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Making technology and policy work hand in hand to protect privacy

The increasing incursion of social media into our professional and personal lives and shared data storage in the Cloud makes the question of data protection and security ever-more urgent. The answer won’t come from technology alone, but will need to embrace research and policy. 

In the digital as in the physical world, it is impossible to eradicate crime and risk, but they must be prevented as much as possible, so that a safe environment is created in which people feel at ease. This is as critical when people are navigating digital highways as it is on the streets of a real city. “It’s [about] a balance between opportunity and risk,” said Jean-Eric de Cockborne, an adviser to the director-general of DG Information Society and Media at the European Commission. Information is the critical ingredient in striking this balance. “Digital literacy is absolutely key,” de Cockborne said.

The issue of control lies at the heart of this. Who should control online data: individuals, governments or companies? While Bart Preneel of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven argued it should be up to individuals to determine how their data is used, other delegates pointed out it is burdensome and time-consuming to control what is done with  personal information. Several delegates said the key is for consumers to know the risks they’re taking, enabling them to make informed decisions about whether, and how, to use any particular service or application.


The website, alerts users to the risks of sharing information online.