Should Tech Giants be Reclassified as Public Services? Public Lecture Explores Data Privacy

19 January 2021
Should Tech Giants be Reclassified as Public Services? Public Lecture Explores Data Privacy

Posted: 15/09/17

The most recent public lecture organised by the Ethics and Privacy Working Group was given by Orla Lynskey, Assistant Professor in Law at the London School of Economics. Hosted by the ADAPT Centre, Prof. Lynskey spoke at Trinity College Dublin on Wednesday 13th September. Her talk, titled “Recasting Private Power: Tech Giants as Digital Utilities”, explored whether or not digital intermediaries with information monopolies should be reimagined as providers of essential public services.

Prof. Lynskey argued that digital intermediaries, thanks to their strategic position at the interface between individuals and content and service providers, have a monopoly, or quasi-monopoly, over information flows. Their pivotal position in the personal data processing ecosystem can also have a detrimental impact on individual rights. This power of digital intermediaries has been the subject of increasing doctrinal and media attention. Her lecture encouraged listeners to consider the case for classifying digital intermediaries as public utilities. In particular, it explored whether regulation of digital intermediaries could be justified to prevent harms to fundamental rights, given the scale and the scope of their activities and the extent of their power.

Speaking about events which inspire her ongoing research in this area, Prof. Lynskey said: “My lecture links to a few ongoing news stories. In particular, the current fallout in the US about the sacking of the Open Markets group from the New America foundation (and the emerging ‘anti-monopolisation’ movement) and the aftermath of the Facebook/Whatsapp merger, which is something the Irish DPC has worked on.” 

Orla Lynskey has been an Assistant Professor in the Law Department at the London School of Economics since September 2012. She teaches and conducts research in the areas of data protection, technology regulation, digital rights and EU law. She holds an LLB (Law and French) from Trinity College Dublin, an LLM in EU Law from the College of Europe (Bruges) and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. This PhD research has been developed into a monograph, The Foundations of EU Data Protection Law, published by OUP in 2015. She is called to the Bar of England and Wales and working in Competition law practice in Brussels before beginning her doctoral research. She is an editor of International Data Privacy Law (OUP) and the European Law Blog, and is a member of the Editorial Board of the European Data Protection Law Review.

A video recording of Prof. Lynskey’s talk will be posted here soon.

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