Press Release: The chances of digitalization are immense, but require active political and social shaping

11. October 2018

In the debate on the future of data economics, the research association "Forum Privatheit" discusses possible solutions for a balance between the common good, economic interests and consumer protection.

Smartphones, apps and social networks have become an integral part of our working and private lives. But what are the economic and technical structures behind them? How is money earned there, which processes are used - and how does all this affect society? These questions will be explored by the "Forum Privatheit" research network on 11 and 12 October 2018 at its annual conference "The Future of Data Economy: Design Perspectives between Business Model, Collective Goods and Consumer Protection".
The potential of digitization must benefit everyone
Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla, sociologist at the University of Kassel, derives his first demand from this: "We have to find a new balance between safeguarding the common good, economic exploitation possibilities and the protection of consumers. Prof. Dr. Thomas Hess, business computer scientist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, who organizes the conference together with Lamla, adds: "The innovation opportunities of digitization are immense. But it is of no help to us if Germany does not play a role in digital innovation, either economically or socially. In addition, we must ensure that the opportunities do not only benefit a few, otherwise we will lose the potential of digitalization."
Behavioural control puts pressure on democracy
Harvard economist Prof. Dr. Shoshana Zuboff even sees mankind at a historical crossroads: "The problem lies neither in digital technologies as such nor in any particular individual company. Rather, it lies in a novel logic of capital accumulation, which I call surveillance capitalism. Corporations gain behavioral data from human experience in order to produce and sell predictive and control potentials." The emergence of this behavioural control market has far-reaching consequences: "New social inequalities and unknown forms of economic rule are emerging. Established foundations of democracy, such as autonomy and privacy, are coming under pressure".
Countering centralization with an alliance of alternative networks
Media activist Prof. Dr. Geert Lovink of the Institute for Network Cultures in Amsterdam sees alternative value and income models on the Internet as a possible remedy: "At the moment, those platforms that succeed in positioning themselves as central authorities, and not civil society as a whole, benefit most from the entire content production of Internet users. To counter the trend towards centralisation, we need what I call 'federated networks': an alliance of alternative networks".
In order for such alternatives to be realised, there is a need for sensitised technology developers who are actually in a position to develop data protection-friendly systems. But according to Prof. Dr. Sarah Spiekermann- Hoff, business information scientist, these often encounter difficulties in their own companies and organizations. Although software engineers consider data protection and privacy to be very important, the general conditions of data economics often slow down the implementation of privacy and data protection-friendly technology.
Data protection should be seen as an opportunity for the data economy.
A central finding of the conference is that the future of the data economy requires an active political and civil society shaping that changes these framework conditions and does not merely retreat to a corrective observer position. "If we want to raise the potential of digitalisation, we must give more thought to how self-determination must be thought of in the future. Not only individual but also collective self-determination is a prerequisite for the long-term preservation of democracy. To this end, however, we also need transnational social debates in order to reach global agreement on standards of civilisation," Lamla said. For Hess, there are already good economic approaches, for example in tax or competition law, but also in data protection law. He is certain: "Those who successfully position interesting digital offerings on the market can also bring their ideas about the protection and use of personal data into the world. Ultimately, it is important to see data protection as an opportunity for data economy."

In the Privacy Forum, experts from seven scientific institutions deal with issues relating to the protection of privacy in an interdisciplinary, critical and independent manner. The project is coordinated by Fraunhofer ISI. Other partners are Fraunhofer SIT, the University of Duisburg-Essen, the Scientific Center for Information Technology Design (ITeG) at the University of Kassel, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich and the Independent State Center for Data Protection Schleswig-Holstein. The BMBF supports the Forum Privatheit in order to stimulate public discourse on the topics of privacy and data protection.

Press Release available for download
Press Release

Organisation der Jahreskonferenz „Die Zukunft der Datenökonomie“:

Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla
Fachgebiet Soziologische Theorie
Universität Kassel
+49 (0) 561 / 804-2185

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hess
Institut für Wirtschaftsinformatik und Neue Medien
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
+49 (0) 89 / 2180-6391

Projektkoordination „Forum Privatheit“:
Dr. Michael Friedewald
Project Coordinator„Forum Privatheit“
Fraunhofer-Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI
Competence Center New Technologies
Tel.: 0721 6809-146

Press and Communication „Forum Privatheit“:
Barbara Ferrarese, M.A.
Press and Communication „Forum Privatheit“
Fraunhofer-Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI
Tel.: +49 721 6809-678