The challenge of digital constitutionalism in regulating the surveillance state and the technology-driven economy


The speech will consider the challenges raised by the algorithmic society by looking at the government not as a potential regulator, but as itself subject to some fundamental rules.

All too often, in fact, one question remains unanswered: what happens, and what should the legal framework be, when it is the governments that massively accumulate information and data and use them “against” their citizens?
When combined with the Weberian monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force, this practice creates a tremendous concentration of power, which is extremely dangerous, because it would be a lethal weapon in the hands of malicious governments. But the situation seems worthy of great concern even when democratic systems are at stake.

The most immediate threats concern individual freedom in the following fields, considered individually with examples taken from comparative research: internet censorship; the collection and use of personal data to provide public services; tax fraud investigations; other criminal investigations and prevention of threats to public security.

The speech will conclude by arguing the need to rediscover, in this era of profound technological transformation, the original reasons for constitutionalism: the algorithmic society makes it all the more urgent to reaffirm the constitutional constraints to government power, in order to prevent fundamental rights from being watered down, just because this is technologically possible. Constitutionalism should therefore find new instruments to pursue an old objective, to be sure the oldest one, namely to limit the powers of government. Ultimately, some form of constitutionalism 4.0 may be needed to meet the many challenges of the algorithmic society, but surely there is still a need for “good old” constitutionalism 1.0 as well.


Riccardo de Caria

Riccardo de Caria is an associate professor at the Department of Law of the University of Turin, where he teaches Comparative Law and Economics and Public Economic Law, and a visiting professor (since 2020) at the Law Faculty of the Université Lyon III Jean Moulin, where he teaches Comparative Tech Law and Policy. In 2021, he was also visiting professor at the Georgetown Center for Transnational Legal Studies in London, teaching Law and Policy of Technological Innovation.

He received his Ph.D in Public law from the University of Turin and a Master of Laws (LLM) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is co-chair of the Italian hub of the European Law Institute and of the Turin Observatory on Economic Law and Innovation (TOELI); fellow of the Institut de recherches économiques et fiscales and of the Istituto Bruno Leoni; research associate of the Istituto Universitario di Studi Europei (IUSE); and affiliate of the Netzwerk für Ordnungsökonomik und Sozialphilosophie.

He is the Principal Investigator of the Jean Monnet Module Reshaping Education for Tomorrow’s European Lawyers.

His research interests include financial regulation, with particular regard to the legal framework of monetary policy; the law of blockchain, smart contracts, cryptocurrencies and the tokenised economy; and freedom of expression, with particular regard to its economic dimension.

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