All you have to know on PANELFIT, a new project promoted by OBCT

15/04/2019 - 


The technical innovations connected to the exploitation of big data, along with new laws such as GDPR, are radically changing the ICT scenario inside and outside the European Union. PANELFIT is a European network of 13 organisations, operating in different fields – from technological consulting to research, from data protection to RI ethics, from citizens science to journalism – who work together in order to take advantage of the technological opportunities of these processes without compromising the citizens’ security and fundamental rights.

The goals of the project

PANELFIT addresses ethical and legal issues focusing on three main areas:

  • data commercialization
  • informed consent on the use of personal data
  • security and cybersecurity issues

Through a series of open and accessible guidelines, along with many initiatives addressed to specific communities such as researchers and journalists, as well as citizens in general, PANELFIT will give assistance to the implementation of laws currently in force, suggesting legislative enhancements and offering alternative interpretations to the most complex issues. The project is co-funded by the Horizon 2020 Program of the European Commission. It has started in 2018 and will end in November 2021.


OBCT, in line with its continuous engagement in informing about different aspects and issues of the European landscape, takes part in PANELFIT as a reference point of the European Data Journalism Network , in order to foster the journalistic coverage and the debate around the project themes. The goal of the action is to improve and intensify the level of the media debate on such subjects.

What is our approach?

OBCT acts as a bridge between the community of the specialists (researchers, lawyers, policy makers, activists, etc.) and that of journalists, promoting the dialogue and the exchange of information to be broadcasted to the audience in an accurate and compelling way. OBCT, thanks to its transnational point of view, will make the most of the journalistic network that has been built in the context of the EDJNet project, fostering initiatives of collaborative journalism among professionals of different media outlets and countries. In addition, OBCT will guide a transnational investigation to be carried out by the end of the project. The content published along the three years life-span of PANELFIT will be merged into a practical manual for journalists involved in these issues, and in a further information tool (the Citizens Info Pack) designed for a broader audience.

Data protection and democracy

The participation of OBCT to PANELFIT is connected to another project currently running, called ESVEI, that deals with the vulnerability to external interference of democratic processes. One of the directions of ESVEI is cybersecurity, intended as the ability of IT infrastructures to protect users’ data. The intensive use of digital technology has turned the citizens into an involuntary (and often unaware) source of data at the disposal of business companies, research agencies, health institutions, etc. Such unprecedented availability and processing capability represent, at the same time, an opportunity and a threat for the freedom of the individual, and their dangerous drift can get to the point of questioning the proper functioning of the democratic processes.

The issues at stake

The European Union chose to bear the burden of this challenge by passing a complex and controversial norm, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), that puts the Union at the forefront on a worldwide scale. Nevertheless, many questions remain unanswered: how much “informed” is actually the consent to the use of his or her data that the user gives when accessing an online service? Who is intended to have access to personal data, and under what conditions can these be sold or transmitted to third parties? Which are the risks of mass surveillance campaigns aimed at ensuring the public security? Is it really possible to anonymize data? To what extent is it right to push the transparency principle about algorithmic disclosure, and who should be responsible to analyze and assess the algorithms?