Why We Need to Raise Awareness for Personal Data Protection

Manfred Pohl, Spotlight Europe
“Every internet bully is a weakling.” (picture: Remix by Spotlight Europe)

Smartphones have developed into a constant companion in our daily lives. Everything that we consider important while we are on the go is saved via a simple swift movement of our fingers. It only takes a couple of seconds to take a picture with the built-in camera and to upload it on a social network platform. There, friends and family can see where we are and what we are doing.

It has never been easier to produce data about our lives and to make them visible to our social environment. We may do so in the belief that this data belongs to us and that we can decide at any stage of its distribution which parts we are going to make public and which not.

Many do not know, however, that this is a fatal error. Your data can be used against you by people you possibly do not know. It is by no means a pleasant feeling when strangers possess something that belongs to your private life – but sadly this happens all too often in real life and the crucial point is that people too easily trust in smartphone technology.

Smartphone with apps, Spotlight Europe
Devil in the detail. (Flickr: Highways Agency/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

It starts with used smartphones that are being resold on the internet or in small shops. Sellers trust in the delete function and believe that all their data – photographs, mail accounts, passwords, social media apps – are entirely wiped out from the device. That is not true at all. It is easy to recover data, regardless of how and where it was deleted. In fact there are specialized shops that offer this very service. Still, you do not need to be an expert as there are a lot of instructions and free recovery programmes on the internet that promise to reclaim deleted data.

In some particular cases this possibility seems to be a fortunate method – e.g. when the police is using the recovered data to find a culprit or if you accidently deleted some important pictures from your smartphone. On the other hand, this technology conceals its criminal potential. Data thieves may blackmail the former owner of the device or use the information for other criminal purposes.

That is only one side of the security problem when our personal data is concerned. It is not only through used smartphones that information may end up in the wrong hands. If a picture for example is shared on the web, you cannot foresee its possible circulation. It may reach people who use it for discrimination or for their personal amusement. You believe that you legally own the right to your picture, but in fact you have lost the power to decide who uses it and to what end.

“Data is being shared all too carelessly”

Especially cyber bullying has become a big issue among adolescents nowadays. Data is being shared all too carelessly with false friends. The victims often feel helpless and even blackmailed when they lose their power to decide upon the use of their data or when making the effort to bring back information to its correct context.

We need to raise awareness among the youth that their data is vulnerable at any moment and that they therefore should reconsider what they truly want to share about their lives and what not. Many social platforms offer easy settings to protect the privacy of shared content. As for the smartphones: To be on the safe side, throw them away or spam them several times with useless data.

And what could be the motivation behind these cyber bullies to spy on other people’s lives and to use their private data to harm them? Is it the disability to deal with the problems of one’s own daily routine? Is it frustration, aggression or even both?

There may be much guessing. It is a fact, however, that someone who bullies in the cyberspace is a weakling.

About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…

Let`S Be Clear

Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl, Spotlight Europe
A new series by the “My Europe” initiator Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl has started. (picture: Remix by Spotlight Europe)

A new series has started on Spotlight Europe! Each week, the founder of “My Europe” Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl will present his thoughts on ongoing matters in the European Union. He will show which role the youth can take to make its interests in current and future European affairs known.

Riots, fear and uncertainty about tomorrow’s events prevail in Europe. Populist left-wing and right-wing groups threaten to compress freedom and jolt the doors of the European fortress:

– In Greece Alexis Tsirpas who is leading the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) has recently become prime minister.

– In Spain, the new populist left-wing movement Podemos has assembled a considerable amount of supporters.

– In France, Marine Le Pen is constantly gaining support for her right-wing party Front National.

– In Italy, Matteo Salvini has successfully transformed the conservative Lega Nord party into a populist, right-wing Anti-Euro party.

– In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders advocates nationalism with his right-wing party PVV.

– In Great Britain, the patriotic Ukip party which is led by Nigel Farage (who has a seat in the European Parliament by the way) demand their country to leave the eurozone.

– In Denmark, the Danish right-wing populist party DF rejoices at an increasing support among voters.

– In Austria, the Freiheitliche Partei Österreich (FPÖ) is also gaining momentum.

These parties clearly want to build a different Europe and seek to abolish its common currency, the Euro. Their further claims are regionalization and nationalization. With the help of negative populist slogans these groups discredit the unity of Europe and deliberately endanger the common currency.

“Europe has a historic obligation.”

