What are the heights of human hypocrisy

Joachim Gauck on digitization : "Dealing with data protection in Germany is not free from hypocrisy"

Sometimes it is the subconscious that gives us a helping hand. At least that's how I felt recently as I was preparing for this speech. I had a dream and it went like this:

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A friend asks me:

- Do you already have the new app?

- Which App?

- Well, the one with the biographies.

- One with biographies? What is it good for?

- You can use it to call up the biographies of everyone in the world, at least

all important. And you can talk to them.

I asked back in disbelief:

- So I could communicate with all great spirits?

- Yes, you could talk to whoever you want.

And at that moment when I begin to imagine how I gather the greats of the world around me and absorb their knowledge - yes, who would I be then? - at this moment the dream leaves me. Because the joy of such encounters is joined by the horror. I would not only meet the good guys - philosophers, writers, researchers - but also the bad guys - criminals, murderers and genocide. And I woke up in shock.

Afterwards, when I woke up, I suddenly realized why I had approached the topic of digital change with a certain distance over the years. In theory, a lot was clear to me. Several years ago I spoke publicly about the fact that the digital revolution will irrevocably change our entire world of life and work, including the relationship between citizens and the state and even our image of people - and that we must and will succeed in shaping it in a humane manner. But when I weighed the pros and cons of the development very deeply, I could never completely shake off a certain unease: Where will the development lead us?

I don't think this feeling was just age related. It was also a feeling of cultural unease. My mind tells me: With digitization, we are likely to be in a development that will have similarly far-reaching political, economic and cultural consequences for people, such as the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg or the change processes in the industrial revolution. In both cases, people's living conditions were profoundly and permanently reshaped. New social classes emerged, and encrusted structures of rule began to totter. And in the end it was of no use to any ruler if he stood against the trend of time and tried to stop it.

With digitization, new conflict situations have arisen

The misjudgment of the German Emperor Wilhelm II is famous, who declared a hundred years ago: “I believe in the horse. The automobile is a temporary phenomenon. ”As we all know, it didn't do him any good to bury his head in the sand. The development just got over him. Because no wishful thinking can ban what the human mind has once initiated and strives to implement. For a long time, the topic of digitization seemed to lead a shadowy existence in the German and European public. But now people hardly dare to publicly flirt with their ignorance about the Internet. The Chancellor, who called the Internet “new territory” four years ago, “accepted the invitation to the opening of gamescom, the world's largest trade fair for computer games, in Cologne for the first time this year. And she shone with a lecture in which one word could no longer be found - terra incognita. Host Estonia even put digitization on the agenda of the meeting of EU heads of state at the end of September 2017. Because the Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas is convinced, together with his compatriots: "A lot can be expected from the digital way of life if we push it the right way."

When I visited the country four years ago as Federal President, I was impressed by the then President Toomas Hendrik Ilves with his knowledge of technology issues and with his determination to make the country future-proof and a pioneer through a digital boost. And Estonia really shows in a wonderful way that in the digital world even the little ones can be really big and be role models. It was then that I understood that history rarely has times when you can just sit back and linger. As I said, a certain suppression of digital development was not alien to me at first either. Hadn't I - hadn't we - experienced something far more drastic, something singularly spectacular with the peaceful revolution?

But while many Europeans in East and West celebrated the end of communism and believed in the victory of democracy in other parts of the world, new conflict situations had long since emerged with globalization and the associated digitalization. Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who grew up in the USA, understood the signs of the new times faster than many others in Europe. He has made a major contribution, against resistance, to building a democracy in his country that is based on the highest level of technology. Every citizen has an electronic identity card with which they can regulate large parts of their social life with the least possible effort - from setting up a company to voting in elections. The state is investing increased tax income in education so that children can learn programming from the first grade and thus have skills that are actually useful in an increasingly robot and computer-heavy age. I learned that from the example of Estonia: we mustn't allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by developments. They are the work of man and must be shaped by people.

So I want to talk about attitudes. About attitudes in dealing with a development that promises great opportunities, but is also fraught with great risks. The Estonians know and - even more - they accept: The future will be digital. It creates many reliefs and improvements in the life of every individual, but it is also not harmless and harmless. But only those who are able to master and develop the new technology will be able to - largely - eliminate its inadequacies, recognize dangers - largely - and reduce risks. On the other hand, those who keep their hands off her out of fear of her weak points will inevitably become driven, left behind and the victim of her dark sides. I do not recommend to the politically responsible to travel to Estonia immediately and to copy all Estonian solutions for Germany - certainly not all regulations in a country with 1.3 million inhabitants are suitable for larger countries. But I wish politically responsible people and all citizens who - like me - have waited a long time, would like to be even more open to what is to come and actively seek solutions on how the digital world should be designed according to our needs .

