Professor Sylvia Mercado Kierkegaard was a Philippine jurist specialising in computer law. In 2009 she attained the position of Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom researching a diverse range of topics including, comparative contract law, alternative dispute resolution, intellectual property rights, European Union law, privacy, electronic commerce, cybersecurity, computer law, and data protection. Professor Kierkegaard was a lifelong learner who had vast knowledge with a strong multidisciplinary approach to her work. Remarkably, her breadth of knowledge never came at the expense of her depth of legal knowledge.
Sylvia obtained her first academic degree, a Bachelor of Mass Communications (Journalism), in the early 1970s from the University of the Philippines and later studied at Stanford University where she completed her Masters in Asian Studies. In 2003, she duxed her class, attaining her Masters in European Union Business and Law at the University of Aarhus. In addition to living in the Philippines and Egypt (the two countries where her three children were born),the family moved several times due to her husband’s work transfers. Living in Greece and Germany respectively, Sylvia was active as a born-again Christian Minister, serving the Lord and reaching to others. In 1992, Sylvia and her husband, Allan Kierkegaard, decided to move the whole family back to Copenhagen, Denmark. Sylvia continued with her ministries whilst taking care of her three children.
It was in Copenhagen, that Sylvia felt she could well and truly re-enter the workforce full time as her children were older, and sincerely begin her career as an academic in the field she so loved. She began to publish articles on topical themes. She also participated in several conferences, at which time she realised there was a stark gap in the field. In 2006, Sylvia swiftly moved to establish the International Association of IT Lawyers (IAITL) targeted at lawyers and legal practitioners who had an interest in Information Technology Law. The association’s mission sought to promote the study and further research in Computer Law through international engagement and conferences, the formation of transnational networks and networking events, the publication of members’ research, and the timely announcement of new job openings. In the same year that Sylvia formed IAITL, the first IAITL conference was held in Hamburg with great success. This was followed annually by conferences in Copenhagen, Istanbul, New York, Beijing, Prague, Malta, Barcelona, Nicosia, Athens, Bangkok and Lisbon. These conferences were known for their high standard in paper submission and service, as well as by loyal conference participation by delegates, year after year. For those of us who have had the good fortune to host, organise, and program large-scale events such as this, it usually is a one off thing, like building a house. Sylvia built many houses in her time, had the ability to mobilise volunteers, and was a visionary.
Sylvia was a deep thinker about the future for numerous reasons. First, she had children, and felt it a duty to provide ways for which legal framework solutions could be used to protect humans. She was incredibly “international” or “bloc” focused in her research having understood the forces of globalisation so well from the perspective of a Danish resident and Philippine citizen. For instance, she could especially see how new technologies could impact people (e.g. women and children) and how the law needed to rapidly develop to face the challenges (e.g. cyberbullying). She also knew well the digital divide between countries in Asia and the rest of the world.
Prof. Kierkegaard also liked to tackle looming problems and help bring some definition to them. She would often consider what was “the right thing to do”, and did not mind being faced with what others believed to be insurmountable barriers, challenges or impossibilities like catching out regulators for their lack of enforceability of given laws. To her there was no problem that was unresolvable. It just took hard work, perseverance and persistence. Sylvia needs to be remembered as a trailblazer, a first mover in the European Union, especially in relation to topics that were complex and highly significant to long-term stability of the human race. She was a fierce advocate of data protection, and in the protection of children, and that new technologies should not encroach on an individual’s right to privacy. This editorial is devoted to the celebration of her academic work while she made a seminal contribution at the University of Southampton, throughout Europe and internationally.
