EC's Kroes: Technology and Democracy Have Been Severed

European Commission VP Neelie Kroes at CeBIT called for "European sovereignty"—greater control for a more secure Internet.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes is calling for a more disciplined and secure Europe. Speaking at the CeBIT trade conference in Germany March 10, Kroes said that technology should be embraced for the social and economic advancements it can offer, but that our new data-driven world relies on a combination of reliability and trust—the latter of which is now missing for "billions around the world."

"It is clear that the cord connecting technology and democracy has been severed," Kroes said. "This is bad for democracy and bad for technology, and it will not be easy to stitch the two back together."

Online trust, she continued, is about parents knowing their kids are protected online, businesses knowing their data is safe in the cloud and having "resilient critical infrastructure."

Each day, Deutsche Telekom reports 800,000 attacks on its network—nearly 10 per second, "all day, every day," she explained. Likely 100 percent of businesses are also under attack, though "some don't realize it."

These attacks can come at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, climbing toward $1 trillion, and that's before reputational damage.

"So let us set out what we want and what we will build for ourselves: European sovereignty," said Kroes.

"This isn't about independence or isolationism. It's about being in control. Guaranteeing the best interest of our citizens, industry and researchers. Working together to make Europe the securest open Internet space," she continued.

Kroes called for tabled Network and Information Security legislation to be finalized in 2014.

She concluded:

"The next few months will be crucial for this directive: I will work closely with lawmakers to [finalize it] this year.

"Then we have a virtuous circle, where technology, laws, fundamental rights, our industry and our economy all support each other. …

"[Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward] Snowden gave us a wake-up call. Let's not snooze through it. Let's not just act shocked. Let's now turn our back on technology.

"Instead: Let's act to protect ourselves with more than slogans. Let's work together with the best and trusted partners in and outside Europe."

The European Commission's cyber-security strategy focuses on five key priorities: achieving cyber-reliance; drastically reducing cyber-crime; developing cyber-defense policies and capabilities related to its Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP); developing necessary industrial and technological resources for cyber-security; and establishing a coherent international cyberspace policy for the European Union.

In a Feb. 7, 2013, statement announcing the cyber-security strategy, Kroes said that a secure Internet protects people's freedoms, rights and ability to do business.

"It's time to take coordinated action," she added. "The cost of not acting is much higher than the cost of acting."