- Reset + Prindi

Exclusive: president of Estonia visits POLITICO HQ

04.03.2020

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has an idea for driving misinformation off the internet: Stop granting people anonymity.

— Kaljulaid drew on the lessons of her Baltic nation, which gives each citizen a digital ID to access government services online. A similar approach, she said, could help prove internet users are indeed real. “To a certain extent, it’s totally unfair blaming all these private sector companies for what is going on, because, I am sorry, the problem is anonymity,” she added. “You can only drive out anonymity from [the] internet through digital identification, and since digital ID is a passport, it can only be guaranteed by a legal power, which is states.” Several European nations have some form of digital ID program, including Germany, Italy and Finland. No such effort is underway in the U.S.

— Kaljulaid also said Europe must “go further” on privacy than the General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect nearly two years ago. The continent’s focus now, she said, should be addressing a “2.0 problem of privacy,” the fact that China’s artificial intelligence can get smarter faster because of its unmitigated access to data. If Europe doesn’t want its AI to be dumber than its Chinese counterpart, she said, then the government should set rules for how data for AI systems should be gathered, depersonalized, secured and, ultimately, trashed. Then, let companies that agree to those rules have at it. Last month, the EU outlined a five-year digital plan that includes regulations for AI and data sharing.