Global Privacy Regulators to Parse Hot Topics in Morocco

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By Stephen Gardner

Oct. 12 — Privacy officials from dozens of countries are slated to adopt resolutions on enforcement cooperation, human rights and education at the 38th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Morocco Oct. 17-20.

During closed sessions, data protection commissioners will discuss encryption and regulation of data collection and processing by robots, and could issue a declaration on these issues, John Edwards, New Zealand privacy commissioner and chair of the conference, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 12.

Edwards said that discussion of artificial intelligence and the emergence of machines that collect data and use it as the basis for decision making would help data protection authorities “know the extent to which we are ready” to protect privacy in the face of the new technologies.

The privacy commissioners' conference is also expected to officially accept the privacy offices from Armenia, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and the Philippines as full members.

The conference executive committee has already announced that Hong Kong will host the 39th International Conference in 2017. This represents a change from the conference's usual practice of announcing the host of the next event at each conference.

Edwards said the early announcement of the 2017 host was because the conference has progressively become bigger, and a decision had been taken to give more time to hosts for organizational purposes.

Robots on Agenda

The annual privacy commissioners' conference is seen as an opportunity to focus on emerging data protection issues and to promote collaboration among regulators, Edwards said.

W. James Denvil, an associate with Hogan Lovells LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 12 that the data commissioners' focus on robots and artificial intelligence made sense because such technology is “no longer science fiction; we're seeing it on the road and in the skies and in the factories.”

Privacy regulators often took the view that data collection must be minimized as a safeguard, but robots “challenge that,” because they can be “more useful” if they collect more data, Denvil said.

Edwards said discussing emerging technology is important because “developers of these technologies do not tend to have the data issues at the front of their minds.” Privacy concerns are often dealt with “after the fact,” he said.

The privacy commissioners want to use the conference to highlight that privacy needs to be designed into new technologies, Edwards said.

The 36th International Conference, which was held in Mauritius, adopted a declaration on the internet of things, which had “raised some issues I'm having to deal with in a practical sense now,” Edwards said. Robotics raises new issues, including ethical questions related to privacy, he said.

Denvil said, however, that the privacy commissioners shouldn't “over-regulate out of fear” of the risks of new technologies. Privacy regulators should “work with companies to develop practical regulations,” he said.

By Stephen Gardner

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at ; Jimmy H. Koo at

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