Ms Von der Leyen, who assumed the role from December 1, was bold in her stance arguing that with every click we each as consumers make, we feed the algorithms that then influence our own behaviour. Adding that big data and artificial intelligence must be carried out in a ‘human and ethical’ way to ensure the technological sovereignty of individuals is strongly upheld.
She also said she was in favour of AI-focused legislation, similar to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into effect last year.
The thought of more regulatory red tape coming in is likely to be unsettling for some businesses who are already navigating the complexities of data compliance. But new regulation is urgently needed to protect the European Union’s 500 million citizens whose identities are increasingly at risk as the world moves from paper to digital.
That being said, I’m hopeful the regulators will be sensitive to the needs of business as Ms Von der Leyen indicated she understands that ensuring smooth and frictionless data sharing is vital to the future of Europe’s fast-growing digital economy. She noted: "It is not about damming up the flow of data. It is about making rules that define how to handle data responsibly. For us the protection of a person's digital identity is the overriding priority.
Proposed new legislation is likely to be overseen by Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner who in September was announced as the EU’s first executive vice-president for digital policy, in addition to managing competition regulation. With the rules likely to be developed by a committee of academics and industry representatives, who form part of the EU’s plan to increase public and private investment in AI to €20bn a year.
We agree with Ms Von der Leyen completely, and ultimately, this is why IDWorks, and our parent company 20|30 Group, are investing strongly in building our new technology known as Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI). We want to help businesses and Governments around the world better manage digital identity, mitigate identity fraud and uphold individual privacy rights without adding friction to data transfer.
We welcome the urgency and focus of the new European Commission President and look forward to engaging with the Commission on how SSI could help in accelerating their vision for Europe in the new digital age.