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New EU data privacy rules must not stifle innovation, warns Insight chief

4 February 2014


New EU data privacy rules must not stifle innovation, warns Insight chief

Irish researchers have expressed concern that imminent EU data privacy directives may have the “unintended consequence” of stifling global research in data analytics.

The Insight Centre for Data Analytics has called on the EU to “rethink data ethics from first principles”.

“Existing ideas of ownership and privacy are not relevant in the data space,” Oliver Daniels, Insight CEO told EU officials and industry representatives in Brussels. “Current fears around data privacy can only be addressed by changing the model to one of user control. Data control will overtake data privacy.”

Mr Daniels was speaking at the launch of a White Paper entitled ‘Towards a Magna Carta for Data’ in Brussels.  The document was authored by lead researchers from Insight, now Europe’s largest data research centre with over 350 researchers based in Ireland. The group is seeking to lead the policy discussion around data use to create trustworthy platforms that protect individuals while nourishing research, particularly in the field of connected health.

 “In the future it will not be a case of trying to keep user data private or anonymous,” Mr Daniels told an audience of European industry groups, EU officials and researchers. “The ideal model will allow citizens to have direct control over their own data with the capacity to offer that data for defined purposes that serve their own interests or the public good.”

“Anonymisation and privacy are increasingly difficult to maintain. Multiple data signals make it easier to identify users without their names or other specific details,” he said. “If citizens can retain control of their data and make informed decisions about how it is used by others,  the privacy issue will become irrelevant.”

Insight is calling for a European Magna Carta for Data that will build public trust in Big Data and assure researchers that data will continue to be available for the development of critical technologies in areas such as connected health.

Connected health is a Big Data application that allows researchers to combine data collected by sensors attached to the body with data from health services and other sources, to allow users to have more control over their own health management.

There is a significant concentration of world class connected health research in Ireland. Concern  is growing in the Irish data research community that legislation currently being developed at EU level may have unintended consequences for innovation.

“Reactive privacy regulation designed to protect individuals may in fact slow down or stop research in areas that promise enormous benefits to society,” said Mr Daniels.

“We need to look at the big picture. It is possible to balance the data rights of the individual while supporting research that will improve all our lives. Europe needs a Magna Carta for Data.”

In a keynote speech at the launch Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection Dara Murphy TD described the Magna Carta proposal as ‘hugely significant’ for Ireland and for Europe.

“It is entirely appropriate that Ireland should provide the leadership that is required in Big Data. Ireland is home to 29 of the top 30 data companies in the world. Now, through Insight, we have all our data thought leaders combined in one institution.”

 “Data will be the fuel of the 21st century. Data generation and research is accelerating at breakneck speed. Current thinking around data regulation and protection is already obsolete. The world is looking to Europe for leadership on the emerging data resource. Now Europe can look to Ireland for leadership,” said Mr Daniels.

Insight’s ambition is to develop and build the necessary research infrastructure and related capacity that will provide the EU with the ability to treat and manage data in future in order to respond to societal challenges.  The aim is to position Insight with lead research groups and consortia both within Horizon 2020 and elsewhere.

Speaking at the Insight event Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research in UCC said: “I think we will look back in three years and say that the Magna Carta really had an impact.”


Read the Insight Magna Carta for data at


For further information contact

Louise Holden, FH Media Consulting Ltd, Dublin

Tel +353 87 2423985

Barry O’Sullivan, Insight Director and H2020 Scientific Leader

Tel +353 868035550


Radhika Dhuru, ISC Intelligence in Science , Brussels

Tel: +32 2 8888102



Among the Irish delegation will be Oliver Daniels, CEO of Insight Centre for Data Analytics;  Dr James Browne, President of NUI Galway; Professor Brian MacCraith, President of Dublin City University; Professor Alan Harvey, Vice President of Research and Innovation, Dublin City University; Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation, University College Cork; Professor Orla Feely, Vice President for Research, Innovation and Impact at University College Dublin and Mike Devane, Co-Chair of the Insight Governance Committee.

The six lead researchers from Insight will present their research at the February 4 seminar in Thon Hotel EU.

Insight Centre for Data Analytics

Insight Centre for Data Analytics was established in 2013 following a €88 million investment by Science Foundation Ireland, its largest investment to date. Data analytics research is a key economic priority for the Irish government.

The Centre brings together data analytics research activity at four lead institutions and number of associate institutions. At 350 researchers, Insight is one of the largest data analytics research centres in the world.

Insight has projects in a wide range of areas including connected health, semantic web, social media analytics, sensors, security, arts and heritage, sport, transport and logistics and public administration. 

The joint lead institutions are Dublin City University, NUI Galway, University College Cork and University College Dublin.

Through the SFI-funded Research Centres call, Insight has become a single brand and entity with a critical mass of research competence that will serve as an international beacon for the science and application of Big Data Analytics. Insight works closely with industry partners to develop next-generation data acquisition and analytics solutions for important and diverse application areas. The Insight Centre is designed to provide a national ICT research platform for Ireland based on world-class targeted research programmes.


Insight in Europe

Data Analytics is a key policy area for Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme to date with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

Ireland has set a target to secure €1.25bn in Horizon 2020 funding. SFI wants the new SFI-funded research centres, including Insight, to play a large part in reaching this target. Insight’s representation in Brussels on February 3/4 2015 is a major step-up for Ireland on the European research arena. Insight has the capacity to co-ordinate the European data analytics project.

As well as the February 4th seminar the Insight delegation will hold a series of bilateral events including a meeting with the office of the EU Commissioner for Research, Technology and Information.

Insight Seminar  - What’s it about?

On 4 February 2015, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics will host a seminar titled ‘Insight: Frontier Data Analytics’ at Thon Hotel EU in Brussels.

The work of Insight and its leadership role in empowering a data-driven society to enable better decisions by individuals, communities, business and governments will be presented and will offer a practical case study on the challenges and opportunities in Big Data.

The seminar will explore the science and applications for society of Big Data Analytics and will include contributions from key experts from the Insight partner institutions as well as European Commission officials, MEPs, academia, and industry representatives.

The seminar will examine how evolving technologies will optimise the use of data and its applications in key areas, such as health, energy efficiency, the environment, telecommunications, transportation, logistics, internet commerce, life sciences, transportation, network management, supply chain management, and so forth. For example, one theme of the seminar will be the ‘measured self’: as populations age and healthcare costs increase, there will be a greater emphasis on monitoring prevention and maintaining wellness in future, with patients taking a more active role – sometimes called Health 2.0.

The seminar will also explore the impact of the future and enabling regulatory environment, including the potential impact of the data protection regulation on both technologies under development as well as their applications.

Insight Lead Researchers

Professor Brian Caulfield

Professor Padraig Cunningham

Professor Stefan Decker

Professor Barry O’Sullivan

Professor Alan Smeaton

Professor Barry Smyth

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, 1 April, 2014