Greetings from Brussels!
Recent media coverage suggests that the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is increasingly visible on a number of privacy issues of late. As an independent supervisory authority, its core mission is protecting personal data and privacy as well as promoting good practice within EU institutions and bodies.
In short, the EDPS is playing a key role in advising on the content and outcome of the revised GDPR regulation.
In terms of its communications policy, the EDPS has been particularly proactive this year in its approach to reach and engage a broad stakeholder community. To cite a few initiatives, a first opinion was published by the EDPS this year on mobile health: “Reconciling technological innovation with data protection.” The document identifies mobile health as a rapidly growing sector stemming from the convergence between healthcare and information communication technology (ICT) and which is already raising questions on the way personal data is collected, stored and used.
Commenting on the publication of the opinion, EDPS Giovanni Buttarelli said, “We live in a world where our digital lives can be acutely analyzed. Today, the division between information about our health and information about the rest of our digital lives is disappearing: Technology solutions allow devices and apps to connect the dots between different data about us such as location, nutrition and medical. We can put a lot of trust in technology companies to do the right thing with our personal information and to make our lives easier. But we need to have a critical debate about the uses of our personal information that are and are not acceptable to us and encourage developers to prioritize consumer trust over short-term gains."
In keeping with this theme, I attended a Digital Europe (the trade association) event this week where the panel spoke to the implications and eventual benefits of the ICT sector as a platform for healthcare advancement. A significant portion of the post-panel discussion was centered on data privacy and security issues, which I think speaks to the concerns of people working in the field.
On another level, the EDPS is clearly committed to gaining a better understanding of stakeholder views while ensuring an open dialogue with experts from all sectors on how best to safeguard data flow regulation in the interest of citizens. This week, Buttarelli invited a number of civil society organizations to a meeting in Brussels to discuss the data reform package. The invitation was extended to all the signatories of a recent letter addressed to President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker calling on the EU to ensure “stronger, unified data protection rules.” Moreover, and reflecting the EDPS’s view on transparency, the EDPS also filmed the discussion, and it will be made available on the EDPS website shortly. I think this will be welcomed by all interested parties.
One final mention on current EDPS initiatives, Buttarelli, Assistant EDPS Wojciech Wiewiorowski and Belgian DPA President Willem Debeuckelaere will all give keynotes at the forthcoming Internet Privacy Engineering Network Workshop on 5 June, to be held at Leuven University in Belgium. Stellar lineup. The agenda looks very promising indeed, and if you are interested in attending, you can register through the EDPS website.
What looks certain for the future is a continuation of the EDPS’s robust and proactive communications strategy. Having visited the EDPS this week, I think we can expect regular opinions on matters privacy-related; forthcoming publications will include guidelines on mobile devices as well as an opinion on the challenges of big data. In what concerns the GDPR specifically, I think the EDPS clearly intends to continue to be a proactive partner in the ongoing discussions between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, including the final trilogue negotiations.
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