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PhD defence

Big Data, Big Risks, Big Power Shifts Evaluating the General Data Protection Regulation as an instrument of risk control and power redistribution in the context of big data

Thursday 12 September 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof. G.J. Zwenne
  • Prof. A.H.J. Schmidt


PhD defences are free; you do not have to register.


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect mid-2018. The Regulation aims to protect the rights and freedoms of individual citizens against risks from the processing of personal data. It therefore necessitates measures to ensure that these risks are as small as possible. Citizens are also provided special rights, such as the ‘right to be forgotten’. The emergence of technologies such as ‘big data’ however lead to new questions: can the GDPR control the risks that arise from big data and sufficiently control corporate power?

To provide an answer to this question, Michiel Rhoen compared the GDPR with prior European regulations that were intended to regulate risks and power balances. In addition, he examined whether the special provisions on discrimination contained in the GDPR are sufficient to uncover and combat discrimination that arises from advanced analysis technologies (algorithms).

The research showed that the GDPR does not contain a proper analysis of the risks of big data. The GDPR provides consumers with few possibilities for involvement in decisions on their personal data. Existing methods which could protect consumers or the environment, were also not applied. As a result it is more difficult to assess whether the GDPR has achieved its goals and to further develop the legislation via case law. Rhoen also concluded that the GDPR can fall short in combatting discrimination through algorithms.

The dissertation, therefore, puts forward a number of guiding principles to be considered in the assessment of disputes between consumers and processors of personal data. These guiding principles could also be applied in the future evaluation of the GDPR.

PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press contact

Maarten Muns, Scientific Communications Adviser, Leiden University
+31 71 527 3282

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