The exponential surge and spread of webs have made our world more connected than ever. By 2030, Internet users are expected to near 5 billion. By then, 80% of the world’s population will have mobile connectivity and 60% will enjoy broadband access. Big data, data mining, cloud computing and the Internet of Things will shape the pace and contours of how we live, work and consume. The digital age offers tremendous benefits to billions of people in terms of wealth, knowledge and freedom. As such, the security and stability of the net, as well as the integrity of data flows, is of growing importance to our economies and our societies.
Communication technologies have already had profound political impact, mobilising millions in Europe and beyond. The fight to protect the freedom of and on the net is thus becoming increasingly critical for the protection and promotion of human rights throughout the world. However, technology also creates new vulnerabilities, including opportunities for jihadists and traffickers of arms, drugs and human beings, as well as for public and private actors to engage in counterfeiting and financial and economic crime. Globalisation empowers individuals – for good or ill.
On cyber issues the EU aims to address threats to the free and open internet, allow EU citizens and businesses to benefit from the digital economy, and put ICT at the service of development, all in respect of the EU’s values. Globally, the EU strives for an open and secure cyber realm, in which cyber issues are firmly anchored within the framework of human rights, rule of law and international law. Cyber policies need to find a sustainable balance between freedom and security, while remaining committed to both.
Given the use of computer networks and Internet-based applications in all areas of human activity, cyber policies cannot be dealt with in isolation. The effective implementation of external cyber policies depends on cooperation across the public-private divide and on effective coordination between policy areas and EU institutions. While several policy areas deal with the evolution of the cyber domain, broader cyber policy needs to be incorporated into policies such as energy, transport, defence, security, CT, health and the economy.
The EU is ratcheting up its efforts, with several funding instruments focusing partially on building capacity in cybercrime and cyber security. However, uncertainty still remains over Member State buy-in for a common EU approach. The discussion on how to go about implementing human rights, international law and the rule of law in the cyber domain warrants increased attention as well, not least through diplomatic action.