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Technological advances and data protection should go hand-in-hand

Cyber Security and Digital Data Protection with people using digital devices
Blue Planet Studio ©, 2021
Our personal data shape the ads we see. They help governments trace the spread of COVID-19. But as technology advances, so should data protection safeguards. For this year’s Data Protection Day, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) highlights data protection challenges to ensure our rights are upheld.

Many Europeans are unwilling to share data about themselves, as FRA’s 2020 Fundamental Rights Survey shows. Four in 10 do not want to share any personal data with private companies. And 1 in 4 do not know how to check privacy settings on their mobile apps.

Such privacy and data protection concerns came to the fore when governments across the EU started to roll out COVID-19 apps to track the spread of the Coronavirus.

These concerns also apply to artificial intelligence (AI). Many businesses using or thinking about using AI do not fully know how it affects people’s rights. They cannot explain how their algorithms use people’s data or are not sure which rules apply. These are some key findings of FRA’s new report on AI.

The upcoming EU rules on regulating AI could provide more safeguards. The EU and EU countries should ensure that AI technologies respect all fundamental rights, including data protection. They also need to clarify how data protection rules apply to AI.

There is greater need for more clarity and strong data protection safeguards as more and more industries and technologies rely on data.

Yet, the 2020 review of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) shows that approaches to data protection still differ across the EU. Not only that, data protection authorities still lack appropriate resources to do their job properly.

This highlights how much work lies ahead. There is an urgent need to raise awareness of the existing rules and tools; to provide sufficient expertise and resources to data protection authorities; and to ensure that strong safeguards are built into all EU laws and policies.