Our Work

Background

In recent decades, digital transformation has fundamentally altered how humans interact, how companies conduct business, and how governments work. More recently, data-driven applications and algorithmic processes have created unprecedented opportunities for citizens, companies and governments around the world, pertaining to the fields of automated data processing and automated decision-making procedures. These applications have great potential to increase innovation and productivity, and to further the welfare of individuals and societies.

However, as with many technological advances, such data-driven applications and algorithmic processes also present potential risks. Despite the best intentions, they have the capacity to cause unintentional harm and may affect human rights, individual autonomy, competitive market order, financial stability, democratic processes, and national sovereignty. In addition, they can increase inequality and shift control away from humans to algorithms. The deep transformation of our societies triggered by these applications has the potential to undermine trust between citizens, companies, and governments.

Thus, building trust in digital infrastructure and strengthen responsibility for individuals and organisations will be the foundation for societal innovation in the next decade of digital transformation.

Trendmap of the Digital Economy and Society developed by W.I.R.E

In a trend map developed for SDI, the independent think tank W.I.R.E. identified strategic areas of action for decision-makers to foster trust and responsibility. In the next decade, we will face more individual empowerment, increased convenience, new communities, and higher security, but we also have to prepare for data-driven intransparencies, algorithmic discrimination, loss of control, and the erosion of privacy. Based on these findings, SDI aims to explore new projects and measures in the future.

Swiss Digital Trust Label

The Swiss Digital Trust Label is the Swiss Digital Initiative’s first project.

Consumers often don’t trust digital servicess. Concerns range from data security, mismanagement and manipulation. The Swiss Digital Trust Label aims to give digital service users guidance and transparency on the quality of the digital service. The Label will be a milestone in the development of good practices for trustworthy digital services. For companies and public institutions, the label will demonstrate that they act as responsible actors in the digital space.

The Label is a controllable and auditable list of guarantees which a service will provide. It is built on four critical issues for trust in the digital space:

1
Security of the Service
2
Reliability of the service
3
Fair data management
4
Responsible interactions with the users

Service provider who commit to the Label will be audited by a third-party to assess the service’s trust level.

The first draft of the Label’s content was developed by a group of experts from EPFL, ETHZ, the University of Geneva and Zurich. By analyzing existing standards and certifications, the expert group gathered a set of 120 technical, legal, organizational, and design criteria which, taken together, represent the basis of a trustworthy digital service. The following experts were involved:

  • Prof. Dr. Jean-Pierre Hubaux, Full Professor Laboratory for Data Security, EPFL
  • Olivier Crochat, Executive Director of the Centre for Digital Trust (C4DT), EPFL
  • Prof. Dr. Lothar Thiele, Dept. of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, ETH Zurich
  • Prof. Dr. Antoine Geissbühler, Vice-President, University of Geneva
  • Prof. Dr. Jacques de Werra, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva
  • Yaniv Benhamou, Attorney-at-Law, Lecturer (Intellectual property and privacy), University of Geneva
  • Prof. Dr. Abraham Bernstein, Departement of Informatics, Director Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich

The design and first feedback phase with the test partners will be followed by a public consultation process. Expected full scale deployment of the label is planned for 2021.

Trust from the Costumer’s Perspective

To understand trust from a user’s perspective, SDI conducted a consumer study with a professional research institute on “Trust in the digital space” and the perception of a Digital Trust Label. The main findings can be found here.

Why a Digital Trust Label?

  • The label takes the perspective of the consumers and adopts their view on what trust requires.
  • Because it takes the consumers’ perspective, it is applicable across industries and technologies.
  • The label is the combination of ethical principles and technical specifications. It is ethics in action.
  • The label can be measured, audited, controlled.
  • The development of the label is an inclusive process and includes experts from the academia, business and civil society at national and international levels.
  • The label could be a milestone in the development of global good practices.