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EU Tech Policy Brief: January 2021 Recap

This is the January 2021 recap issue of the Centre for Democracy & Technology Europe’s monthly Tech Policy Brief. It highlights some of the most pressing technology and internet policy issues under debate in Europe, the U.S., and internationally, and gives CDT’s perspective on them. Our aim is to help shape policies that advance our rights in a digital world. You can subscribe here.

Schrems II: What Surveillance Reforms Are Needed To Preserve Transatlantic Data Flows?

CDT Europe and the European Academy for Freedom of Information and Data Protection (EAID) recently partnered to organise a livestreamed discussion on transatlantic data flows, raising key questions that arose from the Schrems II decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The conversation covered possible ways for the incoming Biden Administration to promote compliance with the decision, and changes that are needed to U.S. intelligence surveillance law and practice to protect the rights of Europeans. 

The panel brought together some of the leading voices on the Schrems II debate from both sides of the Atlantic, including representatives of academia, civil society, and the data protection community. In advance of the event, CDT also issued a memorandum describing a series of administrative and legislative reforms to U.S. surveillance law that address the issues raised in the CJEU decision.

The discussion is available to view here.

CDT Europe Becomes a Moral Supporter of the CPDP 2021 Conference

CDT Europe became a supporter of the 2021 Computer, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) Conference. This year’s overarching conference theme, ‘Enforcing Rights in a Changing World’, looked at how data protection and privacy have been maintained throughout the pandemic. The series of discussions took place between 27-29 January and focused on a number of topics that are at the heart of CDT’s work, including protection of fundamental rights in the digital space, accountability of online platforms, regulation of artificial intelligence, and more. Iverna McGowan, CDT Europe Director, discusses CDT’s participation in the conference and our current policy priorities here.

CDT’s Europe Director Speaks at CPDP Side Event, ‘Building a Healthier Digital Future’

CDT Europe Director Iverna McGowan spoke at CPDP’s side event, ‘Data for the public good: Building a healthier digital future‘, hosted by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). The aim of the event was to assess the impact of measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and identify ways in which data can be used to be better prepared for the next one. 

The event engaged experts from the EU public health community and other international organisations. McGowan debated on the first panel, which featured discussion about which of the current emergency measures will become our ‘new normal’. The second session looked at how we can ensure a safer and healthier digital future. 

CDT Europe highlighted how the ubiquitous availability of health data via commercial and public apps, as well as searches relating to health queries online, merits a more prudent approach to data protection. CDT Europe also highlighted how the pandemic has laid bare the extent of inequalities in our societies, and warned at how increased use of AI in decision-making can risk exacerbating those inequalities if not kept in check. 

European Parliament’s LIBE Committee Approves Provisional Agreement on Terrorist Content Online Regulation

The European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) voted on the provisional agreement on the proposal for ‘Preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online‘, resulting from interinstitutional negotiations. The vote passed with 54 votes for, 13 against, and one abstention. The final agreement is yet to be confirmed by all Members of the European Parliament in its plenary session

Although the current text contains improvements compared to the original proposal, a number of provisions still threaten fundamental rights online, namely the lack of independence of authorities that would issue content removal orders, the obligation to remove content within a one-hour timeframe, and the introduction of binding cross-border removal orders. We therefore strongly encourage the Members of the European Parliament to vote against the proposal in plenary. View our analyses of the proposal here.

CDT’s Tech Talk Presents News From Europe

This month, Iverna McGowan is featured in CDT’s Tech Talk podcast, which dishes on tech and internet policy while also explaining what these policies mean to our daily lives. The discussion focussed on the recently published Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) proposals, and what they could mean for digital and human rights across the globe. Listen to the full recording here.