Unlocking the strategic litigation opportunities of the GDPR

By Nani Jansen Reventlow, 27th September 2019

In May 2019, Access Now and noyb hosted a three-day meeting in Vienna to share knowledge and experiences on GDPR enforcement. The event covered several practical elements to take into account when litigating under the GDPR and considered the different avenues for taking GDPR complaints.

This week, DFF hosted a follow-up meeting in Berlin, which offered both an opportunity to look at the issue of GDPR litigation at field level and identify concrete options for GDPR enforcement. 21 participants from across Europe, including litigators, academics and activists, discussed issues ranging from how to address the functioning of DPAs, to using the GDPR to address the use of biometric data by private companies.

Following a mapping of current efforts of GDPR enforcement, the meeting took a critical look at a nascent framework prepared by DFF to prioritise litigation goals under the GDPR. Then, participants mapped priority litigation goals across a range of issues such as misuse of data by political parties, unlawful data processing by public services, and challenging “big tech” business models.

On the second day, participants formulated concrete case ideas distilled from the priority litigation goals and shared experiences of lessons learned in their GDPR work so far. A number of potential areas for follow-up were identified, which DFF is looking forward to supporting.

The meeting was energetically facilitated by Aspiration and hosted by the fantastic team at WE’RE ALL IN. Over the coming days, we will be publishing a number of guest posts to further highlight some of the conversations, so stay tuned for further updates.

If you are working on GDPR-related issues, have ideas for next steps or generally want to get involved, please get in touch!

Facial Recognition Virtual Design Jam: brainstorming litigation to challenge use of facial recognition software

By Jason Williams-Quarry, 17th September 2019

What are the research or evidence gaps when it comes to the legal implications of facial recognition technology? What research or support is needed in the short term to litigate against the use of such technology by law enforcement? Which jurisdictions are most cost effective for facial recognition litigation? What can law clinics do over the coming year to assist in these kinds of cases?

These questions were considered during DFF’s virtual design jam on facial recognition this week. The design jam continued from and built on in-group discussions that arose during DFF’s workshop on ‘connecting the field with academia’ earlier this year. During the workshop, participants were eager to explore connections between the field and academia on a number of subjects andsome of these conversations gravitated towards facial recognition. The virtual design jam was an opportunity to take a further look at the questions posed above and to identify potential lines of collaboration and research.

Recent events in the news have drawn attention to the use of facial recognition technology by both public and private actors. A recent case brought by Liberty sought to challenge the use of facial recognition cameras by the South Wales Police in the UK. In Sweden, the data protection authority (Datainspektionen) found a school’s use of facial recognition technology to register student presence violated various aspects of the General Data Protection Regulation. Outside of Europe, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong have been recorded tearing down facial recognition towers, in resistance to state surveillance.

During the jam, breakout groups mapped out the research and evidence that could be collected in the short and medium term to help build and develop strategic human rights litigation challenging the use of facial recognition technology. One room looked at the research and evidence that could assist litigation efforts to challenge the use of such technology by law enforcement. Another room examined what work could be done to help identify the ideal regulatory environments for taking cases against public and private actors’ use of such technology. Finally, another room considered more specifically what the role of law clinics might be in providing research or legal support for facial recognition cases.

At the end of the session, the breakout rooms reported out a number of specific research requests that could be taken on by academics, researchers or law clinics. For instance, one room sought more research on the “chilling effect” facial recognition technology has on rights, such as the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. Another room identified the need for a comprehensive mapping of how judiciaries and legislators in different European jurisdictions regulate audio-visual surveillance, CCTV, and facial recognition technologies.

DFF will share these research requests with its network, including academics, researchers and law clinicians who joined the workshop on ‘connecting the field with academia’ earlier this year. We also welcome hearing from other academics or researchers who are willing to assist and collaborate with digital rights litigators on this important work. If that sounds like you, please do get in touch!

We hope that this design jam will be the starting point for collaborative research projects that can later inform and strengthen litigation challenging facial recognition software.

Exchanging knowledge across the Atlantic: litigators kick off call series on digital rights

By Jason Williams-Quarry, 10th September 2019

DFF’s transatlantic call series on digital rights kicked off on 9 September with 29 experts, litigators and activists sharing knowledge from across 15 organisations.

The five-part call series seeks to facilitate dialogue on digital rights priorities and international collaboration between organisations in the US and Europe.

The first call focused on a wide range of critical digital rights issues, including facial recognition, mass surveillance and how to use anti-trust and competition law to protect digital rights. Participants met with their peers in an informal setting, shared knowledge of each other’s organisations as well as concrete experience by discussing recent cases and pending litigation.

The call series builds on initial conversations earlier in the year between DFF and lawyers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

DFF is hosting another four transatlantic calls over the coming weeks. The next transatlantic calls currently planned are:

  • 23 September (17:00 CEST)

Heat mapping thematic areas for transatlantic collaboration

  • 8 October (17:00 CEST)

Challenging anti-encryption measures

  • 15 October (17:00 CEST)

Machine learning and human rights

  • 13 November (17:00 CET)

Content moderation

Register for any of the upcoming sessions by getting in touch with us via e-mail.

Further topics and calls will be added based on the input from participants. Stay tuned!