Kristina Irion


The Weeping Angels are back, and they attack our privacy via smart TVs

Helberger, N.

Irion, K.

Blogpost at Internet Policy Review: Journal of internet regulation


Smart TV and the online media sector: User privacy in view of changing market realities

Helberger, N.

Irion, K.

Smart TV and online media enable precise monitoring of online media consumption, which also forms the basis for personalised recommendations. This new practice challenges EU policy in two respects. Firstly, the legality of monitoring individual media consumption and using personal data of users is primarily addressed under data protection law. Secondly, tracking of viewing behaviour and personalisation of media content can also affect individuals’ freedom to receive information, as well as the realisation of media policy objectives such as media freedom and pluralism, implications that so far are not reflected in media law and policy, or only marginally. This article addresses the increasing reliance on personal data and personalised services in the audiovisual and online media sector and queries the appropriateness of the legal status quo in light of implementation and enforcement actions in Germany and the Netherlands. The analysis concludes with a call for media policy makers and regulators to pay more attention to the issue of ‘smart surveillance’ of media users, and develops a number of concrete recommendations on how to accommodate the specific privacy concerns of media users.


The Golden Age of Personal Data: How to Regulate an Enabling Fundamental Right?

Irion, K.

Oostveen, M.

New technologies, purposes and applications to process individual’s personal data are developed on a massive scale. But we have not only entered the ‘golden age of personal data’ in terms of its exploitation: ours is also the ‘golden age of personal data’ in terms of regulation of its use. In this contribution, we explain how regulating the processing of an individual’s personal data can be a proxy of intervention, which directly or indirectly could benefit other individual rights and freedoms. Understood as an enabling right, the architecture of EU data protection law is capable of protecting against many of the negative short- and long-term effects of contemporary data processing. The new General Data Protection Regulation certainly strengthens aspects of this core architecture but certain regulatory innovations to cope with technological advancements and the data-driven economy appear less capably of yielding broad protection for individuals fundamental rights and freedoms. We conclude that from the perspective of protecting individual fundamental rights and freedoms, it would be worthwhile to explore alternative (legal) approaches of individual protection in contemporary data processing.


Trade and privacy: Complicated bed fellows? How to achieve data protection-proof free trade agreements

Irion, K.

Speaking notes for a panel debate hosted by MEP Viviane Reding at the European Parliament on 12 October 2016.


Shrinking core? Exploring the differential agenda setting power of traditional and personalized news

Helberger, N.

Irion, K.

Möller, J.

Trilling, D.

de Vreese, C.H.

A shared issue agenda provides democracies with a set of topics that structure the public debate. The advent of personalized news media that use smart algorithms to tailor the news offer to the user challenges the established way of setting the agenda of such a common core of issues. This paper tests the effects of personalized news use on perceived importance of these issues in the common core. In particular we study whether personalized news use leads to a concentration at the top of the issue agenda or to a more diverse issue agenda with a long tail of topics. Based on a cross-sectional survey of a representative population sample (N=1556), we find that personalized news use does not lead to a small common core in which few topics are discussed extensively, yet there is a relationship between personalized news use and a preference for less discussed topics. This is a result of a specific user profile of personalized news users: younger, more educated news users are more interested in topics at the fringes of the common core and also make more use of personalized news offers. The results are discussed in the light of media diversity and recent advances in public sphere research.


Trade and privacy: complicated bedfellows? How to achieve data protection-proof free trade agreements

Bartl, M.

Irion, K.

Yakovleva, S.

Study commissioned by the European Consumer Organisation/Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC), Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), The Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD) and European Digital Rights (EDRi), 13 July 2016, Amsterdam. The results of the study were widely covered in the Dutch and European media: ‘Privacy onvoldoende gewaarborgd in handelsverdragen EU‘,, 13 juli 2016 ‘EU stelt privacy burgers onvoldoende veilig‘, Digital Telegraaf, 13 juli 2016 ‘EU stelt privacy burgers onvoldoende veilig‘, Einhovens Dagblad, 13 juli 2016 Monika Ermert, ‘Transatlantischer Zoff: Digitaler Datenschutz oder digitaler Protektionismus?‘, 16 July 2016, Léa Auffret, ‘Why privacy safeguards in trade deals need urgent improvement‘, 20 October 2016,


Survey and data gathering to support the Impact Assessment of a possible new legislative proposal concerning Directive 2010/13/EU (AVMSD) and in particular the provisions on media freedom, public interest and access for disabled people

Irion, K.

Study carried out for the European Commission by Visionary Analytics in cooperation with SQW Limited, Ramboll Management Consulting and with support from the Advisory Board: Dr. K. Irion, M. Ledger, Dr. E. Varney, A. Moledo, Brussels: European Commission, 2016.

The current EU rules on the independence of audiovisual media regulators (Article 30 AVMSD) have little to no impact on the actual performance of regulators, which are under the discretion of MS. […] [E]stablishment of concrete requirements have the largest potential for de facto safeguarding independence of regulators and thus more effective transposition of the AVMSD and the preservation of free and pluralistic media.


The Best of Both Worlds? Free Trade in Services and EU Law on Privacy and Data Protection

Irion, K.

