Nº 10 2012 > ITU Telecom World 2012 | Special report

Big conversations with the BBC and Telecom TV

Privacy, trust, innovation

Big conversations with the BBC and Telecom TVBig conversations with the BBC and Telecom TV

Exploring the tensions of the new Internet reality — where privacy, trust, innovation and regulation rub up against each other — was the basis of an interactive discussion at ITU Telecom World’s first Big Conversation, hosted by Nik Gowing of the BBC.

Monitoring, analysing and monetizing the data of end users without their explicit consent unacceptably compromises personal privacy, in the view of Dr Klaus Leisinger, Chairman of the Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.

For Ali Jazairy, Head of the Innovation and Technology Transfer Section at the World Intellectual property Organization (WIPO), the risk of ubiquitous connectivity is that we may end up as chauffeurs for the mobile gadgets we carry with us, not needing to input data ourselves.

Once on the Internet, information is all but impossible to delete — but should this be the case? Mr Leisinger considered that the right to delete is indisputable, saying that young people should not be penalized later in life for any indiscrete data they may have posted in their youth. The question, panellists agreed, was not whether we should be able to delete data, but rather, can we delete data?

Mr Jazairy pointed out that the problem increasingly concerns intellectual property — where ownership of images and data is unclear and the details may be in the fine print of online contracts that nobody reads.

Twitter contributors to the discussion claimed that no one is forced to use Facebook, Google or any other site, and that responsibility for ensuring privacy essentially resides with the end user’s decision of whether or not to engage in the Internet space. Mr Leisinger dismissed this argument. Drawing comparisons with the warning leaflets included in packets of pills, he said, “We cannot say that we are stuck with it because we were not aware of the risks; they are intruding into my bubble, and I have a problem with this”.

Calling for dialogue, information flow and transparency, Mr Leisinger warned against accepting blanket extensions of government control on the grounds of security. Summing up, he focused on how growing distrust and unease may curb the huge potential of the ICT space, leading to stricter regulation that could do more harm than good.

Should telecommunication companies embrace OTT services or resist them?

With the arrival of the smart and Android phone, over-the-top (OTT) services have boomed. Should telecommunication companies embrace OTT services or resist them? Panellists at the “Big Conversation”, moderated by Guy Daniels from Telecom TV agreed that OTT services offer a great opportunity.

“You are seeing many different types of business models out there”, said Paul Garnett, Director at Microsoft’s Technology Policy Group. Mr Garnett sees the future for telecommunication companies as continuing to invest in building, extending and enhancing the infrastructure and networks needed to respond to the growing demand for capacity. The high-risk environment of OTT services is not a natural habitat for telecommunication companies, he said.

Luis Romero, Director-General of the European Telecommunication Standards Institute, emphasized that the value of the underlying network should not be forgotten. He recognized that “OTT is the next great step”, while underlining that “Access is something we take for granted, but there is a lot of value in access and we tend to forget about it.”

Panellists agreed that continued investment in networks is vital to meet the needs of rapidly growing traffic. There was also broad agreement that a stronger relationship between OTT service providers and ITU would benefit the whole sector.

“The whole telecommunication world is facing such huge pressure and change,” said Zheren Ma, Head of Corporate Strategy at Tencent Technology. “I think the scope of ITU needs to involve the OTT providers.”



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