October 4, 2011
Today’s Digital Agenda Summit from The Lisbon Council proved to be both an eye opener and perplexing.
As someone with an above average understanding of digital issues it was a real worry just how much more complex the main issue being discussed really is than I had realised.
What is that issue?
Data management and privacy.
This is perplexing because in the modern world, data privacy is a topic that we all need to be taking more seriously than we are, but the speed of life and a general disinterest holds us back. If it is a topic that ought to be so important to everyone, it needs to be much simpler to understand. Much simpler.
Today’s cast of characters was quite a list including Prof. Nigel Shadbolt, Alexander Alvaro MEP, Commissioner Neelie Kroes and finishing with the very impressive Matthew Key from Telefonica.
Thus, it falls to me to write something so simplified that even I can understand…
As told by Prof Shadbolt, “The data being generated is a new asset class”. He was not alone. Other speakers used phrases including “a new currency” and “the new fuel of industry”.
As might be imagined, there was quite a lot of discussion about “balancing” and ensuring that personal privacy is not breached. At the same time, it is also clear that finding ways to work with and “mine” the vast amounts of information offer a wide array of potential benefits for businesses, governments and consumers.
Something tells me that a wide array of businesses are taking this subject much more seriously than most consumers. Perhaps fortunately for us, it seems that an equally wide array of governmental organisations are thinking deeply about it as well.
The obvious names cropped up just a couple of times, but for what are probably quite sensible reasons, Facebook and Google did not appear to be represented in the room. Why walk into the lion’s den?
It was not, in the end, an event that would have been hostile to them. To a person, everyone recognised just how tricky many of these subjects are and therefore understood why any company might not be as perfect as they might like to be or be seen to be.
What is very clear is that should the Digital Agenda or a Digital Single Market really have a chance, these issues will need much further reflection.
In the meantime, I shall quote Prof. Shadbolt’s last words at the event which seemed to be made as a rallying call to the room. He explained that if a person wants to make a Subject Access Request in the UK to see the records that an organisation holds about them, they need to “write a letter, send a cheque for ten pounds and then wait forty days. This is medieval! We can do better!”