#PrivacyCamp17: Controlling data, controlling machines

Accountability, transparency and profiling were the buzzwords of the fifth annual Privacy Camp. The camp, this year entitled “Controlling data, controlling machines: dangers and solutions”, brought together civil society, policy-makers and academia to discuss the problems for human rights in the digital environment. The event is organised every year before the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) conference, and it’s co-organised by European Digital Rights (EDRi), Privacy Salon, Université Saint-Louis (USL-B) and the interdisciplinary Research Group on Law Science Technology & Society of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB-LSTS).

Who controls your data? Who controls the machines? Who is to be held responsible for the security of our data, and how can civil society make sure the message gets through? These questions were at the very centre of the debates surrounding the pending adoption of important EU-wide legislation, such as the review of the e-Privacy Directive, the smart borders package, the draft Regulation on dual-use goods, and the latest filtering proposals in the draft copyright Directive.

The first panels of the morning were “Community Building Workshop: Societal Impacts of Big Data and the Role of Civil Society”, which discussed how civil society can engage in the policy debates on Big Data, and “Owning the Web Together: Peer Production and Sharing”, which pondered on whether it’s possible to create online platforms based on genuine practices of sharing, with different ownership models and fair working conditions, or if the commons-based decentralised digital platforms are a utopian dream.

The next panel “Instant Big Data Targeting: Programmatic Ad Tech & Beyond” explained to the participants the structure of programmatic advertising, and discussed how personal data is treated and for what purposes. Simultaneously, the panel “The Internet of Things, Security and Privacy” discussed the possible effects of the Internet of Things (IoT) to the future of surveillance, and the solutions to legislative approaches and security education.

The afternoon panel on “Surveillance Tech Export and Human Rights Law” shed light on the proposed overhaul of the EU’s export controls for so-called “dual-use items” that can be used to violate fundamental human rights such as the right to privacy and the protection of personal data. The panellists discussed how human rights law could be used to hold the companies and states accountable.

The Lightning Talks presented a number of interesting projects and point-of-views related to online privacy. For example, Alexander Czadilek and Christof Tschohl from EDRi observer Epicenter.works introduced their new Handbook for the Evaluation of Anti-Terrorism legislation (HEAT), and Katarzyna Szymielewicz from EDRi member Panoptykon presented some ideas on how a strong implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could be ensured in the EU Member States. EDRi presented the guide to Digital Defenders, a booklet to teach kids privacy that was published in October 2016 and proved to be a huge success.

The day of fruitful debates was wrapped up with a bit of fun. An interactive quiz tested the participants’ level of knowledge regarding surveillance. We came reassured that our community excels at mapping surveillance, definitely watches too much TV (but only educative contents, of course!), can separate fact from fiction, reads the news, and surely knows their classics of surveillance related literature.


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