Right Engineering?

The notion of ‘privacy by design’, the idea of designing privacy safeguards into ICT systems, is increasingly picked up in regulatory agendas and entering legislation, like the new European General Data Protection Regulation. The building of smart, highly interconnected ICT infrastructures (IoT, smart cities, etc.) poses specific challenges to such approaches in scaling up efforts beyond first generation solutions focused on individual-centered technologies (‘PETs’) and second generation solutions focusing on single organizations (‘privacy by design’). Standardization exercises emerge as crucial co-regulatory sites where contributions and expectations of different actors, disciplines and sectors become coordinated and aligned. Privacy here has to be ‘transversally’ built into the different layers of smart ICT infrastructures. Through the notion of ‘privacy by network’, we critically study how the concept of privacy works as a stabilizing promise for networking efforts around responsible smart innovation, but simultaneously catalyzes the uprooting of the notion of privacy from legal settings where it has been traditionally articulated according to established checks and procedures. We study the broader techno-epistemic network emerging around this idea of privacy design, both historically and empirically. We then present the findings of an ‘extended peer consultation’ with representatives of this network and with representatives from communities outside its boundaries, including regulators, entrepreneurs, software engineers, interaction designers, civil rights associations, ‘savvy’ users, ethical hackers and legal practitioners. This allows a sketch of the tensions and limits to these efforts and to identify opportunities for further learning.

Niels van Dijk is a Professor at the Free University Brussels (VUB), member of the interdisciplinary Research Group on Law, Science, Technology & Society (LSTS) and director of the Brussels Laboratory for Privacy and Data Protection Impact Assessments (d.pia.lab).  As a legal philosopher he works at the intersection of legal philosophy,  science and technology studies (STS), and governance of digital  innovation, where he is interested in the role and nature of law in a  changing technological world.

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