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PhD Impacts of the GDPR on algorithms used for automated-decision making 1.0 FTE (220087)

Job description

This PhD position
This PhD position is one of 14 Early Stage Researcher (ESR) Fellowships funded within the TReSPAsS-ETN project. This particular research project (ESR11) will research the Impacts of the GDPR on algorithms used for automated-decision making.

Objectives: The objective of this research is to determine the impacts of the GDPR rules on the transparency and fairness of algorithms used for automated-decision making. According to Articles 12 to 15 of the GDPR, individuals have the right to receive meaningful information about the logic under which automated decisions were made and to be informed about the consequences of these decisions. Do algorithms need to be explained to individuals? And what is the impact of such an obligation on the design of algorithms used for automated-decision making? These are some of the essential questions that the research will investigate. The research will build on collaboration with computer scientists to understand the design and functioning of algorithms used in the context of anti-spoofing.

Expected outcomes:
Expected Results: A PhD research and several reports and research publications on the topic.

Main supervisor: Prof. dr. Jeanne Pia Mifsud Bonnici, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Planned secondments: There are two secondments at a TReSPAsS-ETN partner organisation planned.

The TReSPAsS-ETN project
The “Training in Secure and PrivAcy-preserving biometrics” (TReSPAsS-ETN) is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action (MSCA), under the European Commission’s H2020 Work Programme. The TReSPAsS-ETN will train a new community of biometrics researchers capable of innovating the next generation of biometrics designed to protect security and preserve privacy simultaneously. The objectives of the project are to deliver security protection through generalised PAD capabilities, to deliver privacy preservation through computationally feasible encryption solutions and to deploy these new technologies to commercial-grade systems in full compliance with the new European GDPR legislation. The project will enhance European research leadership and competitiveness and will help to sustain the flourishing biometrics market.


Academic qualifications:
• Master's Degree in Law, preferably with specialisation in IT law / data protection law Bachelor Degree / or other studies in computer science/information technology
• Excellent results during your studies.

Selection criteria:
• Quality of the candidate assessed through the candidate’s academic merit and relevant professional experience.
• Candidates with a proven track record in the fields of law of privacy and data protection, human rights law, or computer science/IT will be given preference.
• The candidate should also possess a sound working knowledge of quantitative & qualitative research methods, computer science research methods, legal research methods, and legal research databases.

Language requirement:
Candidates who have completed their Master degree in an institution where English is not the language of instruction must present one of the following Secure English Language Test (SELT) results as follows:
• TOEFL Internet-Based (iBT) – an overall score of at least 94 with a score of at least 25 in the writing section and 23 in each of the other sections.
• Academic IELTS – an overall score of at least 7 with a score of at least 7 in the writing component and 6.5 in each of the other components.
• The test results must not be older than 24 months on the date of the application deadline.

Personal attributes:
• Excellent oral and written communication skills and an ability to communicate effectively across different stakeholder groups.
• Flexibility and ability to take direction and accommodate feedback from diverse stakeholders.
• Ability to work both individually and in a (virtual) team environment.
• Leadership skills.
• Ability to meet deadlines and produce work of a consistently high standard.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions specific criteria:

Please note there are strict eligibility requirements that apply to all Marie Skłodowska-Curie Researchers and cannot be dispensed with:
• The candidate must not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (work, studies, etc.) in Netherlands for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to his/her recruitment under the project (short stays such as holidays are not counted).
• At the time of recruitment, the candidate must not have been awarded a doctorate degree and must be in the first 4 years of his/her research career.
• The candidate must work exclusively for the project during the employment contract.
• The candidate must fulfil the conditions to be admitted in the PhD programme indicated in the Job Vacancy.

Researchers can be of any nationality. They are required to undertake transnational mobility (i.e. move from one country to another) when taking up their appointment. Nationality is therefore not a criterion. Rather the location of the researcher's residence or main activity during the 3 years prior to their recruitment is determining.


This position is hosted by the Faculty of Law of the University of Groningen. The Faculty of Law is a modern, internationally oriented institution with a four-hundred-year-long tradition. The Faculty of Law has more than 4000 students and almost 350 staff members. The selected candidate will work with other colleagues in the Security, Technology and e-Privacy Research Group (STeP) organised within the Department of Transboundary Legal Studies. STeP consists of an interdisciplinary team of researchers collaborating with other departments in the faculty and/or funded by externally raised funds and international guests-researchers. The team covers many areas of information policy & technology law including privacy, data protection, security sciences, surveillance, cybercrime, self-regulation and health informatics. The STeP Research Group currently co-ordinates and participates in a number of European funded projects including the TReSPAsS-ETN project to which this PhD position is linked.

Conditions of employment

The position offered is for three years (36 months) at full time employment. Each successful candidate will first be offered a temporary position of 18 months with the option of renewal for another 18 months. Prolongation of the appointment is contingent on sufficient progress in the first year to indicate that a successful completion of the PhD thesis within the appointment period is to be expected.

We offer in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities a salary of € 2,325 gross per month in the first year, up to € 2,835 gross per month in the last year for a fulltime position. In accordance with Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA), the gross salary will be balanced with allowances to an average amount of EUR 42,399.96 per year. Note that this rate includes the employer's costs i.e. national insurance contribution and government bonus. Family Allowance (where applicable at the time of recruitment) is EUR 6,000 per year per researcher (all amounts stated are before taxation).

The starting date is 1 June 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.


You may apply for this position until 29 April 23.59h / before 30 April 2020 Dutch local time by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below the advertisement on the university website).

Applications should include:

• motivation letter (500 words)
• curriculum vitae including a list of publication and the names and contact information of 2 references
• copies of academic certificates and transcripts
• a brief research proposal addressing the topic of the research project (500-1000 words)
• English proficiency results if applicable.

Shortlisted applicants will be notified after 8 May 2020.

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

  • Prof. Jeanne Pia Mifsud Bonnici, for an informal discussion regarding this position, g.p.mifsud.bonnici

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.