26 November 2019

Of spiders and robots: webcrawling as opportunity and threat vs. data protection law as facilitator and obstacle

Web crawlers are almost as old as the internet itself and are used for a myriad of purposes from law enforcement to research and business intelligence to malicious attacks. Theoretically, web crawlers can collect information from the internet on an infinite scale. Respectively, the information generated by the users may qualify as personal data and in that case, the relevant legal framework becomes applicable, creating a noteworthy obstacle for such activities. The most challenging situation is when personal data are not targeted as such and are only incidentally collected and processed. The goal of this panel is to discuss the legality and proportionality of web crawling from the point of view of privacy and data protection law, as well as the current ‘self-regulatory’ framework.


The panelists will give an overview of what web crawling entails from a technical point of view and outline the purposes of the use of web crawling in business, research and law enforcement. Building on that technical description, the discussion will move to the implementation of the EU data protection law and the compatibility with the data protection principles. Preventive, protective and informative measures deployed by website operators will also be presented and debated.


This event is co-organised by the Horizon 2020-funded research project Cyber-Trust | Advanced Cyber-Threat Intelligence, Detection, and Mitigation Platform for a Trusted Internet of Things.



  • Constantinos Patsakis, Assistant Professor at the Department of Informatics, University of Piraeus and Adjunct researcher at the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS) of Athena Research and Innovation Centre
  • Dr. Gohar Sargsyan, ICT Innovation Lead EU, Director Consulting Information Driven Operations and Digital Transformation, CGI Netherlands
  • Georgia Melenikou, Lawyer and Research Associate, Center for Security Studies (KEMEA), Hellenic Ministry of Citizen Protection
  • Dimitra Papadaki, Lawyer and Research Associate, Center for Security Studies (KEMEA), Hellenic Ministry of Citizen Protection


Moderators: Prof. Paul Quinn and Olga Gkotsopoulou (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)

Time: 12:00 - 14:30 (lunch is included)


12.00-12.30 lunch

12.30-14.00 Presentations by the panelists and discussion in panel

14.00-14.30 Q&A and concluding remarks

Venue: U-Residence, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, 1050, Brussel (Access also via Generaal Jacqueslaan 271, 1050 Brussels)

Registration: The event is free to attend, but due to limited capacity, registration is required.  For any problems with online registration, please contact info@brusselsprivacyhub.eu. Having difficulty accessing the regsitration form on your mobile device? Use this link.

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