It’s time to restore trust in the internet
Maintaining privacy and freedom in an ultra-connected era is one the key elements in restoring trust in the internet, writes Stefano Pileri, the CEO of Italtel.
In today’s ultra-connected society, data is being generated at an exponential rate and becoming a product of such enormous economic value that the use of data has even changed the principles the Internet was built on.
Alongside this, digital transformation is opening new opportunities and creating significant concerns around security and how data will be used once it is in the cloud. However, through the use of regulations and technology, we can protect people’s data and restore trust in the Internet.
A whole new digital world
Digital transformation is a complex process which will see new technologies such as ultra-broadband networks, hybrid cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning revolutionise the way we live, work and socialize.
To give an example, the emerging Industry 4.0 will enable factories to be connected via the IoT to create new production processes. This efficiency will empower an ultra-connected industry, which is able to monitor production times and the quality of goods to reduce waiting times and accelerate time-to-market for raw materials. Not only does this meet the demands of sales departments, it allows finished products to be monitored through sensors once they’ve left the factory. This allows businesses to better understand how consumers use these products and how they perform in the long run.
This innovation is also being seen in health processes. Today, telemedicine can continuously monitor users’ vital parameters to record data, including images and video, which can be filed into electronic health records. High-definition (HD) video communication can enable instant contact between patients and doctors, providing round-the-clock care, while reducing patient numbers and waiting times in hospitals. By making this data available, medical science is taking gigantic steps in the battle against life threatening illnesses.
The dark side of the network
However, as with most opportunities, there are undeniable challenges and digital transformation has caused a backwards step when it comes to security and the confidence consumers have in connected devices and when sharing data on social networks.
Our private data is now sold to people who want to sell us something, to people who want to understand our political and social guidelines, and to people who want to guide our choices in some way. This has facilitated the creation of digital models and algorithms to guide the tastes of consumers and their purchasing habits. These algorithms have also been shown to be able to manipulate political orientations and social behaviors by analyzing consumers’ consumption preferences.
As a result, the internet – which was built as a place to freely share knowledge and opinion – is becoming somewhere consumers can no longer choose freely, somewhere fake news is becoming undistinguishable from true stories and somewhere children and young people are not necessarily safe.
As businesses and consumers become more aware of this exploitation, they are less inclined to share their data within an oligarchic cloud dominated by the same business giants who have unknowingly exploited the data of billions of people. This puts the brakes on the use of digital technologies which are key for the growth of sectors such as health, education, the environment and security.
The saving grace
In May 2018, the European Commission introduced a new data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is designed to protect personal data and the treatment and circulation of it. The law was introduced in response to the growing concern around the lack of control of personal data of individuals and many governments across the world are following suit with similar regulations.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg has also put forward the European directive on copyright which provides more stringent controls over the publication of editorial content to prevent users from publishing copyrighted material.
Finally, a third answer to restore the Internet’s credibility is Blockchain – a set of technologies that promises to increase the reliability of transactions and the protection of data exchanged between people.
As a distributed ledger of data and transactions shared between all participants, blockchain allows transactions, data and information to be contained and published in particular entities called blocks. Each block has a unique identifier – a hash code – which includes a reference to the previous block in the chain. Within this chain, information is encoded using the best encryption techniques. A public key and a private key are also used, restricting access to personal information. The integrity of the data related to the distribution of the register and the concatenation of the blocks is also very important as it makes corruption of the data extremely difficult.
With the advancement of appropriate tools such as Blockchain and the correct regulation in place, we can rediscover the founding principles of the Internet and restore people’s trust in it, empowering the digital revolution and creating the safe, connected society users are craving.