Imperial College London

Europe’s competition chief appoints Imperial academic as top adviser

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President Alice Gast, Karen Bradley MP, Dr. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye and Professor Yi-Ke Guo in the DSI's Data Observatory.

President Alice Gast, Karen Bradley MP, Dr. Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye and Professor Yi-Ke Guo in the DSI's Data Observatory.

Dr Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye has been appointed as a special adviser to the EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Commissioner Vestager oversees competition, mergers, cartels, state-aid and anti-trust for the world’s largest single market. She has led a high-profile anti-trust case against Google and investigations into the tax affairs of multinational companies including Amazon.

Dr de Montjoye, Head of the Data Science Institute’s Computational Privacy Group, will take up the position on 1 April 2018 and hold the role for one year, advising the Commissioner on future challenges of digitisation for competition policy. While holding the part-time role, he will remain an active member of the Data Science Institute’s teaching and research staff.

Two other special advisers have also been appointed. Legal expert Professor Heike Schweitzer from the Humboldt University of Berlin and economist Professor Jacques Crémer from the Toulouse School of Economics will join Dr de Montjoye in advising Commissioner Vestager.

Dr de Montjoye said: "I am delighted to be appointed as a special adviser to EC Commissioner Vestager, in what will be a challenging and exciting role. I am hugely looking forward to working with her and my fellow special advisers on the impact of digitisation on competition policy."

Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise) said: “The digital economy raises important questions about how competition law operates across borders. I am very pleased Yves-Alexandre has been appointed to this new role, recognising the contribution that his research can make to public policy. This is one of many ways in which Imperial’s academic community is continuing to engage with and influence important policy debates in Europe.”

Commissioner Vestager previously served as Denmark’s Minister of Economic Affairs and the Interior between 2011 and 2014 before being appointed to the Commission.

She said she was “very happy” to appoint the special advisers on the basis of their “exceptional qualifications, experience, and varied profiles.”

Shaping the privacy debate

Yesterday, Dr de Montjoye discussed data privacy at Imperial with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid

Dr de Montjoye’s research into data privacy and anonymization has been mentioned several times in the House of Lords during debates focused on the Data Protection Bill currently going through Parliament.

His Computational Privacy Group’s research involves attempting to re-identify supposedly anonymised data sets to try to improve the anonymization standards of data controllers.

The proposed legislation would have effectively criminalised their research, despite the intention being to improve the security of consumers’ data, rather than to exploit weaknesses in it.

After engaging with government officials and Peers across the House of Lords, the government agreed to amend the legislation to reflect his concerns. Their amendment to the Bill introduced “effectiveness testing conditions” for re-identification, providing researchers with the legal cover to continue their work.

Dr Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid
Dr Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid this week

He also presented his research to former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley, an Imperial alum, during a visit to the College in November 2017.

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Tom Rutland

Tom Rutland
Communications and Public Affairs

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