Event Report: Brussels Privacy Symposium 2020 – Research and the Protection of Personal Data Under the GDPR
On December 2, 2020, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Brussels Privacy Hub of Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) hosted the Brussels Privacy Symposium 2020: Research and the protection of Personal Data Under the GDPR. The event, convened by FPF CEO Jules Polonetsky and Dr. Christopher Kuner, Co-Chair of the Brussels Privacy Hub, brought together industry privacy leaders, academic researchers, and regulators to discuss data protection in the context of scientific research under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from various policy and technical perspectives. A new report from FPF’s Caroline Hopland, Hunter Dorwart, Dr. Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, and Dr. Rob van Eijk, as well as Associate Professor at the EDHEC Augmented Law Institute Dr. Gianclaudio Malgieri, summarizes and offers context to the discussions at the event.
The 2020 Brussels Privacy Symposium was the fourth-annual academic program jointly presented by VUB and FPF. Notably, the panelists emphasized risks and vulnerabilities with respect to data protection in the scientific research context, highlighting issues with consent structures, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as difficulties to define sensitive data, what privacy enhancing technologies are applied to research datasets and how they may affect efforts to identify bias, or the role of international frameworks and of cross-border data flows in facilitating or hindering research outcomes.
The Symposium also brought into focus recent developments in EU policymaking that may have significant effects on processing personal data for research purposes. One of the relevant legislative proposals recently introduced by the European Commission is the Data Governance Act (DGA), which “aims to foster the availability of data for use by increasing trust in data intermediaries and by strengthening data-sharing mechanisms across the EU.” It also proposes to promote “data altruism,” allowing researchers access to larger datasets for their research. Overall, the Symposium focused on striking a balance between utility of research and privacy and data protection.
The keynote speakers included:
- Dr. Malte Beyer-Katzenberger, DG CONNECT, European Commission
- Cornelia Kutterer Senior Director, EU Government Affairs, AI, Privacy and Digital Policies at Microsoft Corporation
- Dr. Wojciech Wiewiórowski, European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS)
The first panel explored Complex Interactions: the GDPR, Data Protection and Research, and was moderated by Dr. Gianclaudio Malgieri, Associate Professor EDHEC Augmented Law Institute (Lille) and Affiliated Researcher LSTS VUB. Speakers on the panel included:
- Claire Gayrel, Deputy Head of Unit Supervision and Enforcement, EDPS
- Dr. Dara Hallinan, Legal Academic, FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz Institute for Information Infrastructure
- Dr. Ciara Staunton, Senior Lecturer in Law, School of Law, Middlesex University, London and Centre for Biomedicine, EURAC, Bolzano, Italy
- Dr. Henrik Junklewitz, Scientific Project Officer, Joint Research Center, European Commission
The second panel discussed Using Sensitive Data in Research to Counter (Hidden) Bias and Discrimination, and was moderated by Dr. Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, Senior Counsel FPF and Affiliated Researcher LSTS VUB. Speakers included:
- Dr. Elettra Ronchi, Senior Policy Analyst, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
- Dr. Paul Quinn, Professor, VUB
- Dr. Heng Xu, Professor of Information Technology and Analytics, American University
- Knut Mager, Head of Global Data Privacy, Novartis
To learn more, read the report.