Protecting academic freedom of expression within the European GDPR

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As it was originally conceived, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could have stopped or seriously limited much humanities and social science research. In particular, its rules may have outlawed the use of covert approaches to data collection, while its restrictions on the processing of data such as political opinions and philosophical or religious beliefs would have posed a threat to critical research, including on public figures.

David Erdos’ research and engagement have helped to ensure that, across the European Union and in the UK, academic scholarship is now shielded from default data protection restrictions within the same legal regime applicable to journalism.

His work has had a similar influential impact on law reform in Brazil, and has influenced the conceptualisation of appropriate governance of scholarship within academia itself.

This influence has led to an improved ecosystem for scholarly work undertaken in the public interest and, more particularly, expressive activity that needs to be critical of individuals, involve covert methodology or publish private and sensitive data.

“Successful advocacy… meant that academic expression was included within the freedom of expression in the final version agreed in 2016. Dr Erdos played an important role in this success, which required sustained advocacy efforts over four years.”

– Head of UK and EU Policy, Wellcome Trust