Data, Big Tech, and the New Concept of Tech Sovereignty
Data has become the lifeblood of our digital society, fuelling innovation, economic growth, and the transformation of industries. However, Big Tech corporations’ rapid rise and extensive control over vast amounts of data have raised important questions about power, privacy, and national security. As nations grapple with the challenges of the digital revolution, a new concept of tech sovereignty has emerged.
The European Parliament defines digital sovereignty as “Europe’s autonomous ability to operate within the digital realm.” The concept should understand defensive measures and proactive strategies to foster digital innovation, even through collaboration with non-EU entities.
The Rise of Big Tech and Their Dominance over Data
Over the past decade, Big Tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple have experienced exponential growth. They have amassed vast amounts of user data through their platforms and services, enabling them to refine algorithms, develop targeted advertising, and create personalised experiences. Their dominance has given rise to concerns over monopolistic practices, unfair competition, and the potential exploitation of user information.
Data economy and innovation concern
While the EU possesses strong assets, including a world-leading AI research community and a robust industry, there are indications that the region also faces certain weaknesses that hinder its progress in the global race from developing these technologies. In the field of AI, for example, the EU lags behind the United States (US) and China in terms of private investment. The level of AI technology adoption by companies and the general public is comparatively lower in the EU compared to the US. This disparity can impact the EU’s ability to fully harness the potential benefits of AI in various sectors.
Cybersecurity and data control concerns
One area of concern is the reliance on Chinese 5G infrastructure, which has been identified as a critical weakness for the EU’s cybersecurity. The EU Member States have warned against over-dependence on a single equipment supplier, as it increases the risk of potential supply interruptions and creates security vulnerabilities.
Absence of a unified cyberspace concerns
The EU recognises the need to establish a cohesive and secure digital space to mitigate risks associated with external interference. The lack of unity can make the EU more susceptible to cybersecurity threats and compromise its digital sovereignty. The coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated cybersecurity challenges, significantly increasing cyber-attacks. Cybercriminals have exploited the crisis to target individuals, organisations, and critical infrastructure. This has heightened the urgency for robust cybersecurity measures and proactive defence strategies.
Limited control over data generated within their territories
The dominance of US and Asian companies in the global public cloud market has raised apprehensions among European governments and industry players. There is growing unease about relying on non-European data services, especially considering the extraterritorial jurisdiction granted to US law enforcement agencies under the 2018 US CLOUD Act. This act allows US authorities to access the personal data of foreigners stored by US-based companies, even if the data is located outside the United States.
The Emerge of Digital Sovereignty
In response, European governments are increasingly shifting away from non-EU cloud solutions and exploring the deployment of European-designed cloud solutions. By leveraging European technologies and infrastructure, governments aim to regain control over their data and ensure that their own data protection regulations govern it. This move toward European cloud solutions aligns with the broader objective of fostering tech sovereignty and reducing dependence on foreign technology providers.
The EU has put forward several initiatives to expedite the digitalisation process and strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy in the digital realm. These initiatives revolve around three fundamental building blocks: building a data framework, promoting a trustworthy environment, and adapting competition and regulatory rules.
A robust data framework
As part of the European data strategy, additional measures could be proposed at the EU level to facilitate the implementation of comprehensive cloud infrastructure across Europe. These measures include the establishment of common cloud standards, the development of a reference architecture, and the definition of interoperability requirements. These actions aim to ensure that cloud services within the EU adhere to consistent standards, enabling seamless integration and collaboration across different cloud platforms.
Promoting a trustworthy environment
Trust is essential in the digital ecosystem, and the EU is working to enhance cybersecurity measures, data protection regulations, and transparency requirements. Strengthening cybersecurity capabilities and fostering a culture of trust will bolster consumer confidence and encourage the adoption of digital technologies. Initiatives like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aim to safeguard individuals’ privacy and give them greater control over their personal data, further fostering trust in the digital landscape.
Adapting competition and regulatory rules
As technology evolves rapidly, traditional regulatory frameworks may need to be updated to ensure fair competition and prevent the concentration of power in the hands of a few dominant players. The EU is exploring adapting competition rules to address digital market dynamics effectively. This includes examining the practices of major tech companies and considering measures to ensure a level playing field for all players, particularly in areas such as platform governance, data access, and interoperability.
Accelerate the digital transformation and strengthen strategic autonomy with Finworks
Data has become a crucial asset in the digital age, driving innovation and economic growth. However, the dominance of Big Tech corporations in controlling vast amounts of data has raised concerns about power, privacy, and national security. To address these challenges, tech sovereignty has emerged, emphasising the importance of strategic autonomy for businesses and organisations.
Finworks presents a powerful solution to accelerate data management with its data architecture and comprehensive infrastructure for managing and integrating data across various sources and systems. It enables organisations to establish their own data infrastructure, govern data according to their specific requirements, and ensure compliance with privacy and security regulations. This newfound autonomy over data strengthens organisations’ control, mitigates the risks associated with over-reliance on external entities, and fosters a self-reliant approach to data management.
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