Who is Amelia Andersdotter and what do you do in daily life?
I've been a Member of the European Parliament in the 7th term and worked, topically, on digital rights and competitive digital market issues. I run an NGO in Sweden for data protection concerns. Data protection has been out of focus in the Swedish national debate for almost 30 years, so it's a great challenge for the country with the new EU rules. Together with my partners I hope to make it more spiritually, technologically and legally accessible for individuals and, lately, municipal website designers.
Where are we today with acceleration of a digital society?
To me, a digital society means that everyone, including individuals, has choices available to be connected. They should be able to participate in and contribute to the online environment. But there are some challenges here for decision makers in terms of which kind of digital society they want to accelerate towards. A continued focus on effective competition and new market entrants in the telecoms sector would help the sector develop infrastructure for all individuals and consumers. We also have to weigh predictability and security against the opportunities of disruption and innovation. It's a danger that the voices for the interests of individuals are very weak in comparison with government and big industry interests: distribution of power and means continues to be an issue in the digital world.
In your opinion what is required to have a fair and competitive Digital Single market within Europe?
I saw a quote by Andrus Ansip in The Register (a UK-based technology news site) regarding electronic IDs. They've been very successful in Estonia, and Ansip suggested they could become popular everywhere and be used for everything (including YouTube), so that people don't need to remember so many passwords. The Register pointed out that national ID systems have been rejected twice in the UK. While Germany and Austria, have national IDs, the people living there have not been very keen to have an ‘omni-ID’. Normally, they use many different identities for different purposes, in order to preserve unlinkability. Unlinkability doesn't feature in the Estonian system at all. Finding ways to converge around a common understanding of what we want and on what values we wish to build our communities is a big challenge.
Telecommunications laws and copyright laws are outstanding issues Sadly, both areas are currently dominated by employment policy and whoever employs the most people seems to get the most political favours. Our decision makers have very little faith in their populations to create new services, jobs and opportunities . As the Commission has turned to quantifiable targets with the Digital Agenda, for instance in the field of infrastructure roll-out, the Commission has also become more reliant on big corporations to help them meet those targets. In copyright law, the Commission has so little trust in legislators to fix such obvious problems like geoblocking that they turn to competition law to work around it. Even more sad is that the Commission might be right to be suspicious. I've recently been impressed with the European Commission's focus on open technical standards, and their work on open data and privacy-enhancing measures on their website.
Is the privacy of citizens guaranteed within Europe?
Not really. At some point our political leaders will have to come to terms with mass-surveillance not being permissible under our current human rights conventions and charters. Last week, I was happy to see that the UK Minster of Interior Theresa May recognized that the European Convention of Human Rights does indeed conflict with the currently preferred mechanisms of security in many European countries.
We also face the challenge that some of the requirements placed on businesses and innovators simply do not allow them to make the most privacy-friendly designs possible. This ranges from silly things, like placing the burden of proof for violations of a security on the individuals (and removing the economic need for businesses to improve), to more severe things, like actually introducing legal requirements that make certain paths of innovation impossible (end-to-end-encryption being probably the most tangible example). With respect to data protection, we have an active EU court, which will probably have to take on many more cases on data protection in the future. We hope, of course, that the new data protection laws will be interpreted in a way that ensures procedural safeguards for the privacy of individuals.