Data is Dangerous: Comparing the Risks that the United States, Canada and Germany See in Data Troves

Paper by Susan Ariel Aaronson: “Data and national security have a complex relationship. Data is essential to national defense — to understanding and countering adversaries. Data underpins many modern military tools from drones to artificial intelligence. Moreover, to protect their citizens, governments collect lots of data about their constituents. Those same datasets are vulnerable to theft, hacking, and misuse. In 2013, the Department of Defense’s research arm (DARPA) funded a study examining if “ the availability of data provide a determined adversary with the tools necessary to inflict nation-state level damage. The results were not made public. Given the risks to the data of their citizens, defense officials should be vociferous advocates for interoperable data protection rules.

This policy brief uses case studies to show that inadequate governance of personal data can also undermine national security. The case studies represent diverse internet sectors affecting netizens differently. I do not address malware or disinformation, which are also issues of data governance, but have already been widely researched by other scholars. I illuminate how policymakers, technologists, and the public are/were unprepared for how inadequate governance spillovers affected national security. I then makes some specific recommendations about what we can do about this problem….(More)”.

The European data market

European Commission: “It was the first European Data Market study (SMART 2013/0063) contracted by the European Commission in 2013 that made a first attempt to provide facts and figures on the size and trends of the EU data economy by developing a European data market monitoring tool.

The final report of the updated European Data Market (EDM) study (SMART 2016/0063) now presents in detail the results of the final round of measurement of the updated European Data Market Monitoring Tool contracted for the 2017-2020 period.

Designed along a modular structure, as a first pillar of the study, the European Data Market Monitoring Tool is built around a core set of quantitative indicators to provide a series of assessments of the emerging market of data at present, i.e. for the years 2018 through 2020, and with projections to 2025.

The key areas covered by the indicators measured in this report are:

  • The data professionals and the balance between demand and supply of data skills;
  • The data companies and their revenues;
  • The data user companies and their spending for data technologies;
  • The market of digital products and services (“Data market”);
  • The data economy and its impacts on the European economy.
  • Forecast scenarios of all the indicators, based on alternative market trajectories.

Additionally, as a second major work stream, the study also presents a series of descriptive stories providing a complementary view to the one offered by the Monitoring Tool (for example, “How Big Data is driving AI” or “The Secondary Use of Health Data and Data-driven Innovation in the European Healthcare Industry”), adding fresh, real-life information around the quantitative indicators. By focusing on specific issues and aspects of the data market, the stories offer an initial, indicative “catalogue” of good practices of what is happening in the data economy today in Europe and what is likely to affect the development of the EU data economy in the medium term.

Finally, as a third work stream of the study, a landscaping exercise on the EU data ecosystem was carried out together with some community building activities to bring stakeholders together from all segments of the data value chain. The map containing the results of the landscaping of the EU data economy as well as reports from the webinars organised by the study are available on the website….(More)”.

Public understanding and perceptions of data practices: a review of existing research

Report by Helen Kennedy, Susan Oman, Mark Taylor, Jo Bates & Robin Steedman: “The ubiquitous collection and use of digital data is said to have wide-ranging effects. As these practices expand, interest in how the public perceives them has begun to grow. Understanding public views of data
practices is considered to be important, to ensure that data works ‘for people and society’ (the mission of the Ada Lovelace Institute) and is ‘a force for good’ (an aim of the government Centre for Data Ethics and

To improve understanding of public views of data practices, we conducted a review of original empirical research into public perceptions of, attitudes toward and feelings about data practices. We use the term ‘data practices’ to refer to the systematic collection, analysis and sharing of data and the outcomes of these processes. The data at the centre of such practices is often personal data, and related research often focuses on this data. Our review also covered related phenomena such as AI and facial recognition.

We carried out a systematic search of online academic research databases and a manual search, that began with literature with which we were already familiar, and then snowballed out. Our review covered a broad
range of academic disciplines and grey literature – that is, literature produced by independent, civil society, third sector, governmental or commercial organisations or by academics for non-academic audiences. It focused on the past five years. We excluded a) literature about children’s understandings and perceptions of data practices because this is a specialist area beyond our remit, and b) literature focused on the health domain because high quality syntheses of literature focusing on this domain already exist. The grey literature we reviewed focused on the UK, whereas academic literature was international….(More)”.

Are Citizens’ Assemblies the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

Judy Dempsey’s Strategic Europe: “Mathilde Bouyé associate at the Climate Program Of The World Resources Institute: “…the impact of citizens’ deliberation depends on the link to decisionmaking, which varies with each country’s democratic culture. The UK climate assembly informed powerful parliamentary committees, while the French government created a precedent by committing to send the Citizens’ Convention on Climate’s proposals for adoption “without any filter….”

