Data protection as a human right in EMEA
By Daniel Fried, GM & SVP EMEA and Worldwide Channels at Veeam Software
Digital technology is now used all over the world and no continent remains untouched. Although it is incredibly difficult to quantify the value of the digital economy, according to various United Nations (UN) estimates, it is estimated at about 4 to 15 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Daniel Fried, GM & SVP EMEA and Worldwide Channels at Veeam Software
Ideas such as permanent connectivity and the cloud have generally served to promote globalization and play a unifying role for people and companies in different parts of the world. In recent years, however, we have noticed that cultural differences are becoming more and more apparent.
Especially in EMEA – led by the European Court of Justice – the idea that data can flow easily from one place to another has been strongly questioned. In this part of the world, the protection of privacy is a human right that contradicts the concept of free-flowing data and the so-called sharing economy.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), adopted in May 2018, was the first example of a truly robust and punitive legal framework based on common principles of data protection. More than three years later, the GDPR continues to show its teeth and companies that do not comply with it face heavy fines.
All too often, regulations such as the GDPR and the recent repeal of the Privacy Shield by the EU in 2020 are therefore seen as obstacles. This may be due to the fact that data is the currency of the digital economy, and restrictions on its use are considered attacks on capitalist freedoms and innovations.
However, this is a narrowed view of what the digital economy really is. Data is often referred to as the currency of highly monetizable commodities such as oil and gold. However, they are very different from these values, because they range in their quality from highly confidential and very personal to indecipherable and completely useless. Their value thus fluctuates and depends on the respective point of view.
What data, especially personal data, have in common with impersonal objects such as oil and money is that their commercial use must be regulated.
Just as banks have to take care of their customers’ money, companies that use data to gain valuable, actionable insights are obliged to protect this data. It is a social contract that becomes legally enforceable through regulations such as the GDPR.
To be truly successful in EMEA, technology and cloud providers must understand that data protection and trust are a cultural cornerstone of European society. Both global and regional providers must be aware of the intricacies of European data protection and the sovereignty of citizens in order to be able to adequately meet the expectations of their customers.
For example, the GAIA-X project, initiated by representatives from business, science and politics, aims to develop a proposal for a next-generation European data infrastructure. The vision is to create a digital ecosystem in which data and services can be made available, collected and shared in a trustful environment for Europe and beyond.
Respect cultural idiosyncrasies
The impact on cloud providers operating in EMEA could be harmful if it appears that their own methods of data collection, data exchange and data protection do not comply with European data protection values.
This is a good example of my belief that technology and business are always about people. The cultural attitudes towards data protection around the world are a challenge that the big technology companies still have to deal with. It has an immense and complex history, based on the social, political and economic experience of each individual nation.
The fact is that the protection of privacy is a human right that should not be trampled by large technology companies. Above all, the cloud industry must embrace this and not fight it if it wants to continue the rapid growth of the last decade.