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Data Autonomy in higher education: the quest for 'public values in the cloud' - workshop video

Date:27 September 2023
Author:Oskar J. Gstrein

On May 24 - 26, the 16th edition of the international Conference on Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) took place in Brussels. As a world-leading multidisciplinary conference CPDP offers the cutting edge in legal, regulatory, academic and technological development in privacy and data protection.

CPDP gathered academics, lawyers, practitioners, policy-makers, industry and civil society from all over the world in Brussels, offering them an arena to exchange ideas and discuss the latest emerging issues and trends. 

General topics of the conference:

  • Data protection and privacy regulation in practice
  • International dialogue, harmonising regional and international digital agendas
  • The protection of human dignity in the digital world
  • Interdisciplinary approaches to data protection and privacy

UG workshop on data autonomy

On 25 May 2023 the Center for Information Technology of the University of Groningen (UG) hosted a workshop on data autonomy in higher education. The panel was moderated by the CIO of the UG, Ronald Stolk. Speakers included Magdalena Rzaca (GÉANT & IPR Legal Advisor), Frank Karlitschek (CEO Nextcloud), as well as Mando Rachovitsa (Faculty of Arts) and Oskar Gstrein (Campus Fryslân).
A recording of the session has been made available by the conference organizers

Underminng of data autonomy

Public institutions are increasingly dependent on international data flows, cloud-based commercial applications, and remote data storage. While these infrastructures promise efficiency, the power of public institutions to make decisions about ‘their data’ disappears. This raises data protection concerns and — potentially more importantly — undermines ‘data autonomy’. 

Four questions

  • What are the threats to academic freedom and data protection in times of cloud-based data handling and remote teaching?

  • Which strategies do universities have to navigate the intersection between dependency on Big Tech and promoting less-popular Open- Source initiatives?

  • How to respect public values while using commercial applications?Can current regulatory frameworks deliver enough, appropriate, and desirable guidance?

What should higher education do?

In the panel this tension was explored from the perspective of public universities, which are particularly interesting: on the one hand, they are based on the promotion of public values. Universities require ‘academic freedom’ and independence to flourish. They develop Open-Source applications for teaching and research.
On the other hand, they are required to use funds efficiently, and provide state-of-the-art working and research environments for students, researchers, and staff. But what should higher education do to address the increasing dependence on ‘BigTech’ with commercial objectives, while safeguarding data autonomy and public values?

Watch the workshop video with the discussion.

About the author

Oskar J. Gstrein
Oskar J. Gstrein


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