For me, choosing to study an LLM at Kent Law School (KLS) was not a difficult decision to make considering that I had completed my LLB at the University – I had  consistently found my experiences interacting with the staff and students friendly and very informative.

Amidst the many courses I chose to pursue in my LLM in Intellectual Property Law with International Commercial Law, I thoroughly enjoyed my module on Privacy and Data Protection Law instructed by Dr Pamela White.

As the year progressed, I realised that my interest in information governance and regulation superseded that of other topics, and so I decided that I would write my dissertation on Individual Data Sovereignty and Accountability in the Digital Economy – examining legal and computer science publications to provide a comprehensive analysis of the steps for organisational compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and pending Barbados Data Protection Act. It was whilst I was conducting my initial research  for the dissertation that I was made aware of the ILPC conference through an email from the KLS Postgraduate Office, and decided to spend some time constructing an abstract from my Privacy and Data Protection essay to submit for consideration.

I was very delighted to be invited to the speak at the ILPC Conference and to partake in the first academic panel titled ‘New governance for new technologies?’ on 19 November where I presented my paper ‘Reclaiming Privacy in the Digital Era: The impact of GDPR on Surveillance Capitalism’. I found the experience on my panel to be very exciting as I shared my insights and learnt from other professionals, academics, and researchers who were operating in my field of interest – my panel consisted of participants from Lexis Nexis, the European University Institute, Middlesex University London, University College Cork, Queen Mary University of London, and  international law firm Bird & Bird.

In short, my own presentation commenced with an overview of the issue of surveillance with some historical background. Then I explained the concept of privacy online, and detailed how surveillance capitalism conflicts with privacy through unrestricted data hoarding and retention practices.  Lastly, I examined a few relevant cases – such as Google Spain v AEPD (2014) and Google v CNIL (2019) – and the prevailing concept of consent within GDPR which restricts online surveillance by declaring opaque click-wrap and extensive terms of agreement, inter alia, unlawful.

Furthermore, throughout the two-day event I heard from the director of IALS, Dr Nora Loideain, Lord Clement-Jones CBE and keynote panelists Dr Joanna Bryson (University of Bath), Dr Hamed Haddadi (Brave Software), and Ellis Parry (Information Commissioners Office), amongst many others. I completed the days feeling like I had only just scratched the surface of information governance and that made it all the more exciting to seek out opportunities within the digital economy given the continued growth of AI and data-driven business.

A few takeaways that I got from my experience at the conference were:

  • There is a growing need to ensure human oversight and responsibility over AI, and their algorithmic logic (or design features) which impacts both developed and developing societies
  • The perception that AI will completely erase our societal structures is unsupported although AI will have impacts on the ways in which we carry out certain functions
  • Whilst it comes naturally to analyse AI through the lens of privacy, it may be examined through impacts upon freedom of expressionprotection from discrimination, communication and interpersonal relationship structures, inter alia
  • Having one ‘catch-all’ legislation is difficult to practically apply to every scenario
  • There is scope for more cross-studies analysis of information governance and AI impacts.

In my opinion, the best way to learn new things as an LLM student/graduate is to seek out opportunities to get directly involved in your chosen field whether this be through internships, discussions with professors, conferences, or publications. Make sure to keep up to date with the KLS employability bulletin sent out on email and the updates from the KLS PG office – I am immensely grateful for having these throughout my own university experiences at KLS. I look forward to taking the knowledge obtained throughout my KLS studies into the professional working environment and to contributing to the KLS as an alumnus in the future.

Andrew Clarke

This piece has been reposted from the University of Kent blog, with permission and thanks.