IOI Board member and Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise: Final remarks at the workshop on Human Rights in the Digital Age

24. January 2018, Tallinn


Dear fellow ombudspeople, brave souls – to cite Graham –, I hope we all got some new information, ideas and inspiration to fulfil our mandates better and better.

There was something for all types of mandates – children ombudsman, healthcare ombudsman, police ombudsman etc.

I personally have taken hundreds of notes.

The most important for me were:

1. Technology must serve human being not vice versa; the stories told by Reinier remind me the novels by Franz Kafka, namely “The Castle” and “The Trial” with the only differences that in the place of a hidden judge or overwhelming bureaucracy stands technology.

2. Technology isn’t good or bad, neither is it neutral. It always has impact.

3. As ombudspeople we always had and will have to weigh contradicting rights and values. Nothing has tremendously changed, technology has only added one layer, and it is something we must be aware of to make correct decisions.

4. The right to be forgotten can not be fully granted in the digital age. But can we grant the right to be forgiven?

5. Who owns the personal data: the person her- or himself or a government, company, internet search engines? If it is the person, she or he should be enabled to delink her- or himself from databases and make oneself invisible for search engines.

6.  Some lawyers seem to live in a much better world than we really have now. That’s true. But: flimsy arguments are not enough to use secret means against a person.

7.  Estonian web-constable is probably one of the best mechanisms for preventing and fighting bullying at school, suicides etc. This concept would be a great tool to bear in mind for all of us, who fulfil children ombudsman mandate;

8. While talking about e-Health, or about predictive public services something very important was brought up by Elisabeth, Rafael and some other colleagues: we cannot be too optimistic. I would like to add: in many cases we cannot act reactively (remain somewhat passive) any more. We must step in before something bad happens.


Dear colleagues from all over the world,

Rapid development of technology brings new types of cases to our offices every day. They come one after another like mushrooms emerge after rain.

I hope we all are better prepared now to solve these cases in the best and just way.

I´d like to thank IOI for all the support you gave us. And our moderator Hans Lõugas, who has done a really great job during these days.

My sincere gratitude belongs to our translators, technical personnel of Kultuurikatel, and of course, to Epp, Kertti, Kaidi, Piret, Käti, Erkki-Sven, Raivo, Ülo and my other colleagues from the Office of Chancellor of Justice.

It is a honour to belong to the international ombudsmen community.

Thank you.

Have a safe journey back home! I am looking forward to see many of you soon in Brussels, New York, Toronto, Bilbao and so on. Take care!