Dr Edina Harbinja is a Reader in Media/Privacy Law. Her principal areas of research and teaching are related to the legal issues surrounding the Internet and emerging technologies. Edina is a pioneer and a recognised expert in post-mortem privacy, i.e. privacy of the deceased individuals. She has published widely on aspects of internet law and regulation and has been a visiting scholar and an invited speaker to universities and conferences in the USA, Latin America and Europe. Her research has been highly impactful. She has been able to influence and inform American, the UK and Australian legislators and court cases over the past decade, as well as big tech companies, the legal profession and civil society. She has appeared several times at the UK Parliament as an expert witness.
Her public engagement has been very extensive. She has published pieces in news outlets, websites, practitioners’ magazines etc. (e.g. BBC Tomorrow’s World, BBC Ideas, The Nature Outlook, The Guardian, The Verge, The Daily Mail, The Conversation, The Law Society Gazette, The Legal Practice Management Magazine etc.). She is a TEDx speaker.
Edina holds a number of appointments and memberships outside Aston. This includes, inter alia, membership of the Advisory Council at Open Rights Group, Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, membership of the Executive Committee, British and Irish Law, Education and Technology Association (BILETA). Edina is also an alumna of the Leadership Foundation’s Aurora programme and the UK Digital Economy Ambassador, as a part of the CHERISH-DE Digital Economy Crucible Programme, Swansea University.
Edina is a chief editor for the EUP book series ‘Future law’, along with Prof Burkhard Schafer. She is a Deputy Editor of the Computer Law and Security Review. She has guest edited other tech law journals as well. She acts as a peer reviewer for a number of journals in the area of IT and law, social science and human-computer interaction. Edina has reviewed research bids, book proposals and monographs. Edina has led grant applications as a PI, and have so far been successful at a number of important awards (e.g. Modern Law Review seminar series, Leverhulme Trust funding, ESRC/IRC Networking Grant).
Edina’s research interests are in the area of privacy and data protection, post-mortem privacy, digital regulation, online safety, digital property and AI.
Areas of Expertise (4)
AI and Law
University of Strathclyde: PhD, Law
University of Sarajevo: LLB
1st class hons.
University of Strathclyde: LLM, IT and Telecommunications Law
- Open Rights Group : Member of the Advisory Council
- Higher Education Academy : Senior Fellow
- British and Irish Law, Education and Technology Association (BILETA) : Member of the Executive Committee
- Death Online Research Network : Member
- Society of Legal Scholars : Member
Media Appearances (10)
A proposed UK law would automatically hand loved ones access to your messages, photos, and emails after you die
Business Insider online
[no abstract available]
U.K.’s Online Safety Bill: Not That Safe, After All?
The U.K. government's long-awaited Online Safety Bill was published on May 12, and it follows a series of documents in the past few years that announced reforms in the area of online harms and the regulation of platforms. Its notable predecessors include the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper and the Online Harms White Paper. In the final version of the bill, the term “harms” has been replaced by “safety” in the title, and the content largely reflects this change in focus.
Chatbots that resurrect the dead: legal experts weigh in on ‘disturbing’ technology
The Conversation online
Our research has looked at the surprisingly complex legal question of what happens to your data after you die. At present, and in the absence of specific legislation, it’s unclear who might have the ultimate power to reboot your digital persona after your physical body has been put to rest.
German police are using fake child abuse images to catch abusers, but critics warn of dangers
The Telegraph online
[no abstract available]
Data of the Dead: Virtual Immortality Shows Holes in Privacy Laws
Gadgets 360 online
"In most countries in the world, the data of the deceased are not protected," said Edina Harbinja, a senior lecturer in media and privacy law at Birmingham's Aston University.
Data of the dead: Virtual immortality exposes holes in privacy laws
“In most countries in the world, the data of the deceased are not protected,” said Edina Harbinja, a senior lecturer in media and privacy law at Birmingham’s Aston University.
