European Values in Innovation
Last week, representatives of the EU and the German governments stressed the need to create a European cloud in order to allow EU industries to be less dependent on overseas technologies and the potential legal and security concerns implied. For example, the United States Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (abr. CLOUD ACT) may force an EU IT infrastructure provider to release personal data hosted within the EU to US authorities if the provider is a US-based technology company. In a similar manner, concerns were raised about the security of non-EU hardware installed in critical infrastructure such as 5G network technology.
These are no doubt complex issues and in no small part a responsibility of high politics. One of the legal dilemmas EU companies are currently facing is that he data they host is regulated both under US law and EU law, such as GDPR. Therefore, without executive agreements in place between the US and the EU, EU companies may have to violate either US or EU law when faced with a US subpoena that orders the release of personal data.
We want to emphasize that any call for a ‘European Cloud’, however, needs to reflect that innovations in data storage, communication, and data processing are driven by major commercial and globally operating forces. Currently, there are only a handful of such players that drive this innovation at remarkable pace, backed by huge financial investments. Therefore, the development of EU cloud services under sole control of EU-based technology companies would be a tremendously difficult undertaking, even if EU funding towards such a goal were to be enhanced considerably. We believe that negotiating executive agreements seems more realistic and considerably cheaper to the EU taxpayers.
However, a research-driven vision of a European Cloud could generate substantial economic value and could help with promoting values we associate with European history and its achievements — similarly to the global impact the GDPR directive has on data privacy. As a research-based company, we aplaude the EU’s initiative to create a European Open Science Cloud as an environment in which EU institutions and companies can collaborate to research, develop, and innovative — while also embedding values such as privacy within such new technologies and digital platforms.
Artificial Intelligence made in Europe
Data, as well as the judicious and compliant sharing of data, are at the heart of any such collaborative efforts. In particular, it is widely recognized that advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a crucial role in making Europe a primus inter pares in digital innovation and the digital economy. At XAIN, we want to contribute to making Europe a leading innovation hub in artificial intelligence. In that regard, we adapt and further develop the very promising approach of Federated Machine Learning (FedML) to industry needs. Put simply, FedML can compute valuable insights from data residing in different data buckets where data stays on-premise and learning algorithms execute on-premise as well. Therefore, this avoids costly anonymization of data and its movement off-premise, while still meeting regulatory demands such as those imposed by GDPR. To find out more about FedML and how we put this technology into practice, click here.
Given the role that AI will play in future data processing and decision support, we believe that an EU Cloud initiative should not only have a strong research focus but also be tightly integrated with EU AI initiatives. This way, European AI innovations will reflect well European values such as data privacy. We also advocate the open sourcing of AI and cloud software as a value and economic growth factor, as well as the creation of an EU-wide environment in which startups can interact with larger enterprises and institutions. We believe that such an approach will maximize mutual benefits for strong EU-based digital technology, and economic growth nurtured by AI-driven innovation.