The world needs to unite on privacy and trust: EU official

  • Global cooperation needed to make privacy, security & trustworthiness top priorities
  • Balanced control needed between tech innovation and how digital data is consumed
 The world needs to unite on privacy and trust: EU official

 
The world needs to unite on privacy and trust: EU officialTHE future of the Internet demands a new proactive attitude in how governments, the industry and academia collectively manage issues such as privacy, security and trust so that the world may reap the benefits of new digital technologies, according to a top European Union official.
 
Neelie Kroes (pic), vice president of the European Commission, said if the world were to gain from the advantages of digital technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and big data, they must go hand in hand with security, privacy and trust.
 
“One cannot exist without the other. It’s symbiosis,” she said in her opening keynote at the CeBIT Global Conferences forum session on March 10.
 
“It’s about balance – knowing our kids are empowered and protected at the same time. It’s about businesses trusting their cloud provider that their data is not in the hands of competitors or governments. It's about having resilient critical infrastructure so an electricity network breakdown doesn't mean a nuclear meltdown,” she added.
 
Held in Hannover, Germany this week from March 10-14, CeBIT is the largest information and communication technology (ICT) trade fair in the world. Over 3,400 exhibitors from more than 70 countries have descended on the Hannover Messe this week, where this year’s emphasis is on business-to-business ICT.
 
Entitled, Cyber-security – Big Business, Big Brother, the CeBIT panel comprised Stefan Groschupf, CEO of Datameer Inc; Prof Dame Wendy Hall, dean of the faculty of physical sciences and engineering at the University of Southampton; and Dr Walter Schlebusch, chairman of the management board and CEO of Giesecke & Devrient GmbH.
 
Moderated by Brent Goff, news anchor for Deutsche Welle (DW) Television, the session sought to discuss the sensitive issues of cyber spying and online privacy.
 
These issues have made the headlines ever since Edward Snowden, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) contractor, began revealing startling details about what the US and UK governments were doing behind closed doors.
 
DW reported that since June 2013, documents leaked by Snowden revealed the massive extent to which the US National Security Agency (NSA) and its British counterpart the Government Communications Headquarters  (GCHQ) collected phone and Internet data from citizens. The spying went as far as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.
 
Snowden’s revelations have triggered a global debate about online privacy.
 
Kroes, who is also the EU’s European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, said the exposure by Snowden had been a “blessing in disguise” and a useful “wake-up call” to the world.
 
“I’ve said this before – Snowden gave us a useful wake-up call. [So] let's not snooze through it. Let us not just react shocked. Let’s not turn our back on technology. It's time to act, time to protect ourselves, and build on what our economy needs and work together [to address this issue].”
 
The world needs to unite on privacy and trust: EU officialAsked by Goff (pic) as to whether the world is in a ‘cyber emergency now,’ Kroes answered in the affirmative.
 
Pressed further as to what can be done and who should be responsible, she said, “We have to do it together – governments, the business world, academia. No one should be excluded.”
 
As to whether governments in Europe are doing enough to protect their citizens, Kroes said they were certainly trying to do that, but warned that if everyone were not willing to work together, then chances to address the issue properly will be missed.
 
“It is not a ‘ring-fenced’ market, it’s a global phenomenon. Therefore we need to combine our efforts and experiences and address the issues together,” she added.
 
Hampering effectiveness?
 
Goff said one of the arguments against what Snowden did was that his revelations might have hampered the US Government from protecting itself against terrorism.
 
The world needs to unite on privacy and trust: EU officialAsked if this were the case, University of Southampton’s Hall (pic) acknowledged there were some ‘downsides’ to what Snowden did, but was quick to add that the issue of balance is what is important.
 
“I’m perfectly happy to go into a car park equipped with CCTV monitoring. I know I’m recorded but I also know that it might help to catch someone trying to steal my car,” she said.
 
Hall argued that what was important for individuals and businesses is to know how the tapes are used and for what purpose.
 
“I know I’m on those tapes but more importantly, what I want to know is what are governments allowed or not allowed to do with the data. We need more transparency,” she said.
 
The world needs to unite on privacy and trust: EU officialSchlebusch (pic) of Giesecke & Devrient concurred with Hall, noting that individuals and businesses need to know their rights and responsibilities, and that much more awareness and education were needed on these fronts.
 
“While data retention must be discussed, we must also discuss what the legal rights of the governments are too, what data they can use to prevent crime. The government has to do a job, but it must be balanced and controlled. It’s very important to know what happens,” he said.
 
Datameer’s Groschupf agreed with the need for more awareness, noting that in general, individuals and companies needed to be much more aware of what is done with their data.
 
“I’m very happy the conversation is being brought up and I’ll think that’s is making everyone aware of the risk,” he said.
 
Hall however cautioned that while control is important, there is a danger of over-regulation.
 
“I think there is a danger of going down the road of protection that will stop innovation. If we take for example health records, we absolutely have the right to keep it private.
 
But we also have to have the rights to share them because there are huge benefits to medical science in order to cure diseases,” she added.

Edwin Yapp reports from Hannover, Germany, at the invitation CeBIT organiser Deutsche Messe AG

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