Data protection, privacy and new technologies

More of our everyday lives are online — both at work and home. Meanwhile, terror attacks intensify calls for more surveillance. Concerns grow over the safety of our privacy and personal data.

FRA helps lawmakers and practitioners protect your rights in a connected world.


Artificial intelligence is here. It’s not going away. It can be a force for good, but it needs to be watched so carefully in terms of respect for our human fundamental rights. The EU Fundamental Rights Agency is deeply committed to this work.Our ambition is not just to ensure that AI respects our rights, but also that it protects and promotes them.
Will AI revolutionise the delivery of our public services? And what's the right balance? How is the private sector using AI to automate decisions — and what implications
might that have? Are some form of binding rules necessary to monitor and regulate the use of AI technology - and what should these rules look like?
How do we embrace progress while protecting our fundamental rights? As data-driven decision making increasingly touches our daily lives, what does this mean
for our fundamental rights? A step into the dark? Or the next giant leap? The time to answer these questions is here and now. Let’s seize the opportunities, but understand the challenges. Let’s make AI work for everyone in Europe…And get the future right.
Artificial intelligence (AI) already plays a role in deciding what unemployment benefits someone gets, where a burglary is likely to take place, whether someone is at risk of cancer, or who sees that catchy advertisement for low mortgage rates. Its use keeps growing, presenting seemingly endless possibilities. But we need to make sure to fully uphold fundamental rights standards when using AI. This report presents concrete examples of how companies and public administrations in the EU are using, or trying to use, AI. It focuses on four core areas – social benefits, predictive policing, health services and targeted advertising.
As we enter the second half of 2020, the constraints on our daily lives brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic have become a firm reality. New local lockdowns and the reintroduction of restrictive measures prompted by fresh outbreaks of the virus are a stark reminder that COVID-19 continues to shape our lives – and our enjoyment of fundamental rights – in profound ways. There is compelling evidence of how the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges in our societies. This FRA Bulletin outlines some of the measures EU Member States adopted to safely reopen their societies and economies while continuing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It highlights the impact these measures may have on civil, political and socioeconomic rights.
This paper presents people’s concerns and experiences relating to security. It covers worry about crime, including terrorism and online fraud; experience of online fraud; experience of cyberharassment; and concern about illegal access to data.
What are the next steps in the digitalisation of justice and of access to justice? This impulse video statement by FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty was recorded for the online conference “Access to Justice in the Digital Age”. The conference takes place on 16 July and is organised by the German Federal Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection during the German Council Presidency.
This document presents data from the FRA Fundamental Rights Survey. It includes data on opinions and experiences of people in the European Union (EU) linked to data protection and technology.
Now available in Macedonian and Serbian
13 November 2020
The year 2019 brought both progress and setbacks in terms of fundamental rights protection. FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2020 reviews major developments in the field, identifying both achievements and remaining areas of concern. This publication presents FRA’s opinions on the main developments in the thematic areas covered, and a synopsis of the evidence supporting these opinions. In so doing, it provides a compact but informative overview of the main fundamental rights challenges confronting the EU and its Member States.
FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2020 reviews major developments in the field in 2019, identifying both achievements and areas of concern. It also presents FRA’s opinions on these developments, including a synopsis of the evidence supporting these opinions. This year’s focus chapter explores how to unlock the full potential of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Coronavirus pandemic continues to interrupt everyday life in the EU in unprecedented ways. But the way it affects our societies is shifting. As governments gradually lift some of the measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19, new fundamental rights concerns arise: how to ensure that the rights to life and health are upheld as daily life transitions to a ‘new normal’. This Bulletin looks at declarations of states of emergency, or equivalent, and how they came under scrutiny. It considers the impact on fundamental rights in important areas of daily life, and includes a thematic focus on the processing of users’ data to help contain COVID-19, particularly by contact-tracing apps. It covers the period 21 March – 30 April 2020.
In this vlog Michael O'Flaherty outlines fundamental rights considerations when developing technological responses to public health, as he introduces the focus of FRA's next COVID-19 bulletin.
The outbreak of COVID-19 affects people’s daily life in the 27 EU Member States. As the number of infected people in the EU territory began to mount rapidly in February and March, governments put in place a raft of measures – often introduced in a period of only a few days – in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. Many of these measures reflect how, in exceptional emergency situations, the urgent need to save lives justifies restrictions on other rights, such as the freedom of movement and of assembly. This report outlines some of the measures EU Member States have put in place to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It covers the period 1 February – 20 March 2020.
Michael O'Flaherty talks in his vlog about the human rights aspects in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic and introduces FRA's new report.
In the latest edition of his video blog, FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty speaks about the importance and power of hope accompanying the work of FRA in 2020. Particularly after a troubled start of the year.
In the latest edition of his video blog, FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty speaks about the human rights challenges, but also the opportunities, that come along with the development of artificial intelligence technology.
French and German versions now available
01 March 2022
Facial recognition technology (FRT) makes it possible to compare digital facial images to determine whether they are of the same person. Comparing footage obtained from video cameras (CCTV) with images in databases is referred to as ‘live facial recognition technology’. Examples of national law enforcement authorities in the EU using such technology are sparse – but several are testing its potential. This paper therefore looks at the fundamental rights implications of relying on live FRT, focusing on its use for law enforcement and border-management purposes.
