On the 13th of October, Politico Europe, in partnership with Telefonica, organized the second Annual Data Summit, under the heading “Harnessing the Power of the Digital Revolution”. The focus was on the opportunities that processing data could bring, as opposed to underlining the risks which get too much of the spotlight, according to Telefonica’s representative. Keeping in mind the importance of privacy, he went on to stress the benefits that Big Data could bring such more efficient and smart transportation/logistics, healthcare, education, access to financial services, all of which will contribute to creating economic growth.
COFACE-Families Europe has been very skeptical about the so called “benefits” of Big Data. In an article entitled “Fintechs: Milking the Poor”, Families Europe denounces the illusions of improving access to financial services via Big Data driven innovations, especially in Europe.
Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip stressed in his keynote the importance to enable free data flows across borders, especially within the EU, and therefore in opposition to the “data localization” trend where in the name of privacy, data about users would have to be hosted at their national level. In the European Union, there are already 50 laws in 21 Member States about data localization and this could greatly increase the costs of hosting/processing data as setting up data centers in each Member State is inefficient as some countries’ climate and environment is better suited for optimizing data centers’ energy use. EU startups would be most penalized by data localization as the “big” players such as Amazon, Google, Facebook have the means to comply with data localization measures.
While data localization laws aim at addressing national security concerns as well as privacy concerns, Andrus Ansip stressed that free data flows and privacy are not incompatible. He went on to underline the necessity for guaranteeing data portability as another precondition for enabling free data flows.
While COFACE-Families Europe does not deny that public data which can be used to serve the common good: healthcare data or transportation data could help prevent or fight more effectively a number of health risks/diseases or prevent road accidents and enable smoother and smarter traffic management. As always, the devil is in the details. The same data sets can also be used to carry out individual risk assessments and price certain citizens out of the insurance market. And this is but one of the most evident dangers. In some countries like China, data has also been used to identify “good” and “bad” citizens. Therefore, a number of conditions need to be fulfilled to ensure that data serves the common good, including the possibility for independent bodies to audit algorithms working with data to check whether they contain any form of human bias or have harmful consequences (social exclusion, discrimination…) on a part of society.
In the debate around the benefits/risks of big data, COFACE Families Europe insists on one key aspect: there is, as of yet, no objective measurement for deciding whether benefits outweigh risks/harm. How many consumers need to suffer detriment before there is a need to become concerned and intervene? 10? 100? 1000? And unfortunately, if we are to look at certain recent cases, it seems as if (macro)-economic considerations trump consumer protection.cFor instance, in the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal, it seems as if the German authorities will not penalize or fine Volkswagen, and Volkswagen doesn’t plan on compensating consumers, at least in Europe. In essence, it is more important to defend a National “champion” than protect consumers from fraud, which, of course, directly fuels moral hazard, encouraging companies to reach systemic importance to be relatively immune from consequences in case of fraud. Thus it is important to strongly regulate big data or what can be done with consumer data rather than wait for market players to reach systemic importance, at which point it will be too late.
With regards to data localization, COFACE-Families Europe agrees that such policies carry many risks among which limiting freedom of expression, the possibility for governments to target dissidents more easily or forced jurisdiction (by localizing your data in one country, you are forcibly subjected to the laws of that country which may not be to your advantage). At the same time, the risks of data concentration in select countries also has some disadvantages such as creation of monopolies, an unequal share of the economic benefits of data, and the same threats for spying and targeting dissidents, simply concentrated in a few countries instead of being spread across the Internet.
COFACE-Families Europe advocates for a balanced approach where users should have the right to choose whether they want their data to be hosted inside their country or not. While it is true that setting up data centers in certain countries is less economically efficient than in others (linked to energy efficiency concerns mostly), concentrating data centers in a select few countries is simply an extension of the “comparative advantage” economic theory, which has led to massive trade imbalances between highly industrialized/developed nations and under-developed nations solely reliant on raw resource extraction. Data hosting and data centers should be part of the public infrastructure and public services, much like telephone lines, electricity, water supply or roads. In each country, there should be a minimum public service for data hosting, in addition to private data hosting solutions and users could choose, inside the services they use, if they wish their data to be hosted in their country or not. Such debates, however, might become obsolete anyways, since decentralized data hosting solutions are currently being tested and would enable users to host their data directly on their devices, bypassing the need for centralized data centers altogether.
Justin Atonipillai from the US department of Commerce followed Andrus Ansip and stressed, in his speech, the support for the open source movement, which has created many different ways to share and analyze data in an ethical way, respectful of privacy. Families Europe fully agrees with this approach.
The first panel of the conference touched upon key topics such as consumer choice, interoperability, openness and data portability. MEP Julia Reda underlined several important points which Families Europe fully supports:
- Consumers must have the possibility to access their Internet of Things devices. For instance, the owner of a pace-maker could not access his own device to diagnose it for bugs even though he felt something was wrong.
- Users should have the right to move their data, but at the same time, the right to data portability shouldn’t be mistaken or mixed up with the concept of “data ownership” and especially, the danger of transforming data into a commodity or a property that can be “transferred” or “sold” like any other good. This goes directly contrary to data protection rights as some types of data, such as highly sensitive data like health related data, should never be “sold” or treated like a commodity.
