Vulnerable individuals and communities are impacted by a lack of digital literacy and e-inclusion in today’s digitalized societies, which idealise the “tech-savvy, independent, and uber-modern, able to produce digital data and analyze it to hold city government accountable” as Burns and Andrucki (2020) argue. This panel revisits vulnerability, zooming in on the impacts of digital technologies. It discusses how new forms of vulnerability are created, or existing ones exacerbated, in societies informed through technologically mediated networks and ICT. Data subject rights may be promising tools as they aim to empower individuals and counter power asymmetries. The panel therefore looks into whether regulatory frameworks (data protection, administrative law) are mature and apt enough to tackle the challenge of protecting the rights and interests of those who find themselves increasingly marginalized while others reap the benefits of digitalisation. In this regard, the panel aims to ask the following questions:
• What are vulnerable data subjects, and what is the interplay of new and old vulnerabilities with increasing digitalisation in our society?
• Can data protection law, and especially the data subjects’ rights, help vulnerable individuals to improve their position in society/ avoid exploitation?
• Have they been used in practice to counter vulnerabilities though, or are they a privilege, mainly at the hands of tech-savvy elites? What other, more collective tools, exist to address digitalisation’s adverse and uneven impacts on certain groups?
• Faced with many problems in the offline world (poverty, literacy, socio-demographic background, inequalities, disenfranchisement and so on), how can vulnerable individuals as well as their representative organisations understand the impacts of digitilisation and act upon them?