On the 21st of June, Forum Europe organized a Digital Festival, which consisted in a savant mix of high level panel discussions on the opportunities and threats of digitalization, a variety of live demonstrations of nascent or future technologies, and parallel workshop sessions covering many key issues such as Data Protection and Privacy, Connected Cars, Internet of Things, Blockchain technology and the emergence of Fintechs.
Data Protection and Privacy
With the enforcement of the GDPR, there will be an opportunity to strengthen data protection and privacy. Although there were data protection laws in place before the GDPR, companies had little incentive to enforce them. The penalties for breaching data protection and privacy laws were so low that some companies simply violated the law with the intention of paying any penalty if necessary.
With the GDPR, the penalty can now amount up to 4% of a company’s worldwide turnover, which should be a strong deterrent for breaching data protection and privacy laws.
Each company should now set up a data ethics department, which constantly reflects on how their use of data affects users and whether data analytics are compatible with key principles and values such as human rights, inclusion, anti-discrimination and so forth.
Finally, while there are new “tech driven” solutions to problems with the existing World Wide Web such as the Decentralized Web, speakers at the workshop agreed that we should focus on “fixing” the existing Web which was intended to be open and decentralized.
The workshop on connected cars consisted in the presentation from a company, Intelsat, pitching the advantage of using direct satellite connectivity for connected cars. While it was clear that satellite connection has many advantages including a much higher coverage and reliability as opposed to mobile networks, there are several issues which need to be addressed.
Firstly, since putting satellites into orbit is highly costly, satellite service is a near monopoly which could cause many problems such as abuse of dominant position, price setting, “lock in” effect, even net neutrality issues all over again.
Secondly, assuming that connected cars will always require an Internet connection is linked to business strategies than fact. Mesh networking (via a mesh enabled 5G standard for instance) could enable connected cars to communicate directly between each other and inform cars in a certain area of accidents or road conditions without the need to go through the Internet (which of course goes against the interests of mobile network operators or satellite service providers).
More fundamentally, there are a myriad of other topics related to connected cars which deserve attention:
– How such data will be used and for which purposes? For instance, if we see insurance premiums based on data generated from connected cars, should we allow the “richest” drivers from paying for the right to drive like maniacs?
– How will connected cars affect the current business models of car manufacturers? There are already examples of GM which locks consumers into using “GM approved” repair shops whenever they need to fix their vehicles.
– How “safe” are connected cars in terms of hacking (there have been examples of connected cars being hacked from a distance) or even spying from governmental agencies?
Several recent developments at EU level will affect the development of Fintechs. First, the passporting of financial services will allow financial service providers to operate across all EU Member States. Second, the enforcement of the PSD2 Directive will enable greater competition in the field of payment services via the use of an API. Third, it is not yet clear whether Fintech providers will fall under the scope of the EU Commission consultation and future policy on platforms which may affect issues such as how they treat consumer data and their business models.
There are many potential benefits from the emergence of Fintechs but also many risks to consumers and to that end, all speakers agreed that we need to closely monitor the market in order to decide whether regulation is necessary or other forms of policy tools should be used in case there is a clear risk of consumer detriment.
For more information about the Digital Festival, see the event’s website
It’s happening. COFACE has been asking for a long time for new strategies to fight hate speech and cyberbullying, including the use of algorithms and Artificial Intelligence to assist human moderators and also the recourse to community based moderation where users can vote on taking content down.
Facebook has been steadily developing/training algorithms to help identify offensive photos. At this point, algorithms report more potentially offensive photos than humans! Twitter, which has been attacked in the past over its lackluster ability to fight abuse, has also invested in Artificial Intelligence to help weed out abusive content. The help and assistance of AI is welcome, especially since relying on human moderation only comes with many sets of problems such as speed of reaction or even negative psychological consequences for the human moderators which are forced to look at the worst content humanity has to offer.
Progress in the development of such algorithms could benefit all online service providers as Facebook has vowed to share its findings more broadly 
On the other hand, Periscope (owned by Twitter) is rolling out another approach to moderation, adapted to live streaming and instant feedback and user interaction: a form of live community based moderation. Viewers will be able to immediately report a comment they deem abusive during a live streaming. The app then randomly selects within the audience a “jury” who will vote whether the comment is abusive/inappropriate or not. Should the “jury” vote to sensor the comment, the author of the comment will not be able to post temporarily. If the author of the comment repeats the offense, he/she will be blocked from commenting for the rest of the live streaming 
Although such initiatives are long overdue, COFACE welcomes their introduction and will closely follow their development, hopefully contributing to create a better online environment for children and for families.