Jan Eichhorn,  Research Director Of D|Part and Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at The University Of Edinburgh: “The climate crisis is so complex that no single action can be the answer to it. However, because of the complexity, formats that can connect otherwise distant actors meaningfully can play a very helpful role. Citizens’ assemblies fit that bill.

If well designed, such assemblies connect expertise with life realities, broaden the horizon of policymakers on what publics may be willing or even excited to consider, and enable publics to learn about options they did not know about. Rather than stoking divisions between people and businesses or between activists and state officials, they can foster common ground and create shared purpose, which is needed to combat comprehensive challenges like the climate crisis….”

Tim Hughes, Director of Involve: “…they are only one way in which people can be—and need to be—involved in decisionmaking. Underpinning citizens’ assemblies are the principles of participation—people being involved in the decisions that affect their lives—and deliberation—people sharing and testing ideas through inclusive and respectful conversations.

It is these principles that we need to build into decisionmaking at all levels of society in order to develop the ideas, energy, and ownership to answer the crisis.”

Mariann Őry,  Head Of The Foreign Desk And Senior Editor At Magyar Hírlap: “Citizens’ initiatives have proven to be effective in reaching a number of goals, but the pressure they can put on stakeholders is not always enough.

It’s not even the most reliable political force: remember that the enthusiasm and momentum of the climate protests has basically vanished since the start of the coronavirus crisis, as if people simply lost interest—though this is surely not the case. A difference can be made on the level of political leaders and, very importantly, on the level of the biggest actors of industry….(More)”.

Opportunities of Artificial Intelligence

Report for the European Parliament: “A vast range of AI applications are being implemented by European industry, which can be broadly grouped into two categories: i) applications that enhance the performance and efficiency of processes through mechanisms such as intelligent monitoring, optimisation and control; and ii) applications that enhance human-machine collaboration.

At present, such applications are being implemented across a broad range of European industrial sectors. However, some sectors (e.g. automotive, telecommunications, healthcare) are more advanced in AI deployment than others (e.g. paper and pulp, pumps, chemicals). The types of AI applications
implemented also differ across industries. In less digitally mature sectors, clear barriers to adoption have been identified, including both internal (e.g. cultural resistance, lack of skills, financial considerations) and external (e.g. lack of venture capital) barriers. For the most part, and especially for SMEs, barriers to the adoption of AI are similar to those hindering digitalisation. The adoption of such AI applications is anticipated to deliver a wide range of positive impacts, for individual firms, across value chains, as well as at the societal and macroeconomic levels. AI applications can bring efficiency, environmental and economic benefits related to increased production output and quality, reduced maintenance costs, improved energy efficiency, better use of raw materials and reduced waste. In addition, AI applications can add value through product personalisation, improve customer service and contribute to the development of new product classes, business models and even sectors. Workforce benefits (e.g. improved workplace safety) are also being delivered by AI applications.

Alongside these firm-level benefits and opportunities, significant positive societal and economy-wide impacts are envisaged. More specifically, substantial increases in productivity, innovation, growth and job creation have been forecasted. For example, one estimate anticipates labour productivity increases of 11-37% by 2035. In addition, AI is expected to positively contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the capabilities of AI and machine learning to address major health challenges, such as the current COVID-19 health pandemic, are also noteworthy. For instance, AI systems have the potential to accelerate the lead times for the development of vaccines and drugs.

However, AI adoption brings a range of challenges…(More)”.

Responsible innovation requires new workways, and courage

Article by Jon Simonsson, Chair of the Committee for Technological Innovation and Ethics (Komet) in Sweden: “People have said that in the present – the fourth industrial revolution – everything is possible. The ingredients are there – 5G, IoT, AI, drones and self-driving vehicles – as well as advanced knowledge about diagnosis and medication – and they are all rapidly evolving. Only the innovator sets the limitations for how to mix and bake with Technologies.

And right now, when the threat of the corona virus has almost shock-digitized both business and the public sector, the interest in new technology solutions has skyrocketed. Working remotely, moving things without human presence, or – most important – virus vaccines and medical treatment methods, have all become self-evident areas for intensified research and experimentation. But the laws and regulations surrounding these areas were often created for a completely different setting.

Rules are good. And there are usually very good reasons why an area is regulated. Some rules are intended to safeguard democratic rights or individual rights to privacy, others to control developments in a certain direction. The rules are required. Especially at the present when not only development of technology but also the technology uptake in society is accelerating. It takes time to develop laws and regulations, and the process of doing so is not in pace with the rapid development of technology. This creates risks in society. For example, risks related to the individual’s right to privacy, the economy or the environment. At the same time, gaps in regulation may be revealed, gaps that could lead to introduction of new and perhaps not desired solutions.

