Notes from the IAPP Europe Managing Director, 22 Nov. 2019

Greetings from Brussels!

What a privacy week here at the IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress! Friday is eerily tranquil as the European and international privacy communities have all packed up, checked out and are making their way home.

It has been a tremendous Congress. I’ve been truly warmed by the feedback from members, delegates and speakers alike, and passing comments of “see you next year� are well received. I do, however, want to echo what our IAPP Board of Directors Chairwoman Kalinda Raina, CIPP/US, reiterated on the plenary stage: “Please make sure you register well ahead of time for next year’s Congress.� It was with a heavy heart that we had to turn down more than 300 people having sold out some time ago.

Day one started strong with a trilogy of some of Europe’s most influential regulators. Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon and CNIL President Marie-Laure Denis were joined by German Federal Commissioner Ulrich Kelber to share their insights on the state of play of the General Data Protection Regulation 18 months on. Significantly, DPAs and the European Data Protection Board will continue to ensure that appropriate guidance is in place. Dixon went on to reiterate that in some respects, there is still the need to clarify the fundamental principles of the GDPR.

Interestingly, Denis said that competition and data protection law are different, as the former deals with market forces, whereas the latter is about the fundamental rights of individuals. While there is interplay, they must be viewed with this in mind.

Alessandro Acquisti, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, shared his perspective on the economics of privacy and how the cost of it impacts business in this digital age. He seemed to question the use of “consent management� and individualized tracking by companies. As research suggests, it is only 4% more effective in terms of revenue generation than if you were to serve up non-targeted (anonymized data) advertising — controversial, but perhaps a legitimate pause for thought there. 

We also launched the inaugural IAPP Giovanni Buttarelli Memorial Lecture and were honored to be joined by Gianluca, Eleonora and Serena Buttarelli. Close friend, ally and colleague Christian D’Cunha gave a heartfelt tribute to the late Giovanni. He also presented Giovanni’s privacy manifesto, documenting his privacy vision for 2030.

The inaugural speaker was none other than the incoming European Commission Executive Vice President and Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. Possibly the world’s most influential regulator of technology companies, with an EU mandate of ensuring that consumers are properly served while the world’s economy becomes increasingly digital, Vestager remarked on Giovanni’s mantra that privacy permeates all facets of society. She added that “to serve people, you have to fight multiple regulatory silos.� Vestager commented that while we may have new technologies, we do not have new values, and that it is only by enforcing human rights that they become a reality.

After three days of cutting content, there’s just too much to mention here. My thanks to all who attended, and I hope you left Brussels with a new energy and continued inspiration to the cause of privacy. We look forward to seeing you again soon at an IAPP event near you.

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