In fact, Facebook, Google, e-mails, online games, route planners, WhatsApp etc. have long since found their way into our everyday lives. And as the latest study by DIVSI shows, an astonishingly large number of people now appreciate the relief and advantages for themselves and for our country. Based on this positive attitude, an overwhelming majority also want a development in society as a whole, which will bring Germany from the middle ranks to a top position in the field of digitization. At the same time, and this is shown by heated debates that recur at regular intervals, concerns about data protection and security often stand in the way of broader acceptance of digital technology. And it's also true: every day the media report on hacks, social bots, data theft and invasion of privacy. Not only that big data entrepreneurs are creating ever more differentiated profiles of individuals. For example, the servers of the Bundestag, the Democratic Party in the USA and Emmanuel Macron's election campaign team were also hacked.

Ads on Facebook and Twitter that can be traced back to Russian agents were intended to influence public opinion in the American election campaign. In general, it has become clear that technological innovations combined with economic power can be massively instrumentalized for political interests. There were and are now intellectuals who recommend practicing complete asceticism and completely foregoing smartphones, social networks, online purchases, online portals, etc.

The references to the Stasi or Gestapo are out of place when it comes to digitization

The average citizen is not that radical, but at least a study by DIVSI and dimap showed that 64 percent of Germans would be concerned about the security of their personal data, for example if government services were digitally delivered. On the one hand, I understand the fear of privacy violations in a nation where surveillance has been used twice as a tool for illegitimate rule over the people. I lived in the surveillance state of the GDR for five decades; for ten years, as head of the Stasi records authority, I was confronted daily with the long-term consequences of such arbitrariness towards the citizens. But the reference to the Stasi and Gestapo or the association with the novel "1984" is usually wrong. Yes, there are cases where the state is monitoring and spying on someone. The internet corporations, on the other hand, do not hack into and do not listen to us specifically. They simply collect what is voluntarily offered to them.

That is why the handling of data protection and internet security in Germany does not seem free from hypocrisy. Sections of the media and politics regularly protest when privacy is violated or threatens to be violated. But how authentic is this outrage when it turns out in DIVSI studies that easy operation of network applications is more important to many users than guaranteeing protected data? So that citizens voluntarily reveal what nobody should know? Or is it that the citizens distrust the private giants less than the state - our democratic state? Shouldn't we be concerned about the fact that a DIVSI study found that 85 percent of Germans would like the state to take more care of network security, but 84 percent do not trust it to do so?

The truth about our use of the Internet is usually quite banal: For a majority, convenience and indifference are more important than security. With the navigation system in the car, the fitness band on the arm or with payments by Payback card, it is the individual who enables his or her profile to be recorded. The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari therefore states: "The shift in power from people to algorithms is happening all around, and not as a result of some momentous government decision, but thanks to a flood of very mundane decisions." In this respect, we all bear the responsibility for security : the state, computer specialists, entrepreneurs, but also the users themselves. I think a balance has to be found. I distrust both those who keep security concerns from really opening up to digital development. But I also mistrust those who only have an eye on technology but do not care about its impact on society. The creation of user profiles is likely to continue to increase in the future, as will cyber attacks - on individual users, on governments, companies, political parties or the so-called critical infrastructure, i.e. energy networks or hospitals.

The Janus-faced nature of digitization makes it so difficult to deal with

But we are not helpless. Security in the digital world costs money and time, but it's worth it, yes: it has to be worthwhile. I think that conveying this is an important task for the near future. Everyone who operates on the Internet has to contribute to the security of the network. Individual users and companies cannot avoid arming their systems against reading and hacker attacks. Internet companies cannot behave neutrally towards fake news, terrorist or hate messages. And governments are urged to close weaknesses and security gaps, for example in critical infrastructure, and to guarantee the security of society against disinformation or digital sabotage.

What makes dealing with digital technology generally difficult, in my opinion, is its ambivalence - its Janus-headedness, as Hamburg economist Thomas Straubhaar put it. Because dealing with ambivalences is difficult for people. 31 percent of Internet users and even 46 percent of non-Internet users stated in DIVSI surveys in the summer of this year that they felt unsettled by digitization. And they paralyze insecurity or even fear; they encourage flight tendencies and prevent or delay problem-solving activities. This applies in particular to thinking about the medium and long-term consequences of the rapid development. For example, have we already dealt sufficiently with how the individual can learn not to drown in the numerously immense possibilities of the digital sphere? Google has roughly quintupled its range of apps in recent years to currently almost three and a half million individual products, which were downloaded a total of 20 billion times in 2016 alone.

