The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), meeting last week to consider data protection issues broadly, discussed the importance of protecting digital information and privacy in an era of increasing global terrorism and cybercrime.

The conference, named “Freedom AND Security–Killing the zero-sum process,” was organized by the Europol Data Protection Experts Network (EDEN) and the Academy of European Law (ERA), and specifically focused on how the work of law enforcement and security authorities impacts fundamental human rights.

“We don’t have to choose freedom or security,” said Catherine De Bolle, Europol executive director, in her opening remarks at the conference. “There is no need to compromise on individual privacy for the sake of public security. In the fulfillment of our mandate, Europol is working to increase the synergies between these two fundamental rights. We want and need to be innovative in implementing privacy by design. We need to continue the discussion between law enforcement, the private sector, and the academic world.” According to a Europol release, the Nov. 22-23 conference covered:

  • “[T]he right to data protection and privacy;
  • Risks and opportunity for citizens;
  • Effects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on law enforcement;
  • Government hacking, data retention, and darknet investigations;
  • Bridges between intelligence services and law enforcement agencies; and
  • From law enforcement fiction to future–privacy in the year 2030.”

The conference stressed heavily that law enforcement agencies are increasingly relying on “state-of-the-art investigative techniques and certain forms of surveillance” and that the use of modern technologies is essential to fight terrorism and cybercrime. However, Europol also noted that “individuals rightfully attach increasing importance to their right to personal privacy–including in the cyberspace.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.