Digital Legal Lab

the Digital Legal Lab at tilting perspectives 2021:
regulating in times of crisis

The Digital Legal Lab brings you daily reporting from the virtual TILTing conference hall, with many of our collaboration’s researchers sharing their work and ideas on the theme of “Regulating in Times of Crisis” on 19, 20 & 21 May 2021.

TILTing Perspectives is the bi-annual conference of the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT), the spearheading partner of the Digital Legal Lab research initiative. Read our day-to-day conference reports below to learn more about our collaboration’s involvement.

Day one | 19 May 2021

Session 1a | 9.00-9.30 CET
Human Rights and AI: Algorithmic decision-making and state surveillance

In the opening session of the Human Rights and Artificial Intelligence track, Ronan Fahy (University of Amsterdam) presented a paper he co-authored with Judith Möller and Rocco Bellanova on social media platforms and the digitisation of government surveillance. He gave a critical analysis of new forms of restrictions on free expression and increased surveillance and monitoring by European governments, and why this is cause for major concern in terms of fundamental rights violations.

Also in this session, Marvin van Bekkum presented a paper he wrote with Digital Legal Lab associate Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius (Radboud University Nijmegen) on the Dutch SyRI judgment. Their paper explores several important questions. How exactly was the SyRI system defined in the Dutch legal system? How did the SyRI system violate the right to privacy? How and why does the court discuss both the right to privacy (of the European Convention of Human Rights) and the General Data Protection Regulation? What are the legal implications of the SyRI judgment? And does the SyRI judgment bring any changes to the Digital Welfare State?

Session 1b | 9.00-10.30 CET
Competition and Market Regulation: Regulation and institutions beyond competition law

This opening session of the Competition and Markets Regulation track was chaired by Alex Ruiz Feases (Tilburg University), who is a post-doctoral researcher in competition law at TILT and a member of the Digital Legal Lab.

Following presentations by Alexandre de Streel and Oles Andriychuk, PhD researcher Belle Beems (Radboud University Nijmegen) closed the session with her talk on competition and data protection enforcement in times of COVID and digitalisation. She discussed a working paper that explores the extent to which the current framework for cooperation and coordination between public enforcers of competition and data protection law is capable to ensure coherent and effective enforcement. 

Session 1c | 9.00-10.30 CET
Data Governance: Social Protection and Biometrics Roundtable (part 1)

Representing the Digital Legal Lab in the opening session of the Data Governance track was PhD researcher Ana-Maria Hriscu (Tilburg University). She discussed her work on the implications of biometric ID on social protection during COVID-19 in India and Kenya, arguing that the pandemic is likely to amplify exclusionary effects — which may in turn deepen existing inequalities.

Fun fact: not only was Ana-Maria among the first presenters of this year’s TILTing conference, it was also her first time presenting at an academic conference. It went brilliantly!

Session 2 | 11.00-12.30 CET
Opening and overall keynote roundtable

Ronald Leenes (Tilburg University), head of TILT and the Digital Legal Lab, officially opened TILTing 2021 and moderated a multi-disciplinary keynote roundtable on regulation and governance in times of the COVID-19 crisis with four brilliant academics: Barbara Prainsack, Kate Harvey, Sofia Ranchordas and Tamar Sharon.

Session 3D | 13.30-15.00 CET
Open Track: Law and the pandemic

Digital Legal Lab researcher Merel Noorman (Tilburg University) chaired the Open Track session on Law and the Pandemic. In this session, Giovanni de Gregorio discussed his work on disinformation and content moderation — and the role of European digital constitutionalism — during a pandemic. Sabrina Röttger-Wirtz and Mariolina Eliantonio presented their paper on the adoption of soft law in the European Union as a response to public health emergencies. And Argyri Panezi and Natasha Chloe Krause discussed how national courts in the EU adapted to the Covid-19 crisis.

Session 4 | 15.30-16.15 CET
Keynote Competition and Market Regulation: Anu Bradford

Digital Legal Lab researcher Inge Graef (Tilburg University) chaired the keynote speech session of the Competition and Market Regulation track. The keynote speaker was law professor Anu Bradford from Columbia Law School, who gave an insightful talk about the different approaches to platform governance taken by the EU, China and the US. She argued that we are currently witnessing a battle of values underpinning the governance of the digital economy — and she explained why it matters who wins this battle of values.

Session 5b | 16.30-18.00 CET
Data Governance: Reconceiving Data Governance

Esther Keymolen and Bart van der Sloot (both Tilburg University & Digital Legal Lab) presented their work on trust-based data governance models. They jointly discussed their paper entitled “Can we trust trust-based data governance models?”. 

