The 18th edition of the international conference organized by Metamorphosis Foundation ended on the 7th of December 2022. The two-day conference was devoted to discussions on building a cyber-resilient society with digitally competent and responsible citizens.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to privacy, surveillance and biometric data processing, enforcement of the Personal Data Protection Law, the effects of disinformation and the foreign malign influences on democracy in North Macedonia, the security threats to democracy and the European efforts to fight disinformation.

Privacy, including surveillance and biometric data processing, was the topic of the discussion between Ana Toskić Cvetinović from Partners for Democratic Change (Serbia), Igor Kuzevski, personal data protection expert, Bojan Perkov from the SHARE Foundation (Serbia) and Caterina Rodelli from Access Now (Belgium). The session was moderated by Marijana Jancheska, openness and participation specialist in Metamorphosis Foundation. One of the conclusions from this session was that the sureveillance with CCTV cameras, as well as the processing of biometric data, carry an enormous inherent risk of violating privacy, as one of the human rights, and to intrusion of the security services and authorities in general in private life.

During the next session experts discussed the good practices, the challenges and the future steps for implementation of the Personal Data Protection Law in North Macedonia. The panel included Manuela Stanoevska Stoilkovska from the Personal Data Protection Agency of North Macedonia, Arben Gudachi from the Young Lawyers Association, Emilija Angelovska from MASIT – ICT Chamber of Commerce, and Elena Stojanovska, a personal data protection expert. The session was moderated by Vesna Radinovska, a project coordinator with the Metamorphosis Foundation. One of the key conclusions of the discussion was the importance of harmonizing all laws with the Personal Data Protection Law in order to effectively protect citizens’ privacy. The panel also emphasized that the enforcement of this law should not be viewed as a necessary evil or means to avoid the fines, and the data protection officers should not be seen as an expense, but rather as an investment.

After a lightning talk on the effects of disinformation and foreign interference in North Macedonia’s democratic ambient by journalist Meri Jordanovska, the conference concluded with a panel discussion on the security threats to democracy and the European Union’s efforts to combat disinformation.

The speakers – PhD Jasna Jelišić, representative of the Western Balkans Working Group in the Department for Strategic Communication of the European External Action Service; Carlos Hernandez-Echevarria from (Spain); Patris Pustina from Faktoje (Albania); Darko Brkan from Why Not (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Fitim Gashi from Sbunker (Kosovo) and Jelena Berković from Faktograf (Croatia), concluded that in order to minimize the negative impact of disinformation on democracy, it is necessary to combat it in a unified manner. The prerequisite for this is the transparency of the institutions, and media and civil society should actively fact-check information, and media literacy training for critical thinking should be implemented.

Following the main conference, there was an event for young people, which included featured a screening of the film “Sisterhood” in the Cinematheque of North Macedonia. The event was opened by , and a video address by Andrew Brand, Head of Programme at the British Embassy in Skopje. He emphasized the importance of working together to address cyber violence and that it is vital to encourage the victims, particularly the young to seek help from peers, parents, teachers, and get professional guidance.

“All of us have a share in dealing with this very real and constant threat,” Brand, said.

The film screening was followed by a panel discussion on the real-life consequences of cyber violence, featuring Dina Duma, the director of the film “Sisterhood” and Radmila Zivanović, psychologist, as speakers and Gosхe Nikolov, journalist in the News Agency as the moderator.