I provide here a list of highlights between 2009 and 2013 as they demonstrate the breadth of the research Prof. Kierkegaard was engaged in:
• Keynote speaker at the 16th Eurasia Summit on Information and Communication Technologies
• Invited lecture on the “Present State and Future Developments in EU Data Privacy and Protection and Info-Network Security” at Technion Israel Institute of Technology
• Recipient of an EU grant to conduct a visualization and privacy study in Israel
• Speaker and panellist at the Ankara Bar Congress
• Speaker and moderator at the Workshop on IPR, INPR Court in Bangkok
• Keynote speaker at the Digital Agenda Assembly of the European Commission Department of Information Society and Media and the European Parliament
• Chair at the EU Workshop on Cultural Heritage, Private Law and IPR from a global and EU-China Perspective
• Keynote speaker on Cybercrime Prevention organised by the Internet Fraud Association, Australian Police and International Association of Cybercrime Prevention in Sydney
• Keynote speaker on “Copyright, Patent, and Trademark” for the Perth Judiciary conference
• Summer School chairman: organized by the University of Vienna Economics, University of Gottingen, University of Hamburg, and Utrecht University
• Chairman for the Conference in Public law, Private law, Trade law in Cyprus
• Chair and workshop in Turkish Cyprus for the Supreme Court on Regulating Cyberspace
• Various lectures at Beijing Normal University, Communication University of China and Renmin University
• Keynote speaker, World Congress of Forensics, Chongqing China
• Workshop chairman for CASS for the China Supreme Court, for Hong Kong University of China, and the University of Macau
• Panel chairman for Challenges in Cybersecurity - Risks, Strategies, and Confidence-Building workshop organised by the Free University of Berlin, the University of Hamburg, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in Geneva and the Federal Foreign Office Berlin
• Conference chairman and speaker, Cyberconference, Netherlands Antilles
• Speaker at the International Information Marketing Association Conference, Texas, USA
• Speaker at the Famagusta Law Conference in Turkish Cyprus
• Chairman, Hans Bredow-Max Planck Workshop on IP Law: “Regulating IPR”, Hamburg, Germany
• Speaker, panellist, ESF Strategic Workshop on Cybersecurity, Budapest, Hungary
• China IP Summer School Program in X’ian, Nanjing and Shanghai
• Keynote speaker, Cybercrime Conference, Brazil for ILA
• Chairman, speaker, IPL Conference, Barcelona, Spain
• Keynote speaker, Social Networking Workshop, Finland
• Chairman, co-Reach Workshop on IPR and ISP Liability, London, UK
• Chairman, co-Reach Workshop on IPR and Collective Society, Database, and Jurisdiction, Vienna
• Keynote speaker, EU Medforist Project under the auspices of Princess Sumaya of Jordan
• Keynote speaker and moderator,Workshop on Digital Convergence and Cyberlaw, Malaysian Centre of Regulatory Studies, Malaysia
• Keynote speaker, 5th Media Economics and City Development Conference, CUC, Beijing. Participation by over 50 mayors of China
• Co-Reach Workshop, CASS, Beijing
• Keynote speaker, First International Workshop on Transborder Commercial Law, University of South Africa and Nedbank
• Welcome speech, 4th Legal Security Privacy Conference and 3rd International Law and Trade Conference, Malta
• Panel with Interpol, EU Data Protection Commissioner and Eurojust regarding privacy issues under the 3rd Pillar, Brussels, Belgium
• Keynote speaker, The Ankara Bar Congress in Turkey
• Keynote speaker, International Information Management Association
• Panellist, Council of Europe, International E-Participation and Local Democracy Symposium, London
• Keynote speaker and panellist, Council of Europe, Madrid, Spain
• Welcome speech, 3rd IBLT Conference, New York, USA
• Welcome speech, 3rd LSPI Conference, Prague, Czech Republic September
• Keynote speaker, EU- China Joint Workshop Organised by the EU Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Information and Industry, Beijing, China
During the same time she was zipping across Europe, the US, the Middle East, Australasia and the Americas, somehow Sylvia was able to produce about 150 publications in 7 years. For anyone in the law, business or humanities,this is double or even triple the number of high-end outputs of what a typical A+ academic could produce.
It was obvious to anyone on listening to Prof. Kierkegaard deliver a keynote or presentation, that she was not only an expert in her craft, but she could convey difficult concepts simply. Her formula was thus:
1. provide current examples of the subject matter at hand
2. illustrate visually with tangible examples and with visual queues (e.g. clipart) where possible
3. explain the relevance of the material in everyday life to various stakeholders
4. come in with heavy duty descriptions of laws, acts, codes, and regulations
5. consider exemptions to the general rule
6. consider the US and also federal and state legislative differences
7. identify case law examples
8. contextualise for the relevant audience (e.g. Australian cases and laws for a predominantly Australian audience)
9. describe how the EU is leading the way with new directives and compare with other nations
10. talk technology and technological issues and impacts on society
11. bring all the various aspects together with specific line by line Article identification; and
12. offer a bigger picture view all the while pointing to future challenges.
Prof. Kierkegaard loved to simplify thick legal speak and skillfully break it down into consumable chunks for her audience. She is one of the few people I know that could confidently deliver 75 Powerpoint slides in 60 minutes without demanding too much of her audience. Needless to say, Sylvia was a grand master in delivery. She was always well prepared with the unique ability to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together to offer cutting edge insights for all who were willing to listen. One could imagine her in full swing as a jurist as many of those qualities shone through during her time in academe.
