If you’ve been following the news in recent months, you’re probably familiar with the GDPR. Wondering about its impact, and whether data law is an important field of study? Here’s a closer look at the GDPR and why GDPR-ready law students will be in serious demand in the years ahead, as well as at a cutting-edge law program designed to nurture the new generation of data law leaders.
What is the GDPR and How Is It Changing Data Law?
The GDPR, AKA the General Data Protection Regulation, was introduced with the goal of making Europe “fit for the digital age.” Applying to all organizations in all EU member states, the “GDPR is a new set of rules designed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data. It aims to simplify the regulatory environment for business so both citizens and businesses in the European Union can fully benefit from the digital economy,” explains business technology news website ZDNet.
Given the amount of personal data collected, analyzed and stored by organizations all over the world, the potential for -- and implications of -- data breaches is massive. Continues ZDNet, “Under the terms of GDPR, not only will organisations have to ensure that personal data is gathered legally and under strict conditions, but those who collect and manage it will be obliged to protect it from misuse and exploitation, as well as to respect the rights of data owners - or face penalties for not doing so.”
While the GDPR is extremely relevant to the society in which we live, it’s not without challenges for today’s businesses -- particularly when you factor in new consent rules which not only mandate that consent must be “informed, unambiguous and freely given”, but also that it can be revoked at any time. ComputerWeekly.com notes that “the EU GDPR is first and foremost a business challenge [with] a lot of complex challenges to solve.”
Why GDPR Matters to Law Students
We’ve established that all organizations in the EU will be tasked with navigating tricky terrain in the post-GDPR world. It follows that they’ll need employers with the ability not only to traverse this terrain, but to lead the process.
Says Christopher Kuner, professor at VUB in Brussels and expert on data law and the GDPR, “It is very important for students to be familiar with these rules. Almost every organization nowadays relies on data processing to carry out its activities, and data protection is the area of law that regulates such processing. No matter what role students take later in their careers, they are bound to encounter data protection law; this applies to lawyers who work in companies, law firms, and public administrations, academics, and all other roles as well.”
While a basic understanding of GDPR is important for law students, a more thorough grasp of data law offers ongoing opportunities, according to Kuner. “Data protection and data law are fast-moving fields that are constantly developing. Besides the GDPR, which became applicable in May 2018, the EU has proposed other data legislation, including a new regulation on electronic privacy, and a regulation on non-personal data as well. So, further developments can be expected,” Kuner reveals.
The takeaway? For future law professionals looking to assume pivotal roles in the changing landscape of law and society, data law studies not only offer expertise in both GDPR, but also the skills and knowledge to handle whatever’s next.
Data Law: The New Frontier
Enter a new and innovative addition to the LLM in International and European Law at VUB’s Institute for European Studies (IES) in Brussels. With its first cohort beginning studies in the 2018-2019 academic year, the Data Law option curriculum comprises a compulsory core of classes on European Law in addition to more specialized coursework on International and European Data Protection Law; Data Policies in the EU; and a Case Study on Global Privacy and Data Protection.
Explains Kuner: “The new data law option will combine the strengths of IES in European law with the VUB’s expertise in data protection and privacy law to provide students with a unique opportunity to study this important area. It will also make use of the VUB’s location in the data protection capital of the world (Brussels) to give students the chance to meet and hear from policymakers in the EU institutions, privacy professionals from companies and other organizations, and other leading voices in the data law world.”
When it comes to helping the EU’s organizations survive -- and thrive! -- in the GDPR era, lawyers will be on the frontlines. The new Data Law option within the IES’ LLM in International and European Law offers an invaluable inside edge for law professionals looking to position themselves to lead the way.
Read more about VUB's LLM in International and European Law.