Neelie Kroes: How to make Europe the world’s safest online environment

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Our world is entering the digital age. And it is becoming ever more important to keep that digital world safe and secure.  Recent headlines show us the sheer scale of hacking and spying, and the significance for our privacy, and for our economy.  But let’s recall three trends.  First: the online world is coming to benefit every aspect of our lives, bringing innovation, convenience and efficiency.  And no wonder. New innovations like the cloud offer a hundred-billion euro boost to Europe.  We cannot turn our backs on those benefits. But, with that growing spread, online threats have correspondingly growing consequences. And a lack of trust can only hamper widescale use, and constrain those benefits.  Second: risks are mounting. According to Symantec, the total number of attacks increased by 81% in just one year. In ever more forms: from identity theft and phishing — to botnets, Trojans and denial-of-service attacks. And more besides.  Third: these risks imply significant costs.

Each year, many businesses, if not the majority, face security breaches: even for a smaller business, the cost can be tens of thousands of euros per breach. For a major incident the cost could amount to over a quarter of a trillion dollars. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.  But let’s not get confused between the different issues in play here. Let’s understand the situation, recognise which tools we have available, and use the right one for the right job. Let’s not confuse privacy with security, or confidentiality with integrity.  Data protection is a fundamental right that we must safeguard. People have a right to know and control how their data is used.

Not least because the further data is spread, it more vulnerable it becomes.  We must protect our citizens, so their data is not misused in that way. Not destroying the digital opportunities they enjoy every day, but protecting proportionately.  So data protection is an important part of the picture. But let’s be realistic.  Spying may be unacceptable. But it’s been going on for some time. Maybe it’s the world’s second oldest profession. And it’s not about to stop. Here to read more.

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