Scientific advice for the European Commission

29 10 2016

The European Committee has installed a new scientific advice mechanism and has invited seven scientists to form a so-called high level group (link), that produces scientifically grounded opinion on pressing policy issues. This week they convened in Vilnius to discuss research in the area of identity management and cybersecurity. Pam Briggs from Northumbria University in the UK and I joined the meeting and shared quite a lot of our IMPRINTS results. Pam moderated the session about online and offline identities, and made sure that all scientific knowledge in the room was adequately shared. That was a challenge, evidently, because everybody spoke from different disciplines and sometimes disregarded the brief to speak on the basis of evidence rather than from opinion and experience (which even scientists find hard to avoid). Informed by our IMPRINTS and other research we both stressed the need to take everyday concerns and experiences of citizens into account. One of the consequences of such a starting point maybe that the focus should not only include data protection beforehand, but also that  that citizens would benefit from quick repair actions by the government when their data are abused, stolen or simply incorrectly administered. Governments could take an example from the credit card companies in that respect. I took that from the report I did for the Dutch government last year (link). My keynote focused on human error and sloppiness as a source of cyber-risks and I argued that the distance between our offline, narrative and communal sense of self is at a too wide distance from our online algorithmic identities, or better: identifiers. As a result we are likely to feel less sense of ownership and protection of our online identity. Pam and I agreed, in our coffee conversations, that there is an urgent need for online data streams about us to become more visible and tangible, if we want citizens to understand better what is going on, and engage more and more safely with their own data.

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