Frederik Borgesius, PhD Information Law

Research Master's in Information Law

‘During the training, a whole new world opened up for me. I find the application of law to the internet immensely interesting.’

Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius

Can internet users decide for themselves who gets information about their surfing habits? Many people do not know that when they visit a website, it is not only the provider of the site who knows – via a cookie – that they have been there; third parties such as advertisers and marketing research agencies also know. Some websites place dozens of these ‘third-party cookies’ on your computer. In this way, companies entirely unknown to you can keep extensive registries of where you've been.

‘I think you cannot expect most people to know exactly what’s going on in this area,’ says Information Law PhD researcher Frederik Borgesius. ‘The (Dutch) Telecommunications Act and the European rules being developed aim to require providers to acquire permission and educate internet users. But this industry is complex and evolving very rapidly. Can people really be expected to make informed choices?’

When Frederik began his Research Master's in Information Law, he mainly wanted to know more about copyright and intellectual property. As a DJ and producer in the music industry, copyright and intellectual property was his primary interest. Frederik assumed that he would move directly to practicing law after his training, but things turned out differently. ‘During the programme a whole new world opened up for me. I found the application of law to the internet immensely interesting. In particular, I found privacy issues so fascinating that I wanted to explore them in more depth. ‘

Information Law has a strong international focus and Research Master’s students spend one semester of the programme abroad. Frederik went to Hong Kong University. ‘That seemed more adventurous than, for example, New York,’ he says. ‘It was the first time I had to deal with a common law system. Because Hong Kong is small, they often look at rulings from the highest courts in Australia, Japan, UK and USA. That made it more international.’

Frederik received his Bachelor of Laws from the Open University before starting the Research Master's programme. ‘The transition was fine,’ he says. ‘The main difference is that you get more lectures at the UvA.’ While studying for his Master’s, he worked at a law firm. ‘The cross-fertilisation was very good. Simply studying law doesn’t give you an insight into the realities of practice. Dealing with the law feels different when you’re participating in a lawsuit that’s due to be heard in court next Tuesday. In this way I understood the substance of my studies better and faster, while reversely, practicing law was easier because of my studies. Juggling both at the same time was sometimes difficult. But if you’re going to work while studying, I recommend the legal practice.’

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Published by  Faculty of Law

2 June 2015