Olivier Sylvain is a Senior Advisor to the Chair of the US Federal Trade Commission. See the full speaker’s profile here.
From your point of view, what are the priority challenges for data protection in the years to come?
If they are to be effective, consumer data protection agencies must really understand commercial surveillance practices as they emerge. This has always been true. A couple of decades ago, we had to make sense of network-based tracking and profiling techniques that harmed consumers. That focus expanded to include location-based surveillance and data collection by networked appliances. Today, consumer data protection agencies must remain as focused as ever on these practices.
The newest challenges are significant. Today, opaque practices that are difficult or impossible for consumers to understand proliferate. Consider automated decisionmaking systems that power unlawful profiling, “dark patterns” that elicit more personal data than consumers generally know, and deceptive techniques that target vulnerable consumers. In order to stay true to our core consumer data protection responsibilities today, we must adapt existing investigatory tools, build our understanding of new developments as they emerge, and develop enforcement strategies and legal remedies that help to root these practices out.
How important is international cooperation to address these challenges and ensure data protection and privacy?
See the answer below.
Why conferences such as the Privacy Symposium are important and how can they support data protection?
Commercial surveillance practices touch all of us, around the world. We may be enforcing different laws, but we are basically all contemplating the same commercial practices and technologies.
Regulators everywhere must cooperate in (1) setting out legal norms for cross-border data flows, (2) developing enforcement strategies, and (3) sharing information about potentially harmful commercial practices and new technologies as they emerge. Our approaches to law and policy do not have to be identical; we administer and enforce different legal systems, after all. But, given our different legal systems, each consumer data protection agency brings an important comparative advantage that helps others: together, our diverse consumer laws enable us to reach, understand, and redress a variety of data protection violations.
Conferences like the Privacy Symposium are essential for this reason. The space that such forums create for collaboration and learning are invaluable.