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Francisco González: ''We need laws that give people more rights and control over their data''

BBVA Chairman Francisco González presented ‘The Age of Perplexity. Rethinking the World We Knew,’ the tenth book in the annual collection published by BBVA through its OpenMind project. In this publication, 23 internationally renowned and well-respected intellectuals address the big economic, political, and social questions raised by the technological revolution.

More than 250 authors have already participated in OpenMind, a collaborative platform that BBVA launched in order to spread knowledge about the fundamental questions of our time. The digital community fosters free access to all types of content including books, articles, interviews, videos, and infographics, dedicated to an increasingly wider public. ‘The Age of Perplexity. Rethinking the World We Knewis available at no cost in various formats in both Spanish and English.

At the book’s presentation in Madrid, Francisco González and Rebeca Minguela, founder and CEO of Clarity, talked from a bank and fintech startup’s perspective about the digital revolution and its impact on the finance industry specifically, and on peoples’ lives in general.


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BBVA’s Chairman stressed that the technological revolution we are witnessing is the most radical in history and is creating changes that will impact humankind’s future. “There are major changes for which we don’t have references or prescriptions for how to act,” he stated, “And this creates uncertainty, even fear, in society. Above all in regard to employment and future welfare.” Nonetheless, in his opinion, “We are at the threshold of a phase of high growth and welfare improvement with new and better jobs.”

We are at the threshold of a phase of high growth and welfare improvement with new and better jobs”

Risks of the digital revolution

Francisco González, a self-confessed “techno-optimist”, recognized that this revolution brings new risks such as digital fraud, cyberterrorism, and “most importantly because it is so wide-ranging, the misuse of intellectual property and the personal data of our customers.”

To counter this last threat, the Chairman of BBVA insisted that specific regulation is needed “to establish a framework of responsibility for digital companies governing the misuse of their services. And, above all that gives people more rights and control over their data. It should encompass every country and industry, including, of course, the financial sector.”

Laws, however, “never protect us fully, not in the virtual nor in the physical world,” warned Francisco González, “which is why it is critical to always work with trusted suppliers, with proven colleagues, who endeavor to be transparent and have solid reputations.”

Regarding finance, “Banks enjoy a significant advantage over the tech giants: we are used to working in a regulated environment and have a lot of experience managing the privacy and security of our customers’ data,” he said.

Rebeca Minguela, founder and CEO of fintech startup Clarity, agrees with BBVA’s Chairman regarding the need for specific legislation in the digital arena, and she specifically referred to PSD2, the European directive that requires banks to open their payment services to third parties.

“On one hand, in the case of startups like mine, we need access to banks’ data to use it, for example, when estimating population needs. But we need to be sure that using this data really adds value and doesn’t jeopardize users’ privacy,” said Minguela.

The CEO of Clarity is also concerned about “how the big tech players will take advantage of this European regulation. The financial services sector contribute a large part of the total tax collection in Europe, whereas tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple are hardly paying any taxes, at least for now, and until the proposed EU new fiscal regulation comes into effect. If those tech companies manage to get a large part of the banks’ business, this could also affect the welfare state in Europe.”

Two other authors participated alongside BBVA’s Chairman and Rebeca Minguela in the book’s presentation: Zia Qureshi, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution (USA), and Diana Owen, Professor of Political Science at Georgetown University (USA).

The benefits offered by new technologies have been tapped by only a few big companies”. Zia Qureshi

Qureshi’s participation focused on the apparent paradox of the fact that the technological revolution has been accompanied by slowing growth and increasing economic inequality. In his opinion, the potential of digital technology is not being fully exploited. “Productivity growth has generally slowed down ––except in the leading technological firms. Gains have decelerated considerably in the vast majority of other, typically smaller firms.” For the most part the benefits offered by new technologies have been tapped by only a few big companies.”

According to this Brookings Institution researcher, “To improve results, we need policies that revitalize competition and innovation, […] upskilling and reskilling workers, and reforming social contracts.”

The role of new media in politics

Diana Owen has spent more than two decades studying the new communication media that emerged after the introduction of the Internet and the ensuing influence on tactics used by politicians to spread their ideas and electoral strategies.

New media have both expanded and undercut the traditional roles of the press in a democratic society”. Diana Owen

Owen explained how “New media have both expanded and undercut the traditional roles of the press in a democratic society. They have vastly increased the potential for political information to reach even the most disinterested citizens; they have created new avenues for engagement that allow the public to connect in new ways with government  and have enhanced the role of reporters as watchdogs.”

Due to the union of new media with post-truth society “Audience members have to work hard to distinguish fact from fiction, and to differentiate what matters from what is inconsequential.”  This circumstance results in large part because “Editors in the professional media have been replaced by social media and analytics editors whose principal motivation is to attract users to their content, regardless of its informational value.”

Francisco González, BBVA Chairman Francisco González, together with Diana Owen and Zia Qureshi

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