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Towards a digital ethics EDPS Ethics Advisory Group

The report by the EDPS’ Ethics Advisory Group will help advance the debate on digital ethics that the EDPS will continue, focusing on how we can make technology work in the interests of human dignity, culminating at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners which the EDPS will co-host in October 2018.


The EDPS Ethics Advisory Group (EAG) has carried out its work against the backdrop of two significant social-political moments: a growing interest in ethical issues, both in the public and in the private spheres and the imminent entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018.

For some, this may nourish a perception that the work of the EAG represents a challenge to data protection professionals, particularly to lawyers in the field, as well as to companies struggling to adapt their processes and routines to the requirements of the GDPR. What is the purpose of a report on digital ethics, if the GDPR already provides all regulatory requirements to protect European citizens with regard to the processing of their personal data?

Does the existence of this EAG mean that a new normative ethics of data protection will be expected to fill regulatory gaps in data protection law with more flexible, and thus less easily enforceable ethical rules? Does the work of the EAG signal a weakening of the foundation of legal doctrine, such as the rule of law, the theory of justice, or the fundamental values supporting human rights, and a strengthening of a more cultural approach to data protection? Not at all.

The reflections of the EAG contained in this report are not intended as the continuation of policy by other means. It neither supersedes nor supplements the law or the work of legal practitioners. Its aims and means are different. On the one hand, the report seeks to map and analyse current and future paradigm shifts which are characterised by a general shift from analogue experience of human life to a digital one.

On the other hand, and in light of this shift, it seeks to re-evaluate our understanding of the fundamental values most crucial to the well-being of people, those taken for granted in a data-driven society and those most at risk.

The objective of this report is thus not to generate definitive answers, nor to articulate new norms for present and future digital societies but to identify and describe the most crucial questions for the urgent conversation to come.

This requires a conversation between legislators and data protection experts, but also society at large – because the issues identified in this report concern us all, not only as citizens but also as individuals. They concern us in our daily lives, whether at home or at work and there isn’t a place we could travel to where they would cease to concern us as members of the human species.


Read more: the report by the EDPS’ Ethics Advisory Group. 
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