It’s Time.

On September 25-27, in Helsinki, Idka joined nearly 1000 like-minded people from 40 countries, for MyData 2019, to discuss a new “human-centered data economy”.  Startups, privacy professionals, government representatives, investors, journalists and artists talked about the right of citizens to keep their digital information under their control.

An official side event of the Finnish Presidency, the 3-day program included participation from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, UNICEF, BBC, SITRA, EU Parliament, the Digital Minister of Taiwan, the City of Helsinki, IEEE, European Investment Bank, The Guardian’s Carol Cadwalladr, Imogen Heap, and so many others – all of whom were there to participate in the discussion around building more transparent, trustworthy and sustainable societies.

“In the last few years, we’ve been flooded with scandals regarding data leaks. The GDPR is an improvement, but it alone is not enough. We want to see people have control over their data and we also want to see new businesses and innovations based on personal data. The MyData model is a vision for new and fairer practices, design principles, and their implementation,” explains Teemu Ropponen, General Manager of MyData Global, an international nonprofit which promotes the MyData concept and organised the MyData 2019 conference.

Opening Day

Opening day included one notable session, co-organized by UNICEF, IEEE, D4CR (Designing for Children’s Rights Association) and Defend Digital Me, entitled The Future of Human Agency – Honoring Children’s Data to Save Ourselves by Irene Leino (UNICEF), John C. Havens (IEEE), Arash Sammander (Rockhubs) and Turkka Koivu, Elisa.

“The relationship between data collection and usage, consent and privacy terms and conditions, is complex enough for adults, let alone for children,” read the description. “Yet 1/3 of all internet users globally are minors under 18 years old. We are lacking a good understanding of the enormous accumulation of data being collected about these minors as well as ideas for practical solutions how to change currently existing practices.”

We later interviewed UNICEF’s manager, corporate responsibility issues, Irene Leino. The resulting article will be published in the coming days.

The Empty Chair

Another opening day highlight was a screening of Netflix documentary, The Great Hack­, detailing the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and featuring many of the people involved in uncovering the story. The movie was followed by a panel including The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr, Mathematician Paul Olivier Dehaye, and Finnish journalist with YleisRadio, Jessica Aro. The conversation centered around the manipulation of citizens on platforms like Facebook – brought to the forefront by the film.

But there was one panelist missing, who had apparently taken ill just a couple of hours before the session. The empty chair, in which Facebook’s EMEA Privacy Policy Director, Cecilia Álvarez was scheduled to sit, seemed glaringly symbolic.

Representatives from Google (Jessie ‘Chuy’ Chavez, Google Lead for the Data Transfer Project and Manager of the Data Liberation Team and John Flatley, Technical Program Manager, Privacy and Data Protection Office) were there to present The Data Transfer Project.

To close the day, we sat in the front row as Grammy award-winning recording artist, Imogen Heap presented her company, (backed by SITRA) Mycelia, and its project Creative Passport.

Mycelia is a not-for-profit research and development hub for musicians focused on practices and technologies supporting a fair, sustainable and vibrant music industry ecosystem. The Creative Passport is a B2B digital ID solution for music makers to help them connect services and other collaborators with their works.

Presenting Visions

On the second day, we were invited, along with three other firms, to a session hosted by SITRA’s Tiina Härkönen, to present our vision to a panel of investors. Idka’s 3-minute “pitch” began with a few words about BigTech:

“Five out of 10 of the world’s richest corporations are what we know as BigTech … A few giants have collectively architected an entire global economy – what has been termed Surveillance Capitalism. It’s an ad-driven world where users’ most personal information is harvested, analyzed and commercialized in ways we don’t even understand – and in ways that have threatened our democracies.

Just a few companies are part owners of your most personal, confidential information, simply because you sign up for their services.”

“There’s a quiet revolution going on in Tech today,” we said. “And many of you are here to take part in it.”

We went on to note that despite growing concern and even prohibition of many BigTech platforms in places, there was still a need for functionality. Idka has an integrated solution for communication and collaboration for private groups and organizations.

“For less than the price of a cup of coffee per user per month, Idka offers encrypted chat, video calling, newsfeed, notes, groups, and built-in cloud storage – all in one safe place. Idka will never share or sell your information. You control the sharing.

Last week in London, on tour for his book “Zucked,” we saw Roger McNamee – Silicon Valley icon and early investor in the biggest AdTech platform we know. In the book, he describes himself as a retired VC and full-time privacy activist. He and others like him are calling attention to the vast opportunities for innovation and investment in the privacy space. ‘Join us,’ he asks.

We invite you to join US too, in our quest to protect privacy as a human right – in our digital world, as well as our physical one.”

All of the presentations during that session spoke to the growing need for solutions that respect the right of the user to own their data and choose with whom to share. It was refreshing and rewarding to be met with positive feedback from the four investors in the room, and an honor to be included on stage among fine people and great ideas.

Later that day, Microsoft’s Arathi Sethumadhavan, Senior Design Research Manager, Ethics & Society was there to discuss ethical AI, based on six ethical principles defined by Microsoft. Inclusion, they said, is a key principle.

“Inclusive technologies should empower everyone and address barriers that would otherwise exclude certain people. While one-third to half of the world’s population is introverted (Cain, 2012), contemporary design favors the extrovert: open-office plans, collaborative brainstorming sessions, and self-promotional social media. …”

The Takeaway

We came away from MyData 2019 armed with knowledge, insights, and meaningful contacts. The overall sentiment: It’s Time. Time to take control over what’s rightfully ours. Time for a new world economy, away from the Surveillance Capitalism we know today – a world based on trust and fair data principles. Time to step up and exercise our human rights – in our digital world, as well as our physical one.