Colman McMahon
           PhD Research Fellow



Address Dynamics Lab

Geary Institute,

University College Dublin

Dublin 4

1. Project Title

EU Data Protection Law – A Network Analysis of Influence on Policy Formulation

2. Project Description

In the face of growing online threats and abuses, the European Commission's DG Justice announced in 2009 its intention to reform data protection across the EU. Over the next two years a comprehensive public consultation process took place. There was significant interest group representation during this process as organisations attempted, formally and informally, to shape the proposal as it was being formulated. The result was a proposal to replace the existing Directive 95/46/EC with a pan-EU General Data Protection Regulation (link to EU press release).

The central questions of this project is, which actors in the policy network influenced the proposals, who was most effective, and why? This study will employ quantitative text analysis of the written submissions (2009, 2011) provided by interest groups to the Commission to attempt to answer these questions. This empirical evidence will provide a dataset for network analysis. A discourse network will be modelled, using the textual dataset, connecting actors to themes and key policy events, identifying the structural role of actors in the discourse. By comparing the textual results from the interest group submissions with the evolving text leading towards and resulting in the final proposed Regulation (pdf), an “influence network” will be constructed. This will allow the measurement of actor influence indicating who had the most success shaping the proposal.

The proposed Regulation will have significant impact on businesses and individuals. Using computational analysis to compare the submissions from interest groups to the Commission's final draft, valuable insights should be gained as to how the proposal was shaped. Coupling these results with network analysis should reveal which interest groups were most influential during the formulation stage – in other words, who were the policy winners and losers.

Keywords: data protection, EU policy, text analysis, social network analysis, lobbying

3. Funding Source

Colman McMahon is awarded a 4 year SimScI PhD fellowship for this project. SimSci Fellowships are funded under the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) Cycle 5 which is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

4. Supervisors

Dr Diane Payne (Principal Supervisor)