Just like the paper, the presentation started with a conceptual analysis of trust. Bart and Esther analyzed how central ideas such as vulnerability, developing positive expectations, and trustworthiness play out in the data-driven domain. They distinguished between three forms of trust-based governance models: (a) data stewards, custodians, curators, (b) information fiduciaries, and (c) data trusts. They discussed each model and reflected on their inherent challenges. These trust-based governance models, the researchers argued, can play an important role in making data processing actors more reliable and accountable. But they also have their own weaknesses — for some models, it is difficult to genuinely encapsulate the stakes of citizens due to conflicting interests. In order for these trust-based models to work, they need proper support from control-based regulatory strategies.

View the full program and all abstracts of the first conference day here.

Day two | 20 May 2021

Session 8c | 11.00-12.30 CET
Data Governance: Data Governance in Smart Cities

Digital Legal Lab researcher Linnet Taylor (Tilburg University) chaired this interdisciplinary session on smart cities within the Data Governance track. On the speaker lineup were Astrid Voorwinden (Radboud University Nijmegen), Shazade Jameson (Tilburg University) and Yoshiko Naiki (Nagoya University), whose different approaches and academic backgrounds made for a great discussion and a fruitful exchange of ideas.

Session 8c | 11.00-12.30 CET
Open Track: Panel ‘Digital technologies during Covid-19: A multi-disciplinary problematization of privacy’s value hegemony’

In the debate on the harms associated with COVID-related technologies, do we need to move beyond privacy? That was the central question in this buzzing panel discussion within the Open Track. Among the panelists was Digital Legal Lab researcher Joran van Apeldoorn (University of Amsterdam), who is a mathematician working as a post-doc on the societal and legal impact of digital technologies. He talked about trade-offs between security and privacy and between effectiveness and privacy in the design of technological systems — from electronic office key systems to COVID apps — and argued for a step-by-step approach that takes into account more than just privacy. Also taking part in the panel was AI professor Natali Helberger (University of Amsterdam), who raised some very interesting questions about the strategic use of privacy by governments. Can privacy be seen as the Swiss knife in the toolbox of policy-makers and politicians? Do governments hide behind privacy arguments to justify government decisions and interventions, for instance in the implementation of COVID contact tracing apps, or to refrain from sharing data when they don’t wish to do so? Privacy, she underlined, should not be prioritized by policy-makers over other fundamental rights.

Session 9b | 13.30-15.00 CET
Competition and Market Regulation: Platform Liability

The afternoon Competition and Market Regulation session on platform liability was chaired by Digital Legal Lab researcher Alex Ruiz Feases (Tilburg University).

The first speaker was our own Tjaša Petročnik (Tilburg University), who was able to combine her behind-the-scenes involvement in organizing this year’s TILTing conference with a very interesting talk on unlawful pornography and the liability of online platforms such as Pornhub. She explored which tools are available under competition law to tackle the distribution of non-consensual pornography on porntubes, sparking a great discussion with co-panelists Berdien van den Donk (University of Copenhagen) and Paul Gowder (Northwestern University).


Session 9c | 13.30-15.00 CET
Open Track: Public spaces, private concerns?

Chaired by Nadya Purtova (Tilburg University) and with Merel Noorman (Tilburg University) and Raphaël Gellert (Radboud University Nijmegen) on the speaker lineup, this afternoon session within the Open Track included three Digital Legal Lab researchers.

Merel Noorman presented a paper that takes a closer look at how governance practices take shape and are negotiated in smart city innovation projects that center on data-driven AI-based technologies. As cities struggle with complex problems related to the  pandemic, such as contact tracing and crowd control, AI technologies are proposed as quick fixes. While recognizing that AI certainly has the potential to help address some of these problems, Merel discussed some of the new challenges they bring, including ensuring the safeguarding of public interests and democratic values in agile innovation processes.

Maša Galič and Raphaël Gellert examined whether the data processed in the context of smart cities actually qualifies as personal data, thus falling within the scope of data protection law. To explore this question, they zoomed in on an example of a security-focused smart city initiative – the Stratumseind Living Lab (SLL) in the Netherlands.

Session 9d | 13.30-15.00 CET
Human Rights and AI: Panel ‘Discrimination and algorithmic decision-making in insurance’

Digital Legal Lab researcher Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius (Radboud University Nijmegen) chaired this panel on insurance, algorithmic decision-making and discrimination. The panel inspired a good and lively discussion on how to prevent discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and other grounds as insurance companies increasingly use AI for risk assessment, how discrimination by algorithmic systems can be identified by those affected, whether current laws are sufficient to protect fairness and the right to non-discrimination in the insurance area and other questions.

Session 9f | 13.30-15.00 CET
Data Governance: Data Rights and Platform Resistance

The Digital Legal Lab’s Jill Toh (University of Amsterdam) co-organized this multi-disciplinary panel on data rights and the platform economy, doubling as chair and panelist.

Together with Jef Ausloos, Alexandra Giannopoulou, Gloria Gonzalez Fuster, Astha Kapoor, Niels van Doorn and Luca Stevenson, she discussed how the pandemic has further reinforced the already enormous power of platform companies. Bringing together different disciplines and perspectives, the panel explored data rights as a particularly promising avenue for challenging platform power in order to safeguard individual and collective interests in a wide variety of contexts.

