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Regulation should foster technology development that improves our lives, our planet and our future

“What we need is regulation that truly protects privacy and establishes clear rights for individual information.”

  • February 07, 2019 11:30
  • Author Monika Dimitrova
Medium steven mehringer
Source: Steven Mehringer

Steven Mehringer is Head of Communications Services in the NATO Public Diplomacy Division. Communications Services manages NATO HQ's entire digital content and audio-visual production chain to include NATO Channel.tv, the NATO website, the NATO Radio & TV Studios and NATO's Social Media. Steven’s extensive experience with international outreach, content creation and technology development has created a new way of working for NATO's Public Diplomacy Division and proven to NATO the essential value in storytelling versus information distribution, conversations instead of broadcasting and utilizing the right technologies to move communications priorities from concept...to content...to digital...to global. He joined the International Staff of NATO in August 2010.

The social networks and internet usage have seen a rapid progress over the last decade. How has the positioning of an international organization like NATO in the digital space evolved in this context?

NATO began actively using social media in 2010. The response was immediate and we clearly saw the demand for NATO in that information environment and in those active online discussions. We now have an online community of 2+ million followers across our social media platforms and the growth continues strongly. Social media created new channels for NATO to communicate with new and younger audiences. It has also expanded our options for 'telling the story of NATO' to the world. What is especially important, if an organization is not online managing its message, image and perception someone else will do it for them. With all of our public diplomacy activities, we see an ever greater response because of what we are doing with digital. NATO's continued development of digital outreach allows more people to connect, engage, and share with NATO than ever before possible.

The introduction of 5G gradually begins. How will the new generation of networks change the game? How will it affect cyber security?

We are going to rapidly see development and rollout of the next generation of wireless technologies. Not just 5G. Bluetooth and WiFi for examples. These developments are to meet growing data demands in the wireless space, to make mobile browsing much faster and allow even more choices for our online experience.

But every new technology comes with new risks. This is not a NATO specific issue. This affects all of us. There are at least two cyber risks that I see with new wireless technologies. First, the risk of misuse or otherwise classic breach of these technologies for negative or illicit purposes. That could come from individuals, groups, state-sponsored, etc. Another risk is that intentional weaknesses in these new technologies come embedded from the source. These are much harder to identify and defeat.

The protection of personal data becomes the subject of increased attention. Do you think GDPR will manage to protect users effectively? How does the regulation affect the public administration?

From my experience, GDPR has dramatically worsened the online experience and I am sceptical that it provides real protection for personal information. There are so many ways for technology companies to work around the rules and continue collecting enormous amounts of user data. GDPR seems to leave users with limited options: Leave yourself and your information open for collection and enjoy the ease of browsing or limit what you share and spend a lot of time clicking boxes and selecting privacy choices across the websites you visit. I limit what I share, so I spend a lot of time clicking boxes. There are also many websites I cannot access, because they are not yet GDPR compliant. For public administration, I think the impact depends on the entity and their ways of working. NATO does not collect or retain any user information directly. However, we use analytical tools that do and we are obligated to inform our visitors of that on the NATO website.

What is the role of regulation at a time when technology development is way ahead of the cumbersome legislation? 

Technology will always move faster than the rules that govern it. The role of regulation should be to foster technology development that improves our lives, our planet and our future. What I see, unfortunately, is enormous amounts of money being spent by technology companies to influence regulation in their interests and little effort being made to ensure the interests of the people are protected by this same technology development. Like it or not, we are all part of an information marketplace. It's surveillance for sale! Our personal information is bought and sold every day among many technology companies you know and many more you have never heard of. What we need is regulation that truly protects privacy and establishes clear rights for individual information.

Cyber security is associated not only with traditional crimes such as theft and fraud, but also with international terrorism and similar phenomenon. What should states do to protect their national security?

Communicate, cooperate, and collaborate. The solidarity of NATO is a good example of countries joining resources in the interests of both national and international security. Cyber defence is listed as one of NATO's core tasks of collective defence. We are working to protect NATO's resources and increase cyber resilience in the NATO Nations. Cyber risks are constantly evolving and attacks are becoming more common and sophisticated. Cyber is a top issue for NATO. With that arena now classified as an 'operational space', it's even more important to have international cooperation to ensure cyber security. To illustrate that, NATO and the EU are also discussing opportunities for cooperation on cyber.

You will participate in the first edition of the Sofia Cyber Security Conference 2019. In what ways the international event will be useful?

Cyber is such a dynamic, evolving topic every day. There are constantly new aspects to discuss and learn and understand. Sofia Cybersec 2019 is a valuable opportunity to gather with experts and talk about the current and coming cyber issues. It's this kind of sharing of information and best practices that helps us all improve our cyber awareness, resilience and security.

First published on economic.bg by Mirela Vavova

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