The Relevance of Personal Data in the Aftermath of the EU General Data Protection Regulation: Views from the United States, Europe, and Africa

Colette Mazzucelli, Bosch IX, New York University, and Annika Squires, New York University

On Thursday evening, November 1, the Anthem Press Ethics of Personal Data Collection Series was launched with a program event hosted by Professor Colette Mazzucelli, NYU New York, and James Felton Keith, President, The Data Union, in the New York Woolworth Building Office of Cultural Vistas. The technology-mediated panel and discussion featured accomplished speakers in the fields of business consulting and personal data.

Elizabeth Maloba, a business consultant in her native Kenya and member of the Secretariat in the Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL), Berlin, made a presentation via a videoconference direct from Nairobi. Maloba analyzed numerous vulnerabilities Kenyan citizens face pertaining to personal data, as technology-based innovations and the expansion of large business institutions occur in Kenya. Maloba focused on two main factors driving big data in Kenya: high Internet connectivity speeds as well as significant levels of smartphone penetration. The high-speed reception of personal data in Kenya has led to deep insights, customization, and system change in the ways firms use big data. However, the expansion of personal data use in Kenya has left the citizens in country vulnerable. Their arbitrary use of their personal data in various sectors, including healthcare and energy, is a cause for concern.

Despite the disruption of the space in Kenya by international firms, with a view to increasing profits as innovation continues, there are challenges in the local environment, such as reducing the vulnerability of citizens. As Maloba explained, Kenyans must take control of their personal data, which is more likely to happen among the most highly educated in society.

Jim Pasquale, Executive Vice President (EVP) Interoperability,, spoke about the uses of an API aggregator to encrypt the personal data of the users of its app. Pasquale also emphasized the importance of citizens taking control of their personal data.  In his view, a possible danger in our future is the weaponization of data. The theme of weaponization of data was a subject of discussion throughout the evening. The speakers urged citizens to consider the ways in which firms use big data to increase profits as well as the ways in which governments can use personal data against their citizens or, more specifically, the ways in which other governments can weaponize the personal data obtained from citizens in different countries, against which they may be competing.

The closing speaker, Steven Schwartz, Managing Director, CEO Quest, discussed concerns pertaining to personal data collection in insurance. Schwartz underlined the lack of innovation concerning personal data in the insurance industry as well as the demise of privacy in our world. Schwartz’s remarks opened a lively question and answer session with an audience comprising graduate candidates from New York University as well as members of The Data Union during which the implications of the EU GDPR on different continents were assessed as well as the stability of the electronic ballot in America was discussed. Future publications in the Anthem Press Series, edited by Keith and Mazzucelli, analyze the ethical concerns pertaining to the collection of personal data in a variety of cases including, for example, crowdsourcing stories of abuses experienced by women in public spaces throughout India using the Safecity app.


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