Psst – happy Data Protection Day!

28 January 2021

Today, it’s Data Protection Day.

Since 2007, when the Council of Europe first introduced the day, 28 January celebrates the signature of the ‘Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data’  in 1981.

Much has changed since then. The General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in May 2018. Then COVID-19 has accelerated even more the digital revolution, and raised questions about protecting citizens private data whilst collecting useful data to face the pandemic. It’s clear that it becomes even more relevant to ensure a human-centric approach to new technologies, and that datasets are made accessible to and work for all people.

In fact, an important aspect of European Data Protection Day is to promote initiatives that think about technology tools that promote individual control over personally identifiable information. Protecting citizens’ control of their data is one of the values at the heart of Eurocities’ 10 principles on citizen data.

“Data must be regulated as a common good”

“The principles recognise, protect and uphold the citizens’ rights on the data they produce,” says Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, “People should have the ability to use, manage and access their data.”

Used responsibly, data can be incredibly valuable to society, for example it can allow city governments to monitor things like mobility patterns or carbon emissions, and set up the best informed policies to address city challenges. The European Data Governance Act proposal, published last December, recognises that data is a valuable public asset with the potential to improve public policies. At the same time, European cities call for the legislation to ensure citizens’ right to privacy by preventing commodification of sensible data.

“In the digital age, data must be regulated as a common good – one that needs to be protected in order to guarantee everyone’s right to privacy, but which also has the potential to improve city policy-making to reduce inequalities, combat climate change, and tackle urban challenges,” says Laia Bonet, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, and Chair of Eurocities’ Knowledge Society Forum.

Raising a glass to Data Protection Day, Eurocities continues to promote a use of data that is transparent, ethical, socially responsible, and most of all, that empowers people.