Q1/2019 - World Economic Forum (WEF)
The World Economic Forum 2019 featured even more sessions dealing with cyber security and the digital economy than preceding forums. Regardless of the international crises – from Syria to climate change – the two topics also were dominant in the speeches of the heads of states and governments. In the annual WEF’s Global Risks Report they were on rank two after the climate change.
The opening speech at the 2019 Annual Meeting was delivered by Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan. Japan took over the G20 presidency in 2019. In his speech, Abe put digital economy in the focus and suggested to take the opportunity of the G20 summit in June 2019 in Osaka to create a new global framework under the roof of the Word Trade Organization for enhancing digital trade and the Internet economy. He called it “data governance”. For the Osaka Fast Track, Abe suggested the acronym DFFT (Data Free Flow with Trust).
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel followed up on Abe’s proposal and related it to the picture the French President Emmanuel Macron had painted at the IGF in Paris in November 2018 when he gave his view of the risks and opportunities of the Internet in the 2020s. Merkel spoke about data flow, data protection and data governance.
“… in the world of big data, we’ve experienced a huge leap forward in the sphere of artificial intelligence. Here our task will be to put ethical guidelines in place. … Here too, we don’t yet have any global agreements. We have to find answers to these pressing questions. As yet, I don’t see a global architecture to deal with them. However, I cannot imagine that every major economic power is going to find different answers. Just look at the two major poles when it comes to data processing.
- On the one hand, we have the United States. There, data is largely in the hands of private stakeholders. That makes it difficult to set down guidelines which determine limits. My view is that the rules we had in the analogue world cannot be simply cast aside in the digital world. Rather, we need clear guidelines here, too.
- On the other hand, we have China. There the state has extensive access to all data – even personal data.
- Neither of these two very different approaches is in line with my own ideas or those which influenced Germany with its social market economy, ideas that include the protection of privacy.”
“For all its imperfections, the European Union set down guidelines on how to better regulate personal data with the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation. That takes some effort; however, when the Industrial Revolution took place and people moved from the countryside into the cities, it was probably also difficult for them to carry around different sets of keys to open their own doors. These are civilisational developments which we have to go through. I therefore believe that we should certainly strive to protect a certain degree of privacy.”
“I was delighted when my Japanese colleague Shinzō Abe said here today that he would like to use Japan’s G20 Presidency to focus on data and to launch global data governance. I believe the G20 is a very good format in which to place this issue on the agenda of the largest industrialised nations on a comprehensive scale.” Merkel also touched on cyber security, fair taxation in the digital world and strengthening the digital economy in Europe.
UN Secretary General António Guterres pointed out in his keynote the impacts of the 4th industrial revolution and artificial intelligence, the need for political and legal framework conditions for digital cooperation and the endangerment of global peace an arms race in cyberspace would bring along. All these problems, he said, could only be saved by involving all stakeholderse in the process. The UN was a good platform for this.
With regard to artificial intelligence, Guterres said: “There will be a massive destruction of jobs and a massive creation of jobs. The problem is that they are not the same jobs and not requiring the same skills.”
On the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation established by him, Guterres remarks: “When I look at the web, it's clear that the web is a fantastic instrument for all of us. It's clear that we have the dark web and the deep web and all the problems of cybersecurity, etc. And the question of regulation is a very complex question in relation to this. My feeling is that there is no way to use the traditional mechanisms of intergovernmental regulations through conventions that are approved. I think that this is the kind of situation in which we need soft mechanisms. We need to bring together all stakeholders - governments, the business community, the scientific community, the civil society - and create mechanisms that allow for a permanent following of what's happening; for the consensus in creating some norms, some protocols, but not with rigid forms of bureaucracy of regulation; and creating with this the potential more and more for the web to be an instrument for good, and at the same time taking into account that the web is also a question that some governments are using from the point of view of violation of human rights, etc. So it is clear to me this cannot be only an intergovernmental process.”
With concern he finally looks at the growing militarization of cyberspace, “the weaponization of artificial intelligence. We have a general agreement that the international law applies to cyberspace. But there is no agreement on how international humanitarian law applies to the cyber dimension of conflicts. There is no agreement with what self-defence means in the case of cyber attacks. And on the other hand, we are witnessing the emergence of systems of weapons that will be autonomous, and in which it will possible for those weapons to decide on targets and to decide on taking the life of people, without any human intervention, in situations in which there is a risk of escalation and there is no accountability. Now how to handle these situations, this discussion is a discussion in which they are in the beginning; in which there are big differences of opinion; but these are the areas where we still need international law, and in a way the role of the United Nations. We need to find a minimum of consensus in the world on how to integrate these new technologies in the laws of war that were defined decades ago in a completely different context.”