Katharine at Fundamental Rights Forum in Vienna

On June 21, Katharine will be a Fundamental Rights Agency panelist at the Fundamental Rights Forum 2016 in Vienna. She will be speaking on the impact of surveillance and loss of privacy for civil rights and democratic practice.

Details on the panel:

The digital age

WG 19: The right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy in the context of increased security concerns in Europe: Challenges and promising practices

Chair: Barbora Bukovská, Legal Director, Article 19

Panel Speakers:

  • Joseph Cannataci, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to privacy, OHCHR;
  • Dunja Mijatović, Representative on Freedom of the Media, OSCE;
  • Joanna Cavan, Head, Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO);
  • Katharine Sarikakis, Professor, Head Media Governance and Industries Research Lab, University of Vienna;
  • Mario Oetheimer, Head of Sector Information Society, Privacy and Data Protection, FRA.

Workshop objective

This workshop will explore the impact of security measures on privacy and freedom of expression. Law enforcement and intelligence laws and policies as well as measures to counter terrorism will help frame the discussions. References will be made to case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) when applying the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The workshop will feed into FRA’s current and future work on surveillance and safeguarding fundamental rights. Participants will also share examples of promising practices for others to use.

Guiding questions

  • Security, freedom of expression and privacy: a balancing act?
  • What has been the impact of enhanced security measures on the right to freedom of expression and privacy?
  • How can law makers and regulators safeguard key fundamental rights while preserving the security of individuals?


Currently, governments are dealing with a heightened level of security by increasing the collection and analysis of personal data, following violent attacks in Europe and other parts of the world. This applies equally to law enforcement authorities and national intelligence services. The 2015 European Agenda on Security and the Internal Security Strategy have paved the way for enhancing the exchange of data and the better use of the EU’s large-scale databases and other communications platforms. These include the (future) EU’s Passengers Name Records Directive, the ‘Smart borders’ package, the Schengen Information System (SIS II), Europol’s European Counter Terrorism centre and its Internet Referral Unit. Moreover, enhanced cooperation between national intelligence and law enforcement services is being discussed in terms of data exchange. The impact of these measures on privacy and freedom of expression can be significant, particularly given the urgency with which they are being adopted.

On the part of data processing by intelligence services, FRA’s recent research has shown that Members States’ laws do not provide clear and effective safeguards for protecting private life and the personal data of individuals. As a result there is a clear need for effective oversight systems. FRA research also mentions the impact on freedom of expression, such as the protection of journalistic sources or whistleblowing measures.

The EU has also finalised reforming its data protection rules. They aim to boost the individual’s rights while allowing unhampered exchange of data between national law enforcement authorities. In addition, the re-negotiated EU-US Umbrella Agreement will pave the way for the exchange of law enforcement data while protecting personal data. However, several judgments from the CJEU have demonstrated the importance attached to having a high level of privacy and data protection in the EU. ECtHR judgments on secret surveillance measures have also highlighted the impact of such measures on freedom of expression and privacy. Accommodating freedom of expression and privacy, while maintaining security, raises many questions that need to be further discussed. Those measures should also be seen in the general context of implementing the Digital Single Market strategy as well as the political agreement on reforming the EU data protection rules, the recent adoption of the Network and Information Security Directive and the revision of the e-privacy Directive.

To view the full programme please check here.

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