As part of the background research for the Agency’s project on ‘Artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data and Fundamental Rights’, FRA has collected information on AI-related policy initiatives in EU Member States and beyond in the period 2016-2020. The collection currently includes about 350 initiatives.
Fundamental Rights Report 2019: 2018 was a landmark year for data protection. New EU rules took effect and complaints of breaches increased significantly.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has applied across the European Union (EU) since 25 May 2018. One year on, this paper looks at how the new regulation has affected the daily work of civil society organisations (CSOs).
The Agency’s Director, Michael O’Flaherty, took part in a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on 9 February.
FRA’s Director addressed ‘The Challenge of Artificial Intelligence for Human Society and the Idea of the Human Person’ conference on 21 October in Rome.
The FRA Director addressed the 7th EDEN conference on data protection in law enforcement in Rome on 18 October.
FRA provided a keynote presentation on 1 October to a business workshop on trustworthy AI.
On 14 September 2021, eight international organisations joined forces to launch a new portal promoting global cooperation on artificial intelligence (AI). The portal is a one-stop shop for data, research findings and good practices in AI policy.
On 6 September, FRA joined a European Parliament panel discussion on the digital services act.
FRA’s report on artificial intelligence and fundamental rights presents concrete examples of how companies and public administrations in the EU are using, or trying to use, AI.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in respecting the fundamental rights to health, education, employment and social protection across society. FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2021 plots the pandemic’s wide-ranging impact on rights and suggests how best to address increasing inequalities and threats to societal cohesion.
On 30 April, FRA took part in Equinet’s webinar on artificial intelligence. It introduced the context of its research on fundamental rights and AI, its findings with regards to specific fundamental rights (data protection, non-discrimination, and access to remedies), and its key recommendations.
During the first of a series of seminars on AI and law, FRA presented its research findings on the fundamental rights implications of using Artificial Intelligence.
On 24 March, FRA took part in a webinar organised by the European Network of Ombudsmen on AI and e-government in public administrations.
FRA outlined fundamental rights safeguards in the Entry-Exit system during a training course on 2 and 3 February. FRA rose awareness on the potential risks for fundamental rights, that can emerge if safeguards are not duly implemented, drawing on its relevant work.
FRA presented the main findings from its facial recognition technology paper during an event organised by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (INCLO). The network brings together 15 independent, national human rights NGOs from different countries.
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.
From tracking the spread of COVID-19 to deciding who will receive social benefits, artificial intelligence (AI) affects the lives of millions of Europeans. Automation can improve decision-making. But AI can lead to mistakes, discrimination and be hard to challenge. A new EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) report reveals confusion about the impact of AI on people’s rights. This even among organisations already using it. FRA calls on policymakers to provide more guidance on how existing rules apply to AI and ensure any future AI laws protect fundamental rights.
FRA’s Director joined the 7th Glion Human Rights Dialogue 2020 on 3 and 4 December. The high-level online event brought together over 100 human rights practitioners and experts.
FRA took part in a meeting of the Public Interest Litigation Project on 17 November.
The Estonian version of Handbook on European data protection law - 2018 edition is the latest language version of this popular handbook.
On 30 October, FRA presented the fundamental rights implications of processing data in large-scale IT systems.
FRA joined a debate on the legal control of algorithms.
FRA will join round-table discussions on identifying and preventing the discriminatory impact of artificial intelligence.
During this year’s annual computer, privacy and data protection conference (CPDP 2021), FRA will host a panel on getting AI right.
Rights International Spain is hosting a webinar on public policies to eradicate ethnic profiling.
On 9 December, the FRA Director will address the EU-NGO Human Rights Forum. This year the focus is on the impact of new technologies on human rights. The forum provides a platform to elaborate recommendations on how the EU can further foster human rights compliance in the digital sphere.
This year, FRA again teams up with the This human world international human rights film festival.
FRA will take part in this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which runs virtually from 2-17 November. It will join the session on the role of the private sector in developing guidelines on the use of artificial intelligence.
How can we balance the importance of promoting technological, economic and social innovation with the need to protect individuals and society from its potentially harmful effects? This is one of the areas that will be explored during a high-level virtual event on 14 December on doing artificial intelligence the European way.
FRA will take part in the annual closed session of the Global Privacy Assembly (GPA) as an observer.
FRA will discuss the fundamental rights considerations of using Artificial intelligence during a meeting of the European Commission’s Digital Criminal Justice Expert Group.
Artificial intelligence and encryption will feature during a virtual meeting of the Council of the EU’s Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI).
Remote biometric identification systems, such as facial recognition, are regularly identified as a candidate for regulation.
The annual summer school on EU policy making organised by the Institute for European Studies (IES) and the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna is this year organised online.
The agency’s Scientific Committee meeting will be held on 24 April via video conference.
FRA, in cooperation with its Hungarian National Liaison Officer, will launch the Hungarian translation of its handbook on European data protection law.
How should the EU approach to artificial intelligence and facial recognition?
The rule of law will feature at this year’s European Police Congress where the FRA Director will speak.
FRA will deliver a speech on 28 January in Brussels on artificial intelligence, Big Data and fundamental rights.
The Council of the EU’s law enforcement working group will meet on 21 January.