Democratic Societies in the Digital Age 1: Mass Surveillance and Facial Recognition

EDPS trainees

Do All Roads Lead to Datocracy?

Our generation sees the development and deployment of disruptive technologies at a high rate in contexts affecting both everyday life on an individual level and the functioning of democracies. The European Union takes pride in advocating for democratic values and fundamental rights, among which we find digital rights. Yet, upholding these is a constant struggle and therefore individual and societal data protection concerns are now more tangible than ever.

To tackle some of these challenges that western democracies are facing right now, the trainees from the European Data Protection Supervisor and European Data Protection Board have prepared a 3-episode podcast series titled: Democratic Societies in the Digital Age.

In it, speakers from various professional backgrounds and nationalities will bring us their thoughts and insights in such topics as: mass surveillance and facial recognition technologies, online manipulation and dark patterns, and emerging technologies and future challenges.

On this first episode, with the help of Ella Jakubowska, Policy and Campaigns Officer at the European Digital Rights (EDRi), we will go deep on the concept of mass surveillance.  Current issues like the recently approved Global Security Law in France or the use of contact tracing on Covid-19 related apps, along more conceptual debates such as the difference between public and private surveillance and the idea of "function creep" are discussed during this 30-minute conversation.

This podcast is hosted by Simeon De Brouwer, Trainee of the EDPS's Policy & Consultation Unit

Opening remarks by Wojciech Wiewiórowski, European Data Protection Supervisor.


Ella Jakubowska

Ella works as a Policy and Campaigns Officer at European Digital Rights (EDRi). She focuses on issues of facial recognition and other biometric technologies, and how they can lead to mass surveillance and human rights breaches. She is also involved in work across artificial intelligence and anti-discrimination. Before joining EDRi, Ella worked for an engineering and technology company.

"I might not even know that I am being watched and surveilled, I might not know who is taking that data, what they are doing with it, whether it is happening or not. And even just knowing that this thing might be happening, casts a shadow over your ability to engage democratically and engage in public, which is really, really harmful for all of society."