How the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation empowers digital civic engagement


By Hollie Russon-Gilman – The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is scheduled to take effect on May 25. While companies who serve customers in the EU have to adhere, there are numerous applications for civil society, journalists, academia, philanthropy, and the private sector as well.

The GDPR represents an important step forward for envisioning a civic life where citizens are empowered not only as data producers but also data owners. Any conversation of leveraging data, technology, or innovation to enhance civic life or governance should seriously consider how such a framework could more deeply empower citizens in the United States.

Several core components of the GDPR are relevant for broader governance and civic conversations around the world. First, having a clear sense of who collects your information and what information they collect. This reflects a demand to look under the hood at how your personal information is used and what is shown to you in turn. The GDPR requires notification if a breach has occurred within 72 hours.

Understanding the implications behind algorithmic decisionmaking begins with understanding what data is being generated and how that information is being collected, used, disseminated, and re-packaged both to the user and others.

Second, having a right to be forgotten. If I want my data to be removed from a company, the GDPR provides this opportunity. One of the most exciting aspects of the GDPR is the concept of “data portability.”

Third, enhancing data protection responsibilities. The GDPR aims to foster better practices from the onset with privacy in mind.

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As communication moves almost entirely to networked online technology platforms, the governance questions surrounding data and privacy have far-reaching civic and political implications for how people interact with all aspects of their lives, from commerce and government services to their friends, families, and communities. That is why we need a discussion about data protections, empowering users with their own information, and transparency. more>

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