Critical insights from the IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2023

Critical insights from the IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2023

20 November 2023

The monumental cloakroom line at the end of the day at this year’s International Association of Privacy Professionals Europe Data Protection Congress 2023 was one concrete indicator of the fervent interest in what appears to be a pivotal moment for the privacy profession ― the rise of generative artificial intelligence.

 Once again, the annual Brussels conference attracted a record number of about 3,000 participants to the Square Meeting Centre. But while last year’s conference had barely a mention of AI, the explosion of interest in AI systems such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard meant that it was difficult to attend any session in the 2023 DPC without hearing the initials “AI” at some point. The meeting agenda was peppered with sessions such as “A Playbook toward Operationalizing Responsible AI” and “The Emerging AI Landscape: Revolution and Evolution?” Whether it turns out to be revolution or evolution, the IAPP is trying to be at the forefront of how AI transforms the profession, proposing and then launching a training program this year that aims to create a new professional expertise within organizations to manage the regulatory risks around AI. The dark circles under many eyes at the end of this year’s DPC reflected, beyond the active social pace at one of Europe’s top annual privacy gatherings, the two intensive days of training in AI and other data protection issues that preceded the public conference.

 Even with the focus on AI, there were still plenty of non-AI data protection issues to work through at this year’s congress, which featured a speech by European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders on his plans to create a new global “network” of nations and international organizations with data transfer adequacy deals with the EU, a club that is likely to grow in the near future following Reynders’ plans to travel to Brazil and Chile to “discuss opportunities to further intensify our cooperation on digital matters.” Another interesting session on mass litigation claims revealed that a recent ruling in a case over claims in the Netherlands that TikTok neglected the privacy of children who watch and upload videos by collecting more data than necessary may dampen the prospects for similar claims in the future because the decision may make such cases less attractive to commercial litigation funders. The DPC was also a coming out party for an important new regulator, Anu Talus, the new chair of the European Data Protection Board. Her session was so popular that it had people sitting and standing in the aisles. And there was plenty of AI news, including a session where European Parliament negotiators said the EU’s AI Act remains on track to be finalized by the end of the year.

Mike Swift
MLex Chief Global Digital Risk Correspondent

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