DigitalDNA speaks at the National Data Protection Commission

Law enforcement and jurisprudence are only some of many societal sectors that are increasingly digitized. It is high time we realize that data influence how individuals come to exist in digitized societies. The role of protection, then, becomes ever more salient.

Image may contain: Azure, Gesture, Finger, Font, Line.

Data storage and reuse have been dominating the discussions around data protection in the past years. These are no less relevant today, but we need to think about data protection more comprehensively. Photo: Shutterstock.

Norway’s government has summoned a commission to evaluate the status quo of data protection in Norway. The digitization of the juridical sector is central to the report that is due later in 2021. The commission turned to Mareile Kaufmann for her insights from the fields of policing, law and DNA evidence. A morning session of the commission’s October meeting was dedicated to discuss the relevant entry points for thinking about data protection in Norway’s juridical bodies.

Privacy and data protection, says Kaufmann, can no longer mean to simply “lock” data “away”.

- In order to exist in society today, we have to share a certain amount of information digitally that was traditionally considered private. This act of sharing information gives us access to social contacts, public and private services. Data protection, then, means that we must protect how people can exist in a digital society without having to change their habits, without losing their integrity or starting to change their identity. So I would say that data protection today is the ability to make an informed, competent decision about where and when one shares information about oneself, as well as a careful treatment of data that is already generated. And that means that we must first and foremost build broad competence about data, computer technologies, routines and their ways of working.

The research conducted in Digital DNA is one of those attempts to understand the role of data technologies in the field of forensics, where a lot of information is sensitive. In her meeting with the commission, Kaufmann mapped the new developments in this field. She was also invited to share her ideas about a theoretical framework for data protection.

- My desire is to broaden our view on the many different aspects of data protection. Data storage and reuse have been dominating the discussions around data protection in the past years. These are no less relevant today, but we need to think about data protection more comprehensively: Isn’t data protection also relevant when we generate and clean datasets? All decisions taken on how we collect information and make it work in the context of juridical analysis can have effects for the individuals and groups targeted with such data practices.

During the meeting with the commission, the influence of algorithms was also discussed.

- Indeed, another important aspect for data protection is the processing of data: algorithms are trained on datasets. Not only do we need to ask ourselves where these data come from and whether these data need protection, but the data I use to train an algorithm will define what the algorithm will detect later. These knock-on effects should become central to debates about data use, privacy and protection today.

In the coming years will the team of Digital DNA deepen insights into DNA databases, as well as the tools used to collect and process DNA information.

Published Oct. 8, 2021 1:50 PM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2022 9:48 AM