remarks.
Editor: Isabella Perera