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The Digital Person:

A Symposium



The use of personal data is of enormous global concern.  The Digital Person symposium is an annual event organised by the HAT Community Foundation and Wolfson College Cambridge that discusses personal data from three perspectives: (1) digital personhood, law, freedom and democracy (2) value, economics and markets and (3) data analytics, data science and technology. Symposium participants are drawn from industry captains, policy makers, government representatives, combined with thought leaders from the sciences, humanities and social sciences with discussions relating to law, computer science, history, sociology, entrepreneurship, business, economics  and the global society. The symposium is chaired by 3 eminent professors in the field, Professors John Naughton, Jon Crowcroft and Irene Ng. This unique cross-disciplinary symposium is organised jointly by Wolfson College Cambridge and the HAT Community Foundation.

Aside from creating a unique environment for a robust discussion that is relevant and important, the symposium will also produce an annual white paper on the state of the digital person in a connected and digital society. The paper would highlight the issues, opportunities and tensions of the digital person in 2018 and would summarise the challenge that can be put into the larger context of the Internet and its implications for society, technology and the economy. 

The paper would then be presented to the Digital Person Symposium Committee, that acts as an editorial board. Once it is accepted, it will be published in the HATLAB series for the Digital Person (HDP). The HDP will be disseminated to national governments, funding agencies, industry and NGOs. Beyond that, parts of the paper will be published on Medium as small impact-driven articles.


Wolfson College Cambridge, Barton Road, Cambridge CB3 9BB, UK



‘Personal data’ is the usual European term, but in the US it is often known as ‘personal information’ or ‘personally identifiable information’ (p.7, Van Kleek and O’Hara,). Personal data/information is defined as ‘any information/data relating to an identified or identifiable natural person’ Bonneau and Preibusch (2010). This isn’t just email, addresses or credit card information but photographs, social media posts, documents – almost everything on the Internet that could be linked to an individual. ICO has an entire document dedicated to what is personal data for the purpose of the data protection act 1988 and its successor, the General Data Protection Regulation that firms would need to comply by May 2018.

Personal data is currently one of the most talked about subjects in both academia and practice when discussing the digital economy and the Internet. Most conversations surround privacy and security. However, there are many facets of personal data that need more robust discussion, many of which interact with one another. The Wolfson-HAT Annual Symposium on the Digital Person serves to raise awareness on this topic and discuss issues relating to the research, practice and use of digital persons in the Internet Economy. The symposium lasts a full day, beginning at 930 and is divided into 4 segments. The Chair of each segment chooses how the segment would be conducted. This could be through 10-minute provocations and then discussions, or through more formal speeches and Q&As.

The 2018 Symposium will follow a different format with Table seating for speakers and Audience seating for observers. Table seating is by invitation only.

Audience seating is available for public booking. 


This segment would discuss the following:

  • personal data creation

  • schemas, analytics, private analytics

  • machine learning algorithms, AI

  • security, privacy

  • technology and IoT 

This segment is chaired by Professor Jon Crowcroft, FRS 


This segment would discuss the following:

  • personal data as an asset class

  • economic value chains of personal data

  • economic and business models of personal data

  • exchange mechanisms, transactions,

  • monetization, dataification, digitization

This segment is chaired by Professor Irene Ng 


This segment would discuss the following: 

  • expression of digital identity, curating personal, digital narratives and memories,

  • proxies of digital self, digital and physical world connections,

  • online identities and understanding how individuals and society interact digitally

  • privacy, security, access rights, regulation,

  • law, democracy and rights

This segment is chaired by Professor John Naughton, FRSA