The Tough Questions Round

Here we are, a day before the much-anticipated Future Proof Summit, where various leading speakers will present their points of view on topics that relate to EU tech sovereignty.

But just before, we wanted to take a moment to stir the pot and ask some tough and provocative questions that present the “devil’s advocate” angle to some of the most intriguing subjects we will treat: Regulating tech giants, cyber pollution, tech sovereignty in the context of the war in Ukraine, data protection, and blockchain.

We asked 5 tough questions, and 5 of our speakers have picked up the challenge and answered- If you haven’t already, grab this last chance to sign up to the summit tomorrow to hear these fantastic speakers in person and in length!

GAFAM regulation, Metaverse
Q: Facebook spent two decades cementing its position as the biggest social media company in the world — in large part by buying other social media startups, like Instagram and WhatsApp. With regulators not being remarkably successful at halting their “copy-acquire-kill” strategy, why would they be better positioned to keep Meta and other tech giants from over-monopolizing the AR/VR market?

A: “Despite it all, I still believe that the Internet is primarily a democratizing force. Meta does not actually control what users post on social media, and they paid a King’s Ransoms for Instagram and WhatsApp, creating incredible wealth in the process. Basically, from nothing. It will likely continue to happen in that way — and anyway, how can anything be ‘over-monopolized’? Metaverses will tend to be ruled by Blockchain and Crypto technologies, both of which are immune from being monopolized. The AR market is not really the same as the VR market even today – they are essentially two markets. I think it will take a lot longer than two decades for many monopolies to be created – unless of course, China takes over all societies and all economies. And if that occurs, who cares about much of anything else?”
Jeffrey Burton, CEO The Velixio Group

Cyberpollution and eco-responsibility
Q: Businesses are more conscious than ever in fighting for climate action. But with the growth of the trend, comes growth in corporate ‘greenwashing,’ which puts currency on sustainability. How do we fight that trend- or should we?

A: “Significant, meaningful climate action will not occur if we continue to fight the greenwashing trend. Instead, we should be asking for radical transparency, meticulous tracking, and reward impact big and small.Another thing to consider is that many startups across Canada have made sustainability a foundational pillar of their mission and operations since their inception. They are not on the same playing field as a conglomerate oil company making a monetary donation to a wildlife preserve, or a mega-scale clothing company launching a single line of sustainable garments. These organizations are making a true impact in their communities by deeply considering sustainability at every level of their operations.”
Kayla Isabelle, CEO Startup Canada

European tech sovereignty at times of war
Q: Has the debate on technological sovereignty in Europe been excessively defensive? While The EU is right to be cautious about weaponizing technological dependencies, does European-level crises like the war in Ukraine exemplify the occasional necessity of such weaponization? And what do the sanctions deployed by the West reveal about tech dependencies?
A: “The debate on technological sovereignty in the EU has often been focused on the defensive aspects of sovereignty. Following the revelations about US intelligence practices made by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, Europe has greatly focused on its own technological dependencies in light of vulnerability to foreign espionage and coercion. This trend only accelerated with subsequent discussions about Huawei’s role in the 5G market and links to the Chinese state. Similarly, the Cambridge Analytica scandal brought much attention to the need for EU digital regulation that protects EU values and citizens from the negative side effects of digital platforms.

The EU is right to decrease one-side dependencies in critical technologies, especially vis-à-vis strategic rivals. And the EU must continue to spearhead digital regulation to protect EU values. But the war in Ukraine illustrates that technology capabilities must also be seen as an offensive tool that can be used to forward foreign policy objectives. The EU is right to be cautious about weaponising other’s technological dependencies the way the U.S. and China have. But amidst Russia’s war against Ukraine, Europe is also right to respond with far-reaching sanctions on advanced technologies to drastically weaken Russia’s military and industrial capabilities in the long term, potentially changing Putin’s current course of action.

The sanctions deployed by the West illustrate certain aspects of tech sovereignty and dependencies. First, it is Russia’s lacking technological sovereignty and existing dependencies on foreign tech that makes Russia so vulnerable to the sanctions. And second, it is the pooled technological sovereignty of Western allies that makes the tech export controls so powerful. The West is effectively leveraging American, Taiwanese, Japanese, and South Korean dominance in microchips and data processing with European market power in advanced engineering, telecommunications technologies and aviation. These unprecedented sanctions underscore the fact that technological differentiation and interdependencies among allies are not necessarily a weakness but a form of shared technological sovereignty that can be used as an effective foreign policy instrument.”
Julian Ringhof, European Council on Foreign Relations

Data protection
Q: The so-called “right to be forgotten” is a much-heralded part of the new data protection rules, but is it realistic? Once something has been published online then it can be cached, archived, reposted and replicated in a thousand different places across the internet. At what point does privacy become censorship? How much should the “right to be forgotten” be balanced with everybody else’s “right to remember”?

A: “The right to erasure is a pretty important one. However, the right to be forgotten does not automatically mean that users have power to obtain that such personal data is erased from a site! Balancing of interests is crucial here. So the question is – as always – who has the power to make such decision as an independent adjudicator would be much better that a tech platform..
In any case, a purely technical and comprehensive solution to enforce the right to be forgotten in the open Internet is generally impossible – this is why enforcement must rest on a combination of technical and international legal provisions.”
Ivana Bartoletti, Wipro
Global Chief Privacy Officer

Blockchain VS. Central Financial Bodies
Q: More than 85% of central banks are now investigating digital versions of their currencies, conducting experiments, or moving to pilot programs, according to PWC. Are centralized financial bodies threatened by the blockchain and crypto industry?

A: “Central Financial bodies relevance will remain, but they will need to adapt and innovate” says Adam Kostyal, Head of Listings & Capital Markets – EMEA at Nasdaq.
To hear more from Adam, join us tomorrow in Lille or online at 14:10 PM (CET) to hear his keynote “How to navigate the IPO climate in 2022”.