Yakovleva, S.

Prepublication version of the article.

The article focuses on the interplay between European Union (EU) law on privacy and data protection and international trade law, in particular the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the WTO dispute settlement system. The argument distinguishes between the effects of international trade law in the EU legal order on the one hand, and, on the other hand, how EU data protection law would fare in a hypothetical challenge under the GATS. The contribution will apply international trade law and the general exception in GATS Article XIV to typical requirements stemming from EU data protection law, especially on transfers of personal data to third countries. The article enumerates the specific legal risks for defending EU law on privacy and data protection and explains the practical implications of its hypothetical challenge under the GATS. These insights could be useful for the EU’s negotiators of the future bi- or multilateral free trade agreements, notably the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement.


The Reform of the e-Privacy Directive: How to get it right?

Irion, K.

Presentation delivered at the public conference organized by the Greens/EFA, 6 April 2016, European Parliament, Brussels.


Smart TV and data protection - Introduction

Irion, K.

McGonagle, T.

van Eijk, N.

IRIS Special, European Audvisual Observatory, Strasbourg 2016.
ISBN 9789287182395.
See here for more information and ability to purchase publication.

The structure of this study is built around the following questions:
- What is smart TV?
- How does smart TV compare with other forms of audiovisual media?
- What regulatory frameworks govern smart TV?
- What guidance can be found in selected country-specific case studies?
- What are the dangers associated with the collection, storage and processing of private user information by commercial parties?
- How are relevant regulatory frameworks likely to evolve?

Samsung have warned owners of their smart TVs that the system’s voice recognition could actually be recording and sharing their private conversations. This “bad buzz” comes at a time when Brussels is in the process of adopting new legislation – the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - aimed at protecting us from abuse and misuse of our private data and consumer behaviour big data collected by smart equipment such as television sets. The European Audiovisual Observatory, part of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, is keeping track of these developments and has published this IRIS Special report entitled "Smart TV and data protection".

This is a joint publication by the Observatory and partner institution, the Dutch Institute for Information Law (IViR in Amsterdam). It inspired an expert workshop organised in Strasbourg December 2015, which looked at “the grey areas between media regulation and data protection”.


A special regard: The Court of Justice and the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection

Irion, K.

In: Festschrift für Wolfhard Kohte, Faber et al (eds.), Baden-Baden: Nomos, forthcoming 2016.

The frequency with which the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) rules on the interpretations of the rights to privacy and data protection in European Union (EU) law is constantly accelerating. The increasing case-load can certainly be attributed to the contemporary relevance of these issues in a data-driven society which leads to more cases being referred to the CJEU. However, contrary to earlier case-law, which had a rather limited effect, the recent CJEU decisions have gained prominence for their principle contribution to EU law. In 2014, the Court issued a landmark ruling in the case <em>Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger v Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources</em> which catapulted EU citizens’ privacy and data protection rights from the margins of EU law to the center stage. Already in 2015, in the case <em>Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner</em>, the Court has had another occasion to review EU legislation for its compliance with the rights to privacy and data protection under the EU Charter. The invalidation of the EU-U.S. Safe Harbour agreement by the Court has been stirring a global resonance in addition to receiving ample and arguably controversial coverage in international news.

This contribution looks at how the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection are protected in the EU legal order. It primarily assesses the CJEU’s case-law’s trajectory in this field as well as the impact of its decision practice in EU law. Hereby I discuss whether the CJEU holds a particular regard for the rights to privacy and data protection since the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (CFR) was accorded binding legal value in 2009.5 Particular focus is given to the discussion of the two judgments in 2014 and 2015 cited above with which the Court underscored its determination to effectively protect these fundamental rights in the scope of EU law.


Your Digital Home is No Longer Your Castle: How Cloud Computing Transforms the (Legal) Relationship between Individuals and Their Personal Records

Irion, K.

(2015) International Journal of Law and Information Technology 23(4): 348-371, DOI: 10.1093/ijlit/eav015, available at
In line with the overall trend individuals’ personal affairs, too, are composed of digital records to an increasing amount. At about the same time, the era of local storage in end user equipment is about to give way to remote computing where data resides on third party equipment (cloud computing). Once information, and even the most personal one, is no longer stored on personal equipment the relationship between individual users and their digital assets belonging to them is becoming increasingly abstract. This contribution focuses on the implications of cloud computing for individuals’ unpublicized digital records. The question to be answered is whether - taken together - the progressing virtualization and the disruption of physical control produce a backslide for individual positions of rights. The paper introduces the legal treatment of users’ digital personal records and how a technical transformation in combination with disparate legal protection and prevailing commercial practices are bound to impact the distribution of rights and obligations.


Venture into the future of privacy

Irion, K.

At the time of writing I am at the Computer Privacy and Data Protection Conference, for insiders just CPDP 2015, one of several mega-events with more than 1,000 participants from governments, European Union (EU) institutions, corporations, civil society and privacy advocates, and plenty of lawyers and academics just like me. This is emblematic of the transformation privacy and data protection have undergone from a somewhat dull area of law to a very visible cutting-edge legal expertise.


