Recap: Public Discussion Event by DIVSI and iRights.Lab

Former Federal President of Germany Joachim Gauck had a public discussion with renowned experts in Berlin about trust in digital communication.

On 21st November 2017 at the invitation of the German Institute for Trust and Security on the Internet (DIVSI) and the think tank iRights.Lab, specialists from the fields of economics, politics and civil society debated on problems and solutions regarding Trust in Communication in the Digital Age. On behalf of the DIVSI, the iRights.Lab had just finalised a comprehensive study on the same subject.

In his opening remarks, patron of DIVSI Joachim Gauck concluded that it is the “old/new problem of security vs. user friendliness or comfort” which calls for new approaches by all stakeholders involved. Referring to the findings of the study, he insisted that the trust of consumers can only be increased through the offer of products or services that combine those aspects.

Following this, Jutta Gurkmann, Head of Consumer Policy Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband, stated in her keynote that while it takes years to build up trust, it only takes seconds to destroy it again. She also pointed out that various companies still handle user data in a reckless manner. To her, it is important to see trust and security not as an insuperable contradiction. Gurkmann then called on companies to finally understand that data security and data protection is a chance, not a burden. Only this will enable them to survive as sovereign players in a digitised and globalised world.

The subsequent panel discussion consisted of the following experts:

  • host: Geraldine de Bastion (international policy advisor specialised in digital technologies and media)
  • Ulf Buermeyer (Chairman of the Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte e.V. (GFF))
  • Dr. Luc Mériochaud (Head of Deutsche Bank Labs Continental and Eastern Europe)
  • Prof. Dr. Norbert Pohlmann (Professor for information security at the Westfälische Hochschule and Executive Director of the Institut für Internet-Sicherheit – if(is))
  • Dr. Mario Rehse (Head of Public Affairs United Internet AG)
  • Matthias Kammer (Director of DIVSI)

Ulf Buermeyer made clear that trust is important because for the user of a communication service it is impossible to verify if and how his personal data is protected. That is why trust can only be built up through data protection that is as high as possible. This trust is also becoming an increasingly important factor in the finance industry, Luc Mérichaud pointed out.

Mario Rehse referred to the NSA scandal from 2013 and the associated citizens’ loss of trust caused by public institutions. Matthias Kammer made the audience aware of the results of a public consultation that was carried out for the study. According to that, the majority of the German people see the process of digitalisation as positive. However, when it comes to the sharing of important and confident information, consumers want to keep having the choice between digital and analogue means of communication.

At the end of the debate, the panellists agreed that in the digital age trust and security will only be accomplished if all stakeholders cooperate. They are mutually responsible for breaking fresh ground in order to achieve an increased level of trust.