What Happens to Your Emails After You Die
Bloomberg Businessweek online
Death provides a sweet release from the hell that is replying to email, but it raises questions about who gets to look at your inbox after you’re gone. Laws governing digital content in the U.S. are all over the place—emails, pics, direct messages, and social media posts can be treated differently after you die—so know what options you have to protect yourself and your company, says Edina Harbinja, a senior lecturer at Aston Law School in Birmingham, England, and an expert in postmortem privacy in emerging technologies. Here are edited excerpts of her conversation:
What happens to our online identities when we die?
The Guardian online
When it comes to the choice between allowing relatives access to your accounts or letting a social media corporation use your data indefinitely after your death, privacy is a fundamental issue. Although the former makes us sweat, the latter is arguably more dystopian. Dr Edina Harbinja is a law lecturer at Aston University, who argues that we should all legally be entitled to postmortem privacy.
Data ownership after death is 'a complete legal mess'
The Japan Times online
Britain, like most countries, has no laws on digital inheritance, which makes such cases complicated, said Edina Harbinja, a senior lecturer in media and privacy law at Birmingham’s Aston University.
The UK’s Online Safety Bill: Safe, Harmful, Unworkable?
On 12 May 2021, the UK Government published the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, following a Green Paper on Internet Safety Strategy and the White Paper on Online Harms.
Parliamentary Contributions (4)
Invited to give oral evidence
Commons DCMS Committee UK Parliament
Online Safety Bill, Invited to give oral and written evidence
Joint Committee UK Parliament
Freedom of Expression inquiry, invited to give oral and written evidence
Digital and Communications Committee House of Lords
The Internet: to regulate or not to regulate? publications
Communications and Digital Committee
Research Grants (4)
Cross-border UK-Ireland Data Protection Network
ESRC-IRC UK/Ireland, Networking Grant £20,000
Modern technologies, privacy law and the dead
Leverhulme Trust £81,953
2020 - 2023
Emerging Technologies, Personality Laws and the Dead
Modern Law Review £5,000
Winner of funding as a PI in a multidisciplinary team of researchers from four UK universities
CHERISH-DE Digital Crucible £5,000
[Redacted]: This Article Categorised [Harmful] by the GovernmentScript-Ed
Edina Harbinja, Mark R. Leiser
2022 In April 2019, the UK Government’s DCMS released its White Paper for ‘Online Harms’, which would establish in law a new duty of care towards users by platforms to be overseen by an independent regulator. Our earlier research outlines how we got to this point, sets out what the White Paper proposes, and criticises its key aspects. Our objections and criticism remain applicable to the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill. The Parliament is now scrutinising the Bill. The House of Lords Report sparked some optimism that the scrutiny could address critical concerns around free speech in particular. The Draft Online Safety Bill Joint Committee Report, however, suggest otherwise. This paper returns to key arguments as to why risk-based regulation and duty of care are not appropriate for policing content and expression online. We focus on the human rights implications of the Bill, in particular, the provider duties to ‘handle’ legal but harmful content. Here, we reemphasise the vague conceptualisation and nature of this harm, as well as the inadequate duties attached to it. We argue that the independence of OFCOM cannot be guaranteed.
Your data will never die, but you will: A comparative analysis of US and UK post-mortem data donation frameworksComputer Law & Security Review
Edina Harbinja, Henry Pearce
2020 Posthumous medical data donation (PMDD) for the purpose of legitimate, non-commercial and, potentially, very beneficial medical research has been sparsely discussed in legal scholarship to date. Conversely, quite an extensive social science and humanities research establishes benefits of this practice. It also finds that PMDD enables individuals to employ their altruistic motivations and aspirations by helping them participate in ‘citizen's science’ and medical research, thus supporting efforts in finding cures for some of the acutest diseases of today. There appears to be no jurisdiction where a regulatory framework supports and enables PMDD. This paper analyses whether and to what extent law and policy should enable this practice. We take a comparative approach, examining the position under both US and UK law, providing the first comparative legal account of this practice. We do not aim to suggest a detailed legal solution for PMDD, but rather key considerations and principles for legislative/policy reforms, which would support the practice of PMDD. We discuss organ donation and provide a comparative outlook with the aim of drawing lessons from this practice, and applying them to the regulation of PMDD. Our analysis is both normative and black letter since we consider arguments regarding the necessity of organ and data donation, as well as the law that regulates these practices.