The Court of Justice and the Data Retention Directive in Digital Rights Ireland

Irion, K.

In Digital Rights Ireland, the Court of Justice invalidated the 2006 Data Retention Directive, which required private providers to retain for a considerable period electronic communication metadata for law enforcement purposes. In this landmark ruling, the EU judiciary introduced a strict scrutiny test for EU legislative acts that interfere seriously with important rights protected by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights—in this case, the rights to privacy and data protection—and applied a rigorous assessment of the proportionality of the measure under the Charter, criticising numerous aspects of the Directive. This article presents and analyses the judgment, discussing its implications for constitutional review and constitutionalism in the European Union, and the substantive and procedural constraints that it imposes on EU and national data retention schemes. It concludes by reflecting on the ruling’s impact on European integration and data related policies.


The Independence and Functioning of the Audiovisual Media Authority in Albania

Fejzulla, E.

Irion, K.

Ledger, M.

Svensson, S.

Study commissioned by the Council of Europe, October 2014.


International Assistance and Media Democratization in the Western Balkans: A Cross-National Comparison

Irion, K.

Pre-publication version also available at SSRN.

International media assistance programs accompanied the democratic media transition in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia with varying intensity. These countries untertook a range of media reforms to conform with accession requirements of the European Union (EU) and the standards of the Council of Europe, among others. This article explores the nexus between the democratic transformation of the media and international media assistance (IMA) as constrained by the local political conditions in the five countries of the Western Balkans. It aims to enhance the understanding of conditions and factors that influence media institution building in the region and evaluates the role of international assistance programs and conditionality mechanisms herein.

The cross-national analysis concludes that the effects of IMA are highly constrained by the local context. A decade of IMA of varying intensity is not sufficient to construct media institutions when, in order to function properly, they have to outperform their local context. From today’s vantage point it becomes obvious, that in the short-term scaling-up IMA does not necessarily improve outcomes. The experiences in the region suggest that imported solutions have not been sufficiently cognitive of all aspects of local conditions and international strategies have tended to be rather schematic and have lacked strategic approaches to promote media policy stability, credible media reform and implementation. To a certain extent, the loss of IMA effectiveness is also self-inflicted.


Accountability unchained: Bulk Data Retention, Preemptive Surveillance, and Transatlantic Data Protection

Irion, K.

In: M. Rotenberg, J. Horwitz & J. Scott, eds., Visons of Privacy in a Modern Age, New York: New Press, 2015 in press.
Also available at SSRN:

The innovations on which today’s Internet proliferated have been a major gift from its founders and the US government to the world. Ever since the rise of the Internet it has attracted utopian ideas of a free and borderless cyberspace, a men-made global commons that serves an international community of users. First commercialization and now the prevalence of state surveillance have significantly depreciated the utopist patina.
Internet’s borderless nature which was once heralded to rise above the nation state has actually enabled some states to rise above their borders when engaging in mass surveillance that affects users on a global scale. International human rights law and emerging Internet governance principles have not been authoritative enough to protect users’ privacy and the confidentiality of communications.
More or less openly, Western democracies embarked on the path of mass surveillance with the aim to fight crime and defend national security. Although country specific approaches vary, reflecting political and ideological differences, mass surveillance powers frequently raise issues of constitutional compatibility. Beyond striking the balance between public security and privacy, systemic surveillance carries the potential to erode democracy from the inside.
This chapter’s focus is on the safeguards and accountability of mass surveillance in Europe and the US and how this affects transatlantic relations. It queries whether national systems of checks and balances are still adequate in relation to the growth and the globalization of surveillance capabilities. Lacking safeguards and accountability at the national level can exacerbate in the context of transnational surveillance. It can lead to asymmetries between countries which are precisely at the core of the transatlantic rift over mass surveillance. The chapter concludes with a brief review of proposals how to reduce them.


International Assistance and Media Democratization in the Western Balkans: A Cross-National Comparison

Irion, K.

Jusić, T.

Working paper


Measuring independence: Approaches, limitations, and a new ranking tool

Irion, K.


The Independence of the Media and Its Regulatory Agencies: Shedding New Light on Formal and Actual Independence Against the National Context

Irion, K.

Schulz, W.

Valcke, P.

The book is based on research carried out in the context of the INDIREG and MEDIADEM projects.
More information about the book:
See here the front and back cover of the book.
Media independence is vital for democracies, and so is the independence of the regulatory bodies governing it. The Independence of the Media and its Regulatory Agencies explores the complex relationship between media governance and independence of media regulatory authorities within Europe, which form part of the wider framework in which media’s independence may flourish or fade. Based on research in more than forty countries, the contributions analyse the independence of regulators and draw links between social, financial, and legal frameworks. The contributing authors offer theoretical perspectives that combine law and public policy; review research methods; and offer a set of case studies that explore how the national socio-political context influences local institutions. As a whole, the book offers an accessible and relevant account of research into regulatory independence as applied to the audiovisual media sector in Europe.


Online Personal Data Processing and the EU Data Protection Reform. CEPS Digital Form Task Force Report

Irion, K.

Luchetta, G.


More Publications