No free lunch on social media

24-01-2013 / De Markten


Social media seem to challenge users’ privacy as the platforms value openness, connecting, and sharing with others. They became the focal point for privacy discussions as EU regulation and consumer organisations advocate privacy.

In a forever increasing connectivity, online advertising has become a key source of income for a wide range of online services. It has become a crucial factor for the growth and expansion of the Internet economy. For digital advertising to continue to grow, it needs the right set of rules. To create growth, also trust needs to be encouraged in emerging technologies, so that consumers feel comfortable using them. How much privacy do users expect on platforms designed to share information?

In this debate we wish to dissect the privacy definitions proposed by social media platforms, advertisers and consumer representatives. We especially wish to focus on the current trade-off made on all social media; users are offered free access to social media, but in the end the advertisers pay through advertising for their free lunch. In this context the solutions that offer users online anonymity, to take them around the current web 2.0 business models, are also explained. How can the eco-system work and be sustainable? We want to discuss if a perfect fit exists for the three stakeholders: users, social media platforms and advertisers.


Bruno Schröder: National Technology Officer for Microsoft Belux

Bruno Schröder graduated as an engineer in 1982 and sent his first email on Internet in 1985. With a 30 years career in IT, he has hold almost all possible positions, from Unix guru to Partner, from running his own company to creating the European Union Consultancy practice of Unisys.  He has been involved in s

everal very large pan European turnkey projects, has managed teams up to 250 people and has always been at the forefront of the technology.

At Microsoft, Bruno Schroder started as Microsoft Belux Public Sector Director. Since 2006 he is Technology Officer, the BeLux member of a 45 people worldwide community at Microsoft adequately spread on the planet to represent all markets, development status and economic conditions,  focusing on technology policy, assessing the potential impacts of future IT technology on social life, public and private organisations and economic development.

Recently, Bruno Schröder initiated economic partnership agreements with the Federal and Regional governments which resulted in the creation of 4 Microsoft Innovation Centre in Belgium and in the setup of a national research and training centre dedicated to the fight against cybercrime. In 2011, he was appointed co-president of the Quality Audit Committee of the Higher IT Education (Bachelor and Master)

On a personal side, he is one of the 10 people who decided to create the .BE domain on internet at the end of the 80ties. He is member of several technology and strategy advisory boards and think tanks and is an avid follower of how technology transforms our lives.

Alain Heureux, President, IAB Europe

Alain Heureux is President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe (IAB Europe), the trade association responsible for promoting the growth of the interactive advertising markets in Europe. IAB Europe represents the interests of more than 4500 members including major media groups, agencies, portals, technology and service providers. There are currently 25 member countries with 5 more scheduled to join.

Alain brings a wealth of experience to this pivotal role. He has more than 20 years pan-European marketing experience having established several marketing services companies across Europe: the CPM Group specialising in field and direct marketing and sales promotion, Virtuology, a web agency active in Brussels, London and Paris, and Tagora, an integrated marcom agency. He is currently working to set up the House of Communication (The Egg) in Brussels that will be dedicated to Creativity, Innovation and Technologies in media and marketing.

Educated at KUL Leuven, Alain has a degree in Law and graduate qualifications in Direct Marketing, Media, and Sales Promotion. He lives in Antwerp, Belgium with his family.

Colin J. Bennett, University of Victoria (Canada)

Colin J. Bennett studied the politics of privacy, and the governance of the issue in different states, as well as internationally. How states respond to this question says much about their distinctive institutional and cultural traditions, as well as about the impact of globalization. The political response to these similar cross-national trends reveals much about the abilities of states, acting independently and in concert, to manage technological change.

He has also written about the increasing levels of surveillance in modern life, and about peoples’ attitudes towards these trends. He has tried to understand how particular information technologies, such as video-surveillance, intelligent transportation systems and identity cards, are regulated in different countries with different institutions and political cultures. He also considers himself an advocate, and tries to advance his ideas in the media and within governmental and legislative arenas, and to the large international network of privacy advocates and regulators.

He is currently involved in three research projects: a continuation of work on the subject of privacy advocacy; a large interdisciplinary project on surveillance – the New Transparency Project; and a new project on implications for personal privacy of social-networking.

Rob Heyman, EMSOC, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Rob Heyman is researcher at the User Empowerment Unit of the iMinds research center SMIT of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He researches to what degree and how users and their privacy are being empowered or disempowered by social media.To what extent are users self-reflexive and sufficiently aware about changes in privacy and personal data. He also analyses if and to what extent the activities of users that are being monitored, processed, analysed and commodified by third parties.

Discussant: Dominique Deckmyn, De Standaard (Flemish Newspaper)

Dominique Deckmyn is a Flemish media journalist fascinated by technology and the way technological innovations influence our everyday lives. For fourteen years already he writes a successful column for De Standaard about new media technologies and their effects on society. He has been manager of the ‘Standaard Online’, before he was editor in chief of the IT Professional magazine.


Chair: Jo Pierson EMSOC, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Jo Pierson is Senior Researcher at SMIT since 1996 and holds a PhD in Communication Studies since 2003. He is professor at VUB and lectures bachelor and master courses. He coordinates the User Research cluster and the User Studies methods.


This public debate is part of CPDP 2013 (Computers, Privacy and Data Protection, 23-25 January 2013) in Brussels. The research project EMSOC organizes this free public debate on 24 January 2013 on thursday evening. CPDP is a three-days conference which is mainly organised around panels. The idea of having a public debate is essentially to raise discussions and to get people interested in the issue at stake, so involving attendees. The session will last around 80-90 minutes.



24-01-2013: 20:00 - 21:30


De Markten
Oude Graanmarkt 5
1000 Brussels

Registration fee

the panel discussion 'No free lunch on social media' is free of charge, registration is needed.