16 March 2018 Open and Transparent

The Hague Principles – Tada in practice: open and transparent

Douwe Schmidt
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How can we put the principles of the manifesto into practice? In the second episode in a series, Frits Bussemaker, chairman of the Institute for Accountability and Internet Democracy, explains how his organization defines the principle of ‘open and transparent’.

In many cases, it is unclear what types of data organizations collect and what they are doing it for. For that reason, the principle of ‘open and transparent’ has received a spot in the manifesto: citizens and organizations have a right to know what is happening with their personal data. The Institute for Accountability and Internet Democracy (IAID) is putting this principle into tangible practice by organizing a summit on the topic in The Hague at the end of May.

“The ambition of that summit is to organize a worldwide discussion about the topic and explore what tools we could develop in order to contribute to a more open and transparent internet,” explains IAID chairman Frits Bussemaker. “Accountability is one of the tools which is needed to achieve transparency and eventually trust. It is important to provide accountability not only about data, but also about the algorithms that are used.”

The Hague Principles

A number of ideas for tools are already available. During the summit, the first version of The Hague Principles was presented, elaborating on the UNESCO principles of ‘Fostering Digital Citizenship through Safe and Responsible Use of ICT’, which have already been signed by 195 countries. “On that basis, we can continue the discussion from there,” Bussemaker says.

The second tool being considered is an Accountability Index that assesses government authorities, international organizations and multinationals based on the way in which they are open and transparent. “By doing so, you develop a kind of automated control mechanism,” says Bussemaker. “But something like that isn’t organized from one day to the next; we need to consider it carefully, so it could take some time before that type of thing is achieved.” The third tool that the IAID is considering is a supervisory authority for the internet. “But we’re really talking about the long term here.”

Dark patterns and blockchain

The IAID also wants to act as a knowledge institute and share knowledge about such topics as dark patterns: tricks that websites deploy to manipulate users to click on certain links or buy certain things, without meaning to. Bussemaker is also intrigued by the new European GDPR. “In essence, that is contradictory to the developments in the blockchain, which basically stores everything. New technology ensures loopholes in laws and regulations; as an institute, that will also be an important focus for us.”

Bussemaker emphasizes that the IAID is there for everyone. “We are situated in The Hague; the international flavor of the city should make it feel like neutral territory. The opinions of the USA and Europe hold just as much weight here as the opinions of Asia. China is also welcome, although they take a very different approach to openness and transparency. If we want to show true leadership, we also have to organize our own resistance. We will be focusing on what we have in common and kick off the discussion from there.”

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