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The smart home at the convergence of commercial and state surveillance


Date: 15:30 | 14-05-2024

Location: E.19.03

“The government would never have been permitted to compel billions of people to carry location tracking devices on their persons at all times, to log and track most of their social interactions, or to keep flawless records of all their reading habits. Yet smartphones, connected cars, web tracking technologies, the Internet of Things, and other innovations have had this effect without government participation.” - Senior Advisory Group, US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (2022 Report).

This seminar explores the relationship between the smart home facilitates, the convergence of commercial and state surveillance, and the protection of privacy under the European human rights framework. Having as a baseline article 8 of the European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) and articles 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (EU Charter), first I outline how the smart home interferes with all the dimensions of privacy, since in the smart home, the daily actions and behaviours of the inhabitants are mediated by the Internet of Things, with its sensors, Wi-Fi connections, Cloud computing, and apps. Subsequently, I explore the case-law of the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on targeted and mass surveillance. Particular attention is given, in this regard, to the importance of metadata, the necessity of protecting the biometric data collected by smart appliances, and the effectiveness of the safeguards established by the case-law of the two courts. 

About the speaker: Dr. Silvia De Conca is Assistant Professor of Law & Technology in the Transnational Legal Studies Department of VU Amsterdam, and board member of the Amsterdam Law & Technology Institute (ALTI) at the VU. Silvia is also co-chair of the WG “Human Rights in the Digital Age” in the Netherlands Network for Human Rights research (NNHRR) and is part of the Outreach & Transfer team of the Network Institute. Silvia’s research focuses on domestic IoT and the smart home, and her research interests include privacy and data protection, dark patterns, AI, and civil liability.

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