Would it be possible to find a middle ground and a more future oriented way to work with regulation? With rules that are clear, future-proof and developed with legally safe methods, but encourages and facilitates ethical and sustainable innovation?

Responsible development and use of new technology

The Government wants Sweden to be a leader in the responsible development and use of new technologies. The Swedish Committee for Technological Innovation and Ethics (Komet) works with policy development to create good conditions for innovation and competitiveness, while ensuring that development and dissemination of new technology is safe and secure. The Committee helps the Swedish government to proactively address improvements technology could create for citizens, business and society, but also to highlight the conflicting goals that may arise.

This includes raising ethical issues related to the rapid technological development. When almost everything is possible, we need to place particularly high demands on the compass, how we responsibly navigate the technology landscape. Not least during the corona pandemic, when we have seen how ethical boundaries have been moved for the use of surveillance technology.

An important objective of the Komet work is to instil courage in the public sector. Although innovators are often private, at the end of the day, it is the public sector that must enable, be willing to and dare to meet the demands of both business and society. It is the public sector’s role to ensure that the proper regulations are on the table. A balanced and future-oriented regulation which will be required for rapidly creating a sustainable world….(More)”.

Digital Technology and the Resurrection of Trust

Report by the Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies (UK Parliament): “Democracy faces a daunting new challenge. The age where electoral activity was conducted through traditional print media, canvassing and door knocking, is rapidly vanishing. Instead it is dominated by digital and social media. They are now the source from which voters get most of their information and political messaging.

The digital and social media landscape is dominated by two behemoths–Facebook and Google. They largely pass under the radar, operating outside the rules that govern electoral politics. This has become acutely obvious in the current COVID-19 pandemic where online misinformation poses not only a real and present danger to our democracy but also to our lives. Governments have been dilatory in adjusting regulatory regimes to capture these new realities. The result is a crisis of trust.

Yet our profound belief is that this can change. Technology is not a force of nature. Online platforms are not inherently ungovernable. They can and should be bound by the same restraints that we apply to the rest of society. If this is done well, in the ways we spell out in this Report, technology can become a servant of democracy rather than its enemy. There is a need for Government leadership and regulatory capacity to match the scale and pace of challenges and opportunities that the online world presents.

The Government’s Online Harms programme presents a significant first step towards this goal. It needs to happen; it needs to happen fast; and the necessary draft legislation must be laid before Parliament for scrutiny without delay. The Government must not flinch in the face of the inevitable and powerful lobbying of Big Tech and others that benefit from the current situation.

Well drafted Online Harms legislation can do much to protect our democracy. Issues such as misinformation and disinformation must be included in the Bill. The Government must make sure that online platforms bear ultimate responsibility for the content that their algorithms promote. Where harmful content spreads virally on their service or where it is posted by users with a large audience, they should face sanctions over their output as other broadcasters do.

Individual users need greater protection. They must have redress against large platforms through an ombudsman tasked with safeguarding the rights of citizens.

Transparency of online platforms is essential if democracy is to flourish. Platforms like Facebook and Google seek to hide behind ‘black box’ algorithms which choose what content users are shown. They take the position that their decisions are not responsible for harms that may result from online activity. This is plain wrong. The decisions platforms make in designing and training these algorithmic systems shape the conversations that happen online. For this reason, we recommend that platforms be mandated to conduct audits to show how in creating these algorithms they have ensured, for example, that they are not discriminating against certain groups. Regulators must have the powers to oversee these decisions, with the right to acquire the information from platforms they need to exercise those powers….(More)”.

Government Capacity, Societal Trust or Party Preferences? What Accounts for the Variety of National Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Europe?

Paper by Dimiter Toshkov, Kutsal Yesilkagit and Brendan Carroll: “European states responded to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 with a variety of public policy measures. Governments across the continent acted more or less swiftly to close down schools, restrict arrival into their countries and travel within their territories, ban public meetings, impose local and national lockdowns, declare states of emergency and pass other emergency measures. Importantly, both the mix of policy tools as well as the speed with which they were enacted differed significantly even within the member states of the European Union.

In this article we ask what can account for this variation in policy responses, and we identify a number of factors related to institutions, general governance and specific health-sector related capacities, societal trust, government type, and party preferences as possible determinants. Using multivariate regression and survival analysis, we model the speed with which school closures, national lockdowns and states of emergency were announced. The models suggest a number of significant and often counterintuitive relationships: we find that more centralized countries with lower government effectiveness, freedom and societal trust, but with separate ministries of health and health ministers with medical background acted faster and more decisively. These results are important in light of the large positive effects early policy responses likely had on managing the impact of the pandemic….(More)”.

