A conference organized by the European Commission & INTECO

February 10th & 11th 2010 in León, Spain

Report by: José María Díaz Nafría

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The conference Trust in the Information Society, held on the 10th and 11th of Februrary, 2010 in Leon, Spain, aimed at gathering the complete spectrum of stakeholders in the Information Society to address the issue of steering ICTs to be trustworthy. The conference agenda was built around five major topics that emerged out of a survey of the “Advisory Board of Research and Innovation for Security, Privacy and Trustworthiness in the Information Society” (RISEPTIS) supported by the European Commission since 2008 and aimed at providing “visionary guidance on policy and research challenges in the field of security and trust.” The five topics -constituting different sessions- were: 1) Digital life and trust (an industrial view); 2) Trustworthy networking and computing services; 3) An European Framework for digital identity management; 4) Development of the Legal Framework of the EU with regard to the protection of Data and Privacy, 5) International cooperation on trust and security research.

The relevance of this conference is twofold: on the one hand, it provides guidance for European research policies and industrial innovation in the information technology realm; on the other hand, it offers patterns for an Information Society which is envisaged as an European backbone (for instance, in the Lisbon Treaty), therefore as a cultural and political concern.

The set of recommendations included in the RISEPTIS survey reflects the necessity for: 1st) deepening in the interdisciplinarity of research and development in information technologies, 2nd) the inviolability of some cultural basis as privacy and identity considered as fundamental democratic values, 3rd) the necessity for large scale innovation including public and industrial actors as well as international cooperation.

From the point of view of the Science of Information

From the perspective of our endeavour for a Science of Information, in my opinion, these are the most relevant conclusions:

In a positive sense and somehow in tune with our venture:

  1. There is growing awareness about the complexity of the informational processes, especially in social concerns, and therefore a growing consciousness that a simple bottom-up approach (reductive) or a top-down one (projective) are not enough (topics 1 & 2).
  2. The need for a multidimensional confrontation to the problems arisen in the information society, by means of a broaden interdisciplinarity (RISEPTIS 2009: rec. 1 & 2).
  3. The information society is more and more conceived as an ecosystem in which complex equilibria have to be pursued among natural basis, technical and cultural means, economical relations, social- and political forces (Topic 2: Riguidel; Topic 5: Neeraj Suri; RISEPTIS 2009: rec. 4 & 5).
  4. International cooperation is a requisite for an efficient confrontation to global challenges (topic 5, RISEPTIS 2009: rec. 6).

But critically also some weakness can be pointed out:

  1. Although only bottom-up or top-down approaches are considered as not sufficient, a complex approach (in a system- or complex- theoretical viewpoint) was scarcely conceived as a road for the challenging questions being posed (topic 5: Tai Znati).
  2. The inclusiveness of the Information Society is mostly accounted in terms of information divide with two main aspects: how to connect everybody, accessibility, and how to enlighten people about information means, literacy (open session, topic 5). While the question considering if ICT are really accounting for social needs, is not seriously tackled; as well as the question about how could they better fit social needs.
  3. Although we are dealing with an issue of major social relevance, some significant social actors are completely missed. As a consequence, some dark sides of trust and security as exclusion, fear, mistrust… are not properly considered. Moreover, the social actors are mainly conceived in tree categories: industry, administration and consumers, i.e. the social landscape is highly commodified. Security and trustworthiness are seen as commercial goods, the agents are providers, regulators or customers (topic 1). Where are then citizens, cultural values and de-commodified goods? What about those who cannot be consumers; or those wishing to act beyond any commercial activity? (Fleissner 2009)
  4. Although identity was a central issue, and society or community is a major source of identity, this aspect was practically left aside, even if as argued some e-identity means might bring about some kind of exclusions, invisible borders and classes of users with different access to informational resources (topic 2).
  5. Another misrepresentation that can be observed in the panel of speakers concerns gender, since there were only 5 women among 32 speakers. It is also interesting to point out how this lack of balance was especially sharp in the field of security and trust (a single female speaker), but not in privacy issues. We might ask: is it something related to female tendencies from hunter-gatherer societies till nowadays or determined by cultural mores?
  6. Although international cooperation is conceived as a necessary road to undertake global challenges, no intercultural approximation is observed. However, as it has been remarked in many intercultural studies concerning information ethics and policies, there is a lack of understanding regarding values that are culturally taken as irreducible and often pretended as universal, for instance, privacy and identity (Capurro 2007, Ess 2006, Floridi 2008, Nishigaki 2006, glosarium, etc.). Considering the allegedly centrality of these two elements in trustworthiness concerns and the requirement of international cooperation, there was a lack of concern regarding for instance the Asian and African viewpoints on privacy and identity, and other values as solidarity or social justice that has also been recognised as a global principle (UNESCO 2007).

