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Cloud computing & Social Networks

Cloud Computing and Social Network Sites (SNS) are among some of the most controversially discussed developments in recent years. The opportunities of using powerful computing resources on demand via the web are considered as a possible driver for the growth of the European economy. The European Parliament’s Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) panel commissioned a research project to investigate the potentials of cloud computing and social networks for Europe entitled ‘Potential and Impacts of Cloud Computing Services and Social Network Websites’ (detailed study, annexes, summary/policy recommendations).

The potential of cloud computing in Europe

© based upon Melpomene / Shutterstock

This STOA project:

  • Reviewed the latest technological and economic developments,
  • Identified driving factors and barriers in Europe,
  • Identified the main actors and their respective interests,
  • Analysed the impacts on citizens, business (including the IT industry itself) and public administrations, and
  • Evaluated the effect of a broad range of technical, economic, cultural, legal, regulatory issues and their impacts.

What are the key challenges to address?

The recent massive surveillances actions and the rise of cyber-crime showed the need for a more secure basis of future computing. It is clear that Cloud Computing as well as SNS challenge the existing data protection regime. However, modernisations such as the new draft regulation need to be continued and filled with life. Since trust is a pivotal success factor the questions of third party access and data retention need to be addressed. The analysis of contractual relations showed that main contractual features like jurisdiction, liability, service levels or acceptable use still raise questions. A similar situation can be found for IT security related issues. Finally the analysis showed the need to address challenges to competitiveness such as vendor lock-in or the lack of fast growing companies as well as challenges in framework conditions like market fragmentation, broadband penetration or skilled people.

Cyber security as a commodity

Current security solutions can sometimes be hacked or sometimes are inconvenient to use. Therefore it is necessary to support the development of highly secure IT solutions, which are easy to use and which can be adopted by all businesses, both big and small, as well as by all citizens.

Europe as the worldwide Privacy leader

Recent developments and the growing digitalization of all spheres, underpin the necessity of modern privacy rules. By modernizing the data protection regime Europe could not only ensure the better protection of citizens, but also serve as a model and partner for emerging markets. Moreover Europe could underpin this function as an example for a modern and appropriate privacy regime by addressing fair and secure governance and proposing a structure of an open Internet at a global level.

A trustworthy digital environment for all

The digital life of citizens and business needs legal certainty to ensure new ideas are taken up. Since many emerging ICT’ create both new chances and new challenges, there is a need to continually review existing legislation and to adjust it if necessary. Only if people have trust in legal certainty, will they adopt and use new technologies and exploit their potential for the economy and society as a whole.

Stimulating the ICT industry

A crucial precondition for a competitive ICT industry is an inspiring surrounding ecosystem. This is illustrated by examples in other regions or other industries. Such ecosystems contain many components. Of particular importance, is support for innovative and fast growing companies as well as the provision of sufficient framework conditions that encourage the creation of European market players; support standardization and interoperability; empower people across all strata of society; while also reconsidering current strategies for development and deployment of broadband.

About Scientific Foresight (STOA)

The Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) carries out interdisciplinary research and provides strategic advice in the field of science and technology options assessment and scientific foresight. It undertakes in-depth studies and organises workshops on developments in these fields, and it hosts the European Science-Media Hub (ESMH), a platform to promote networking, training and knowledge sharing between the EP, the scientific community and the media. All this work is carried out under the guidance of the Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA), composed of 27 MEPs nominated by 11 EP Committees. The STOA Panel forms an integral part of the structure of the EP.

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