News and events Tilburg University

Bart van der Sloot receives KNAW Early Career Award

Published: 13th February 2023 Last updated: 21st February 2023

Dr. Bart van der Sloot, Associate Professor of Privacy and Big Data at Tilburg Law School, has received the Early Career Award from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Van der Sloot considers the award "a recognition of my work and of the fact that I am on the right track. I am very honored and extremely proud.”

Bart van der Sloot

Van der Sloot is currently on sabbatical in Italy working on a book. “Well, two books actually,” he corrects himself grinning. With his interest and background in both law and philosophy, Van der Sloot analyzes the extent to which new legislation is needed to steer technological developments in the right direction. He previously received an NWO Veni grant to investigate whether we need to look differently at the foundations of privacy.

“Big tech companies like Google have more data about you than you have about yourself, past, present and future. Everyone forgets things, but those companies employ both technicians and psychologists who can analyze you and determine future expectations. The current privacy rules can no longer adequately protect you and give you control over your own data. That’s why I reflect on those privacy rules themselves.”

Privacy and truth, theory and practice

The other topic he focuses on is truth: "The reality we live in is increasingly generated by augmented reality and artificial intelligence. What does this changing reality mean for society? Law mainly looks at the individual interest, but we now have to think much more about the general interest in that context. Look at the childcare benefit scandal, look at the dangers of deep fakes; they can disrupt communities. Making deepfakes is relatively easy. In many cases they have now become punishable, but that law is almost impossible to enforce."

We are now stuck with outdated doctrines with the result that people be left out in de cold

"What I love most about my work is translating issues from theory into practical solutions. The foundations of law, that is what I like to reflect on. Legislation is often two centuries old and it was a good idea at the time, but the question is: does it still work in a society that is fundamentally different? We are now stuck with outdated doctrines, with the result that people fall between the cracks. Look at the institutional bias at the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration that led to the childcare benefit scandal. That's why I think we need to assess regulations ex ante much more often."

The KNAW Early Career Award has been presented annually since 2019 in recognition of talented young researchers. Van der Sloot is one of twelve young researchers from all fields of science to be awarded 15,000 and a work of art. The Award is intended for researchers in the Netherlands who are at the beginning of their careers and who have innovative, original ideas.

Bart van der Sloot studied philosophy and law at the universities of Nijmegen, Amsterdam (UvA), Bologna, and Perugia. He specializes in the fields of technology and law, privacy and big data. He also publishes regularly on the liability of internet intermediaries, data protection and internet regulation. He works at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) and is the General Editor of the European Data Protection Law Review.