Research Group on Data, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Law & Society (DRAILS)

Research Group on Data, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Law & Society (DRAILS)


The DRAILS Research Group or Research Group on Data, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Law & Society is a joint initiative of the CRIDES and CPDR at UCLouvain and of researchers at USL-Bruxelles which aims at bringing together scholars and experts in the social sciences and the humanities in order to investigate emerging challenges raised by digitalization and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their respective fields of research.

DRAILS works as a multidisciplinary platform of exchanges between its members. The diversity of their fields of expertise (law, philosophy, ethics, economy, sociology, etc.) should allow for a comprehensive apprehension of the different dimensions of digitalization as a societal phenomenon.

Areas under current investigations cover issues raised by platforms (content moderation, deepfakes, fake news, rating systems), Artificial Intelligence (legal status, transparency and explainability, liability), Data (access, portability, profiling), cybersecurity and e-Governance.

The presentations and open discussions on various topics take place at regular workshops and seminars, or at conferences more broadly open to the public and during which DRAILS members present either their research results or novel developments occurring in their fields of expertise.

While its main research focus lies within the fields of social sciences and the humanities, DRAILS is also open to collaborating with experts in computer science, engineering and other scholars in the Science and Technology Sector for a better chance at understanding the digital transformation of society. 

Definition of "Drails" provided by Knight's New Mechanical Dictionary: A Description of Tools, Instruments, Machines, Processes, and Engineering. With Indexical References to Technical Journals (1876-1880.), p. 271.
Definition of “Drails” provided by Knight’s New Mechanical Dictionary: A Description of Tools, Instruments, Machines, Processes, and Engineering. With Indexical References to Technical Journals (1876-1880.), p. 271.

Next events

Prof. Sarah Lamdan – book presentation “Data Cartels. The Companies That Control and Monopolize Our Information”

On the 20th of March (4-5 pm) we will have the pleasure of welcoming Prof. Sarah Lamdan as a guest on our DRAILS workshop series. She will present her latest book “Data Cartels. The Companies That Control and Monopolize Our Information”, followed by a discussion with attendees.

To participate, please register here.

Sarah Lamdan is Professor of Law at the City University of New York School of Law. She also serves as a Senior Fellow for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a Fellow at NYU School of Law’s Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy.

Her latest book, Data Cartels, revolves around the fact that, in our digital world, data is power. It brings us into the unregulated underworld of information hoarding businesses, where they reign supreme, using intimidation, aggression, and force to maintain influence and control over data. It demonstrates how the entities mining, commodifying, and selling our data and informational resources perpetuate social inequalities and threaten the democratic sharing of knowledge.

It is a reality today that just a few companies dominate most of our critical informational resources. Often self-identifying as “data analytics” or “business solutions” operations, they supply the digital lifeblood that flows through the circulatory system of the internet. With their control over data, they can prevent the free flow of information, masterfully exploiting outdated information and privacy laws and curating online information in a way that amplifies digital racism and targets marginalized communities. They can also distribute private information to predatory entities. Alarmingly, everything they’re doing is perfectly legal.

In this book, Lamdan contends that privatization and tech exceptionalism have prevented us from creating effective legal regulation. This in turn has allowed oversized information oligopolies to coalesce. In addition to specific legal and market-based solutions, Lamdan calls for treating information like a public good and creating digital infrastructure that supports our democratic ideals.

Jerome DE COOMAN – AI & detection of anticompetitive behaviours

On Thursday, March 30, 2023, from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CET, Jerome DE COOMAN -will be our guest for a Drails online workshop.
As always, our events are free and allow participants to engage in discussion with the presenter.

To participate, please register here.

Artificial Intelligence (hereafter, ‘AI’) systems are widely adopted by public administrations. Competition law does not escape the rule. Recently, non-negligible efforts have been made in ex officio detection of anticompetitive behaviours (above all, bid-rigging) through AI-driven cartel screening. This is unsurprising. On the one hand, AI systems promise to address well-documented flaws in human decision-making, e.g., arbitrariness or bias. On the other hand, AI systems carry the potential to strengthen ex officio investigations. Collusive behaviours are, currently, mainly exposed through leniency applications, whose number is decreasing. It has been suggested AI-driven cartel screening constitutes a useful complement to leniency programmes. AI-driven cartel screening flags indicators of collusion that then trigger the need for further investigation. This increases the probability of detection that destabilises the collusive equilibrium and incentivises leniency applications.

This presentation does not discard the benefits of AI-driven cartel screening. It argues, however, that this algorithmic shift is not a silver bullet. First, as a data-driven solution, algorithmic predictions and recommendations are significantly affected by problems in the availability and quality of data they rely on. Second, limited explicability of some AI systems challenges the duty to state reason that will only be satisfied if public servants using AI system are able to disclose how the different parameters were weighted and to what extent that recommendation was decisive for their final decision.

None of these drawbacks constitute a dead-end. Although not applicable to EU competition law, the EU Proposal for an AI Act provides interesting (at least, embryonic) solutions, i.e., data quality (art. 10 AI Act), transparency (art. 13 AI Act), human oversight (art. 14 AI Act), and accuracy (art. 15 AI Act). Drawing inspiration from these requirements, the presentation seeks to assess how to ensure the improvement of competition law proceedings while safeguarding fundamental rights.


Jerome De Cooman is Ph.D. candidate under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Nicolas Petit (European University Institute, Italy) and Prof. Dr. Pieter Van Cleynenbreugel (University of Liege, Belgium). His research focuses on whether, how, and when to regulate technologies (artificial intelligence in particular). As part of his Ph.D. research, Jerome pays very particular attention to the modernisation of competition law proceedings and the algorithmic shift in the fight against cartelisation.

Jerome is currently a Visiting Student at European University Institute studying the path dependence of regulations. Jerome is also teaching assistant at University of Liege since 2018 in EU Competition Law and EU law, (Big) Data and AI Applications courses. Since 2021, he is Administrative Manager at the Brussels School of Competition, Junior Editor for the Yearbook of Antitrust and Regulatory Studies (YARS) at the Centre for Antitrust and Regulatory Studies (CARS, University of Warsaw, Poland), and Junior Member of the Academic Society for Competition Law (ASCOLA). Jerome holds a Master of Laws from the University of Liege (2017), a Master of Management Sciences from HEC-Liege (2018), and the Law, Cognitive & Artificial Intelligence Technology Programme Certification from the Brussels School of Competition (2019).