Author: damian

Frederik comments in media on mass surveillance

The Court of Justice of the European Union decided an important case on 21 December 2016. In short, the Court prohibits mass metadata surveillance. The Court says that EU member states are not allowed to impose an obligation on telecommunications companies to store metadata of all telecom-users.

The Court says that mass metadata surveillance, even if it may help to catch criminals or terrorists, violates people’s privacy and data protection rights. The Court adds that metadata are just as sensitive as the content of communications. Metadata show, for instance, who you call and when. The Court says that such metadata are “no less sensitive, having regard to the right to privacy, than the actual content of communications.”

Frederik commented on the case for Dutch media:

The full judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union is here: 

For an analysis of metadata surveillance and human rights, see:

Frederik J. Zuiderveen Borgesius and Axel Arnbak, New Data Security Requirements and the Proceduralization of Mass Surveillance Law after the European Data Retention Case, Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-41.

Frederik speaks at Privacy Platform meeting

On 9 November Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius participates in the Privacy Platform in Brussels (‘Automated profiling after the GDPR, more regulation needed?’), organized by Sophie in ‘t Veld. The event will address the topic of the potential risks of automated profiling, on whether the provisions on profiling in the General Data Protection Regulation will suffice, and on what can be expected of the revision of the ePrivacy Directive.

Chair: Ms Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP

  • Frederik Borgesius: Researcher at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam
  • Jeremy Rollison: Director EU Government Affairs at Microsoft
  • Sachiko Scheuing: Co-chair of FEDMA, Federation European Direct Advertisement Associations
  • Tal Zarsky: Professor at the University of Haifa

    More info:

Media attention for Filter Bubbles

This weekend, there was a lot of media attention on Filter Bubbles. On Friday, quality newspaper Trouw published a two-page story based on interviews with Judith, Damian, and Frederik. The piece reflected some outcomes of our research project, mainly that filter bubbles – at least in the Netherlands, at this point in time – are less of a problem than often assumed.

On Saturday, Damian was interviewed on Radio 1 (Argos) about the same topic, as well as about political microtargeting. You can listen to the fragment here.

Coincidentally, and not related to our project, also quality newspaper de Volkskrant published a large story on Filter Bubbles related to music. It discussed the relationship between the usage of Spotify and music taste, and also hinted at the need for diversity in a music recommendation algorithm, to prevent it from becoming ‘boring’.

Media and Talks

  • Frederik is quoted, in Dutch, in this article on a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the Breyer case. The Court decided, in short, that and IP address is typically personal data. If information is regarded as personal data, European data privacy law applies. If data privacy law applies, companies must ensure, for instance, adequate data security. See in detail on the scope of the legal personal data definition: Frederik’s paper ‘Singling Out People Without Knowing Their Names – Behavioural Targeting, Pseudonymous Data, and the New Data Protection Regulation’,
  • On 25 October, Frederik speaks at the ‘Big Data debate’, organised by the Dutch Association of Insurers. Frederik will discuss the risks of unfair of even illegal discrimination that result from big data. More info here.

Big Brother Awards

On Thursday 6 October, Frederik speaks in a panel on Facebook, during the Big Brother Awards Belgium.

Joe McNamee (executive director of EDRi European Digital Rights) moderates the panel. Speakers are: Stephen Deadman (Facebook), Matthias Matthiesen (IAB Interactive Advertising Bureau), Brendan Van Alsenoy (Data Protection Authority Belgium), Estelle Massé (AccessNow), and Frederik.

See for more information:

In the media: Privacy Shield

Frederik was interviewed by Deutschlandfunk about the Privacy Shield. The Privacy Shield is an agreement between the EU and the US that should enable companies to export personal data of Europeans to the US. The old Safe Harbor agreement was declared invalid by the Court of Justice of the European Union. The Court did not believe that European personal data were safe in the US, especially in the light of the Snowden revelations about data collection by the US intelligence services.


We organized an interdiciplinary panel at the ICA, the largest communication science conference, which was held in Fukuoka, Japan, in July. The panel focused on online behavioral advertising. From the panel description:

Online Behavioral Advertising, also referred to as behavioral targeting or online profiling, involves monitoring people’s online behavior, and using the collected information to show people individually targeted advertisements. This marketing technique involves tracking people’s online behavior, for instance with cookies, and uses this collected information to show people individually targeted advertisements. The use of OBA is rising. One website visit often leads to receiving tracking cookies of dozens of companies.

However, many people feel that OBA threatens privacy and fairness. Therefore, the development of using personal data to target advertising has received a lot of attention of regulators, lawmakers, consumer protection organizations, and scholars. Often, the debate revolves around privacy issues and transparency.

This panel aims to contribute to this debate, by bringing together experts in the field of OBA from all over the world (US, Europe and Japan), from different disciplines and fields (Law, Communication Science, and User Experience Research at Facebook). By providing views from different parties, disciplines, and regions, the panel stimulates a discussion about fairness and privacy in the context of OBA, and the implications for law and policy.

Speakers included: Sanne Kruikemeier, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, Takahiro Nonaka, Privacy lawyer, Japan, Joeri Troost, Communication Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, dr. Jennifer Romano Bergstrom, User Experience Researcher at Facebook dr. Christian Sandvig, Communication Science, University of Michigan and dr. Young Mie Kim, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison & Microsoft Visiting Professor, Princeton University.

Sanne giving a presentation at the ICA

Sanne Kruikemeier presenting a paper by Sophie Boerman, herself, and Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius at our ICA panel

On the new Facebook algorithm

This week, Facebook announced a change in its news feed algorithm, which comes down to showing more content from friends and family, and less news from news organizations. Some have made a connection to the echo chamber or filter bubble thesis, fearing that news exposure would become too personalized and not diverse enough (read this article in WIRED magazine). In the context of this debate, Damian has been interviewed by VICE (link to the article).