It may come as a surprise to some of you, given how fresh-faced and youthful I appear, but it has been some time now since I was at school! Indeed, there was a time when life was a lot less digital, and when the GDPR was just a distant dream. How times have changed!
Building a better understanding of the EU and of data protection issues among citizens starts with young people. I am therefore delighted that this year, for the first time, the EDPS participated in the EU’s Back to School initiative.
Between March and May, five EDPS staff members went back to their hometowns around the EU to visit their old schools and tell students all about their work and experiences in the EU institutions. The Back to School initiative is a great way to give students an insight into how our EU institutions work and to get them thinking about the ways in which the EU affects their lives.
Understandably, a topic on many students’ minds was what Europe can offer to young people: EU programmes, careers and internships at EU institutions, and more. Of course, it was also a great chance to introduce them to the importance of data protection issues and the role of the EDPS in all of this!
The visits took place during the build up to the EU elections, with some of the students able to vote this year for the very first time.
Reinforcing confidence in our democratic systems means engaging people of all ages – and making sure that they have faith that elections are free, fair and transparent. It is for exactly this reason that the EDPS is taking a lead in discussions to combat online manipulation of elections, and has closely monitored the elections throughout to respond to any potential issues relating to data protection. We owe it to young people – like the students who are just joining this great democratic exercise – to guarantee and defend our civic values, as part of our fundamental rights.
I am glad to say that these class visits were enriching for both EDPS staff and for pupils, giving students food for thought, but also confidence and enthusiasm for their future beyond school. I look forward to seeing this this programme grow in the future, providing yet another way for us to better communicate with the wider community and the youth of today.