IGF workshop: Is personal data ‘mine' or there to be ‘mined'? – a view from Portugal

  • Awareness
  • 21/12/2016
  • Ana Neves, Department for Information Society, Portugal

At the recent Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which this year took place in Guadalajara, Mexico from 6-9 December 2016, Insafe organised a workshop (WS 114) titled "Is personal data ‘mine' or there to be ‘mined'?". Here, Ana Neves, Director of the Department for Information Society – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia in Portugal, shares her insights following her participation in the discussion.

"During this workshop, I shared background information on the current situation in Portugal. In short, during October and November 2016, several workshops were held in Portugal rgaarding internet governance (IG) which contributed to ta final session of the IG national initiative on the 23 November 2016. One of the national sessions was dedicated to ‘Privacy on the Internet: Rights and Responsibilities – What future?' and its main messages/outcomes, with a focus on the dilemmas of its governance which fed in nicely to this IGF debate.

"First of all, we have to all be aware that there is no such thing as online and offline worlds: they're totally interconnected. What one does in one has consequences in the other.

"Privacy on the internet is more and more important bearing in mind that more than 50 per cent of the world population is now connected. This means that around 3.5 billion people are connected to the internet, with more about to come online as well as more interconnected devices.

"We quite often provide our personal data on a voluntary basis to use a social network, an application or a service, or just to make a purchase, but this is not the only data that you're providing. There are so many other data collected by companies such as geographic position, the date and time that we use a service and so on, and this data then becomes metadata, meaning data [information] that provides information about other data. And we should be all well aware of that.

"Our children today are being socialised in a way that is vastly different from their parents' experiences. Digital content and services may be easy to use, but does this mean that children and young people really understand their rights to protect their personal data?

"Children – and users in general – want to have access to social networks, services, apps and so on. But who really reads the terms of contract for such use? We are often giving away ‘things' that we have no notion of. The issue here is that it seems that we have no choice. Either you accept the rules of the game and have access to the service, social network or app, or you just don't be part of it. And then children and youth become excluded, which is highly problematic in a digital connected society.

"I would also like to raise, very briefly, some issues that must be solved in the near future at worldwide level: What is data privacy and public security? Until what age is a user on the internet considered a child? Is it only a question of age?

"During the Portuguese initiative of the IGF we discussed these questions and I would like to share with you some of the messages that emerged.

"The ubiquity of the internet and the growing digital transformation of society have changed habits, behaviours, aspirations, rules, jobs, fears, prejudices and the needs of citizens. Therefore, the implementation of new privacy standards, for example, the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, which will enter into force in 2018, is particularly relevant to the various representatives of the internet community.

"Too often, issues surrounding privacy need more transparency and more stakeholders should be involved in the discussion, implementation and regulation. The argument that users must have full control over their own data implies also a better preparation of users and consumers to this process through proper skills and training. On the other hand, greater responsibility and accountability of actors who provide services and products over the internet is also required. The ‘by-design' and ‘by-default' principles should be private sector priorities which could eventually reduce government regulation. In addition to legal frameworks, governments should also prioritise citizens' digital literacy, training and education."

More information on this workshop (WS 114) is available from the IGF website.

For more general information about IGF, see the debates on Twitter using #IGF2016 or check out the daily video highlights from across the four days of the Forum.

See the Internet Governance Forum page on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal for all the information on Insafe-INHOPE involvement in current and past IGF events.

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