Speaking at the Cebit tech fair in Hanover, Germany recently, European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes said that the future of the internet has to be based on trust. Kroes is responsible for the European Commission's Digital Agenda, and was giving the speech to an audience which included such state leaders as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
"Trust can never again be taken for granted," she said. "The next phase of the internet will be data-centered and connectivity-driven. Cloud computing, big data, the internet of things; tools which support manufacturing, education, energy, our cars and more. The internet is no longer about emails."
"To make the 'leap of faith' into this new world, reliability and trust is a pre-condition. But when even the phone of the chancellor is not sacred, that trust can never again be taken for granted. Not only that, it is clear that for millions of Germans, and billions around the world, that trust is now missing," she added.
Much of her speech was directly related to Chancellor Merkel's call for a secure European communication network. In order for such a thing to happen, Kroes said that mindsets needed to be changed and protections needed to be tightened if it was to work. She also said that European citizens should have the right to decide where their data goes.
The EC already has several proposals in place for a data protection directive that requires companies and governments to take responsibility for data, and if nations are "serious about protecting ourselves" then a voluntary approach to data responsibility is "not enough, not anymore."
Some European Union member states, including the UK, have expressed concerns over the Commission's data protection plan saying that it could have a negative effect on business by imposing more administration on them. Of course, one of the principal government spy agencies conducting surveillance outside of the NSA's activities resides in Britain.
Kroes went on to say that the next few months would be crucial for the directive and that she would be working to get it finalized this year. Kroes said that the information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had been a "wake-up call" for Europe and that people should not "snooze through it". At the same time Kroes doesn't think that people should turn their back on technology.