Are your digital rights being traded away?

Friday 11 December 2020 16:00 GMT

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International trade deals are complicated, difficult, and secretive, and are carried out with little public scrutiny or democratic oversight. This year, we’ve seen these tactics used to erode your digital rights by the back door. We’ve also seen domestic digital legislation, both existing and proposed, pose equally complicated questions – and risks – for international trade and relations.

We know that the UK is using its post-Brexit trade deals, and negotiating processes, to water down data protection safeguards, eliminate privacy rights, and lay the foundations for the UK to become a global hub for data laundering. Government’s determination to move away from the EU data protection framework, towards a free-for-all US model, risks sacrificing your privacy as well as the rights you have over it. But privacy isn’t the only thing at risk. Issues of copyright, source code, and the “right to repair” all figure in trade negotiations as well.

As we review a year of disruption, our panel will consider questions like: 

  • What does the UK-Japan deal say about the future of digital rights?
  • How could the UK become an International “data laundering” hub?
  • How will post-Brexit domestic legislation impact the UK’s international approach to data?
  • What will happen to digital rights if we don’t receive an EU adequacy agreement?


Michael Veale is a researcher in at the University College London, specialising in the fairness and accountability of data-driven tools and the interplay between advanced technologies and data protection law. He has acted as consultant on machine learning and society for the World Bank, the Royal Society and the British Academy, European Commission, United Nations, and several  national governments. @mikarv

Paul Bernal is a lecturer in Information Technology, Intellectual Property and Media Law at the University of East Anglia Law School. His areas of research interest include corporate and government surveillance, the political use of data and the use (and misuse) of social media. He is a prolific blogger at and tweets at @paulbernalUK.

Heather Burns is ORG’s Policy Manager and supporters ORG’s Scotland Director on the Scottish devolved digital rights and policy agenda. Heather worked as a freelance tech policy and regulation specialist for clients across the startup, digital rights, privacy, digital agency, and games sectors. A former web developer, conference speaker, and a veteran of open source software communities, Heather was named a Mozilla Open Leader for her work on open source privacy initiatives. @WebDevLaw

Moderated by ORG Executive Director Jim Killock.

Watch the recording here!