Global crises and socially responsible data responses

9 Nov 2020 12:00h - 13:00h

Event report

Trust kept returning as the focal point of concerns throughout the workshop. Ms Mila Romanoff (Privacy Specialist at UN Global Pulse) said that the lack of trust and the policy barriers are some of the key components needed to ensure access to data. The work at the Global Pulse also recognised technical barriers to data sharing. Mr Rudolf Gridl (Head of Division, Internet Governance and International Digital Dialogues Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy) talked about the role of data for the government, the role of the state as a data actor, and co-operation with other stakeholders. On the example of the COVID-19 contact tracing app, Gridl noted that citizen trust is the key determining factor in the development of the app. German citizens were afraid of privacy risks and state overreach into daily activities. The app is now fully anonymised, without citizen profiling, and the system does not store data for long, resulting in 18 million downloads. Germany had a data strategy mindset prior to the pandemic, but the threat showed how to re-evaluate and introduce measures that treat data holistically and not only technically. His hope is that the government, as the data actor, will be at the forefront of the open data debate, so that new business models are created and researchers get needed access.

Ms Carolyn Nguyen (Director of Technology Policy, Microsoft) said that data sharing is based on trust and mentioned the Japanese calls for ‘data free flow with trust’. Microsoft is developing privacy preserving technologies including an open toolkit for differential privacy, guidelines for governments, and has also launched an initiative to bring digital skills to 25 million people, and lastly it calls for developing a global digital infrastructure that would connect the unconnected. Ms Nnenna Nwakanma (Chief Web Advocate, World Wide Web Foundation) agreed that trust is essential and contextual. She referred to the principles 3, 5, 8 of the Contract for the Web. Principle 3 represents trust towards the government to establish and enforce comprehensive data protection laws and frameworks. On the part of the industry, Principle 5 points out the need for giving users control of their data. Lack of control is the main barrier in trusting companies that lack accountability, reporting and transparency, equally available to everyone. On the part of the citizens, the principle 8 calls for raising voices and ensuring trust for the unconnected. Half of the global population is still offline, and it is the responsibility of people online to make wise choices and not breach privacy and trust. She also stressed that women trust companies less as revealed in the report on the digital gender gap. Nwakanma said that the Roadmap for Digital Cooperation also places trust and security high on the agenda and gives us an opportunity to come together and agree on a global statement for trust.

Complementing trust, the second focus of the discussion was on co-operation and public-private partnerships (PPPs). Gridl said that the European GaiaX partnership on building a digital cloud is a good example of multistakeholder co-operation. It is  under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that gives certain assurance to citizens and legal, and moral security for companies. Nguyen added that PPPs can provide evidence for informed policy-making and data for scientific research. She presented several examples: the interactive data platform of Johns Hopkins University that is accessed more than a billion times daily, data visualisations by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that inform US decision makers, and the Washington State Department of Health‘s efforts to develop a dashboard for accurate reporting to the public. ‘The notion of PPP is incredibly important and its founded on trust’, Nguyen said.

Mr Gonzalo López-Barajas Húder (Public Policy & Internet Manager, Telefónica) talked about data sharing frameworks in the private sector. Telefónica has been helping governments during lockdowns to monitor, quantify, and model the movement of citizens which has been key for informing policy. The company chairman presented the recent  Telefónica Digital Deal which focuses on trust and confidence in rebuilding societies and economies. In all of its partnerships, the company starts with privacy by design. Cases might differ per country but basic principles are in respect with privacy policy and legislation; using anonymised data with measures to avoid de-anonymisation and not sharing the data itself, but the insights. Main challenges remain as the lack of trust and understanding in the use of mobility data; to this López-Barajas Húder said ‘the solution is transparency’. Also, openness, sharing publicly how things are set up, and awareness campaigns help explain what happens with shared data. Defining legal structures and compliance takes time in times of emergency, so perhaps there should be a predefined partnership template to be more efficient. He added that shortcomings in infrastructure and data readiness by governments are significant barriers to data sharing.