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.


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.
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).
Algorithms used in machine learning systems and artificial intelligence (AI) can only be as good as the data used for their development. High quality data are essential for high quality algorithms. Yet, the call for high quality data in discussions around AI often remains without any further specifications and guidance as to what this actually means.
How much progress can we expect in a decade? Various rights-related instruments had been in place for 10 years in 2018, prompting both sobering and encouraging reflection on this question.
The year 2018 brought both progress and setbacks in terms of fundamental
rights protection. FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2019 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
Last versions available are EL and NL
11 March 2021
This guide explains what profiling is, the legal frameworks that regulate it, and why conducting profiling lawfully is both necessary to comply with fundamental rights and crucial for effective policing and border management. The guide also provides practical guidance on how to avoid unlawful profiling in police and border management operations.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights’ 2018 Fundamental Rights Forum
brought together more than 700 human rights champions at a time of
widening social divisions and increasingly polarised politics across
With enormous volumes of data generated every day, more and more decisions are based on data analysis and algorithms. This can bring welcome benefits, such as consistency and objectivity, but algorithms also entail great risks. A FRA focus paper looks at how the use of automation in decision making can result in, or exacerbate, discrimination.
This Opinion by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) aims to inform the European Parliament’s position concerning the legislative proposal for a Regulation on strengthening the security of identity cards of European Union (EU) citizens and of residence documents issued to EU citizens and their family members exercising their right of free movement. It focuses on the processing of biometric data and complements the opinion published by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS).
In November 2017, the European Commission requested FRA’s support in evaluating the impact on fundamental rights of the European Border Surveillance System (Eurosur) Regulation. Further to this request, FRA reviewed the work of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) and analysed cooperation agreements concluded by EU Member States with third countries which are relevant for the exchange of information for the purposes of Eurosur. This report presents the main findings of such review.
This Opinion aims to
inform the European Parliament’s position on the legislative proposal amending the
Visa Information System, the Visa Code and other related provisions of EU law. The
European Commission presented the proposal on 16 May 2018 and EU legislators are
currently discussing it.
The year 2017 brought both progress and setbacks in terms of rights protection. The European Pillar of Social Rights marked an important move towards a more ‘social Europe’. But, as experiences with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights underscore, agreement on a text is merely a first step. Even in its eighth year as the EU's binding bill of rights, the Charter's potential was not fully exploited, highlighting the need to more actively promote its use.
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.
The European Commission held the second assembly of the AI Alliance on 9 October. It featured EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, representatives of the German Presidency of the European Council, as well as other high-level participants.
FRA presented main findings from its ‘Facial recognition technology paper during an EFUS webinar.
FRA joined a panel discussion on 14 September on the collection and sharing of information and new technologies in counter-terrorism.
FRA Director Michael O'Flaherty gave a keynote speech in Salzburg on 28 August on fundamental rights during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Living with COVID-19 continues to constrain our daily lives, as a new Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report shows. Moving forward, governments need to ensure existing fundamental rights challenges do not worsen and vulnerable members of society do not suffer disproportionately.
FRA took part in a virtual expert seminar on 23 July on the role of data protection authorities in the context of COVID-19 exit strategies and contact tracing apps.
Most Europeans are worried about their data and bank details being misused by criminals and fraudsters. Two in five Europeans have been harassed face-to-face and every fifth is very worried of experiencing a terrorist attack. These findings come from the Fundamental Rights Survey, carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in the European Union, North Macedonia and the United Kingdom in 2019. The results feed into the European Commission’s Security Union Strategy.
As EU countries continue rolling out new coronavirus contact-tracing apps, the data protection and privacy risks remain high on the agenda. Amid these developments, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) renew their cooperation agreement today to further strengthen data protection across the EU. Both FRA and EDPS argue that respect for fundamental rights, including privacy and data protection, has to be centre stage to make tracing apps, or any other technology, a success.
As governments discuss using technology to stop the spread of COVID-19, many Europeans are unwilling to share data about themselves with public and private bodies. These findings emerged from a EU Agency’s Fundamental Rights survey, carried out before the pandemic.
Growing intolerance and attacks on people’s fundamental rights continue to erode the considerable progress achieved over the years, finds FRA’s Fundamental Rights Report 2020. As Europe begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic we see a worsening of existing inequalities and threats to societal cohesion.
The 2018 edition of the Handbook on European data protection law is now also available online in Croatian.
On 26 May, FRA presented key fundamental rights considerations emerging from the second edition of its COVID-19 Bulletin during a webinar on privacy and using technology to control the pandemic.
Many governments are looking to technology to help monitor and track the spread of COVID-19, as a new Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report shows. Governments’ using technology to protect public health and overcome the pandemic need to respect everyone’s fundamental rights.
FRA took part in an online workshop on addressing data governance and privacy challenges in the fight against COVID-19.
Government measures to combat COVID-19 have profound implications for everybody’s fundamental rights, including the right to life and to health, as mapped by a new Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) report. Government responses to stop the virus particularly affect the rights of already vulnerable or at-risk people, such as the elderly, children, people with disabilities, Roma or refugees. Respecting human rights and protecting public health is in everyone’s best interest – they have to go hand-in-hand.
The pace of change is relentless. Technological advances continue to have an ever-greater impact on our daily lives. European Data Protection Day on 28 January is a chance to remember the growing need for robust personal data safeguards to ensure we all benefit from greater digitalisation.
This year FRA looks forward to a new decade for fundamental human rights across Europe, as the new European Parliament and Commission hit the ground running with a raft of new strategies promoting and protecting rights.
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.
From 22 to 24 January, the annual Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference takes place in Brussels.
FRA will discuss and present its work on artificial intelligence during a conference in Zagreb on 16 January.
FRA will present findings on facial recognition technology from its recent paper on fundamental rights considerations in the context of law enforcement.
The next Internet Governance Forum (IGF) takes place in Berlin from 25 to 29 November.
FRA will take part in the plenary meeting of the Council of Europe’s Convention 108 Committee.
FRA will take part in the first meeting of European Network of Equality Bodies’ Working Group on Research and Data Collection.
FRA will take part in the first meeting of the Council of Europe Ad-hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI).
FRA will take part in a stakeholder dialogue on encryption in criminal investigations.
The FRA Director will join this year’s Web Summit where some 70,000 people are expected to attend.
On 23 October in Berlin, the FRA Director, Michael O’Flaherty, will participate in the closing ceremony of the Data Ethics Commission.