Seminar of digital democracy

Exploring the challenges for democracy in the digital age.

Session #6 • Internet privacy and data collection

> download slides (.pdf)

Special guest and host of this session: Nicolas Bocquet, researcher in privacy regulations and Internet policies.

“Privacy, surveillance and democratic challenges in the digital age”

Where did the concept of privacy originally come from? How did this concept develop in the liberal democratic context and why was it established as a fundamental right? What is the relevance of this concept in the digital age? How has privacy adapted to the security requirements of the post-9/11 era? Can we still think in terms of privacy in an age where ICTs1 are increasingly present in our daily lives and where the boundary between private and public spaces is more and more blurred? How can we ensure privacy at a time when surveillance capitalism2 is consuming more and more personal data to grow and data scandals are multiplying3? Can we limit the use of personal data by new technologies (algorithms, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, etc.)? Have the GAFAM4 become too big to regulate? What are the democratic impacts of this growing digitalisation for three decades now and what are the dangers?

This is an overview of the many questions we will try to address in this session. We will start with a brief introduction on the origin of the concept of privacy and its history up to the present day. This will serve as a basis for a collective discussion on these many (complex) issues. You will also have the opportunity to do some concrete exercises on your smartphones and computers to better understand the issues at stake, both at individual and collective level.

  1. Information and communications technologies. ↩︎

  2. Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (1st edition). New York City: PublicAffairs. ↩︎

  3. Snowden revelations, the Cambridge Analytica affair during Trump’s election and the Brexit, the Max Schrems affair that brought down the transfer of European Internet users' data to the United States, the illegality of WhatsApp’s data sharing with Facebook following its takeover, the WannaCry cyber-attack, the systematic collection by Facebook of the data of Internet users who are not Facebook users, the endless list of companies/administrations that have been “hacked”, the Pegasus spyware used to monitor all communications and phone calls from a phone, as well as its geolocation, microphone and camera, etc. ↩︎

  4. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. ↩︎