Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Personal data protection in a pandemic – Research chair annual report 2020

The Research Chair Data Protection On The Ground (DPOG) had plenty of plans for the year 2020, building on its research activities in 2019, to dive deeper into practical protection of personal data in the media sector and the banking sector. As for many other plans in 2020, these research plans had to be quickly adapted to changing circumstances in the pandemic year.

Data protection research in a pandemic

Distance working meant that research that was literally ‘on the ground’, on the workfloor, was out of the question for most of the year 2020. Instead, online activities were organized to collect expert opinions and discuss data protection challenges. In collaboration with specialized media researchers within the imec-SMIT research center, an online study was carried out among Flemish media experts (both professionals and academics) into the value of personalisation for media users, in the understanding that personal data is needed to make personalisation possible. In another collaboration, with the Future of Privacy Forum, the DPOG Chair organized online expert debates on personal data protection in the context of Open Banking.

The pandemic itself also gave rise to a number of specific challenges for personal data protection. Researchers within the DPOG Chair took part in the debate on contact tracing with a chapter in the VUB publication ‘Post Viraal Naar een Nieuw Normaal‘, in online panels organized by the US National Science Foundation, and with a blog post/radio interview about contact registration.

Accelerated digitization of education

Another effect of the pandemic lockdowns has been an accelerated digitization of education. The DPOG Chair has prepared several activities for the beginning of 2021 on this topic: a workshop, a public debate, and an academic conference panel.

Annual report and more information

Download the DPOG chair’s annual report for 2020 (pdf).

Policy briefs, round table reports and other information about the chair’s activities can be found on its web pages:

The DPOG chair’s researchers can also be contacted directly at