Let’s get ethical

Giovanni Buttarelli

On 24-25 October this year, Brussels will be the venue for a unique international gathering. The atmosphere may perhaps be more cordial than the summit hosted by Europe’s capital earlier this week, with certainly much less disruption to traffic.

The EDPS has the honour of hosting this year’s edition of the International Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners Conference, a global community of 250 regulators ... and counting! Registration is now open for the public session. The theme is Debating Ethics: Dignity and Respect in Data Driven Life, and it will mark the culmination of the conversation we triggered three years ago on the urgent need to talk about the impact of digital technologies on our lives, and the ethics which needs to govern the design and application of these technologies as we move ever deeper into an era of AI, ubiquitous sensors, biometric-enabled surveillance and blockchain and quantum computing.

In the provisional programme we published today, we are bringing together a stellar line-up of experts, campaigners and thinkers from every continent, plus philosophers and tech pioneers including the inventor of the World Wide Web himself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who has kindly agreed to contribute to the discussion.  Other keynotes will also be delivered by the former Chief Justice of India, the President of the European Court of Human Rights, the President of the European Parliament, the European Commissioners for Competition, the Digital Society and Justice, and the vice-President of the American Philosophical Association. A full list of our excellent speakers is here.

The programme begins with an overview of how technology is evolving before diving into pure ethics, how it has taken shape around the world, and how it is applied in different fields. The debate will then move onto exploring what technology is doing to us as humans, to our minds, relationships and interactions, to society and the economy, and to the power and reach of the state. 

The discussion will take place in the hemicycle of the European Parliament, which has the advantage of giving each participants her or his own microphone and live interpretation into English, French and Spanish. We will have an exciting, varied and interactive format. It will not be your typical data protection conference.  Our co-hosts for this year’s Conference are the Commission for Personal Data Protection of Bulgaria, which is organising parallel events in Sofia during the same week.

The conversation is already underway, and we invite you to take part in the consultation we are running on the big themes.  The conference is funded exclusively by participant registration fees and from our own budget as an EU public body. I invite you to get involved and register soon.

In the meantime, let me wish you a relaxing summer.