The ‘New(ish)’ Property, Informational Bodies and PostmortalityDigital Afterlife : Death Matters in a Digital Age
2019 This chapter examines the concept of digital assets from an angle that has not yet been explored in legal scholarship around digital death and the transmission of digital assets on death. Digital death is conceived herein as the death of an individual who leaves behind various digital fragments of their identity, either in the form of digital assets broadly or as digital biographies, dossiers, autobiographies and archives. Digital death causes uncertainty as to what happens in this dispersed, interconnected and often unregulated digital space, which Kasket lucidly entitles The New Elysium.
Emails and death: Legal issues surrounding post-mortem transmission of emailsDeath Studies
2019 The paper is a first thorough examination of what happens to one’s emails on death. The paper demonstrates that some content of emails can be protected by copyright and transmitted on death accordingly. The paper then analyzes the contractual provisions of the main email providers, Google and Microsoft, in order to determine how these contracts, regulate the transmission of emails on death. The author finds that these provisions complicate the issues of property and transmission of digital assets and do not offer a meaningful control over the assets for their users. The paper adopts a novel focus introduced in the author’s earlier research, the idea of post-mortem privacy that is the right to privacy after death. This concept serves as an argument against the default transmission of emails on death without the deceased’s consent, whether through the laws of intestacy or by requiring the service providers to provide access to the deceased’s emails. Finally, the paper canvasses a solution which combines law and technology. It is argued that much more control should be placed in the hands of emails users. Post-mortem privacy, a potentially contested phenomenon, only accentuates the need to better account for the interests of the deceased, having in mind the volume of personal data and personal nature of emails. Therefore, an in-service solution is promoted, backed up by policy and legislation.
Online Harms White Paper : Consultation ResponseOpen Access
Harbinja, E., Leiser, M.R., Barker, K., Mangan, D., Romero, Moreno F., Dushi, D.
2019 The British Irish Law Education and Technology Association (BILETA) has concerns about the broad scope of the proposals in the White Paper and how the proposals will be applied to platforms. The White Paper proposes co-regulation by a new regulator called OfWeb. Previous attempts to regulate broadcast and press (Ofcom and IPSO) might provide insights on what its scope and application might look like, but there are different principles, issues, and regulatory designs needed for platforms. If establishing a new regulator proves necessary (and we are sceptical in this regard), the key requirement is its independence. The White Paper proposes that OfWeb will be granted a delegated power to define an online harm any way it wants . This is not only ripe for abuse, it does not meet commonly accepted ‘quality of law’ and ‘reasonable foreseeability’ standards. Furthermore, it could also subject a regulator to the whims of political and industry influence. This is potentially undemocratic and does not meet rule of law standards required in a democratic society. Despite parity between the offline and online world listed as a specific objective, the scope of powers goes far beyond parity to what is permitted by UK substantive law in the offline world. It regulates users and tech companies through the imposition of a “duty of care” applicable to content that is not necessarily unlawful, but regarded as harmful.
Should the living or the dead be defended?Reseaux
Lucien Castex, Edina Harbinja, Julien Rossi
2018 To be on the Internet is to exist as a data being constituting profiles that exist alongside the physical individuals and outlive them. In the future, the Internet will therefore contain more post-mortem data than personal data relating to living persons. What should be done with these data? The law has long remained silent on this issue and only covers personal data up to the death of the person concerned. A comparative analysis of the evolution of the law in the United States and in France reveals a difference of perspective leading to two different approaches: one based on the right to privacy and data protection, and the other based on inheritance law, which treats post-mortem data as heritage.