Günther Oettinger, former European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, discusses how Europe can tackle data privacy, cybercrime and the spread of fake news.
Günther Oettinger: Data privacy breaches are against our code of use and against our European rules. It’s a clear criminal case. Therefore, we have the General Data Protection Regulation, a European regulation in which we have clear obligations and rules for everybody.
People's private data have to be private and these rules have to be an obligation for everybody – inside and outside of Europe.
We have achieved a great deal as politicians and as regulators. Our justice system and police are responsible for guaranteeing these rights and they are achieving a great deal as well.
We have to educate our kids and ourselves to be critical and to avoid believing in everything we read, hear or see
How can Europe tackle the spread of fake news?
We need quality newspapers and quality media containing quality information. We have to do our best so everybody can be properly informed, and magazines, newspapers, TV and radio stations and social media provide quality information.
The second point is about education. We have to educate our kids and ourselves to be critical and to avoid believing in everything we read, hear or see. And as a last point, we need some obligations for social media and other platforms. If something is totally wrong, clearly fake, stupid, or even criminal, we can’t relax because we need people to be educated, qualified and informed.
If something is totally wrong, clearly fake, or even criminal, we can’t relax because we need people to be educated, qualified and informed
Why does Europe need a smart digital policy?
There are several important reasons. Firstly, it’s about jobs. The second point is about GDP. Digital technology and services are playing an increasing role in our global GDP and if we want to be competitive, we have to be a part of these sectors.
And lastly, it’s about standards and a cultural understanding. If we have no role in the whole value chain, then standards and rules will be made by the US and China – and not by Europe.
What should be the next steps in digital policies?
We have to create a real digital single market, a kind of a digital union with infrastructure. It’s about research, innovation and education. We need more IT specialists in the EU. We also need our own big data strategy. I think we are achieving a lot, but we have to strengthen and speed up the process.
Innovation has to come from our industries, from our universities, from our entrepreneurs and from our engineers
How can the European Union deal with the geopolitical dimension of digital governance?
Europe is an open-minded continent. Our markets are open. We are open to be influenced, but not open for being dominated. We need a stronger European Union and a strong geopolitical commission to avoid being sandwiched between the US and China.
It’s about safety and security, it’s about competitiveness, it’s about innovation and leadership.
How should experts and policy makers work together to address the digital transformation challenges?
We need optimal public-private partnerships. Innovation has to come from our industries, from our universities, from our entrepreneurs and from our engineers.
But regulation and our standards have to come from parliaments, the Commission and the Council – from politicians. We have to optimise teamwork between the political sector and the business sector.
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