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A Data Democracy is A Shared Responsibility

The state should be a role model and make sure their procurement is based on data ethics. Individuals should take control of their own data and use alternatives to big tech, and companies should innovate with pricacy by design. Just like with the climate, we share a responsibility to create a data democracy.

By now, most people have realised that our dependence on big tech is a democratic problem. White papers are being written, ministerial offices are being set up and conferences are being held on how we can democratise big tech. Publicist media are following suit, but together they all lack solutions. They can only point to one solution: regulation.

Regulation is extremely impotant. We need updated laws and we need to enforce them (where some EU countries have been lackiung behind). But regulation is far from enough. In 2018, for example, Google was fined a record amount by the EU for violating European monopoly laws. The giant doesn’t agree, and three years later Google is still waisting our common resources to avoid paying and get it their way. That will continue for years to come.
So regulation is an expensive, long-lasting and necessary lever in the fight against Big Tech. But if we want to achieve a data democracy, more is needed, and everyone has a responsibility.

States should be a role model and ensure their procurement is based on data ethics (see our whitepaper on public procurement). For example, a European cloud service could have been chosen for Danish Aula in stead of Amazon Web Services. And in stead of launching new important political policies or statements on e.g. Corona only on Facebook, Danish politicians should do it on their own websites and use all used social media platforms for marketing of the website.
Local municipalities should hire independent experts to teach digital tools to businesses and the unemployed rather than, like Danish Næsted is doing, getting Google to do it. And then the state in e.g. Denmark could do much more to promote encryption technologies.

Businesses and organisations have a responsibility to go beyond what the law dictates. For example, if you sell medicines, it would be data-ethical not to use third-party cookies on your site and tell everyone in the ad-tech industry, who buys the medicine.

Many responsible companies have removed Google Analytics from their sites, but they can go further by using and thus supporting alternatives tools (and preferably European), innovating with privacy by design and, not least, giving their customers control over their own data.

Finally, we have ourselves – citizens and consumers.

Just as we all have a shared responsibility to buy climate-friendly, we have a shared responsibility to co-create a data democracy.

Pernille Tranberg

When big tech listens most, they listen to the users. The Facebook Files from the Wall Street Journal showed that it was Apple – not US regulators – who made Facebook do the right thing on privacy, if they wanted to remain in Apple’s App Store and thus have access to users.

There are countless good alternatives to Google’s services in particular. Protonmail, (rather than Google Translate), Here We Go (rather than Google Maps), Firefox rather than Chrome and a host of search engines that don’t profile like Google Search does.

Yet over 90% of Europeans use Google’s services, while we fork out taxpayers’ money to make Google comply with our laws and pay their fines. We must start walking the talk.

This was first published in a Danish version in Prosa Bladet