The EDPS Ethics Advisory Group has published a report, “Towards a digital ethics“. Giovanni Buttarelli, the European Data Protection Supervisor, writes in his foreword:
Today, ethics and data protection are intertwined like never before and I observe an ever closer convergence between the two. Many issues related to ethics involve personal data; data protection authorities now face ethical questions that legal analysis alone cannot address.
Ethics and the law each have an important role in our societies. Convergence allows us to put the human being, their experience and dignity at the centre of our deliberations.
The Dutch member of the Ethics Advisory Group is Jeroen van den Hoven, University Professor and Professor of Ethics and Technology at Delft University of Technology.
In the final chapter concepts and arguments are proposed to support and advance data protection as a project of European values:
This task can, by way of conclusion, be condensed into five significant ‘directions’ of thought and innovation.
1. The dignity of the person remains inviolable in the digital age
Life in the digital age is close to a confrontation with the basic principle of personhood: dignity. Digital experience reshapes our understanding of personal identity, human experience and social interactions. Digital life will need to be compatible with the inviolable nature of human dignity.
2. Personhood and personal data are inseparable from one another
Personhood—understanding oneself as a person endowed with moral qualities, rights and responsibilities—is inseparable from the information produced by, and pertaining to that person.
3. Digital technologies risk weakening the foundation of democratic governance
The freedom of choice of each person is a fundamental principle of democratic self-governance. Automated, big data-based interaction with political decision-making may be incompatible with democratic processes.
4. Digitised data processing risks fostering new forms of discrimination Profiling is part of everyday cognition and judgment.
Digitally generated profiles based on very large quantities of data are powerful and increasingly unaccountable.
5. Data commoditisation risks shifting value from persons to personal data
The market value of personal data is not intrinsic but stems from its relationship to the person or persons who give rise to it. Ethical tensions can arise where human value and market value intersect.