MUSTS Colloquium with Bert-Jaap Koops on Reconceptualising Privacy Protection

Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 15:30-17:00
Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Grote Gracht 80-82, Attic


Reconceptualising privacy protection for the 21st century



A major function of the law is to protect people where they are vulnerable. Privacy should be protected, because people need a private sphere in which they can ‘be themselves’. Current legal frameworks protect private life particularly in ‘private’ places, but much less in ‘public’ places. This is because traditionally, the home was the place where most of private life, literally, took place. Place-based legal protection, however, is challenged by two major socio-technological changes. First, the home is evaporating now it no longer shelters the most intimate activities. People carry their private life around, with photos, music, books, diaries, and communications being stored on mobile devices and in the cloud. Second, in public places, we traditionally expect to be just another face in the crowd. With pervasive surveillance, location-tracking, and emerging face-recognition applications, however, anyone could be recognised anywhere. The default in public places is changing from anonymity to identifiability. Together, these trends imply that existing legal protection can no longer be based on the outdated distinction between private and public places.

In this presentation, I will discuss the challenge of determining what privacy means in our technology-pervaded society, and propose possible answers – ‘home 2.0’ and a ‘mosaic spheres theory’. The challenge and possible solutions will be discussed in the context of a topical development: the modernisation of the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure. If the new Code (envisioned to enter into force in/after 2023) is to be sustainable, how can and should digital investigation powers for police be defined and regulated, in order to ensure both effective law enforcement and adequate protection of privacy in the coming decades?



Bert-Jaap Koops is Professor of Regulation & Technology at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT). His main research fields are cybercrime, cyber-investigation, privacy, and data protection. He is also interested in topics such as DNA forensics, identity, digital constitutional rights, ‘code as law’, and regulatory implications of human enhancement, genetics, robotics, and neuroscience. Koops studied mathematics and general and comparative literature at Groningen University, and received his PhD in law at Tilburg University in 1999. With a personal postdoc (1999), VIDI (2003) and VICI (2014) grant, he is one of the few Dutch researchers who received all three stages of NWO’s personal research-grant scheme. From 2005-2010, he was a member of De Jonge Akademie, a young-researcher branch of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. In the 2016/2017 academic year, he was Distinguished Lorentz Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advances Study (NIAS).