Session 10a | 15.30-17.00 CET
Competition and Market Regulation: Competition in the health sector

Tjaša Petročnik (Tilburg University) chaired this interesting session on competition in the health sector, with presentations by Giulia Schneider (Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies), Theodosia Stavroulaki (DePaul College of Law) and Chijioke Chijioke-Oforji (Liverpool John Moores University).

Session 10e | 15.30-17.00 CET
Open Track: Technological responses to crises

In a very relevant and thought-provoking session on technological responses to crises, chaired by Digital Legal Lab researcher Marijke Roosen (Tilburg University), our collaboration’s Natali Helberger, Jill Toh and Naomi Appelman from the University of Amsterdam presented a paper with co-authors Sarah Eskens and Gionata Bouchè on big tech platforms as “societal problem solvers”.

Taking the example of the introduction of contact tracing technology in managing the COVID-19 crisis, they discussed the entanglements of public-private relations that arise when global commercial players are allowed to play a role in determining a nation’s public health policy.

Session 10f | 15.30-17.00 CET
Data Governance: Sector Transitions/Transgressions Panel

This insightful and interactive panel discussion organized by Digital Legal Lab researcher Linnet Taylor (Tilburg University) and her TILT colleague Siddharth de Souza explored the risks of ‘sphere transgressions’ in times of COVID-19, as firms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Palantir are seeking new markets and opportunities in global public health. The session included a discussion of the research on sphere transgressions that is being conducted within the ERC-funded Global Data Justice project led by Linnet.

Other panelists in this session were Tamar Sharon (Radboud University Nijmegen), Stephanie Hankey (University of Oxford), Astha Kapoor (the Data Economy Lab), Matthias Speilkamp (AlgorithmWatch) and Bruno Bioni (University of São Paulo). Fostering an interactive discussion, the panel aimed build a community around the issue of sphere transgressions – both by surfacing related issues from different countries and regions, and by involving participants actively in the search for responses.

Session 11b | 17.00-18.30 CET
Competition and Market Regulation: Regulating data flows

The second day of TILTing 2021 ended with an interesting session on regulating data flows, chaired by Digital Legal Lab researcher Inge Graef (Tilburg University). Sharing insights on dark patterns, biosupremacy and digital market harms, presenters Gabriel Nicholas (NYU School of Law), Mason Marks (Gonzaga University) and Elettra Bietti (Harvard Law School) left today’s #TILTing2021 attendees with some fascinating stuff to chew on until the final conference day arrives tomorrow.

View the full program and all abstracts of the second conference day here.

Day three | 21 May 2021

Session 13c | 11.00-12.30 CET
Open Track: Panel ‘Escaping “the law of everything”. Should we separate ADM regulation from data protection?’

Sparks flew and thought-provoking reflections filled the virtual conference room during this roundtable on automated decision-making and the GDPR as the law of everything. This was a fantastic session by our very own Nadya Purtova (Tilburg University), with great contributions by panelist and Digital Legal Lab researcher Catalina Goanta (Maastricht University).

Nadya and Catalina were joined in this panel discussion by an impressive lineup comprised of Sandra Wachter (University of Oxford), Sofia Ranchordas (University of Groningen), Mireille Hildebrandt (Radboud University Nijmegen), Marlies van Eck (Radboud University Nijmegen) and lawyer Anton Ekker, who represents Uber  drivers in their legal battle for transparency in AI decision-making. Also jumping into the discussion was the very involved audience, which made for a fun and interactive exchange of ideas — and, as Nadya remarked, a chat box taking on a life of its own. Clearly, this was a panel to be continued.

Session 14a | 13.30-15.00 CET & Session 15b | 15.30-17.00
Competition and Market Regulation: Workshop ‘Remedies for Digital Markets’ (Part 1 & 2)

Digital Legal Lab researchers Inge Graef and Alex Ruiz Feases (both Tilburg University) participated in this great afternoon workshop by leading competition law scholars, organized by Nicolas Petit (European University Institute) and Michal Gal (University of Haifa).

The workshop addressed questions related to antitrust remedies in the digital economy. In addition to the insightful presentations given by Inge, Alex and other participants, a highlight of the workshop was a discussion by Thibault Schrepel (Utrecht University & Stanford University) of how agent-based modeling may inform the design of competition remedies. 

Session 14d | 13.30-15.00 CET
Open Track: Data protection and digitalization in crisis

After chairing a great panel on the regulation of automated decision-making in the morning (see above), Nadya Purtova participated in this afternoon session on data protection and digitalization in times of crisis as one of the presenters. She talked about the meaning of identification under the GDPR, and explored the implications of the interpretation she proposes.

This was another bustling session, chaired by Magdalena Brewczynska (Tilburg University) and with great contributions from speakers Mara Paun (Tilburg University) and Michalina Nadolna Peeters (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), plus lots of thought-provoking input from the audience. 

View the full program and all abstracts of the final conference day here.