Thursday October 21: The power of Big Tech

Arena for Journalism in Europe in cooperation with:

On the third day of the seminar, we focus on regulation: With new technologies, regulation is – logically – delayed. Now regulation is introduced at a fast pace and indeed Big Tech leading figures are calling for regulation. But how does this battle look in reality? And how can journalists, civil society and academia investigate the field?

Video stream

10:00 – 11:10

Investigating who is who in the Big Tech lobby battles

Big Tech may be calling for regulation – but that’s regulation in the big corporate interest, or so the various lobby efforts indicate. How can we investigate Big Tech – and can we do it while taking their money for scholarships etc.? Meet investigators who looked into the lobby efforts in the field in the EU capital and beyond.

Moderator: Sarah Pilz, Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, journalist who focuses on the digitalization of society and the climate crisis, particularly interested in lobbyism and unlocking black boxes of all kinds.


  • Margarida Silva, researcher and campaigner at the EU lobby watchdog, Corporate Europe Observatory. There she tracks the influence of Big Tech and campaigns for lobbying regulation. (slides)
  • Alexander Fanta, journalist and EU correspondent for the German digital rights news website He is co-author of the study ‘Google, the media patron’.
  • Andreas Vou, data journalist covering Big Tech’s influence on politics, media and society for VoxEurop and the European Data Journalism Network.

Links shared in the discussion

11:20 – 12:15

Are we letting private companies become the main policy-makers for privacy and data protection?

The focus of the panel discussion will be on how Big Tech has increasingly privatized public policy, notably in the field of privacy. There are different aspects and examples of that of course, such as Google phasing out of third-party cookies in favour of FLoC or Apple deciding to scan files uploaded on its cloud services to detect child pornography.

Big Tech seems to have overtaken public institutions as the main decision-makers in the field of data protection, for the simple reason that they control the software and infrastructure through which data is produced, managed and processed. Policymakers appear to unable to counter decisions made from private actors, even in jurisdictions with solid data protection laws.

What are the consequences of the increasing decision power tech companies have over personal data? Should public institutions try to reverse this trend or find a way to co-exist with private decision-makers? What is the EU doing or should do on to better ensure the protection of personal data?

Moderation: Luca Bertuzzi, digital and Media Hub editor, Euractiv,


  • Jose Antonio Castillo Parrilla, Basque Country University
  • Joris van Hoboken, Professor of Law at Vrije University, Brussels
  • Claire Fernandez, executive director at EDRi, European Digital Rights

Links shared during the discussion:

European Digital Rights

Smartphone platforms as privacy regulators

Privacy is not the problem with the Apple-Google contact-tracing toolkit

12:15 – 12:30

Keynote: Never forget: Digital rights are human rights

If tech is politics by other means, journalists need to be tech savvy and at the same time never forget the overall visions for our democratic societies. This final keynote will give you guidelines on how journalists can deal with digital dilemmas without losing sight of the overall direction.

Speaker: Nani Jansen Reventlow, human rights lawyer and director of the Digital Freedom Fund

Program for Tuesday, October 19: Cybersecurity in Europe

Program for Wednesday, October 20: When data hurt the vulnerable

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