Who gets the upper hand over the net?

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Lisbon An internet with fair rules must come from. The EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has been campaigning for years. On the one hand, many companies should be given the opportunity to earn money online. On the other hand, this should protect the data of users.

Now she has traveled to Lisbon to discuss such rules with representatives of the industry. The fact that the regulator at the international technology fair Web Summit gets the last word is a message in itself. At the fair, small and large technology companies exchange ideas with traditional corporations and politics – without the pressure of election campaigns and mass audiences. Vestager said before her appearance that this was an opportunity to engage in an open discussion about ideas and thoughts “that would not have to be hammered into regulations”, but which could enable a new community.

It's less about product hype than about technological or philosophical issues like this: is the grid a dangerous place? Is privacy more important than law enforcement? How can people and societies be protected against manipulation? Above all, the question arises: Does the tech scene solve its own problems or does politics take the upper hand over the net?

Also for energy companies like Shell are the groundbreaking questions. At the technology fair, chief strategist Ed Daniels talks about various future scenarios. The current developments could thus lead to a world of digital islands in which globalization has turned back, to an authoritarian world in which governments and tech companies jointly control the network or to a highly networked world of open platforms on which international values ​​are lived ,

“We have to be prepared for any of these alternative future scenarios,” says Daniels Handelsblatt. “We therefore use these scenarios where and how we invest.”

However, it is debatable whether governments or companies can better protect personal information and act in the interests of users, and whether more regulation leads to over-monitoring. Edward Snowden distrusts both sides. In order to warn people against data-collecting companies and authorities, he has given up his personal freedom. “The business model of Google. Amazon and Facebook in itself is abuse, “the whistleblower said at the beginning of the fair and warned: Wherever data is stored, they will leak at some point.

A case that became known Wednesday confirmed that the Saudi government allegedly hired two Twitter agents for espionage, US prosecutors said. The kingdom has sought information about government critics, according to a complaint filed with a San Francisco district court. The goal had been, thousands TwitterSpy accounts.

Criticism slowly shows effect

Snowden observes that there is now an awareness of the problem in such cases. This is also due to politicians and representatives of powerful institutions worldwide who demand in parliaments and even louder on Twitter to smash the tech giants or restrict it with other laws. Suddenly, privacy is no longer boring, privacy becomes existential for the Internet companies.

Facebook manager Jay Sullivan told the Web Summit how the company is advising the FBI and child protection agencies on the encryption of its intelligence services, while stressing that Facebook would “leave no-hurdle” to public authorities when it enacts the encryption of all its services.

Such approaches are not enough for critics. If the tech giants now pledge privacy, that seems hypocritical to many. Amazon, Facebook and Google have had years to figure out how their users tick and who uses their services, how, where and when. European companies like the Deutsche Telekom meanwhile try to make data protection the decisive customer argument in the international competition, for example with smart home devices.

Brittany Emperor

“People should be able to choose who their data will be sold to, for what purpose they are used.”

(Photo: AFP)

Brittany Kaiser knows the power of the data. Before becoming a whistleblower, she worked for Cambridge Analytica, the analytics firm involved in the Facebook data scandal. At that time she herself developed campaigns in which different advertising messages were sent to specific electorate groups.

At the Web Summit, she praised Twitter boss Jack Dorsey's “heroic” decision to no longer allow political advertising in his news service. It is sad that political advertising must be banned so that people are not manipulated – but that's the way it is.

Kaiser is committed to self-determination in the data business: “People should be able to choose who their data will be sold to, for what purpose they are used,” she said. And they should get more than just the opportunity to use a platform. “I think we all agree that this is no fair trade anymore,” said Kaiser.

Platforms can have dangerous incentives

That's not enough for Jimmy Wales. For the Wikipedia co-founder, platforms have dangerous incentives if they build their business model on advertising revenue: the focus can quickly shift from high-quality information to posts that encourage people to click ahead.

At the Web Summit, Katherine Maher of the Wikimedia Foundation for Wikipedias promoted donation models designed to counter such incentives. Wales had explained the benefits to the Handelsblatt recently at the Digital X conference in Cologne.

“People only pay for us when they feel we are significantly improving their lives. So we do not hunt for clicks, we have to be meaningful. “Wales is currently working on a new social network modeled on Wikipedia that focuses on the content and quality of content.

For one of the godfathers of the net, his legacy is at stake today: Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The inventor of HTML and founder of the World Wide Web was also a speaker in Cologne. The technology industry is everywhere asking the same questions. “I think it's important that we do not ignore the values ​​on which the Web was built,” said Berners-Lee Handelsblatt, “but it's also important that we solve a few issues that it has.”

For the HTML inventor prefers innovations. He does not think the huge tech platforms are for monopolies that will last forever. “People will not necessarily be relegating Amazon and Facebook in bulk,” he said. But, bit by bit, they will see that there are many other ways to meet people, exchange information, and manage their lives than in the big current silos. “

The idea of ​​Berners-Lee: with self-empowerment instead of regulation to oppose the tech giant something. Berners-Lee is already working on a technological solution. The Solid platform is designed to store personal information in containers that its owners can manage themselves. “When people realize that they can control their own data, they will switch by themselves,” said Berners-Lee.

One year ago, Berners-Lee opened the Web Summit looking for allies committed to a better network. Also Google and Facebook are among the signers. The results of the working groups will be presented soon.

More: Quantum computers should help to make traffic more fluid. Quantum computer company D-Wave and Volkswagen launch the first field trial in Lisbon.

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