Computers reading our minds? The benefits and risks of profiling

picture by Toms Bauģis (@flickr)

A Privacy Platform meeting on “Computers reading our minds? The benefits and risks of profiling” will take place on Wednesday 25th January 2012, between 13h30 and 15h15 at Les Halles de Schaerbeek, Rue Royale-Sainte-Marie 22, 1030 Brussels. The meeting is organised in collaboration with the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference which will take place on 25th, 26th, 27th January at the same location. Speakers at the Privacy Platform meeting include: Mr Peter Went, CEO at WCC Smart Search and Match, Mr John Boswell, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, SAS, Mr Jörg Polakiewicz, Head of the Human Rights Policy and Development Department, Council of Europe, Mr Ian Neill, Deputy Director e-Borders Home Office, United Kingdom, and Mrs Sarah Ludford, rapporteur of the European Parliament report on the problem of profiling adopted on 3 April 2009, the Privacy Platform will discuss the benefits and risks of profiling.

The use of profiling and other methods of automated search and compiling of personal data is rapidly expanding. Browsing huge quantities of data and combining them into complete and detailed profiles is an unprecedented tool for targeting individuals. Profiling methods go beyond the mere creation of a static image: they allow for analyzing and even predicting behavior of individuals. The possibilities are almost limitless, and its attraction for commercial purposes is fairly obvious. But public authorities too are increasingly using profiling methods for law enforcement and security purposes, but other public sectors like public health or public transports use profiling for their specific purposes.

But besides its clear benefits, profiling raises a lot of practical, legal and ethical questions. What is the real predictive potential of profiling? What is and is not possible with profiling? How is profiling being used today, and are we sufficiently aware it is happening? Can anonymised data be compiled into an identifiable individual profile? Is profiling adequately covered by EU data protection legislation? What does profiling mean for “informational self-determination”? Does profiling for law enforcement purposes mean the end of the presumption of innocence? Is it possible to find a legal definition of profiling? What challenges does cloud computing pose?

To attend the Privacy Platform, please register here.

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