Davos 2020: Data privacy and asking the question ‘how can we protect the public online?’

January 23, 2020
Tomer Sofinzon

Tomer Sofinzon, Founder and CEO, 20|30 Group, has been in Davos all week for the World Economic Forum 2020 and shares his views on one of the hotly debated topics at this year's conference. Information infrastructure, data privacy and online security.

Grüezi Mitenand from Davos, Switzerland, where I have just attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2020 to discuss the rapid growth in new technology and the great work we are doing at 20|30 Group to solve real world problems using decentralised technologies.

This is my third time attending Davos and it remains a special event on my calendar. The eclectic mix of the world’s greatest minds, from politics through to technology, bankers and academics, is as diverse and colourful as the resort’s clothing with a mix of formal suits and jazzy ski wear.

The future of technology, the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, and how it is transforming our world has been the buzz of the Promenade. The powerful potential new technology is bringing to improve society, but also some of the emerging issues, which need urgent attention. Specifically, around privacy and data security.

Tech is increasingly ubiquitous to our everyday lives. From how we bank, shop, date, order a taxi, read the news, communicate – and so on. Every action we undertake online leaves a digital footprint in the virtual snow. Traceable. And a valuable commodity to those who know how to use it (and sadly, abuse it).

It’s therefore important that as we as a society move to a digital world, to ensure we are always protected online. We need to be able to trust in the services and apps we use. That we are safe and in control of our identities. At the heart of it, this is a basic human right.

While consumers are increasingly aware that they have privacy rights and that companies may not always be honouring them, or rather it’s very confusing at best, it’s also very clear that the majority of people do not quite understand what these rights are. Or how they can exercise them.

I agree with the calls for improved regulation around the world and welcome moves by various Governments to acknowledge their need to accelerate their understanding of new technologies such as blockchain, DLT and AI, and respond as quickly as the technology is being created.

Indeed, I believe in the need for strong collaboration and partnership between Government and business, ensuring citizens of each country are protected in accordance with the local regulations and needs of each country.

But I also believe waiting for regulation is not an excuse for a company or industry to “abdicate” from its responsibility of doing the right thing. Companies need to commit to an element of self-regulation and take proactive steps to act in accordance with the governance of each country in which they conduct business. Acting responsibly is good corporate governance and vital to earning the right to be trusted.

And trust in tech is everything. Without it, the new global interconnected systems we are building to benefit society will fail.

The data privacy scandals over the last few years have highlighted just how precarious the current model is. Bad actors are, sadly, exploiting innocent people around the world. We as an industry need to work together, in strong collaboration and partnership with Governments, to address the problem which risks becoming an incurable pandemic if we do not act with urgency.

I really liked the phrase “data dignity” used by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella this week. He said: “the next level of work is not just about privacy, but I should be able to control how my data is used in the world I care about.”

Beautifully put. We agree completely which is why two of 20|30 Group’s core priority pillars are Identity and Security.

We are building solutions, using decentralised blockchain technology, which will help to tackle this, specifically our portfolio companies IDWorks and OpenRelay.

For example, IDWorks are building solutions which facilitate sharing identity across institutions and reducing operating costs, specifically a new technology known as Self-Sovereign Identity.

And OpenRelay’s Rivet solution is the first privacy-focused, open source gateway to Ethereum and is rapidly becoming recognised as the new global industry standard for blockchain security and privacy.

Technology can fuel economic growth and help to build a better world. But to do so, it needs to be trusted, and sustainable too.

In the words of Apple CEO Tim Cook in his keynote speech for a security conference in Belgium back in 2018, I think it was, what sort of world do we, the tech sector, want people to live in? What are our values?

I look forward to continuing the many exciting conversations I have had here in Davos this week and collaborating to help build a secure and trusted world powered by decentralised technologies.

To learn more about IDWorks please visit idworks.io and for OpenRelay please visit openrelay.xyz