COFACE-Families Europe addressed the panel during Q&A to insist on including mesh networking capabilities for IoT. Mesh networking would allow users of IoT devices to connect directly to those devices without going through the Internet and the servers of the companies selling these IoT devices. Mesh networking also allows IoT devices to talk directly to each other and enable interoperability. At the moment, the technologies which enable mesh networking include WiFi and Bluetooth, but the upcoming 5G standards, which will equip most IoT devices, also need to allow mesh networking.
For more information about the event, please visit the Politico website here.
The rapid rise of bullying has been recognized as one of the most concerning phenomena of the last decade. In response to this, KMOP (Family and Childcare Centre) in Greece has developed and launched its new programme “Live Without Bullying”.
“Live Without Bullying” is a pioneering innovative programme for Greece. At its heart lies an electronic platform, where children and adolescents facing bullying problems may seek help and support from peers who get a special training so as to become online mentors. These peer mentors are constantly under the supervision of professional psychologists and chat administrators. Moreover, educators and parents have a separate forum in the platform for exchanging views and getting advice from psychologists. Rich informational and educational material on the issue of school- and cyber-bullying is always available for users in the form of multimedia content through an electronic library.
All the mentoring sessions for users which take place online are free and anonymous, encouraging thus children and adults to express their worries and seek support from the comfort of their own home.
The programme is being implemented in cooperation with the Adolescent Health Unit of the 2nd Paediatric Clinic of University of Athens, “P. & A. Kyriakou” Children’s Hospital, and the University of Peloponnese. The programme is already being rolled-out in a municipality of Attica with success and it is hoped that in following academic year it is going to expand to a large number of towns across Greece.
Happy Safer Internet Day 2014! #SID2014
This year’s Safer Internet Day theme looks at the responsibility that we must all take in making the internet a better place. Whether we are children and young people, parents and carers, educators or social care workers, or indeed industry, decision makers or politicians, we all have a role to play.
We can contribute to foster the positive and eliminate the negative online in many ways, regardless of who we are. For example:
Children and young people can help to foster the positive by being kind and respectful to others online, by protecting their online reputations, and by seeking out positive opportunities to create, engage and share online. They can help to eliminate the negative by being ‘helpful bystanders’: supporting peers if they encounter issues online, taking a stand against cyberbullying, and reporting any inappropriate or illegal content they find.
In this regard, COFACE is currently coordinating the European Awareness Raising Campaign on Cyberbullying: #DeleteCyberbullying. The project, through the cooperation of the international partners, contributes to developing a common approach to risk-prevention, information and guidelines to families, parents, children and other relevant stakeholders. We have created a short educational video Cyberbullying: there is a way out! available now in 9 languages.
Parents and carers can help to foster the positive by maintaining an open and honest dialogue with their children about their online lives, by supporting them with their personal development online and helping them to deal with any concerns or issues, seeking out positive opportunities to share with their children online, and helping their children to find and use good quality digital resources. They can help to eliminate the negative by monitoring and supporting their child’s online activity, by modelling positive online behaviours themselves, and by also reporting any inappropriate or illegal content they find.
Educators and social care workers can help to foster the positive by equipping children and young people with the digital literacy skills they require for today’s world, and giving them opportunities to use and create positive content online. They can help to eliminate the negative by supporting youngsters if they encounter problems online, and by giving them the confidence and skills to seek help from others.
Industry can help to foster the positive by creating and promoting positive content and services online, developing ethical and transparent policies, and protecting our data. They can help to eliminate the negative by making systems and services more secure by design, by being more responsive to user concerns, and by providing quick and easy access to support if things do go wrong.
Decision makers and politicians can help to foster the positive by ensuring that there are opportunities in the curriculum for children to learn and teachers to teach about online safety, ensuring that parents and carers have access to appropriate information and sources of support, and that industry are encouraged to self regulate their content and services. They must also take the lead in governance and legislation, and ultimately ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people through effective child protection strategies for the online world.
Safer Internet Day is organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission each 11 February to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile devices, especially among children and young people. On Safer Internet Day hundreds of events are organised to raise awareness of online safety issues.
COFACE’s profile on the SID website: www.saferinternetday.org/web/coface
This Blog is our main communication tool for the #DeleteCyberbullying project, but is also a platform to share news, ideas, stories, and to express our common Goal: to Delete Cyberbullying.
Here is a fantastic guest Blog post from Ryan Heath, showing his commitment to make the internet a more friendly place:
“I care about cyberbullying because I know how easy it is to hurt people with words.
Every day I use words to make a point or win an argument in my job as a spokesperson for the European Commission.
But words can hurt, often without people realising it. And we are all capable of going too far with our words.
Even as a strong person who has seen it many times before, I still feel uncomfortable when attacked online. I have been called corrupt, people have threatened to hit me with weapons if they ever see me in person, other spread lies about my motives or intentions in doing my job.
It can be years later, and I can still remember some of the insults. We tell ourselves that that doesn’t matter. We tell ourselves that “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” That is partly true. But it is also true that mean, offensive and false words hurt our confidence, they lead us to censor our legitimate opinions, and they make the online world a less open place.
When I think of the internet, I think of an open space where everyone can express themselves; ensuring that freedom means respecting others. It means debating without insulting. It means looking for evidence before jumping to conclusions. It means remembering that the person you are writing to is also a human being with feeling and fears.
So me the key words are respect and courtesy and humanity. If we always keep those in mind – whether we are 9 or 90 years old – we will be a lot closer to our aim to #deletecyberbullying.”
(Ryan is spokesperson to Commissioner Neelie Kroes)