Such an overabundance of data and information hardly allows the individual to filter out what is important in each case. Can it be possible to acquire new usage skills in the course of collective learning processes? And doesn't each individual have to deal with, for example, whether they would be looked after by a robot in old age, if necessary? Already today, algorithms often know better than a doctor which medication is best suited to a diagnosis and at what level it is most likely to promise success for the individual concerned.

And shouldn't we all think a lot more about what is happening to the increasing number of doctors, lawyers, bank employees, truck drivers and many other people whose work is becoming superfluous in the course of digitization? Shouldn't we also think much more about what life will be like when robots and artificial intelligence have become integral parts of our world? Aren't we all afraid that the role of humans could then fundamentally change?

I think of all these questions - and many others - when I say that what happens in the digital world depends largely on our attitude. Of our courage to want to know. About our courage to make ourselves competent. About our courage to face a development, even if we don't (yet) know where it will ultimately lead us and whether it might unsettle us deeply in our basic convictions.

Politicians and specialists are responsible for digitization

Six years ago, intellectual insight persuaded me to take over the patronage of the German Institute for Trust and Security (DIVSI). If I return to this position today, after five years in the office of Federal President, it will not be because I clung to the illusion that one day I will become a specialist in digital technology. That may be younger and more qualified. But it is important to me to support the concerns of DIVSI: To determine how far digital technology has already found its way into our world and how it is received; to promote an interdisciplinary exchange between business, science and society; to research the opportunities and risks of the internet and to organize an open and transparent dialogue about trust and security in the internet and to revive it with new aspects. It also seems important to me to think about a digital code, about guard rails on the Internet, as the former Federal President and former DIVSI patron Roman Herzog put it: Are our values ​​from the analog world sufficient or where is there a need to catch up?

Through its studies, DIVSi has continuously contributed to determining the current situation in various digital fields over the past six years and

thereby to show the need for action for politics. With its figures, for example, it has made it clear that 16 percent of German citizens are still offline, albeit with a decreasing tendency for reasons that are fundamentally negative. With its studies, it has also refuted the popular thesis that everyone is the same on the Internet and that bits and bytes make no distinction between rich and poor, academics and those with a lack of education. Rather, it turned out that the level of education, income level, residential area and other social factors determine behavior in and use of the network. And that those who come from poorly educated households also understand less how to make use of opportunities on the Internet.We are therefore faced with the same problem when dealing with the Internet as in education as a whole. Formal equality does not yet create equal use of opportunities. Solutions must still be struggled here and there.

A few weeks ago DIVSI got a big brother: With the "Weizenbaum Institute for Networked Society", the German Internet Institute (DII), there is now also a state institute that will also deal with the interactions between advancing technology and society . Extensive interdisciplinary research is intended to shed light on social, economic, legal, political and ethical aspects and to coordinate the work of various institutions in Berlin and Brandenburg.

We are already looking forward to the first research and study results and the impulses that the German Internet Institute can give to the society, but also to DIVSI. I will try to ensure that the DIVSI can occasionally stimulate the work of the DII in reverse. There is no other way in view of the mammoth task - especially in times like these, which are characterized by uncertainties and a loss of confidence in the political and economic areas. We need a cooperation of all forces that are capable and willing to upgrade digitally from broadband to electronic administration, to safeguard legal standards while at the same time promoting scientific and technical innovations and to protect the infrastructure of our countries - because if nothing changes, in a few years, tens of thousands of security experts are missing.

In particular, I see two groups as having a duty: the politicians and the specialists. I would like the specialists not only to see themselves as technicians, but also to consider the consequences of their work for their coexistence. And I would like the politicians to face the new technology more aggressively and to take sufficient account of current developments with discussions and laws. I hope that in general, but especially in this area, they will develop a communication of illuminating simplification with the citizens and thus reduce ignorance and counter fears constructively. This is the only way to ward off the lack of culture of fear and indifference and fatalism. Only in this way will Germany take a place in the digital sector that corresponds to its political and economic position.

This text is the minutes of the speech that ex-Federal President Joachim Gauck gave on October 12, 2017 on the occasion of assuming the patronage of the German Institute for Trust and Security on the Internet.

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