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PS Say More


Marietje Schaake
Says More…

This week, Project Syndicate catches up with Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director of Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center and a former member of the European Parliament.

Project Syndicate: The first pillar of the three-part innovation agenda for the European Union that you proposed last year is “an ecosystem of universities and research centers” that can attract “the best minds from the research world, industry, the financial sector, and the entrepreneurial community.” But establishing such attractive academic institutions is no straightforward undertaking, not least because of the role of history and reputation. How should Europe approach – and finance – such an initiative?

Marietje Schaake: The European model of providing a high-quality, affordable education to a large share of the population is a good starting point, as it offers critical opportunities without the crippling student-loan debt seen in the United States. As global competition intensifies, EU member states should work together to build upon this model, with an eye toward strengthening Europe’s research ecosystem. The private sector should contribute to this process, especially by providing financing, though it is essential that academic independence be preserved.

PS: The third pillar of that agenda – “free and fair competition within [EU] markets” – is similarly complex. As you acknowledge, “Digitalization has produced winner-take-all markets, and the digital economy contains strong oligopolistic forces.” What regulatory measures would most effectively counter these tendencies, without undermining European firms’ ability to achieve the size and scale needed to compete against their Chinese and American counterparts?

MS: The European Digital Single Market – or, perhaps more accurate, “digital single space” – remains far from complete. But creating one shared set of regulations, rather than 27 separate ones, is essential to enable European companies to scale. Efforts to expand European companies’ access to capital would also bolster growth, as would fostering the so-called STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. All of these measures are needed to strengthen Europe’s position vis-à-vis the US and China.

As for regulation, net neutrality is already enshrined in EU law, and the Union is known for robust antitrust enforcement. But, while this is a good start, EU regulators will need to understand the impact of data in new ways in order to apply antitrust and data-protection rules effectively.

Simply put, regulators will need greater access to information, in order not only to ensure that companies comply with existing laws, but also to develop evidence-based proposals for how to fill gaps in existing legal frameworks. That is the only way to uphold Europe’s values and principles amid technological disruption.

The antitrust model – which places a high priority on principles like competition and non-discrimination, and gives regulators far-reaching authority – should also be considered for other areas. By developing framework regulations that put principles first and empower regulators to investigate breaches, no matter which technology is being used, the EU can “future-proof” its laws.

PS: In 2015, you called for “the recognition of privacy and personal data protection as a fundamental human right,” and for “clear, precise, and transparently created regulations that set limits on government surveillance and companies’ use of consumer data.” In 2018, the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation to give EU citizens more control over their personal data. To what extent can the GDPR serve as a model for fulfilling these broader objectives, and what would it take to get the rest of the world on board?

MS: The GDPR is a step in the right direction, but it is far from finished. Artificial intelligence will create new challenges for the protection of sensitive data, including for access to data by researchers, and the commercial surveillance market remains out of control.

Democratic countries need to work together toward a democratic model for technological governance. Data protection is only one element of such an initiative. Pressing questions about independent oversight, accountability, and the protection of human rights in the digital realm remain.

In lieu of such a model, non-democratic and commercial alternatives are gaining ground. This should create a sense of urgency for the world’s democracies to pursue new forms of cooperation, not only with other governments but also with a private sector that commits to democratic principles.

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Schaake recommends

We ask all our Say More contributors to tell our readers about a few books that have impressed them recently. Here are Schaake's picks:

  • The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World

    The Brussels Effect: How the European Union Rules the World

    This book charts the global ripple effects of European laws. At a time when multilateralism and principled leadership are hard to find, Europe’s capacity to shape economic globalization may be greater – and more important – than ever.

  • The Education of an Idealist

    The Education of an Idealist

    In this honest and personal memoir, Power explores her drive to serve the public and to fight for human rights. I recognize her deep-seated idealism – it is the strongest motivator I know. In fact, this book made me a little nostalgic for politics.

  • Human Compatible: AI and the Problem of Control

    Human Compatible: AI and the Problem of Control

    This book sheds light on how AI works, what is at stake in its development, and what the future we share with it may hold. Russell illuminates the far-reaching risks that AI creates, and offers three principles to guide mitigation strategies.

From the PS Archive

From 2015
Schaake proposes that the Internet be governed by a combination of voluntary and binding agreements. Read more.

Around the web

Schaake traces her path from university to parliament, and from human rights to artificial intelligence. Listen to the podcast.

Schaake answers questions about Europe’s agenda for digital regulation. Read the interview.;
  1. op_twliu1_XinhuaXiao Yijiu via Getty Images_wuhancoronavirushospitaldoctor Xinhua/Xiao Yijiu via Getty Images
    Free to read

    Witnessing Wuhan

    Tracy Wen Liu

    While Chinese authorities have been projecting an image of national triumph over the COVID-19 outbreak there, the doctors and nurses on the front lines tell a different story. Having lived through hell, they see little to celebrate, much to mourn, and reason to remain fearful.


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