EU Data Supervisor to Create Digital Ethics Board

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By Stephen Gardner

Sept. 11 — The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Sept. 11 said he would set up an ethics board to promote the maintenance of “dignity” as an objective of data protection.

The EDPS, Giovanni Buttarelli, aims to establish the board by the end of the year, Buttarelli's spokesman Olivier Rossignol told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 11.

According to the EDPS opinion on ethics in data protection, the ethics board would “help define a new digital ethics,” which would help “realise better the benefits of technology for society and the economy in ways which reinforce the rights and freedoms of individuals.”

In a statement issued alongside the opinion, Buttarelli said that responsibility for the “future technological environment” would be shared between “legislators, corporations, IT developers and individuals,” and its sustainability could be put at risk by an “imbalance of power,” such as the “continued, massive and indiscriminate collection of personal information by governments and businesses.”

The EDPS opinion said that data controllers should move away from a “tendency of secrecy and opacity of business practices while demanding ever more transparency of customers.”

Respect for Data Subjects

In particular, data controllers should be accountable for the dignity of data subjects by adopting codes and policies that “demonstrate a respect for the persons whose personal data they use—just because an organisation can piece together a customer's life from their data trail does not mean it always should,” the EDPS statement said.

There should be “a new assessment of whether the potential benefits of the new technologies really depend on the collection and analysis of the personally-identifiable information of billions of individuals,” the EDPS opinion said.

The opinion added that the ethics board would be composed of a “select group of distinguished persons from the fields of ethics and philosophy, sociology, psychology, technology and economics.”

The EDPS previewed the establishment of an ethics board in a March strategy document.

The EDPS is the data protection supervisor for the European Union's institutions, but Buttarelli has said that he wants to broaden the role and become an international data protection “ambassador”.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katie W. Johnson at

Opinion 4/2015, “Towards a New Digital Ethics,” is available at