The practice of democracy: A selection of civic engagement initiatives

Study by the European Parliament Research Service: “Public powers are currently facing extraordinary challenges, from finding ways to revive economic growth without damaging the environment, to managing a global health crisis, combating inequality and securing peace. In the coming decades, public regulators, and with them academics, civil society actors and corporate powers, will confront another dilemma that is fast becoming a clear and present challenge. This is whether to protect the current structures of democratic governance,despite the widespread perception of their inefficiency,or adapt them to fast-changing scenarios (but, in doing so, take the risk of further weakening democracy).

The picture is blurred, with diverging trends. On the one hand, the classic interest-representation model is under strain. Low voter turnouts, rising populist (or anti-establishment) political movements and widespread discontent towards public institutions are stress-testing the foundations of democratic systems. Democracy, ever-louder voices argue, is a mere chimera, and citizens have little meaningful impact on the public decision-making process. Therefore, critics suggest, alternatives to the democratic model must be considered if countries are to navigate future challenges. However, the reality is more complex. Indeed, the decay of democratic values is unambiguously rejected by the birth of new grassroots movements, evidenced by record-speed civic mobilisation (especially among the young) and sustained by widespread street protest. Examined more closely, these events show that global demand for participation is alive and kicking.

The clash between these two opposing trends raises a number of questions that policy-makers and analysts must answer. First, will new, hybrid, forms of democratic participation replace classic representation systems? Second, amid transformative processes, how will power-roles be redistributed? A third set of questions looks at what is driving the transformation of democratic systems. As the venues of political discussion and interaction move from town halls and meeting rooms to online forums, it becomes critical to understand whether innovative democratic practices will be implemented almost exclusively through impersonal, ascetic, digital platforms; or, whether civic engagement will still be nurtured through in-person, local forums built to encourage debate.

This study begins by looking at the latest developments in the academic and institutional debates on democratic participation and civic engagement. Contributing to the crisis of traditional democratic models are political apathy and declining trust in political institutions, changes in methods of producing and sharing knowledge, and the pervasive nature of technology. How are public institutions reacting to these disruptive changes? The central part of this study examines a sample of initiatives trialled by public administrations (local, national and supranational) to engage citizens in policy-making. These initiatives are categorised by three criteria: first, the depth and complexity of cooperation between public structures and private actors; second, the design of procedures and structures of participation; and,third, the level of politicisation of the consultations, as well as the attractiveness of certain topics compared with others.

This analysis is intended to contribute to the on-going debate on the democratisation of the European Union (EU). The planned Conference on the Future of Europe, the recent reform of the European Citizens’ Initiative, and on-going debates on how to improve the transparency of EU decision-making are all designed to revive the civic spirit of the European public. These efforts notwithstanding, severe political, economic and societal challenges are jeopardising the very ideological foundations of the Union. The on-going coronavirus pandemic has placed the EU’s effectiveness under scrutiny once again. By appraising and applying methods tested by public sector institutions to engage citizens in policy-making, the EU could boost its chances of accomplishing its political mandate with success….(More)”

Digital diplomacy: States go online

Philipp Grüll at Euractiv: “When Germany takes over the European Council Presidency on 1 July, Berlin will have plenty to do. The draft programme seen by EURACTIV Germany focuses on the major challenges of our time: climate change, digitisation, and the coronavirus.

Berlin wants to establish ‘European Digital Diplomacy’ by creating a ‘Digital Diplomacy Network’ to exist alongside the ‘Technospheres USA and China’.

This should not only be about keeping European industries competitive. After all, the term “digital diplomacy” is not new.

Ilan Manor, a researcher at Oxford University and author of numerous papers on digital diplomacy, defines it as “the use of digital tools to achieve foreign policy goals.”

This definition is intentionally broad, Manor told EURACTIV Germany, because technology can be used in so many areas of international relations….

Manor divides the development of this digital public diplomacy into two phases.

In the first one, from 2008 to 2015, governments took the first cautious steps. They experimented and launched random and often directionless online activities. Foreign ministries and embassies set up social media accounts. Sweden opened a virtual embassy in the online video game “Second Life.”

It was only in the second phase, from 2015 to the present, that foreign ministries began to act more strategically. They used “Big Data” to record public opinion in other countries, and also to track down online propaganda against their own country.

As an example, Manor cites the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom, which is said to have deliberately disseminated anti-EU narratives prior to the Brexit referendum, packaged in funny and seemingly innocent Internet memes that spread rapidly….(More)”.