Conclusions of Leon

As a result of the discussions the following conclusions were reached:

“The participants to the Conference […]:

  1. Confirm the essential importance of the development of Trust in the Information Society for economic growth, prosperity and the promotion of our societal values.
  2. Endorse the analysis and recommendations presented in the RISEPTIS Report, in particular to:
    1. Strengthen interdisciplinary RTD for Trust in the Information Society.
    2. Stimulate ICT products and services based on “Trust by Design”.
    3. Develop an EU Framework for electronic identification in full respect of privacy and for broad societal use, including e-Government, e-Health and the Private sector.
    4. Develop an ecosystem of technology and law preserving our societal values and creating trust in the society, all within a global context.
  3. Emphasise the urgency to develop a platform for effective cooperation on trust issues between stakeholders in RTD, industry, society, law and regulation and education and awareness.

And recommend to the European Commission and Member States

  1. To give urgent attention to these Conclusions of Leon in their upcoming decisions on the European Digital Agenda and Granada Strategy as well as in other relevant discussions, like those to be held at the WCIT 2010 in Amsterdam.
  2. To call upon ENISA, in close cooperation with stakeholders, to actively support programmes of the European Commission and Member States, related to security and trust in ICT, in particular in bridging the gap between technology and policy, and ensuring efficient uptake of research results in operational environments.
  3. To strengthen international cooperation to promote and develop Trust in the Information Society at a global scale.”

More information on Trust-IS

References

  • CAPURRO, Rafael (2007). Intercultural Information Ethics. In: Capurro, Rafael / Frühbauer, Johannes / Hausmanninger, Thomas (Eds.): Localizing the Internet. Ethical aspects in intercultural perspective. Munich: Fink, 21-38. [Online] <http://www.capurro.de/iie.html> [accessed: 10/10/2010]
  • ESS, Charles (2006). Ethical pluralism and global informaion ethics. In Ethics and Information Technology,8, 215-226.
  • FLEISSNER, P. (2008). The “Commodification” of Knowledge in the Global Information Society. Triple C, 7(2), 228-238.
  • FLORIDI, Luciano (2008). Information Ethics. Its Nature and Scope. En: Jeroen van den Hoven y John Wecker (Eds.).Information Technology and Moral Philosophy. Cambridge University Press, pp. 40-65.
  • NISHIGAKI, Toru (2006). The ethics in Japanese information society: Consideration on Fracisco Varela’s The Embodied Mind from the perspective of fundamental informatics. Ethics and Information Technology, 8:237-242.
  • RISEPTIS (2009). Trust in the information society. Report of the Advisory board RISEPTIS (Research and Innovation on Security Privacy and Trustworthiness in the Information Society). European Commission’s 7th Framework. [Online] http://www.think-trust.eu/riseptis.html > [accessed: 28/11/2009]
  • UNESCO (2007). European regional Conference on “ethical dimensions of the information society”. Ethics and human rights in the information society. Final recommendations. [Online] <http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/files/26941/12121514093FinalRecommendations_en.pdf/FinalRecommendations_en.pdf>   [accessed: 31/03/2010]
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