LISBON, Portugal, Dec. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --
- The mayors of Lisbon, Toronto and London held a discussion on different approaches to using citizen data to fight COVID-19.
- Mayor John Tory: "There is this fear with respect to outsized multinational companies – as opposed to other people – collecting data, including the government."
- Mayors Fernando Medina, John Tory and Sadiq Khan joined European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer and WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at 100,000-attendee online conference Web Summit.
London's Mayor Sadiq Khan, Lisbon's Mayor Fernando Medina, and Toronto's Mayor John Tory spoke at Web Summit about the pitfalls of collecting large amounts of data and trying to protect citizens' information.
Mayor Sadiq Khan addressed the issues that arose when the UK launched its COVID-19 tracing app: "There was a big concern about who would have that data, and concern about 'Big Brother'. By talking to and listening to Londoners, what the government agreed to do is to make sure there's no central ownership of the data and it's more autonomous, in relation to that data being pinged from people to people rather than from people to the government."
"We are working closely with the private sector in the absence of national legislation, which is why these conversations are so important. It's important that we are transparent about what the rules of the game are. There's no point in having great technologies if they don't satisfy the expectations we have about the use of it. No one wants their civil liberties infringed or their human rights abused," said Khan.
The mayor of Toronto, John Tory, took similar lessons from the city's now-abandoned project with Google-owned Sidewalk Labs: "We made a huge amount of progress because the one thing I think we have more or less put to bed was the question of data. Which was a huge concern to people, because there is this fear with respect to outsized multinational companies – as opposed to other people – collecting data, including the government. We had designed a mechanism whereby that data would go into a public trust, and there would be trustees there that would safeguard the use of the data, and any fear people had that a multinational company would exploit it was going to be put to rest. While the business deal didn't go forward, it gave us a model that I think had a lot of public confidence that we'll be able to use going forward."
But his government also chose to go against the provincial government when it came to collecting data related to COVID-19: "The provincial government said they weren't going to collect data based on demographics and we said we were, because we knew from the beginning that this would be a treasure trove of information to try to not only deal with the virus, but address some of the root causes. The virus has hit harder in lower income neighbourhoods that tend to disproportionately have racialised communities in them. By having all the data, it allowed us to target our resources to fight the virus, and allowed the rest of the population to understand why we were doing that."
The mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, took a different approach to protect his citizens' data: "There was a system that we designed that only the physicians and nurses had the individual information about a person. The city can have access to one piece of information, so we know the neighbourhood, but the private information is only in the hands of the physicians. So these institutional arrangements, how we deal with information, how we protect information from each other is probably the most difficult aspect. It wasn't having the technology – a lot of companies were very quick with developing solutions – but developing institutional protections was the most difficult part to tackle."
"The big issue was not a question of technology in itself, it was the question of how we institutionally organise it and give the public the safeguards that only the right people have access to this information," said Medina.
About Web Summit
In the words of Inc. Magazine, "Web Summit is the largest technology conference in the world". Forbes says Web Summit is "the best tech conference on the planet", Bloomberg calls it "Davos for geeks", Politico "the Olympics of tech", and the Guardian "Glastonbury for geeks".
Web Summit website: https://websummit.com/
Web Summit Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/websummit/albums/
Web Summit YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJtkHqH4Qof97TSx7BzE5IQ
SOURCE Web Summit