European Commissioner Neelie Kroes claims that billions of people across the globe have lost faith in the internet in the aftermath of revelations about mass GCHQ and NSA surveillance:

“Snowden gave us a wake-up call. Let’s not snooze through it. Let’s not just act shocked. Let’s not turn our back on technology.”

Speaking at CeBIT 2014 in Hanover today, she said that it is vitally important that trust is rebuilt and that there should be a better understanding of how the internet is changing and how that change is linked to data.

Kroes said,

“It is clear that the cord connecting technology and democracy has been severed. This is bad for democracy and bad for technology and it will not be easy to stitch the two back together.”

She went on to highlight how the internet is evolving way beyond the use of email and how it is becoming more and more entwined in our daily lives.

In the coming years, she said, “The next phase of the internet will be data-centred and connectivity driven. Cloud computing, big data, the Internet of Things; tools which support manufacturing, education, energy, our cars and more.”

But, to survive this “leap of faith”, will require reliability and trust in advance, something that is currently lacking, she said, as she mentioned how Germans and others around the world could not possibly have much of either in the wake of learning how Chancellor Angela Merkel had her own phone hacked.

Kroes does not think that trust is based solely upon privacy issues though. She also spoke of security issues, highlighting how 93% of large businesses have reported being subject to an attack, in addition to 75% of smaller organisations. Such attacks, she said, can cost up to 50m Euros each.

“This cannot continue. Whatever sector you’re in – online security needs to be part of your business model. A habit as automatic as locking your front door.”

Referring to Chancellor Merkel’s calls for a secure European communication network, Kroes said that a change of mindset was required along with a tightening of protections rather than national protectionism. Ultimately, what she wants is for companies and governments to take responsibility for their own data, under a framework of EU directives, rather than following any kind of voluntary framework.

Not every EU member agrees with Ms. Kroes though, and that includes the UK, which has expressed concerns that a new data protection plan could swamp companies with much more administration.

Kroes is looking to crack on with her plans nonetheless though as she looks for the proposed data protection directive to be finalised during the current year.

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