Cybersecurity expert: ‘Technological giants are becoming political actors’ | Science & Tech


A physicist and mathematician, Eviatar Matania splits his teaching schedule between Oxford and Tel Aviv University. A former head of the Israeli National Cyber Directorate under Benjamin Netanyahu, he has published widely on issues of cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

Matania, 56, sat down for an interview with EL PAÍS while visiting Madrid for a conference.

Question. Is privacy dead?

Answer. In China, the social credit system already works by which citizens receive a score based on their [digital] behavior: if they consume pornography, points are deducted. If they buy things online for children, they receive points, because they’re supposedly being responsible. In addition, [people] live with cameras in the streets. If you don’t behave well there, it will be very difficult for you to leave the country, get an apartment or get permits for so many things.

I see the threats that hang over privacy from cyberspace… giants like Google or governments know more about you than ever before. But I also see people trying to defend their privacy. If we look at what the European Union or academic foundations are doing, we see that a battle over privacy is being waged. Of course, the [younger generations] perceive privacy very differently. They display everything online… they enjoy doing it! Because of this, the key will not only be what we do to defend our privacy, but also how the new generations perceive privacy and defend human rights.

Q. How can we make sure that we govern technology, without letting it govern us?

A. Education is key. Finland has understood the threat to democracy that Russia exercises from the web… the country has begun to educate students about how to be good internet users. Our parents taught us to be careful on the street, to cross safely, things like that… but they wouldn’t know what to teach us about cyberspace! The Finns are doing that now,

building awareness about privacy, democracy and human rights, while distinguishing the most objective news from fake news.

Only after education can we talk about regulation. I am very much not in favor of strict regulation, but I am in favor of codes of good practice and of recommendations that will unleash…

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