How to Build a Fair Personal Data Economy that Enables Interoperability?

20 February 2024

Project Liberty Foundation Addresses Brussels Policymakers at European Internet Forum

On February 14, 2024, Project Liberty Foundation's Director of Policy, Governance Innovation & Impact, Paul Fehlinger, spoke on a high-level panel at the European Internet Forum's debate on "Risks of Internet Fragmentation" held at the European Parliament in Brussels.

The European Internet Forum (EIF) is a platform founded by members of the European Parliament to enhance dialogue between the European Parliament, businesses, civil society groups, and other stakeholders on pressing digital policy issues and Internet governance.

Other featured panelists included Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, Member of the European Parliament, Esteve Sanz, Head of the Internet Governance and Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue at the European Commission’s Directorate General Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, Mirja Kühlewind, Chair of the Internet Architecture Board that oversees the Internet protocols and procedures of the Internet Engineering Task Force IETF, and Tatiana Tropina of Leiden University.

In his remarks, Paul emphasized that while privacy and data protection frameworks like GDPR are critical, policymakers should also focus attention on emerging fragmentation at the internet’s application layer. As personal data and digital services concentrate in a fragmented landscape of closed, non-interoperable “data islands” controlled by a limited number of technology companies, ordinary users still lack meaningful control and agency over their own data, unable to freely port it across platforms.

To counter this trend, Paul put forward Project Liberty’s open, decentralized social networking protocol (DSNP) as an infrastructure-level solution designed to enable interoperability and data portability by default. By serving as a common standard upon which innovative digital services can seamlessly interact across platforms, DSNP can help counteract the trend of fragmentation and contribute to creating a fairer personal data economy centered on user agency and interoperability. Project Liberty pursues its mission through extensive collaboration with leading experts, academic partner institutions, public sector entities, and private partners across technology, policy, governance, and business.

In closing, Paul noted that while regulatory measures play an important role, new infrastructure data protocols like DSNP that operate on top of existing internet protocols can transform today’s fragmented digital economy through a more interoperable and user-centric architecture. All stakeholders should work together to create new striving innovation ecosystems that can accelerate the development of much-needed technological solutions through policy frameworks, capital allocation, and entrepreneurship.

The European Internet Forum discussion provided an excellent opportunity to engage with influencers driving the digital policy agenda on these urgent issues at the intersection of data governance, competition, and human rights in Europe. Project Liberty looks forward to continuing this dialogue to build a better web.

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