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Sabine Devins

Let’s protect both people and their data, together

Photo: Jon Tyson // unsplash

polypoly is a cofounding partner of bothAnd – the nonprofit organisation creating a decentralised ecosystem for a tech-driven response to the COVID-19 crisis.

As Europe enters its third month of lock-downs, social isolation and sacrifice, Europeans are looking for the best way forward. How each country has responded to the pandemic has relied on statistics, computational models and – above all – data. This has informed decisions, journalism, and even public opinion. Institutes like Johns Hopkins have made data dashboards go mainstream and some exponential graphs have become meme status. As the public discourse moves toward “opening up”, we’re again looking for data to show us the way.

This has led to the rise of the corona app, but we have to challenge these and yes, look at the terms and conditions. But what entities are behind the apps? And what are their interests in collecting data? What do they do with the data? And do the right people have access to it? Can we trust those people? 

It seems that we’re all aligned on technology being part of the answer, but how it's being used still leaves a lot of questions and a lot of people out of the conversation.  

All together and all for a European solution

polypoly joined forces with security experts PortZero, communications agency Service Plan, and data science community Data Natives to create bothAnd – a non-profit organisation (gGmbh in German) focused on improving technologies to enable better, secure data for people, by people during the corona crisis. This sends a clear message that the data-driven way out of the pandemic will be designed for privacy. More and more entities have also voiced their support for this, starting with MyData.org.  

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As a company, trust is at the core of our product development, design and communication. We believe that GDPR offers clear protections for Europeans. And we think simplicity is key to accessibility. These are all things that bothAnd plans on taking on within the rapidly emerging status quo during COVID-19. 

Ours is a society in crisis and we have made enormous sacrifice. We’re working from home. We’re homeschool. We’re baking our own bread. But when the pandemic eases, we can leave these spaces and face no further consequences about these decisions (unless you forgot to turn the oven off). Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with our data. In the hurry to provide a technological answer, things can get forgotten, overlooked or simply considered unimportant and when that includes your data, the consequences can reach far beyond the health crisis. 

This cannot happen and is our key motivation for being part of the initiating team. 

To create a European solution, we cannot forego the protections that are in place for the continent. An answer cannot rest among individual governments. This virus has shown us that we are not just countries, but neighbours in the true sense, for better or worse. 

Data for tomorrow to create a better transition

It will be a collective effort that ends this crisis and that’s why we believe an organisation like bothAnd is the most effective way to make a difference. Our partners in this nonprofit include government agencies, NGOs on varying scales, scientific stakeholders and businesses. What’s missing, of course, is you – the citizens, but we’re working on a solution for that, too. 

polypoly has strong faith in decentralization, not just for data storage, but also its effectiveness in providing holistic, citizen-focussed solutions. Policy experts can interpret the new European Commission guidelines into accessible information. Technological experts can evaluate and create safer data storage. And communications experts engage the right people, including you.  

Because you can have both data security and effective data science. You can have both a European initiative and a local solution. You can have both complexity and a clear way forward. 

Please see the bothAnd website for more information and we hope you join us in creating the best possible transition.