DPAs meet in Mauritius: Big Data, surveillance burning issues

The 36th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, taking place in Mauritius this week, discussed yesterday the role of Big Data in society and the threat of surveillance systems.

Jacob Kohnstamm, Chairman of the Netherlands’ Data Protection Authority and previous Chair of EU’s Article 29 DP Working Party called for ‘a fierce social debate’ on Big Data to make the general public understand both the benefits and dangers of Big Data.

Individuals are often faced with no real choice – they are forced to give their consent to participate in society or make use of a service, he said.

“Transparency is the first step in regaining individuals’ trust. Privacy principles on their own are not enough – we also need accountability and a critical mass,” Kohnstamm said.

In a session ‘Surveillance versus Dataveillance’, Paul Nemitz, Director, Fundamental Rights and Union Citizenship, EU Commission, and Chief Negotiator of the EU-US Safe Harbour programme called for the US to take the lead in stopping constant surveillance of individuals: “America’s resources are unmatched – also in terms of private resources with companies such as Facebook.”

Nemitz said that EU-US discussions have been quite fruitful and the work programme of the US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is a good start. However, the EU is still waiting for the US to deliver data protection rights that are also effective for Europeans.

“Safe Harbour is on the table. To maintain it, limitations of data collection and use are needed. It is inconceivable that at this point we have nothing,” Nemitz said.

We will publish articles on the conference proceedings in PL&B International Report, October and December issues.