Digital privacy in a data-driven world


Data has become a key asset for the economy and our societies. Data can be created by people, generated by machines or may result from the interaction between the two. Examples include sensors gathering climate information, satellite imagery, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and GPS signals. Due to the fact that data collected may relate to individuals who can be identified or profiled, concerns have been raised about our privacy in a data-driven world. This session presented the latest trends in digital data privacy, the upcoming privacy challenges which our Big Data era may pose and the EU's latest privacy related policy initiatives.

Moderator: Despina Spanou, Director for Digital Society, Trust and Cybersecurity, DG CONNECT, European Commission

Despina Spanou is leading since 2017 the European Commission team responsible for the EU's policies and research activities in cybersecurity, digital privacy, eHealth, smart mobility, smart cities and egovernment. She is a member of the management board of the EU Agency for Cybersecurity, ENISA and the Steering board of CERT EU.

Previously she was Director for Consumer Affairs at the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers. Mrs. Spanou has also served as Principal Adviser in the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers and Deputy Head of Cabinet for the European Commissioners for Health and Consumers, Mr. Kyprianou, and, Mrs. Vassiliou. 

Despina Spanou started her career at the European Commission at the Directorate General for Competition in 2003. Before joining the European Commission she was practising law for a US law firm. She is a qualified lawyer and holds a Ph.D. in European law from the University of Cambridge.

Keynote speech: Lora Borissova, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Gabriel


  • Athena Bourka, NIS Expert - Data Protection Officer, ENISA

Title of the presentation: Privacy by design in big data

Athena Bourka is a Network and Information Security Expert in the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA). She is also the ENISA’s Data Protection Officer. Before joining ENISA, Athena had been working for over 10 years as a privacy and security expert in the Hellenic Data Protection Authority and the European Data Protection Supervisor (seconded national expert). Athena has also worked in healthcare data security and environmental information systems. She has studied electrical and computer engineering and holds a PhD on information security.

  • Ljubica Pendaroska, Ethics Expert & Data Protection Officer, Horizon2020 RePAST project

Title of the presentation: Ethics instead of simple compliance to make the difference: Privacy as a top digital priority of today

Ms Pendaroska has extensive experience in the area of Data protection and Privacy, highlighted by the following positions: Data Protection & Privacy expert at UNICEF, Europe and Central Asia; Chairperson and Ethical/Data protection expert Horizon2020 “IECEU”; Key Ethics and Data Protection Expert in EU/NATO/OECD projects: “Data Protection and the Media”; “KOSNORTH project”; “Sustainable system for continuous primary and secondary education for personal data protection”; “Expert Opinion in Data protection for OECD “Competitiveness in South East Europe” Digital Society dimension”; Researcher “Cyber Security Resilience in SEE”; “Countering disinformation in Central and SEE” etc.

  • Farzaneh Far, Ali, PhD, Imperial College London

Title of the presentation: The limits of anonymization and the future of privacy

Ali used to work as Particle Physicist at CMS at CERN. Currently a PhD student at Imperial College London, his research focuses on quantifying the impact of algorithmic decision making on society. He empirically studies the effect of the personalisation tools used to leverage such behavioural data sets on society. A second area of interest is the study of the limits of privacy in large datasets.