For the first time, the Spring Conference took place in Riga, Latvia, from May 14th to 16th, bringing together data protection authorities from European countries, both within and outside the EEA, for the 32nd time.

The conference was held at the beautiful and green Mežaparks Grand Bandstand, where the National Song and Dance Festival was held just a year before. This annual event is a significant gathering where regulators collaborate to enhance data protection measures.

The Spring Conference closed sessions concluded with 132 delegates attending from 45 countries and 3 organizations. Additionally, an open day welcomed around 150 in-person attendees and 200 online participants, demonstrating widespread interest in the discussions.

The conference began with a speech from the host, Jekaterina Macuka, Director of the State Data Inspectorate. She expressed gratitude to everyone for coming to Latvia to participate in the conference and for their dedication to protecting data, particularly in the face of rapidly evolving technology. Ms. Macuka reminded attendees that technology itself isn't inherently good or bad; it’s how we choose to use it that determines its impact.

She emphasized, "We live in an era of rapidly developing technologies. These technologies are neutral; they are not inherently good or bad. It all depends on how we use them. As data protection authorities, our responsibility is to navigate privacy and data protection in the age of emerging technology and innovation. We must make these technologies our friends, not enemies. How can we do this? By cooperating!"

Key topics at the conference included the evolving role of data protection authorities in the digital age, navigating privacy in the face of emerging technologies, safeguarding health data amidst digitalization, and fostering cooperation among data protection entities.

"In today's rapidly digitizing world, safeguarding health data has become paramount. During the 3rd panel of the Spring Conference, the speakers emphasized the significance of health data in today's digitalized world. They discussed the essential safeguards required, the implications of the secondary use of healthcare data, and the role of innovation in the healthcare sector. There was a broader discussion on balancing privacy concerns with the necessity of using health data, stressing responsible usage for medical research. Furthermore, insights were shared on identifying and analyzing privacy risks associated with neuroscience data," said Dijana Sinkuniene, Head of the State Data Protection Inspectorate of the Republic of Lithuania, who was moderating the panel on health data.

In turn, the panel on international cooperation demonstrated that cooperation is no longer an option but a vital necessity if we want to advance in the field of data protection.

As the moderator, Evija Kreismane, Head of the Legal Division at the Latvian Data State Inspectorate, emphasized: “On the one hand, both practice and research conducted by the FRA on the implementation of GDPR show that a persistent lack of resources among DPAs impacts cooperation at both the national and international levels, especially in small countries. On the other hand, cooperation is also a remedy, providing opportunities to address challenges together, for example, through recommendations or guidelines, which are also beneficial for non-EU countries. During the active discussion, everyone agreed that DPAs must seek not only formal but also informal ways to ensure effective cooperation and collaboration.”

On the open day, sessions delved into navigating AML regulations and GDPR compliance, emphasizing effective collaboration between authorities, officers, and businesses to safeguard data processing. These sessions also brought together amazing experts who delivered brilliant presentations and facilitated fruitful discussions. Most of the audience consisted of data protection officers, DPA representatives, and other interested parties. 

The members and observers unanimously adopted a resolution on enhanced cooperation and the establishment of working groups for data protection authorities. European DPAs wish to reaffirm their steadfast commitment to collaborative efforts. By embracing the principles of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual support, European DPAs aim to confront the challenges of the digital age more effectively, thereby safeguarding the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals in an ever-more interconnected world. This resolution was adopted to formalize and strengthen their collective approach towards addressing contemporary data protection challenges.

The Conference offered an excellent platform for exchanging views and experiences within its framework. The Steering Group, aiding in the conference's organization, proved immensely helpful for the hosts, the Data State Inspectorate of Latvia, and will extend its assistance to future hosts as well.

The Spring Conference 2024 provided an invaluable opportunity for attendees to exchange ideas and collaborate towards enhancing data protection for all. The Data State Inspectorate of Latvia extends heartfelt thanks to all participants, lecturers, and speakers! You made this conference truly amazing.

The 33rd Spring Conference will be hosted by our colleagues in Georgia. See you in 2025!