Pasquale Stanzione – pre-conference interview

Prof Pasquale Stanzione is the President of Garante, the Italian Data Protection Authority. See the full speaker’s profile here.

From your point of view, what are the priority challenges for data protection in the years to come?  

Privacy (also, undoubtedly, as digital privacy) has a great strength: its ductility and technological neutrality. Its discipline has been designed and built to be ‘future-proof’, resistant to the wear and tear of time, being able to adapt with the flexibility of its principles to different contexts, yet imposing timely measures with the rigour of its rules. Thanks to this synergy, it will be able to best guide us towards the new frontiers of the digital society: a.i. (with all its extraordinary potential, but also with the risk that the instrumental relationship of the machine for man will be reversed into its opposite), the metaverse, the monetisation of personal data and neuro-rights, i.e. the ever-growing need to protect the individual in the face of scientific-technological evolution, capable of creeping into the inner world of each individual, into thoughts, conscience, conditioning behaviour and opinions 

How important is international cooperation to address these challenges and ensure data protection and privacy?  

This is essential not only to guarantee uniform protection, at an intra-European level, of a right that is constitutive of European citizenship and that would therefore not tolerate inequalities, but also to enable Europe to really speak with one voice to the big players of digital society, the large platforms, opposing surveillance capitalism with a common front to protect the individual. And the European perspective should gradually become (also by exploiting the Bxl effect) a global perspective, recognising data protection, in the strong meaning contemplated by the European discipline (Habeas data), as a human right subject to universal protection, part of jus cogens. 

Do you observe fundamental changes and evolutions in the domain of personal data protection and its perception?  

Undoubtedly the democratisation of privacy; its affirmation as the right of everyone and, above all, of the last ones. Originally born and perceived as a traditional bourgeois prerogative, the right to privacy has progressively asserted itself (in Italy also thanks to the Statute of Workers already in the 1970s) as a powerful instrument of redistribution of information power and, therefore, as a guarantee of the weaker segments of society in the perspective of the substantial equality sanctioned by the Constitution. This is what Stefano Rodotà called the passage from (bourgeois) secrecy to (informational power) control: a passage that characterises today and lays the foundations for tomorrow. 

Why conferences such as the Privacy Symposium are important and how can they support data protection?  

Occasions such as these are fundamental to allow as broad and transnational a comparison as possible on the challenges that are common to all those who, in various capacities, are called upon to apply the data protection discipline, also drawing cues from it, where appropriate, to improve it. The rules – wrote one of the Fathers of the Italian Constitution – are children sent into the world in search of fortune: it is up to whoever has to apply them to give them life, future, meaning; fortune, indeed. 

Would you have any advice or recommendation to share with data protection professionals and/or data subjects?  

I believe that one suggestion, in particular, is valid for both types of figures: always be fully aware of the inestimable value of personal data for personal freedom. This implies, therefore, the need to pay great attention, on the part of those concerned, to the possibilities of circulation that they themselves admit for their own data, to any consent they give, with the risk of condemning themselves to real ‘voluntary servitude’ (to borrow the words of Étienne de La Boétie). Thus, anyone who handles the data of others (including parents with respect to the data and, even more, the images of their children) must do so in the awareness that they are operating not on abstractions but on fragments of the ego, which must be taken care of, not only out of mere compliance with the law, but also out of primary ethical duty 

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