Macron, Obama and others on Data Privacy

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  • Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron’s comments at the VivaTech conference in Paris included: “I’m going to be very blunt with you… You have a U.S. model [for technology firms] which is not regulated … It was very good for innovation at the beginning, but this model is now being jeopardized and is in a lot of trouble … For me the U.S. model is no longer sustainable because there is no political accountability … On the other side, you have a very strong Chinese model. But this model has not the same values as the ones we have [the Chinese model is] over-centralized … I don’t want my people, my citizens, my start-ups being regulated under de-facto dominance of a sort of a Chinese regulation.”
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's comments included: artificial intelligence is the "defining technology of our timesThe future we will invent is a choice we make, not something that just happens … When we think about the responsibility, let's think about privacy, I mean on May 25 the world will change with GDPR — we will now have to operate recognizing that privacy is a human right …  We have to as a tech industry — and governments — really step up to ensure that those vulnerable populations and organizations are protected."
  • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said: "A lot of the philosophy that is encoded in regulation like GDPR is really how we've thought about a lot of this stuff for a long time … I don't want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we've had to go implement but I also don't want to make it seem like this is a massive departure in how we've thought about this stuff either."
  • Cisco Systems’ CEO Chuck Robbins said, "Every technology that you build, you have to step back and understand what's the responsibility that we have … I think the reality is, as tech evolves so quickly, we're going to have to figure some of this stuff out as we go."
  • NOTES: 1) Conference attendees from many other technology CEOs included IBM’s Ginni Rometty, Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi, Intel’s Brian Krzanich and Slack’s Stewart Butterfield, 2) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union that went into effect on May 25.


  • Separately, former US President Barack Obama spoke at the Okta technology conference in Las Vegas. His comments included: "Data collection and how data is used … how [it] gets commercialized” need more government focus … "There's been a data breach, people are outraged, they feel they don't know that their data was used in a particular way, so then people [in Silicon Valley and Washington] scramble to catch up to the headlines."  


  • GDPR sends a strong message that EU members are concerned about privacy. Its objectives seems on target and have implications for organizations around the world.   
  • Many software applications will increasingly access larger data sets. Assessing the trade-offs related to the appropriate use of data will require better understanding of technology and privacy rights by business leaders, policy makers and citizens.
  • As approaches to privacy rights evolve around the world, we have to avoid developing systems that place too much blind faith on algorithms and big data sets. Artificial Intelligence systems can provide significant positive leverage in solving problems – a poor design can have negative unintended consequence.
Paul Dravis