Our Second Working Group on 4th Industrial Revolution

EU-US cooperation requires common approach on data

How do you strike a balance between individual control over personal information and bringing data sources together to power the ‘internet of things’? And do the different approaches of Europe and the United States to data protection make this challenge even greater?

These were the key questions that were discussed at the latest Friends of Europe roundtable dinner on the impact of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Europeans – in contrast to Americans – have traditionally been wary of sharing their data. To that end the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was adopted in 2016, giving citizens control over their personal data and unifying regulation within the EU.

But many critics say that Europe will lose ground in the internet of things if companies cannot easily gather large amounts of data to develop systems such as autonomous vehicles. And both Europe and the United States – without cooperation and a common approach – may find themselves outpaced by China and India in the consumption, delivery and advancement of digital services and technology.

But Europe still has success stories in the digital era. Estonia has promoted the use of electronic solutions for a range of public and other services. The country addresses privacy by carefully considering what data people may want to share and with whom.

“I want my doctor to know my blood type and not to have to test me again, and I want Sofitel to know that I have booked a room here,” said Taavi Rõivas, Estonia’s prime minister from 2014 to 2016. “People have better things to do than to go to public offices to get documents.”

Estonia is a small country, but size doesn’t matter, said Rõivas. “In tech, anything that works in a country of 1.3 million people can be scaled to 1.3 billion people”.

This second of three working group roundtables, held on 7 February, brought together a diverse group of stakeholders to provide input to a ‘future-focused’ report on the 4th Industrial Revolution. Discussions at the event also looked at how to bridge cultural differences between Europe and the United States and how to ensure consumer protection.

The series, which also covers digital skills in Europe, labour markets and regulatory frameworks, was launched in November at an event with Andrus Ansip, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market.

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The 4th industrial revolution working group

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