Sylvia was special; there was no doubt about that. She broke all the gender, academic and ethnic stereotypes: woman, wife, mother, self-confessed born-again spirit-filled Christian, multi-disciplinary scholar, Filipino and powerhouse leader, organiser, editor, innovator. I have tried to reflect on what made Sylvia so exceptional. No doubt,migrants feel privileged, for the greater part do not take for granted what they have, cherish the simple things in life, and are not boxed by the boundaries imposed on them by others, often over-achieving as a result. But there was something more to Sylvia. It was not just her cultural roots, her dynamic spirit of engagement, her passion for her craft- Sylvia had a sense of purpose and believed her work could make a difference, and could somehow see what others could not, years in advance. She also believed in the potential of every person that entered her path.
Prof. Kierkegaard had a flair for engaging everyone she came into contact with: whether they were high court judges, ministers of data protection, European Union or industry lawyers, conference delegates, colleagues, students at Southampton University or simply members’ of the public. She loved people and she loved sharing. Sylvia was always ready to give a talk and always had something to contribute to a discussion in her field. She was vibrant, self-assured, meticulous and extraordinarily encyclopaedic. At the same time, she was willing to see your point of view, provide critical feedback and consider positions that were in deference to hers. The truth was however, you could seldom match it with Prof. Kierkegaard, but rather than feeling somewhat diminished after correspondence or face-to-face question time, you walked away feeling strengthened and encouraged.
Sylvia always made you feel important,that you could conquer the world, achieve anything if you put your mind to it, and that commitment should be placed in international causes that were meaningful to citizenry. In short, she believed all life was precious. She was always seemingly in a hurry to get things done, bring as many stakeholders together around a table as possible, travel to places where decisions and actions could be taken, and think about future issues before they became problematic in society. For Sylvia, there was no time like the present, geographic expanse was not a constraint, and she seldom wasted time putting her ideas into action.
To her name are many edited books with leading specialists, conferences hosted or chaired by her together with accompanying peer-reviewed proceedings, and many articles. The books alone which I have listed here are work enough for the average person over a lifetime of research, let alone 7 years:
• Laws and Practice: Critical Analysis and Legal Reasoning (ed., 2013)
• Contemporary Private Law (ed., 2012)
• Law, Governance and World Order (ed., 2012)
• Copyright Law in the Making – Chinese and European Perspectives (ed. With Willem Grosheide, 2012)
• Law Across Nations: Governance, Policy and Statutes (ed., 2011)
• Private Law: Rights, Duties and Conflicts (ed., 2010)
• Legal Discourse in Cyberlaw and Trade (ed., 2009)
• The Dynamics of Trade, Law and Economics (ed., 2008)
• Synergies and Conflicts in Cyberlaw (ed., 2008)
• Business, Law and Technology, Present and Emerging Trends (ed., 2008)
• International Law and Trade, Bridging the East-West Divide (ed., 2007)
• Cyberlaw, Security and Privacy (ed., 2007)
• Business, Law and Technology, Present and Emerging Trends (ed., vol. 1, 2006)
• Business, Law and Technology, Present and Emerging Trends (ed., vol. 2, 2006)
• Legal Privacy and Security Issues in Information Technology (ed., vol. 1, 2006)
• Legal Privacy and Security Issues in Information Technology (ed., vol. 2, 2006)
One considers how Prof. Kierkegaard could have been such a prolific publisher. Of course there must’ve been some significant sacrifices, but one could deduce that when she was not engaged in the classroom, or with her family, or with her local Church activities, or sleeping, she must’ve been at full throttle researching almost all the time into the early hours of the morning.
Before too long, Prof. Kierkegaard unsurprisingly was in very high demand, and this in a pre-Twitter, pre-ResearchGate, pre-Google Scholar world, where academic news travelled slower, though she heavily embraced online communications for knowledge sharing. She travelled to so many parts of the world to deliver talks, to collaborate, on invited visiting appointments
(e.g. China), as a legal consultant, as a government advisor (e.g. EU), and as an expert commentator to the media. One was always at a stretch to figure out how she did it all simultaneously. One day she could be in Lisbon, the next in Perth, China, and a few days later back corresponding, researching or working on a paper. For Sylvia her work was inseparable from her life’s journey. She also felt it her duty to educate those who perhaps did not have access to necessary expertise in institutions worldwide. As a Professor named in the Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research in the UK, she also reached out far and wide, supervising a PhD candidate at the Communications University of China, and as an adjunct professor at Xi’an Jiaotong University among others. Her involvement was significant in the China market.
She was also a fellow at the UN African Center for Cyberlaw and Cybercrime Prevention, consultant for the Data Protection SDN, BHD Malaysia and a member of the Advisory Board for
the World Council for Law Firms and Justice. She truly was an international citizen, while also contributing greatly to her neighbouring institutions, among them the London School of Economics as a policy expert on their Media Policy Project and was a member of the Policy and Scientific Committee of the European Privacy Association.