What is trust? As defined in the dictionary, it consists of a firm and assured belief in the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. But this hardly does justice to the importance of a principle which underpins every human and social interaction. Trust is fundamental to the functioning of our societies and economies. Even more so in today’s increasingly inter-connected world.
Unsurprisingly, building confidence and trust online is a key pillar of the recently unveiled Digital Single Market strategy, an ambitious plan which aims to help Europe reap the benefits of technology across society. With the right political will, this could provide a catalyst for an additional €415 billion worth of growth. To achieve this, however, regulatory barriers must be broken down and obstacles to the uptake of digital solutions overcome.
Despite the promise of the data economy, people and businesses still mistrust the safety and integrity of many digital technologies.
A recent pan-EU survey conducted by the European Commission found that 43% of individuals were concerned about the misuse of their personal data online. Our own global report on the impact of personal technology showed that online privacy is the one major concern which nearly all Internet users share.
It’s a similar story amongst European businesses. The European Commission’s report on the digital transformation of European industries highlighted that businesses contemplating the prospect of digitization need to be confident that the digital service providers they choose to work with are trustworthy. They need clarity about what exactly is happening to their business data and how it will be handled.
Simply put, and in the words of the Commission’s Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, “trust is a must”. Without it, the Digital Single Market will quickly grind to a halt.
One step towards building trust in technology is harmonizing regulation across Europe, so that the rules governing digital services and solutions are clear, coherent and consistent. And calls for this have not gone unheeded.
The European Commission has already put forward a raft of initiatives to help smooth the way towards digital transformation; from the General Data Protection Regulation, aiming to unify Europe’s national data protection laws, to the overarching Cybersecurity Strategy, introduced in 2013 to create an “Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace” across Europe.
What is becoming increasingly clear is the pivotal role that collaboration between the public and private sector has to play in all of these initiatives, particularly when it comes to achieving a harmonized level of cybersecurity across the EU.
In its Cybersecurity Strategy, the Commission emphasized the leading role that the private sector has to play. This has been carried through into the Digital Single Market strategy, which promises to initiate a public-private partnership on cybersecurity early next year, with a view to boosting online network security.
Such partnerships are crucial to ensuring Europe’s cyber-defences remain solid. In the face of the increasingly sophisticated efforts of cybercriminals, information-sharing between governments and industry is essential to mitigate risks to national cybersecurity and IT infrastructures.
To protect their national infrastructure from online threats, governments must be able to readily adopt the latest technology, while at the same time maintaining their rigorous security requirements.
Microsoft launched the Government Security Program (GSP) over a decade ago to help national governments and international organizations build and deploy more secure IT infrastructure and services that further protect citizens and national economies. Since 2003, the GSP has offered participating governments the possibility to assess the security of Microsoft products and services, technical information about these services and timely Microsoft Security Intelligence data.
Not only does this provide national governments and international organizations with a way to assure themselves of the security and integrity of our offerings, it ultimately helps them decrease the risk of attacks and respond more effectively and efficiently to computer security incidents and emergencies.
Initiatives like the GSP are part of Microsoft’s broader customer commitment, which includes increased transparency around how we engage with governmental organizations worldwide. But this must indisputably be grounded in the highest level of trust and openness. To ensure we can create and maintain this culture of openness, today sees the opening of the Microsoft Transparency Center in Brussels, the first of its kind in Europe.
The Transparency Center is a cornerstone of the Government Security Program, allowing governments to review the source code of our products and services and access valuable assurance information in a secure environment. Today’s launch follows the opening of the very first Transparency Center in Redmond, Washington, last year and we expect more such facilities to follow in other global locations.
Trust and transparency are hardwired into Microsoft products and services. We place security at the heart of our software through “SD3” – Secure by Design, Secure by Default, and Secure in Deployment. It is based on a process that helps developers build more secure software and addresses security compliance requirements pioneered by Microsoft, which we have made publicly-available to benefit the entire digital ecosystem. Our Operational Security Assurance framework apply many years of extensive security learnings to better protect our cloud services and make our cloud infrastructure more resilient to cyber-attacks.
Such levels of security are fundamental – but even more so is the opportunity for governments to verify them for themselves. This is precisely why we’ve opened the Transparency Centers.
This is part of our commitment to fostering trust in technology, between governments, businesses, the technology industry, and citizens alike. Only by demystifying digital solutions and processes, and maintaining the highest level of transparency about how such solutions operate, can we expect Europe to embrace the technologies which have the potential to transform its future.
This article was first published on POLITICO.eu