On Thursday, Nov. 1, William & Mary Visiting Professor Javier Guillén delivered a lunch hour lecture on the topic of “Data Protection as a Human Right: Recent Developments in the EU and the US,” hosted by the Center for Comparative Legal Studies and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding.
The lecture began with an overview of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented by the European Union (EU) earlier this year, which places strict requirements of internet services operating within the EU to protect the personal data of EU residents.
The GDPR was developed as part of the EU’s commitment to making the privacy of personal data as a fundamental human right. “Data protection serves the purpose of protecting the privacy and the dignity of every human being,” Guillén said.
Guillén then examined some of the first cases to be brought against internet services under the GDPR, including the first case brought this spring by privacy activist Max Schrems against Facebook and Google. He compared that case to the 2014 case Google Spain v. AEPD and Mario Costeja González, in which a Spanish citizen sought to have information about his past removed from the search engine. Guillén explored how the legal issues from the case influenced the development of the GDPR, including the necessity of establishing EU jurisdiction over international tech companies such as Google.
“We access the internet because we need information,” Guillén observed, as he grilled lecture attendees on how they would weigh the relative importance of access to information and freedom from invasion of privacy. He discussed how the “right to be forgotten” protects people from the burden of a public data history stretching back years into their past.
Following the talk, Guillén responded to questions from students and faculty members in the audience. When asked whether GDPR was likely to cause international tech companies to reconsider their services within the EU, he responded that access to European markets would provide incentive for companies in America and throughout the world to adapt their services to the new regulations. He also responded briefly to a question about Catalonian secession, another topic in which he has extensive expertise, and on which he lectured during a visit to William and Mary last year.
Professor Guillén is Professor of Administrative Law at La Universidad Rey Juan Carolos in Madrid. He is a short term Visiting Professor this semester at William & Mary.
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