Speaker highlights: Amelia Andersdotter

In an effort to look outside the WordPress island and get fresh ideas from other communities, we have 4 prominent speakers from outside the WordPress community you’re going to meet at WordCamp Europe 2015. Today we want to introduce Amelia Andersdotter and have her share some of her experience and background with you before her talk in Seville. Amelia has been a Member of the European Parliament. She currently engages in privacy and data protection advocacy in Sweden.

Photo: https://ameliaandersdotter.eu

Photo: https://ameliaandersdotter.eu

Hey Amelia, could you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m 27 years old and a student of mathematics. My side-gig is improving privacy and data protection for all. I used to be Member of the European Parliament.

What is your WordCamp Europe talk going to be about? What should people expect?

Together with Anders Jensen-Urstad, I’m developing methods to make privacy-preserving websites. We’ve split the task into ideological (like, why is it even important? what’s the law?) and what do we do technically? Our work is divided so that I mostly know the law and the intentions behind the law, and Anders is very good at giving the political ideas a technical form. So expect both practical and ideological!

What type of work did you do in the European Parliament?

I was a Member of the European Parliament, which means your formal duty is to vote on legislative proposals and enact them as laws. In a broader sense it means talking and listening a lot. I worked on telecoms policy, copyright policy (of course!) and privacy policy. Actually a lot on intersections between technical standards and legislation – it’s an area poorly understood by both political and technical communities.


What are the most common data privacy mistakes people make when creating websites?

Saying it’s impossible. There’s a very defeatist spirit around privacy concerns on the web. We hope to show that defeatism is not only unsexy, but also uncalled for.


How are data privacy laws created in Europe? Could you give us some insights into the process?

Data privacy is a human right, but human rights thinking doesn’t usually dominate people’s day-to-day concerns. It’s something we expect to “just work”. So legislators aren’t always mindful of how they implement these values in laws: laws end up unclear, or ambiguous.

There’s also a conflation with data security. But security might mean that a public administration or company is able to reliably exert control over a person. Data privacy means that the person can exercise control over such control. We can’t solve privacy and data protection only by security, we must also have the will to, say, decentralise power over how people are influenced.

Somehow, there’s also a fear that citizens, users or customers simply don’t know what’s good for them. In this way, politicians and system administrators are actually a bit similar: they do a lot of things and make a lot of rules to protect people from themselves. I guess somewhere I have an ambition to promote the view that we can allow people to make choices, even if those choices aren’t always optimal, because diversity is strength and anyway new and good things don’t happen if we homogenize everyone all the time.

What are you currently occupied with? What are your latest projects?

Me and Anders trying to make guidelines for public sector bodies on how to build privacy friendly websites. For the citizen, visiting a public authority, or even a company where one is customer, without telling lots of third-parties about it should be a given. We’re trying to show how it’s technically possible to achieve stuff that most people would anyway principally agree with, and to make it easier for public authorities to live up to a mission many of them feel committed to in either case: preserving democratic values and building good spaces for citizenship.


Anything else you’d like to share?

On a completely unrelated note, everyone should care about the European copyright reform. There has never been a better time to approach legislators in Europe about copyright reform than now. The anti-reform lobby is very strong and we may end up with a considerably more difficult and strict legislation unless there is balance in the messaging received by legislators.

Thank you!

Make sure you catch Amelia and Anders’ session “Building Privacy-Friendly Websites” on Saturday morning, June 27th.

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