VIRT-EU Panel at CPDP 2019

by Inda Memic
On the 30th of January, the 12th CPDP international conference on Data Protection and Democracy is hosting a VIRT-EU panel entitled: Values and Ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe. The panel is framed around the values embedded in data-intensive products and how these values shape how information is managed and classify individuals and groups. Since data protection is an integral part of citizenship, digital democracy cannot exist with data-enabled stigma and behavioral control. The panel intends therefore to address how the social consequences should be considered engaging with products and services at the point of design to reach beyond privacy laws and embed ethical considerations that encourage moral values and capabilities in practice without undermining necessary regulations.

  1. How can data protection and GDPR properly address the societal consequences of data use?
  2. How do developers of IoT projects and services enact practices with ethical significance and consequence?
  3. How can considerations of ethics be translated into practical policy and design recommendations?
  4. How can design for speculation encourage the consideration and imagination of broader socio / economic / political / ecological implications of the new technology we make?


Eleni Kosta — Full Professor of Technology Law and Human Rights at the Tilburg Institute for Law


Alessandro Mantelero — Associate Professor of Private Law at the Polytechnic University of Turin


Irina Shklovski — Associate Professor in Technologies in Practice and Interaction Design at the IT University of Copenhagen
Alison Powell — Assistant Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Christian D’Cunha — European Data Protection Supervisor
Javier Ruiz Diaz — Policy Director at Open Rights Group Open Rights Group
Annelie Berner — Data artist and designer, Researcher at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design

Abstracts and biographies

Alison Powell & Irina Shklovski

Connected systems and the Internet of Things can be creepy, collecting data and potentially sharing it in ways that violate individual or collective privacy. Proposals to address IoT ethics often focus on the systems once they have actually been built, but the VirtEU project has been focusing instead on the communities of practice who build IoT products at the small scale — and investigating how ethical practices unfold in this community. This presentation outlines some of the tensions we have found in practice between a desire to ‘do the right thing’ and the ability to put values into practice in a product-based start-up environment. We willl present the ethical framework that we have developed to address technology development contexts, based on /virtue, capability /and /care, /and describe how we have put this framework into practice through participatory research within startup communities of practice in London and in Copenhagen, using workshops, speculative prototypes, and frameworks for Privacy and Ethical and Social Impact Assessments.

This talk focuses specifically on how the related ethical concepts of virtue, capability and care have been identified in the project and how these concepts, as distinct from ethical frameworks of consequentialism that often structure legal and policy responses to ethical challenges. Drawing from fieldwork among London and Copenhagen -based IoT startups, we identify ways to connect virtue, capability and care with working practices in the connected technology field and identify how these insights can inspire more nuanced assessments of ethical impact.

Alison Powell
is Assistant Professor and Programme Director of the MSc in Media and Communication (Data & Society) ad she researches how people’s values influence the way technology is built, and how technological systems in turn change the way we work and live together.

Irina Shklovskiis an associate professor in the Technologies in Practice and Interaction Design (IxD) research groups at the IT University of Copenhagen. Her research is positioned at the intersection of human computer interaction, information sciences, sociology and communication.

Christian D’Cunha

Data protection emerged to address the power imbalance between those with the means to profit from using personal data, and those concerned by those data. The Right to Data Protection is an individual fundamental right; that is a strength but also a limitation — it cannot address wider impact of data practices on groups and society. That is why EDPS has recently called for an ‘ethical turn’ in how respect for privacy is promoted and enforced. By ethics we mean the concept of what is right and wrong that underpins particular behaviour, including the development and deployment of digital technology. Ethics needs to be interrogated and exposed, at the same time as existing laws are enforced. Ethics should be considered as supplementing not replacing the law (unless you consider that a law is by its nature unethical or harmful) — filling gaps, informing interpretations. Practical ideas for filling the ethical vacuum apparent in the design of many of the day to day services and devices we use is to bring in more diversity and

persons with background in the humanities to the biggest companies. Another idea is to make companies really accountable for the harm which their actions have resulted in — ie requiring them to surrender the revenue which they have derived from the harmful use of their services or platforms. EDPS is about to announce a programme of public teleconferences and podcasts on these issues.

Christian D’Cunha is the head of the Private Office of the European Data Protection Supervisor. He advises the EDPS and Assistant EDPS on legal and policy developments in the EU as well as providing support on strategic planning and communications. He has led the EDPS project on strengthening the links between the enforcement of privacy, competition and consumer law in the digital economy and society, including the setting up the Digital Clearinghouse to bring together regulators to discuss cross-cutting issues like big data mergers and unfair terms, pricing and discrimination online. He has been responsible for EDPS opinions on a range of issues, including digital ethics and the reform of the data protection framework.

Javier Ruiz

Javier will discuss the current landscape tools for ethical assessment of data and technology more broadly. These range from ethics canvas, frameworks and scenarios that are used to assist decision making in the design and development of systems. We will be looking at how these complement, overlap and interact with the data protection impact assessments, and assessment models that go beyond privacy, such as PESIA.

Alessandro Mantelero

My contribution to the discussion will mainly focus on the Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment (PESIA) and is coordinated with Javier’s presentation. The PESIA is an assessment framework which will proactively position self-assessment in the development process of IoT technologies. PESIA architecture follows the PIA/DPIA structure, but, unlike the PIA/DPIA, this assessment is not mainly focused on privacy issues, but is divided into three different thematic sections concerning privacy/data protection, ethical and social issues, respectively.

Javier is Policy Director at Open Rights Group. Since joining ORG, Javier has worked on Open Data, including being part of an advisory group to Ministry of Justice on transposition of EU Public Sector Information Directive. He engaged in the UK Data Sharing open policy project at the UK Cabinet Office.

Alessandro Mantelero is Associate Professor of Private Law at the Polytechnic University of Turin. He is Council of Europe Rapporteur on Artificial Intelligence and data protection and has served as an expert on data regulation for several national and international organizations.

Annelie Berner

The VIRT-EU project works to engage the European IoT community in discussions about ethics, focusing in particular on the challenges faced by designers and developers of IoT devices in practice. As developers and designers of IoT devices face systemic challenges, many realize that they have little practice or training for dealing with ethical questions that they encounter. There is a need for tools that can help integrate the practice, training and understanding of ethical decision-making and reflection into the design process.

In our research, workshops and prototyping, we have uncovered valuable and unexpected insights into the underlying needs of IoT creators in relation to ethics at this point in time. While some may expect simple checklists of ethical evaluation, instead we propose tools that lend themselves to ongoing and interventionist techniques and can take place over the course of the design process when creating connected things. Furthermore, said tools are being designed to enable and structure several steps of ethical awareness: from articulation to moral imagination to addressing value misalignments in decision-making. Through deep collaboration with our partners, we have immersed ourselves in the ethical framework of VIRTEU and used it as the foundation for our prototype-tools.

Annelie Berner is a data artist, designer and researcher at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. She is interested in how to understand, think about, and interact with our digital worlds. Specially, how we can make data experiences that are aesthetic, tangible and consider all of our senses — from sight to taste. Annelie’s work has won notable honors in the Core77 Design Awards for Built Environments and Food Design, as well has having been exhibited at the World Health Organisation, Red Bull Studios NYC and the Georgia Museum of Art.