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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 2019 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 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 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. The 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 to which firms 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 0930 and is divided into four segments. The Chair of each segment chooses how it would be conducted; this could be through 10-minute provocations follows by discussions, or through more formal speeches and Q&A sessions.

The 2019 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. 

Programme for the day

09:30 – 10:15 Registration, Networking and Coffee

10:15 – 11:15 Welcome and an Update on the HAT Ecosystem

SEGMENT 1: Technology and Science

11:15 – 1145 Professor Jon Crowcroft: Misinformation and Business Models

11:45 – 12:15 Professor Max van Kleek: Take Back Control – Rethinking Narratives of Control over Personal Data

12:15 – 12:55 Town Hall Discussion

12:55 – 14:00 Lunch

SEGMENT 2: Rights and Freedom

14:00 – 14:30 Professor John Naughton: Ethics-Theatre in Machine Learning

14:30 – 15:00 Town Hall Discussion

15:00 – 15:10 Coffee and Tea

SEGMENT 3: Value and Markets

15:10 – 15:40 Dr Graham Hill : The 3D Business Model: Monetising Data

15:40 – 16:10 Professor Irene Ng: Stop being creepy: Getting Personalisation and Recommendation right

16:10 – 16:40 Town Hall Discussion


Professor Jon Crowcroft, FRS 

Marconi Professor of Communications Systems, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge; Associate Fellow of the Centre for Science and Policy; Fellow of the Royal Society; Turing Fellow

Professor Max van Kleek

Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, University of Oxford's Department of Computer Science

Professor John Naughton, FRSA 

Senior Research Fellow at CRASSH (Cambridge); Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology, the Open University; Director of the Press Fellowship Programme, Wolfson College; Technology Columnist, The Observer

Dr Graham Hill

Interim Programme Director for Data Enablement at O2 (Telefónica UK). Management consultant with 25 years experience directing business transformation projects. 

Professor Irene Ng 

Chief Executive of HAT Data Exchange Ltd; Professor and Director, HATLAB at WMG, University of Warwick; Senior Member of Wolfson College, Cambridge; Turing Fellow