Bookmark: "EDPS Ethics Advisory Group: Towards a digital ethics"

Sebastian Greger


An important report by the Ethics Advisory Group (EAG) of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS):

This report seeks to propose terms and concepts that contribute to a constructive debate about the future of ethics in a full-fledged digital society. It identifies and clarifies some of the ethical questions that emerge in the application of data protection regulations to the new forms of data collection and processing and to the new economy that has rapidly formed around it.

I particularly like the EAG’s approach to digital ethics:

The EAG expressly avoids an instrumental approach to ethics of a kind that would result in an ethical checklist or set of measures that, once accomplished, would essentially exhaust ethical reflection and release its practitioners from further discussion. The EAG wishes to discourage approaches to ethics governance that equate data protection with the application of do’s and don’ts.

Ethical conduct in the digital space, they point out, is all about proactive reflection about how technology changes society, where previous policy has fallen short, and what can be done to mitigate the risks emerging as technology develops.

This report proposes concepts and arguments to support and advance data protection as a project of European values. It describes the way traditional concepts of value may be rethought, re-articulated and re-purposed in order to assure the continuity of legitimate practices and anticipate an unseen future.

The report then summarizes their view on that task into five “significant ‘directions’ of thought and innovation”:

  1. The dignity of the person remains inviolable in the digital age
  2. Personhood and personal data are inseparable from one another
  3. Digital technologies risk weakening the foundation of democratic governance
  4. Digitised data processing risks fostering new forms of discrimination
  5. Data commoditisation risks shifting value from persons to personal data

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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