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24 February 2020

Jacques Delors Institute: Big Data, 5G and AI

This Policy Paper by Franca König explains why the inclusion of a security dimension is crucial for an innovative and competitive EU regarding digitalisation and cyber and how Europol, the EU’s agency for police cooperation, could help Commission president Von der Leyen to this end.

The new European Commission has set an ambitious agenda for itself, especially in the areas of digitalisation and cyber. With Commission President von der Leyen’s 100th day in office fast approaching, various measures and processes are currently being rolled out to ensure she reaches her goals within the next four years. Three key targets are the improvement of information exchange, the establishment of joint 5G standards and the development of a European ethical approach to artificial intelligence (AI). In view of the increasing importance of digitalisation and cyber in virtually all areas of life, von der Leyen’s agenda comes at the right time. Making the EU ‘fit for the digital age’ whilst safeguarding ethical boundaries will empower European businesses and citizens alike to fully reap the benefits of new technologies such as 5G and AI.

At the same time, the Commission’s focus should not lie exclusively on socioeconomic interests and innovation. The challenges posed by big data and digital technologies will also continue to grow over the coming years, and these include an increased attack surface and potential for manipulation or criminal and terrorist abuse. Addressing the security dimension of digitalisation and cyber in the European debate and approach to new technologies will thus be of paramount importance in making sure innovation does not come at the expense of security.

Europol, the EU’s Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, could help mitigate this risk and contribute to the achievement of von der Leyen’s goals from a law enforcement perspective. While other actors and agencies might of course offer a more specialised point of view – such as on the operational management of the EU’s large-scale IT systems or its cybersecurity – Europol has the advantage of a cross-sectional overview, owing to its very extensive involvement in most areas of internal security. As the EU’s criminal intelligence hub, it can offer two decades of experience in information exchange and data analysis assisting Member States and their police authorities. Apart from best practices and a law enforcement voice, Europol brings practical tools and threat assessment capabilities to the table. Its Cybercrime Centre and Internet Referral Unit (amongst others) have been focussing on the security aspects of digitalisation and cyber, and how to resolve concrete problems and risks, for example related to big data management or the use of encryption and anonymity online for illicit activities.

Full policy paper

© Jacques Delors Institute

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