Data protection cases: an exercise to visualise facts and legal issues

February 15, 2019

Today, we run a little experiment in class. After an introduction to the fundamental principles and rationale of data protection legislation, EITLab students where asked to solve a case, using a canvas as a support.

The canvas was a model, which was created with the aim of supporting students in the process of identification and visualisation of the main elements emerging in their case. To list all the dots would have supported the connection of them in order to draw significant conclusion.

The legal cases that students had to solve were the following.


  1. Winter is coming

Jon, an employee of the Winterfell municipality, asks to his colleagues to sign a petition and contribute with a small donation for a charity campaign for protecting direwolves.

Jon is also a passionate blogger and after few days he publishes on his blog the name of the colleagues participating to the crowdfunding campaign and titles the post “We will fight the tyrannical regime of King’s landing! The direwolves are coming!”


2. The condominium pillory

Mary is a building administrator and she has several difficulties in contacting all the owners of the apartments and in receiving the payment of condominium taxes and fees on time.

Before proceeding with the injunction, she tries a last recourse and she hangs on the building board (the one close to the elevator) the name of the people not paying the condominium fees and the corresponding amount of the debt.


3. A ride to the hospital

Valentino had a motorcycle accident. Nothing serious, but his wrist hurts. He calls the ambulance and taken to the nearest hospital. After the triage with the nurse on duty he is accompanied to the waiting room. There are approximately 20 people waiting there for their turn. Little by little, each patient is called via the intercom:






4. Tell me what you watch and I will tell you who you are

Lara loves to watch new TV series on her favourite platform for streaming (Letflix). The platform offers to Lara several recommendations for movies on the basis of her previous activity.

One day the platform launches a global challenge and offer 1,000,000 Euros to whom will be able to optimise the recommendation algorithm. To do so, Letflix releases a database containing: 1) a code number linked to a user; 2) the list of movies watched; 3) the rating given to the movies.

Few weeks later, a team of researchers at UCLouvain discovers that with a simple algorithm is possible to single out the identity of some individuals.

Lara is worried because she has always watched TV series classified by Letflix as Gay TV shows. Her friends and family do not know she is lesbian. She does not want to come out, yet.

(based on Jane Doe v. Netflix suit)


5. Re-use of medical data for research

Dan is participating to a research project for discovering a new treatment for cancer done by the Trust Research Institute.

The Trust Research Institute informs Dan about all the details of the processing in line with the GDPR.

Dan provides all his electronic medical records and he also accept to fill a questionnaire about his behaviours (if he goes to the gym, f he goes to work by bike, what does he eat, how many time per week he drinks alchool, etc.).

After few months, the Trust Research Institute uses Dan’s data for another research project for investigating mental health problems and potential remedies.


6. A tragedy of hashtag

Gigì wants to run for the next European Parliament elections with Macron’s party.

However, in the Facebook’s profile of Alessandro, Gigì’s friend, there are a couple of pictures portraying Gigì during a «gilets jaunes» demonstration.

Gigì asks Alessandro to remove the tag revealing his identity, but Alessandro objects « My dear Gigì, my profile is private! Only few friends can see it. Your secret is safe with me! »


Students were divided in couples and had approximately 20′ to solve the case. First, they had to read the case and note their answers on the post-it individually. After that, each point was discussed by the couple to reach a common position. Each group was then called to present their own solution and the steps to arrive to their conclusion.

This was the canvas we used during the class. It was a simple model for getting students acquainted with brainstorming techniques (and the use of post-it!). You are free to re-use it or to create a more detailed matrix of analaysis.


Canvas 1. MIND MAP

Download the Canvas here


After the use of the first canvas, thanks to the interaction with students, we have also created a second canvas in the form of a flow chart, representing the legal reasoning and steps followed for de-constructing and re-constructing the case. Credits to: Xavier Darmstaedter.


Canvas 2. FLOW CHART

Download the Canvas here

How would you have solved (visually and not) the cases? Write your answer in the comment!


Posted by rossana

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