Where are the missing data subjects? Democratising data protection through participation


  • Jonas Breuer


  • Athena Christofi
  • Max Von Grafenstein
  • Roos Groothuizen
  • Mihalis Kritikos

Organisation: SPECTRE Project

Room: Online 3

Timing: 16:00 - 17:15 on 28 January 2021

EU data protection law wants to empower individuals through consent and data subject rights. Yet, in practice, crucial decisions like the assessment of risks and the balancing of interests at stake, features of GDPR's risk-based approach, are fully entrusted to controllers. Individuals, as data subjects and citizens of an increasingly datafied society, have little influence on desirability, necessity, proportionality and design of a processing operation. In an era where ubiquitous computing - by private and public data controllers - brings out profound changes in the enjoyment of fundamental rights, but also to the economy and society, this panel discusses public participation in DPIAs as a tool for ex-ante control, legitimisation and democratisation of data protection. In other risk-based frameworks (e.g. Technology Assessments), opening up to the public is agreed to be highly desirable, and in some instances even clearly legislated.

• Is there an obligation to engage individuals in DPIAs under the GDPR?
• Stakeholder participation in DPIAs can contribute to enforcing the right to data protection but why is no one doing it?
• Who to engage and how?
• Technocracy vs societal input and legitimization: irreconcilable values?


Jonas Breuer

imec-SMIT / VUB (BE)

I’m passionate about the urban and the human, and interested in the technology that is being interwoven with our lives. My work at a leading Flemish research hub revolves around innovative ways to include all stakeholders in the making urban space ‘smart’, and the central role of data (from open to personal to big). For my PhD, I research the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in smart cities, fostering knowledge and supporting data protection impact assessments through inclusive and participatory methods. Inspired by Lefebvre’s ‘Right to the City’, I am investigating how data protection rights can play a role in making urban space not only technologically enhanced but especially citizen-centric.


Athena Christofi

SPECTRE project, KU Leuven (CiTiP) (BE)

Athena Christofi is a doctoral researcher at KU Leuven (CiTiP). She conducts her research within the SPECTRE project (funded by Research Foundation - Flanders), which investigates data protection challenges in smart cities and how they could be addressed effectively. Potential solutions explored include the development of a collaborative smart city DPIA method, and the leverage of public procurement rules to enhance data protection in the smart city context where public-private-partnerships are prevalent. Athena holds an LLM in European Law from the College of Europe. Before joining CiTiP she worked as an academic assistant at the College of Europe, as a trainee at the Legal Service of the European Commission and as a legal advisor at a consulting firm.

Max Von Grafenstein

Einstein Center Digital Future, University of the Arts (DE)

Prof. Dr. Maximilian von Grafenstein LL.M. is Professor of Digital Self-Determination at the Einstein Center Digital Future in Berlin (allocated at the University of the Arts). He is also co-head of the research program “Data, Actors, Infrastructures: Governance of Data-Driven Innovation and Cybersecurity” at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). Max’ research focuses on the regulation of data-driven innovation focusing on “Data Protection and Security by Design”. Since September 2019, he is Vice President of the Academic Board of the European Association of Data Protection Professionals (EADPP).

Roos Groothuizen

Independent Media Artist and Designer (NL)

Roos Groothuizen is a media artist with a passion for digital rights. As part of art collective Telemagic and as a solo-artist, she researchers and contextualises our human relationship with invisible technology. By making these themes tangible, she forces spectators to take part in interactive, game-like experiences that are always inhibited by the consequences of information filters and algorithms.

Mihalis Kritikos

STOA/EPRS - European Parliament (EU)

Dr Mihalis Kritikos is a Policy Analyst at the European Parliament working as a legal/ethics advisor on Science and Technology issues (STOA/EPRS) and Fellow of the European Centre of Excellence on the Regulation of Robotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna. He has worked as a Research Programme Manager for the Ethics Review Service of the European Commission, as a Senior Associate in the EU Regulatory and Environment Affairs Department of White and Case (Brussels office), as a Lecturer at several UK Universities and as a Lecturer/Project Leader at the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA).