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Research project

UK-RoI Cross-Border Data Protection Network (Cross-DPN)

Project overview

The UK-RoI Cross-Border Data Protection Network (Cross-DPN) will create a forum for discussing the challenges of data protection in the post-Brexit era through an interdisciplinary perspective, involving a number of stakeholders.

The protection of personal data is of critical importance from a social, economic and legal perspective. In contemporary global societies, networks of individuals, businesses and states heavily rely on flows of data across borders. Three-quarters of the UK's data transfers to other countries are with the EU. RoI hosts the European headquarters of leading technology corporations, such as Google and Facebook, which process data of millions of European and British citizens. Free transfer of data between RoI and Northern Ireland is vital for maintaining all island co-operation on an economic, political and social basis, and safeguarding peace.

Brexit disrupts the current data protection regime. Following the UK's departure from the EU, it is unclear whether and how personal data will continue to be freely transferred between the EU and the UK. In the absence of a specific agreement, the UK will be treated as a non-EU country, with important implications for citizens, businesses and national security agencies. Millions of citizens whose personal data are processed in the UK and thousands of businesses carrying out cross-border activities between the UK, RoI or other EU countries face major uncertainties about their future rights and obligations as regards data protection. As a result, the Irish border - a site where entities, mobility and information intersect - gives rise to an unprecedented puzzle pertaining to the mechanisms of data transfer to the UK, law enforcement and intelligence sharing, and administrative cooperation in the post-Brexit era.

Cross-DPN will build the first sustainable network of academics, civil society, industry and public officials to engage with data protection-related challenges in the post-Brexit era. The network is directed by a steering committee of four early career researchers, both from the UK and RoI, all experts in data protection and with a consolidated experience in network building, project management and knowledge dissemination. This network will be the first of its kind, both in terms of theme and in terms of range of stakeholders involved.

Its mission will be to pursue three main objectives:
1. to create a knowledge-sharing forum for assessing the challenges of data protection after Brexit and explore potential solutions;
2. to strengthen existing links between researchers from the UK and RoI and foster the formation of new relationships between academics and public/private stakeholders; and
3. to offer a platform for identifying common research agendas, laying the foundations for future collaborations, and applying for competitive bids in the area of data protection.

In order to achieve these objectives, we plan three activities that will start in January 2021:
a. we will organise four events in the RoI and the UK, focusing on the areas which will present major challenges for the development of data protection in the years ahead, namely: EU-UK data transfer mechanisms; the management of the Irish border and data protection; data protection in law enforcement and intelligence sharing; and institutional cooperation between UK, RoI and EU data protection authorities.
b. we will set up a website, social media channels and a mailing list for disseminating research outputs and the latest news relevant to data protection and Brexit.
c. we will organise an annual open call aiming to support short research visits by two emerging scholars whose research seeks to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges of data protection in the post-Brexit era.

Ultimately, Cross-DPN aims to open a new channel for dialogue in the island of Ireland, and contribute to maintaining the Irish border as a site of integration and cooperation.


Lead researcher

Doctor Napoleon Xanthoulis

Lecturer in Law

Research interests

  • Constitutional and administrative law
  • Law, policy and governance of the Economic and Monetary Union

Connect with Napoleon

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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