Privacy and Data Protection in Europe: Traditions, Practices, and Discourses


The so-called digital revolution poses major threats to our privacy, which is both a civil (or even human) right and an important democratic norm. Social media applications and big data innovations, while highly beneficial in many respects, affect the societal fabric of visibility and retreat, of rights, power, and legitimacy, often to the disadvantage of the citizen and/or consumer. Accordingly, data protection has become a contentious political issue. A transnational campaign for better data protection has emerged and gained support over recent years. Fundamental EU regulation is under way to create a harmonized European data protection regime. However, while the concomitant lobby battles in Brussels and the Snowden revelations have taught us a lot about economic and governmental interests in this new and complex area of the internet governance macrocosm, we know much less about the socio-political reality of privacy and data protection and how it varies across different countries, even within the European Union. Lacking such knowledge, the democratic legitimacy of the EU’s efforts in internet governance and the chances and pitfalls for an international regulation in general are difficult to assess.

It is against this backdrop that we are planning an international workshop, in order to study the variety of privacy and data protection across Europe. In our theoretical framework, we assume on the one hand that privacy has pre-political roots and relevance, but that it also constitutes citizen-state and citizen-business relationships and is therefore an essentially political concept. On the other hand, we distinguish three levels on which conceptions of privacy manifest themselves, namely traditions, social practices and discourses (public or special). We expect privacy to vary considerably in these aspects across European countries. Thus, contributions should not deal primarily with (common) threats to privacy, but with questions that address socio-political differences in both fundamental conceptions of privacy and data protection regimes:



  • Which administrative, legal and moral traditions and political cultures are constitutive for national data protection regimes?
  • What cultural factors or historical experiences affect political or legal regulation and practices of privacy and data protection?


  • Which social practices with regard to privacy and publicity can be observed?
  • Can practices be traced back to important turning points in history or to critical junctures (e.g. end of the soviet rule)?
  • How have new governmental and economic activities in the digital age affected citizens’/users’ attitudes towards data protection so far?


  • Which interpretive schemes appear in current debates about privacy and data protection?
  • Which optimistic or pessimistic narratives are told in response to the digital challenges?
  • Which traditions and practices are reflected, challenged or renegotiated in privacy discourses?


The workshop is organized by: Dr. Wolf J. Schünemann, Dr. Max-Otto Baumann (John-Stuart-Mill-Institut für Freiheitsforschung e.V.)


Workshop will take place on the 26th and 27th of November 2015 in the International Academic Forum Heidelberg (IWH). The workshop is funded by the Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung and the Excellence Intitiative (Field of Focus 4: Self-Regulation and Regulation: Individuals and Organisations.

The presented Papers can be found here.

A short summary of the workshop can be found here.


Workshop Programme


Thursday, 11/26/2015  
Opening Welcome Address and Introduction
1.30-2.00 pm Wolf Schünemann, Max-Otto Baumann
Panel 1 Fundamental questions and challenges of privacy and data protection
2.00-3.45 pm Chair: Wolf Schünemann; Discussant: Max-Otto Baumann
Bernhard Gross Editorial codes and the ethics of harvesting social media for journalistic purposes

Barbara Büttner, Fabian Pittroff

The Strategy of Reterritorialization and its Democratic Alternatives:Traditions and Possibilities of the Privacy Discourse in Germany
Coffee Break  
Panel 2 Discourses on privacy, security and surveillance
4.15-6.30 pm Chair: Max-Otto Baumann; Discussant: Wolf Schünemann
Linda Monsees Privacy and Security in the German Public Discourse
Minna Tiainen Justifying the question of electronic surveillance: The discursive construction of Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations in the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat
Verena Weiland Analysing the French discourse about “surveillance and data protection”: Methodological reflexions and results in terms of content
Stefan Steiger The unshaken role of British intelligence services: The British cybersecurity discourse after the Snowden revelations
Dinner IWH
Friday, 11/27/2015  
Panel 3 The legal dynamics of privacy and data protection in Europe
9.00-10.45 am Chair: Wolf Schünemann; Discussant: Max-Otto Baumann
Ana Azurmendi The Spanish Origins of the European „Right to be Forgotten: the Mario Costeja and Les Alfacs Cases"
Matthias C. Kettemann Data, Power, Rights: German Roots and European Realities of Privacy and Data Protection
Ariadna Ripoll Servent Protecting or Processing? Recasting EU Data Protection Norm
Coffee Break  
Panel 4 Privacy and data protection in Eastern European countries
11.15-12.30 pm Chair: Max-Otto Baumann; Discussant: Wolf Schünemann
Valentina Jasmontaite, Lina Pavel Eastern European Countries Introduce Cybersecurity Laws: Societies’ attitudes to the loss of privacy
Nadjeda Mironov Europeanization of data protection in the Republic of Moldova
Lunch IWH

Excursion to ZKM Karlsruhe

After lunch, we start our excursion to the ZKM Center for Media and Art in Karlsruhe where Mr. Bernhard Serexhe, Director of the Museum, will be expecting us. After a short welcome address and introduction, we will receive a guided tour through the exhibition “Global Control and Censorship”. We have arranged for a bus that will bring us to Karlsruhe (and back). The workshop programme ends after the visit to the museum. Those who are in a hurry will find at Karlsruhe station trains to all destinations, others are cordially invited to return with us to Heidelberg for dinner and possibly a visit to the local Christmas Market.

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