Democratic surveillance? The possibilities and pitfalls of involving data subjects in democratic oversight of police-use of surveillance technologies


  • Rosamunde Van Brakel


  • Arne Hintz
  • Quirine Eijkman
  • Marion Oswald
  • Koen Gorissen

Organisation: VUB Chair in Surveillance Studies

Room: Online 4

Timing: 14:15 - 15:30 on 27 January 2021

The VUB Chair in Surveillance Studies panel aims to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls of citizen participation and participatory ex ante oversight mechanisms for the implementation of surveillance technologies by police. Increasingly, and also more recently triggered by the COVID pandemic, surveillance technologies for crime control and public order policing but also as management tools are implemented and experimented with. This often happens without public debate, ex ante proportionality assessments, informed DPIAs and transparency. Often, it is claimed that the data collected by the surveillance technology is anonymised or the practice is GDPR compliant, however, human rights risks for citizens and social consequences remain as no informed proportionality assessments are conducted.

In the spirit of article 35(9) of the GDPR, which states that when conducting DPIAs “where appropriate, the controller shall seek the views of data subjects or their representatives on the intended processing” - something that is not mentioned in the law enforcement directive - this panel aims to discuss the possibility of participation by data subjects and /or their representatives in ex ante oversight mechanisms. Questions we aim to answer during this panel include:

• What are the possibilities, benefits and drawbacks of including data subjects in democratic oversight of surveillance?
• Which examples exist of civilian oversight of police use of surveillance technology?
• What is the position of standing oversight bodies on involving data subjects and/or their representatives in assessing proportionality and in conducting the DPIAs?
• What should participatory ex ante oversight of police use of surveillance look like?


Rosamunde Van Brakel

Vrije Universiteit Brussel LSTS (BE)

Dr. Rosamunde van Brakel is a research professor at the Law, Science, Technology & Society research group at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel specialised in surveillance and crime control. She is currently coordinating the VUB Research Chair in Surveillance Studies. In April 2018 she successfully defended her PhD Taming the Future? A Rhizomatic Analysis of the Unintended Consequences of Pre-emptive Surveillance of Children under supervision of Prof. Dr. Paul De Hert and Prof. Dr. Kristel Beyens. Her main research focuses on (the history of) the governance of crime control and surveillance. In addition to her research, she is a director of the annual international Conference Computers, Privacy and Data Protection and is co-founder and executive director of the LSTS-spin-off Privacy Salon.
She studied educational sciences and criminology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the University of Ottawa. Previous experiences include working as a policy assistant for the Representative of the Flemish Government in the UK and as a researcher for the Belgian Ministry of Justice. In the past at the VUB she has conducted research on freedom infringements of transport security technologies and evaluation and certification schemes for security products in the context of the EU FP7 projects SIAM and CRISP. From 2014-2015 she was seconded to work as a research fellow for the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy on the project: Big Data, Privacy and Security.


Arne Hintz

Cardiff University (UK)

Arne Hintz is Reader (Associate Professor) at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Director of its MA Digital Media and Society and Co-Director of the Data Justice Lab. His research explores the future of digital citizenship and civic participation in the age of datafication, focusing on questions of governance, surveillance, activism and democracy. He is Co-Chair of the Global Media Policy Working Group of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and co-author of Digital Citizenship in a Datafied Society (with Lina Dencik and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Polity, 2019).

Quirine Eijkman

HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (NL)

Quirine Eijkman Phd. is a researcher and socio-legal expert in the fields of human rights, extremism, local security, and access to justice. Currently, she is the Chair of the Researchgroup Access2Justice at the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and the Deputy President of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights.

Marion Oswald

Ethics Committee West-Midlands Police (UK)

Dr Marion Oswald is Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Fellow in Law at Northumbria University and an Associate Fellow of the Royal United Services Institute. She researches the interaction between law and digital technology and has a particular interest in the use of information and innovative technology by criminal justice bodies and the wider public sector. Marion is PI and Director of the AHRC-funded 'Observatory for the Monitoring of Data-Driven Approaches to Covid-19'. She chairs the West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner and West Midlands Police data ethics committee and is a member of the National Statistician's Data Ethics Advisory Committee.

Koen Gorissen

Supervisory Body for Police Information Management (BE)

Since 2015, Koen Gorissen is a member of the Belgian Supervisory Body for Police Information, which is in charge of supervising the processing of the information and data by the police services. In 2018, the Supervisory Body has also become the DPA for the police services, the AIG and the PIU. After his law studies and a postgraduate in notary public at the KULeuven, he started his professional career in 1999 as a lawyer, specialized in commercial and data protection law. From 2004 until 2015, he was a legal advisor at the Belgian DPA, with specific interest in law enforcement and technology related data protection issues.