Once you have taken notice of their statements, you also have to keep in mind that after centuries of war and expulsion which resulted in the death of millions of people, the unification of these European countries is historically unique and shows that peace is always an option. Sometimes the fact is forgotten that European nations like Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, France and to a minor degree also Germany (and since the beginning of the 20th century also the United States of America) used to dominate the world and exploited their colonies causelessly. The afflicted nations in South America, Asia and Africa still haven’t forgotten about this difficult time. Especially Europe – the European Union – has a historic obligation to do its utmost to promote a peaceful coexistence of people on all continents.

Europe’s youth, which is heir to this historical dimension, wants peace and freedom. The young Europeans aged between 15 and 25 years who engage in the “My Europe” initiative, stand together behind a unified Europe and the Euro as common currency.

For them, the Euro is not only a solely financial factor but a common culture and identity that they will defend with all possible means.

“We want to call the youth for advocating the European values.”

The Youth Council for the Future has recently presented five criteria that clearly and uncompromisingly indicate how Europe’s future should be designed. These are: Gender, Education, Religion, Tolerance and Employment.

These are the central topics that have been voted on in a poll among the adolescents. These are also the topics that they want to work on in order to shape a peaceful future.

You as young people – your are Europe´s future!

We want to call the youth for advocating the European values and to resist all groupings that seek to defeat these values or make use of them exclusively, that discriminate minorities and/or work against the equality of people.

Young people of all countries, unite! Make it plain to all political, economic and social groups that you want to live in freedom and peace.


About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…

Regionalisation: Chance for Europe

Catalan people demonstrate for an independence referendum in Barcelona / September 2014 (Flickr:Joan Campderrós-i-Canas/licensed under CC BY 2.0)

The idea of Europe as a unified and prosperous continent, particularly in light of the devastating financial crisis and recent election results, cannot be considered to sustain itself anymore. Especially young adults have expressed their disappointment and disillusionment with current political processes.

The European South is hit by soaring youth unemployment; economies are at the brink of collapsing; and while the political establishment preaches the end of the crisis and the dawn of economic recovery, people are steadily losing their trust in European institutions and the Euro as our common currency. It can be of no surprise that in these challenging times, people turn to what they know and understand best: their region. They can hardly be blamed.

It needs to be noted that the trend towards greater identification with regional communities is not necessarily a step away from Europe. Both the Scottish and Catalan independence movements, for example, stressed that they see themselves as part of the European Union, yet as independent countries with all the sovereign rights associated with the status.

The youth does not want borders

Young people of this day and age do not identify with overly nationalist notions anyways. A Europe made up of borders is inconceivable to them. In an increasingly globalized world, however, they have developed an acute sense for regional cultural heritage, for a feeling of belonging that exists outside of the normative political and economic structures.

We need to respect this desire for stronger regional identity and greater self-determination, especially when European integration is increasingly perceived among people as an imposition.

The drawing of new borders, however, cannot be the answer. The close cooperation of European states has benefitted all. A return to nation states will only reproduce the problems that brought them together in the first place. What Europe needs are new impulses, creative ideas, and a greater political will to finish what was started more than 60 years ago.

A new dawn for Europe?

Is the future of Europe one of regional identity? (Flickr:Phyllis Buchanan/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In fact, the altered conditions offer a chance to redefine Europe. The slogan of the European Union “United in Diversity” could finally become symbol for a symbiosis of greater political and economic integration and the respect for cultural diversity. At the moment it too often seems like a hollow phrase.

Now is the time for European institutions to foster what young people across Europe have been fully aware of for quite a while: Europe needs to be a place for all. Being united in diversity requires us to acknowledge that Catalonia is not Transylvania. Both, however, are part of Europe and should be respected as such.

Not just a European question?

The European Union has been a model for other regions of the world. The Union of South American Nations (USAN) is not much unlike the European Community once was, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) will be a strong economic competitor in the future. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is even a step further as it has moved from purely economic cooperation to showing signs of political integration as well. It may be a utopian perspective of the future, but one day the European Union could be only one of several regional blocs spreading the entire globe. In a century or so these blocs might even start integrating with one another. Should that day ever come, respect for regional diversity will be more important than ever.

As you can see, the issue is one that needs to be discussed. If you are interested, join us tonight (Friday, November 14) for YOUTH ON EUROPE | Regionalisation of the EU. We will broadcast the discussion of MEP Elmar Brok with students of the Youth Council for the Future live on the internet.

 About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…