Users are the core of the 11th Data Protection Day

26 Jan 2017
On the occasion of Data Protection Day, DTL’s Chief Scientist participated at CPDP conferences

Barcelona, Spain


On 26 April 2006, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to launch a Data Protection Day, to be celebrated each year on 28 January. This date corresponds to the anniversary of the opening for signature of the Council of Europe's Convention 108 for the Protection of individuals with regard to automatic processing of personal data which has been for over 30 years a cornerstone of data protection, in Europe and beyond. Data Protection Day is now celebrated globally and is called the "Privacy Day" outside Europe. The 90’s marked the starting point of data processing, when the first relational databases emerged with just small data set sizes to manage. From 2000, the era of digitalization and web 2.0 application, to the current big data era the context has completely changed and now companies are facing the need to process a vast amount of data with the use of predictive analytics or user behavior analytics in order to make better decisions. In the core of all this information we can find the user, the one that really means a great asset for companies but that unfortunately is sometimes left aside and unprotected from his own personal information. That is why Data Protection Day was launched and is focused on raising awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices. The aim of the Data Protection Day is to give European citizens the chance to understand what personal data is collected and processed about them and why, and what their rights are with respect to this processing. The initiative wants to make users understand about the importance of protecting the privacy of their personal information online, particularly in the context of social networking.

On the occasion of Data Protection Day the Council of Europe participates in events such as CPDP (Computers, Privacy & Data Protection) where Nikolaos Laoutaris, Data Transparency Lab’s founding member and Chief Scientist, moderated the panel on “Online Advertising: Data Protection and Privacy concerns of users, industry and regulators” on January 25th in Brussels.

The Data Transparency Lab, is an initiative led by Telefónica together with AT&T, INRIA, Mozilla & MIT Connection Science with the aim to create a global community of technologists, researchers, policymakers and industry representatives working to enhance online personal data transparency through scientific research and design. One of DTL’s main goals is focused on developing new tools and programs that empower individual users by creating awareness to give users back the control of their personal data.

The panel was organized by TYPES project (Towards transparency and privacy in the online advertising business) which plans to demonstrate solutions that protect individuals’ privacy while empowering the users to control how their data is used by service providers for advertising purposes. The chair was Townsend Feehand (IAB Europe) and gathered the participation of the following panellists: John W. Byers (Boston University), Christopher W. Clifton (Purdue University), Will DeVries (Google), Pedro Martin Jurado (Spanish Ministry of Industry) and Claire Levallois-Barth (Telecom ParisTech).

The session was focused on the lack of awareness of citizens regarding the management of personal information and their increasing concern regarding privacy and data protection as a serious risk for the sustainable economic growth of online services.

In 2015, the Eurobarometer study revealed that 63% of EU citizens do not trust online businesses (search engines, online social networks, e-mail services), more than half of the citizens neither like providing personal information in return for free services, nor appreciate the use of their personal data for targeted advertising. These numbers implicitly demand more transparency around the use of personal data in online services. The recently adopted General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aims at easing the current situation by enhancing users’ control over their personal data. In light of the concerns this situation raises for the online advertising sector, the panel addressed questions such as which are the main concerns of citizens; if we have the right technological and human resources to monitor and enforce the GDPR or to show illustrative examples of an intrusive-discriminatory management of collected personal data.

During the session Laoutaris also stressed the importance of bringing users tools to let them know what is going on with their data and introduced Eyewnder and FVDT projects. Eyewnder is a real time web advertisement analyser for detecting Online Behavioral Advertising which shows users why they have been targeted with determined ads. FVDT (Facebook Data Valuation Tool) is a project founded by DTL which informs in real-time Internet end users regarding the economic value that the personal information associated to their browsing activity has been generated through Facebook.