Energy and climate crisis

Data Governance

This track explores the implications of this evolving trans-sectoral and transnational regulatory landscape, how data protection and other forms of governance are developing to meet these challenges, and what new actors or approaches are needed.

The governance and regulation of emerging technologies faces new challenges with the increasing blurring of public with commercial interests. Technologies for digital identification and facial recognition pose regulatory problems by operating across the public-private boundary: commercially developed, they aim for application in both the public sector and commercial spheres.

Other emerging players such as financial technology (fintech) and gig economy platforms create public problems of market instability, undermining rights and economic disruption, while remaining largely inscrutable to regulators and states.

Furthermore, all these technologies evolve on a transnational scale, posing these problems of regulation and governance in multiple countries simultaneously and challenging regulators to respond with foresight and creativity.

The transnational and opaque data infrastructures and architectures involved create the opportunity for forum-shopping and for platforms and large firms to make the case for self-regulation. Private regulation is proposed to answer many of these challenges: the transfer of regulatory tasks such as certification, inspection and monitoring to private actors, setting up the possibility of competition with regulators in setting and enforcing standards.

Track 'Regulating Emerging Technologies: Governance Beyond Data Protection'


We welcome contributions that explore the gaps in traditional national regulatory practice being exposed by the new commercial regimes, which may be geographic, social or legal; new actors and roles in regulation; the emerging shape of transnational regulation, and its interactions with other forms of technology governance.

We especially encourage authors to engage with viewpoints on governance beyond a data protection perspective, for instance by looking at the implications of a social justice approach, the inclusion of Global South perspectives, new roles for existing legal and regulatory tools, the relationship of ethics to regulation and governance, how to address the regulation of new technologies in relation to the (largely extra-legal) humanitarian domain, and geopolitical analyses of technology governance.

Suggested topics

We particularly welcome papers and panel proposals relating to the three classes of application mentioned above: identification, facial recognition and fintech, though proposals will also be accepted on other relevant issues. Suggested topics include:

  • Gaps in governance (missing red lines, under-scrutinised grey areas) in relation to (biometric) identification, facial recognition or financial technologies
  • Unregulated, or under-regulated, intervention on marginalised, low-income or vulnerable populations and responses to this problem
  • Resistance and contestation in relation to innovations in identification and fintech in different global contexts, and its effects on governance; additional framings for contestation beyond human rights
  • The potential role and effectiveness of private regulation in governing digital identity systems, biometrics, fintech, and related technologies
  • The construction of biometric imaginaries in different contexts, and theorising the socio-economic and cultural consequences of biometric use, particularly on vulnerable groups, in relation to governance and regulation
  • Rights issues raised by use of digital identity systems in the delivery of governments services through public-private partnerships

Roundtable Proposal 

COVID-19 and biometric ID: implications for social protection

The question on data justice implications of COVID-19 responses has been dealt with by recent works (cf. Taylor, Sharma, Martin & Jameson, 2020) in the aftermath of the WHO declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic. Taylor et al. (2020) investigate such responses in the light of the notions of function creep, i.e. the repurposing of existing digital systems to track, predict and influence, and market-making for large private software developers in the new architectures of epidemiological surveillance. Among the data justice problems opened by COVID-19, an important stream of questions is raised in terms of implications of the pandemic for digital systems of social protection.

Biometric social protection generates a trade-off where purported effectiveness, mostly in the form of accurate targeting, comes at the cost of greater exclusions of entitled beneficiaries (Muralidharan et al., 2020). As COVID-19 hits vulnerable populations worldwide, the trade-off of biometric social protection does not support social protection efforts, as systems are called to face greater vulnerable populations who demand immediate assistance. Rather than narrower targeting, social protection systems need adaptations to avoid the remaking and perpetuation of injustice, as cases from diverse world regions have illustrated (cf. Cerna Aragon, 2020; Dreze, 2020; Lopez; 2020). As a result, COVID-19 opens a whole new set of questions on how biometric social protection is set to change in response to the pandemic.

Against this backdrop, this roundtable proposal invites contributions on experiences of biometric social protection systems during COVID-19. We are interested in contributions from diverse countries and regions, illustrating how social protection systems have evolved during the pandemic and the roles that digital technologies have played in such evolution. We aim at putting together a roundtable of experts from worldwide, accompanied by a team of commentators to ask questions and stimulate debate. Discussion will then be extended to the online audience.


For roundtable speakers, we invite abstracts (150-200 words) touching upon:

  • The country’s social protection system – its main traits;
  • How these traits have evolved during COVID-19;
  • Roles digital technologies have played in such evolution;
  • Consequences of such evolution for beneficiaries under crisis.

We reserve to form a roundtable of geographically diverse contributions, and a team of discussants to sustain debate in the session.

Abstracts for proposed contributions are due on March 15, 2021.



For questions about possible presentations for this track, please contact: