DSA #6 (Platform) Data Access for Researchers

Thursday 25 March 2021, 15:00 to 16:00

The concentration and privatisation of data infrastructures has a deep impact on independent research. The so-called ‘datafication of everything’ results in unprecedented potential and urgency for independent (academic) inquiry. Yet, researchers are increasingly confronted with unwarranted obstacles in accessing the data required to pursue their role as critical knowledge-institution and public watchdog. An important reason behind this, is the increasing centralisation and privatisation of data infrastructures into the hands of corporations with strong (legal, technical and economic) disincentives to share the vast amounts of data they control with researchers. This has precipitated important power asymmetries over access to data and who effectively defines research agendas.

In this talk, Jef Ausloos explores how the law – i.e. transparency obligations and data protection access rights – can be used by the (academic) research community as a tool for breaking through these asymmetries. Building on recent publications and ongoing work, the talk comprises two main parts. Firstly, Jef sketches different regulatory approaches for enabling platform data access, drawing from expansive transparency frameworks in other sectors. Secondly, he briefly digs into one already existing legal framework that might offer a useful tool in researchers’ toolbox to obtain access to enclosed datasets; i.e. data rights in Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). While this approach shows potential, researching with data rights is still very much in its infancy. Overall, this talk aims to provide appropriate initial conceptual scaffolding for important discussions around how to enable meaningful data access for platform research.

You can view the seminar recording here.


Jef Ausloos is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam (Institute for Information Law) and a research fellow at the University of Leuven (Centre for IT & IP Law). He has done extensive work on the theoretical and practical dimensions of data rights in the GDPR. His current work centers around the role of the law in operationalising meaningful transparency of (private) digital infrastructures. @Jausl00s | https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0909-9978 | The Right to Erasure in EU Data Protection Law (OUP, 2020).

This seminar is organised as part of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in Perspective Series on online platform responsibility, organised by the Centre for Digitalisation, Democracy and Innovation (CD2I) at VUB-BSoG, in collaboration with the Chair 'Fundamental Rights and the Digital Transformation' at VUB-LSTS and the Brussels Privacy Hub. Please click here for more information on past and future events in the series.