Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Charles Hankla

Second Advisor

Jelena Subotic

Third Advisor

Toby Bolsen


The European Union has the most restrictive data protection policies among democracies today, having created a regime of digital human rights. Yet what contributed to the decision by EU policy-makers to place supranational constraints upon personal and cyber data use? At the national level, Member States’ preferences were influenced by three structural factors: domestic security threats, the growing digital economy, and the work of human rights advocates around data privacy. Law enforcement and security officials sought access to data for criminal prosecution and anti-terrorism purposes. Multinational firms asked for the freedom to transport data across borders, treating it as an economic commodity. Legal rights actors pressed for data privacy and protections. While none of these preferences have been mutually exclusive, EU policy convergence upon the digital human rights model is the result of pressure exerted by key states. Most particularly, epistemic experts and key political elites acted on behalf of the UK, Germany, and France to turn the EU Commission and the Council in the direction of their national preferences for data governance. However, whether the EU can successfully maintain digital human rights as it attempts to export these norms to the global community remains to be seen. What is framed as human rights protections for data continues to give considerable leverage to data brokers and law enforcement officials to use data as they wish.


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