Rethinking Sovereignty in the Digital Age
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Rethinking Sovereignty in the Digital Age

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With more information being exchanged on digital superhighways, digital sovereignty has become more critical than ever. Before the rise of privacy concerns, most Internet users believed they had full ownership and autonomy of their digital data. However, this is usually because they failed to pore through the novel-length privacy terms they agree to when signing up for a service. Nowadays, many netizens are aware that they’re giving up some of their data to use a website or platform, leading to more discussion on sovereignty.

Digital sovereignty concerns the consideration of how digital assets and data are treated and the governance of one’s own digital destiny. This destiny includes the hardware, software, and data you create and rely on to use the Internet. Many policy-makers have become concerned about how entities have too much or too little control over these assets and the disproportionate power that large tech companies have over their users.

Concerns Over Digital Sovereignty

The primary concern over digital sovereignty is that a handful of large technology companies own and control colossal amounts of data gathered from their users. Given the millions of users that frequent their products and services and the sheer quantity of information available, the policies and actions they take have significant consequences. For instance, Twitter has famously banned numerous high-profile users from its platform, causing some people to condemn the company for allegedly violating freedom of speech.

There are also discussions surrounding digital sovereignty policies, especially for tax-related purposes. For example, if a technology company conducts worldwide business, where should it pay taxes? In what instances will a cross-border financial transaction be under the jurisdiction of a specific tax authority? Questions over digital sovereignty often concern the blurred lines brought forth by free, largely unregulated access to the vast online space and the lack of clear boundaries.

How Digital Sovereignty Affects You

An unfathomable amount of data is generated and stored each year, growing exponentially by the minute. According to studies, an estimated 149 zettabytes of data will be created, copied, and consumed globally by 2024. A zettabyte is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes of information, and you use only 10 bytes of data when typing one word.

Additionally, around 92 per cent of all the data in the Western world is kept on US-owned servers. This data includes various online and connected activities, like regional and national government data and social media.

While you may not think much of posting a photo of your beloved dog, answering the question of who has jurisdiction over your data if you post it in one country but have it hosted in another is incredibly complicated. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR demonstrates how digital sovereignty plays a role in everyday activities. It aims to merge how personal data is supervised online through various rules and punitive sanctions.

Data as the Most In-Demand Commodity

Even though many digital services are free, that doesn’t mean you don’t leave a fingerprint of your activity. Most of the time, users are unaware of how their data is being used. While they may have started as customers of digital businesses, the commodification of data may have transformed them into suppliers for their business models. German Chancellor Angela Markel called data the commodity of the 21st century, echoing its rapid progression as the most in-demand source of profit.

Data is now how many businesses formulate concepts and determine production. It is also the key to optimising their products and ensuring they make the most profit for the least amount of money. Although it greatly benefits the economy, there is no transparency in how the data is used, leaving users with little to no control of their data.

Conclusion

Given the ambiguity surrounding data in the online world, politics must enable the owners of IT devices to have sole governance and control over it in a digitally sovereign state. While digital sovereignty has vast innovative potential, it must also cover economic and political aims. It should also consider the control of vital technologies and classify technological trends to advance them.

Informatics is a strategic consultancy made up of a team of business analysts and solution architects. We provide digital solutions powered by AI to evaluate the current performance of a business, like digital banking transformation, egovernment solutions, custom software development, infrastructure solutions and services, and more. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.

 

Written by Daniele Paoletti