Report: Can We Make the Digital World Ethical?

Digital developments such as the internet of things and big data bring risks for consumer privacy and safety that are largely ignored by policy makers. The EU should create a new regulatory body for technology to address the societal issues that come with the growing number of connected devices and extensive data gathering, write three British technology experts in the new report Can we make the Digital World ethical?

Whether it’s a wearable device tracking your nutrition intake or a large scale IT-system keeping records of your health history, computer software is becoming increasingly important in our lives. We are now seeing examples where this software poses risks in terms of safety and surveillance to citizens, says Peter Warren, one of the report writers. The technology and its implications are too much of a concern for society not to take action. We suggest that the EU should set up a new technology regulatory body, equivalent for software to the Federal Drug Administration in the United States, to handle these kinds of issues.

The report, which was published on Feb 18th by the Brussels-based web forum Netopia, is based on interviews with leading experts in computers, robotics, ethics and the law. Among them are Melissa Hathaway, previously first adviser on cyber security policy to US President Barack Obama, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford.

Download the full report here.

The launch event on replay here.


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  1. […] Who is a digital consumer? With European policy being made with the Digital Single Market as a vision, Netopia decided to take a closer look at the concept of the digital consumer. Netopia contributor Peter Warren conducted a series of interviews with academics and experts to get a better understanding of an issue very much at the center of European debate. Warren is also the author of the 2013 Netopia report Can We Make the Digital World Ethical? […]

  2. […] a report on robots and AI. Not only the rapporteur, Luxemburg socialist MEP Delveaux Stehres, and Netopia take an interest in these topics, but also such prominent thinkers as Stephen Hawking and Bill […]

  3. […] research and consultation. Netopia started this debate, back in 2014, with the publication of its research report “Can we make the digital world […]

  4. […] As an example, the draft report calls for the creation of a European Agency for robotics and artificial intelligence, which would provide technical, ethical and regulatory expertise needed to support public actors, at EU and Member State level. On the ethics side, a Charter on Robotics which includes guidelines for robotic engineers, designers and users, is also proposed. It sets out a code of conduct so that relevant actors respect the principles of human dignity, safety and privacy. In the Netopia report on the Digital World and Ethics, Michael Streeter, Peter Warren and Jane Whyatt actually proposed considering how ethics should be brought into machines, and also floated the idea of founding a European-level technology regulation organization (see conclusion of the report). […]

  5. Smashng report – thanks guys

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