910 Jan 12:30
- 16:00
Digitalisation, Ethics and EU Fundamental Rights

first Jean Monnet NOVA-EU workshop



Within the framework of the Jean Monnet NOVA-EU project, the Maastricht Centre for European Law, in collaboration

with the Maastricht European Centre on Privacy and Cybersecurity (ECPC), is launching a call for papers for the first

Jean Monnet workshop on Digitalisation, Ethics and EU Fundamental Rights. The NOVA-EU project is aimed at

stimulating a discussion regarding key challenges that heavily impact the European Union’s governance structure,

regulatory framework, identity and, most importantly, its future.

1. Introduction and scope of the workshop

The debate on the impact of digitalization on EU fundamental rights and the development of ethical principles is gradually gaining attention in the EU policy fora, within EU expert groups and in the academic discussion in Europe. The EU data protection package in 2018 and the overhaul of the EU e-Privacy regime raise numerous questions as to how digitalization can impact EU fundamental rights to privacy and data protection.

However, EU fundamental rights and ethical challenges related to digitalization go way beyond these two fundamental rights. Notably, algorithmic decision-making in highly sensitive matters such as tax or credit scoring can result in discrimination prohibited under Article 21 Charter; this also raises the question of which ethical standards should be developed for such decisions. Freedom of expression (Article 11 Charter) is endangered through opaque personalization algorithms used to organize newsfeeds online, and its relation to competing fundamental rights in the digital environment, such as the protection of intellectual property (Article 17 Charter), remains unclear. Its enforcement is further affected by the increasingly fragmented (national and EU) regimes involving the participation of Internet Service Providers and users themselves. The emergence of these new regimes calls into question the ensuring of fair trial principles (Article 47 Charter) in the broader context of combatting illegal online content. Moreover, freedom of the upcoming European elections (Article 39 Charter) could be put into question if digitalization tools such as micro-targeting of voters are misused in the electoral campaign. Finally, in the EU policy documents, such as guidelines and various codes of conduct, the use of ethical principles rather than reliance on fundamental rights is often a preferred option. The workshop seeks to discuss the implications of such a policy approach.

In the context of digitalization, new and emerging technologies - such as IoT, blockchain and smart cities, AI, Big Data, etc. - pose challenges and threats in relation to the existing EU fundamental rights framework. On the one hand, these technologies put pressure on the fundamental rights framework. On the other hand, the application of these new technologies can also help empower citizens and aid in strengthening and reinvigorating fundamental rights in practice. Hence, the development of digital tools may not only have a negative impact on EU fundamental rights and ethical principles but can also lead to the creation of tools to protect those rights and principles.