Tilburg Law School is looking for a PhD researcher with a background in law, specifically, comparative law and/or one or more of the following areas of ‘information law’: constitutional law dealing with information (e.g. freedom of expression, the right of access to information); intellectual property law; criminal law in the context of cybercrime (e.g. unauthorized access to information and computer systems); law of defamation, the law governing biobanks, etc. The position is part of the ERC project of Dr Nadezhda Purtova ‘Understanding information for legal protection of people against information-induced harms’ (‘INFO-LEG’). The project aims to reinvent the current system of data protection, or legal protection of people against information-induced harms, which is presently centered around the notion of personal data (‘PD’) (or personally identifiable information, ‘PII’). However, modern data collection and processing techniques and unprecedented amounts of data available for analysis lead to a situation where any information can be personally identifiable information. Therefore, PII-based legal protection will fail, since a law regulating everything is meaningless.
The project’s innovative potential lies in its interdisciplinary approach integrating comparative law, economics, and information studies. The comparative law part will be conducted by both the PhD student (3 countries) and Dr Purtova (2 countries). The countries for comparison will be chosen among United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, France, Scandinavian countries and / or other countries with high level of development of ICT technologies (e.g. Israel, Estonia). The PhD will focus on 3 domains of information law, and Dr Purtova will focus on 2. For each jurisdiction and legal domain, the PhD will engage – via desk research and research visits - in a comparative study of the concept of information. The successful candidate will become a member of the project’s interdisciplinary team which includes an economist, information scholar, Dr Purtova and another legal PhD.
Examples of the questions this line of enquiry will answer include: How do various domains of law in the selected jurisdictions conceptualize information? Which external and internal conceptual boundaries does the legal notion of information have across the identified domains? Do any information-related notions/conceptual boundaries persist / appear across domains and jurisdictions? By answering these questions, the researcher will help identify new information-related notions to substitute the failing notion of PD/PII as a cornerstone of a more robust legal protection against information-induced harms.
The PhD research is carried out within the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) as part of the Tilburg Graduate Law School, which is responsible for training and guidance of PhD’s. TILT is a top player in the field of the regulation of technology and its normative implications. We conduct research into the legal and social implications of various emerging technologies such as ICT, bio- and nanotechnology, neurotechnology and robotics. A key feature of the institute’s research program is the interaction between legal, technological, and social perspectives. TILT is consistently ranked a top institute for research and education by national and international Legal Research and Education Assessment Committees.
You are an excellent student and will have completed a law degree (LLM) before 1 September 2017. You have specialized in, or demonstrated affinity with, the comparative law method and / or one or more areas of ‘information law’ named above, in at least one, ideally but not necessarily two of the legal systems to be studied. Ideally you have a basic law degree from one country and a Master’s degree from another country. You have an academic mind-set, good writing skills, and an excellent command of written and spoken English. Good knowledge of German, French, or Italian is an important asset. You have strong analytic skills and value accuracy and nuance in your work. You like to work independently but also to collaborate closely within a small, interdisciplinary team.
Tilburg University is rated among the top of Dutch employers and has excellent terms of employment. The total duration of a PhD trajectory is four years (48 months). The candidate will initially be appointed for a fixed period of 16 months. After 12 months, an evaluation will take place. If the performance evaluation is positive, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 32 months. The PhD researcher will dedicate one day a week to educational or research related activities within the department, and four days a week to the PhD research. Selected candidates will be ranked in the Dutch university employment system (UFO). The starting gross salary is € 2.191,- per month (for a full-time appointment) and will raise every 12 months to a maximum of € 2.801,- based on the PhD salary scale of the Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) Dutch Universities.
Researchers from outside the Netherlands may qualify for a tax-free allowance equal to 30% of their taxable salary. The university will apply for such an allowance on their behalf. The university offers very good fringe benefits (it is one of the best non-profit employers in the Netherlands), such as an options model for terms and conditions of employment and excellent reimbursement of moving expenses.
The position is part of the ERC project of Dr Nadezhda Purtova ‘Understanding information for legal protection of people against information-induced harms’ (‘INFO-LEG’). The project aims to reinvent the current system of data protection, or legal protection of people against information-induced harms, which is presently centered around the notion of personal data (‘PD’) (or personally identifiable information, ‘PII’). However, modern data collection and processing techniques and unprecedented amounts of data available for analysis lead to a situation where any information can be personally identifiable information. Therefore, PII-based legal protection will fail, since a law regulating everything is meaningless. Yet, alternatives for structuring legal protection other than through the concept of PII/PD are lacking. The project will look for substitutes for the notion of PD/PII to fundamentally re-organize legal protection against information-induced harms, currently embodied in the law of data protection. This will be partially achieved via a better understanding of ‘information’, the notion notoriously underconceptualized in law.