Nexa Center Annual Report 2017

Presented in 2017 during the Board of Trustees meeting of the Nexa Center


In the 10th year from its establishment, the Nexa Center for Internet & Society further increased its influence on the Italian landscape. Two major events determined the improvement: the birth of the National Laboratory on Informatics and Society, and the publication of the book “Università Futura” (The Future University) by Prof. Juan Carlos De Martin, which follows the book “Trattato dei Marchi” (Trade – mark law treatise) by Prof. Marco Ricoli published in 2015. The aim of these two books is to contribute to the discussion on the role and shape of knowledge in the “digital century”. The National Laboratory on Informatics and Society, whose director is Juan Carlos De Martin, was presented at the Italian Deputies Chamber in Rome on 27 September 2016. Being one of the five national laboratories of the National Inter-university Consortium for Informatics (CINI), it will help to project the activities of the Nexa Center at the national level.

From the international point of view, it is worth to mention three main activities.The first one is a research project by Marco Ricol (assisted by Antonio Vetrò) focused on the relationship between the Internet of Things (IoT) and the notion of the so called ‘circular economy’. The research project culminated with a round table in May 2017 in Brussels, which involved representatives of European institutions, academia, industry and standardization associations. The participants discussed the possible positive impact of the IoT on our socio-economic system, counter-balancing the involved risks and challenges in terms of privacy, security, safety and oligopolies. The same topic had been addressed by the Nexa annual conference on “IoT: Hell or Paradise?” held in Turin on Dec 2, 2016. The second relevant activity is the publication of the Guidelines on Big Data adopted by the Consultative Committee of the Council of Europe ́s data protection convention (Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, also known as Convention 108): drafted with the collaboration of Nexa Center Director of Privacy Alessandro Mantelero, they will provide valuable assistance to policy makers and to organizations processing personal data. The third relevant international activity is the release of Ooniprobe-mobile application in February 2017. This public release is the result of a multi-year effort that involved Nexa Center research fellows and interns in cooperation with OONI, the Open Observatory of Network Interference.

In 2016 the Nexa Center also successfully concluded the coordination of the Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers, which Nexa had co-founded with 7 other leading Internet and Society centers. During the past 12 months two European projects proposals have been accepted, DECODE and VIRT-EU; they started respectively in December 2016 and January 2017. They are both focused on the privacy and ethical aspects of Big Data, the Internet of Things and Distributed Ledger Technologies: for the next three years, the Nexa Center and the project partners will collaborate to lay new foundations for the understanding of the complex societal implications of these new technological paradigms. The ultimate goal is to understand how these technologies should be shaped to ensure that human beings are placed at the centers of their development, ensuring positive spillovers to our policies and economies. In addition, the Center is building up technical expertise on Blockchain and Linked Data technologies, thanks to the activities of the Nexa Centers PhD students, Marco Conoscenti and Giuseppe Futia.

Finally, we would like to make a note on internal organization: the staff turnover and management changes started in late 2015 have been completed and resulted on a new interdisciplinary team, in which the traditional engineering and legal competences of the Center have been not only been reinforced with new members, but also complemented with perspectives coming from different disciplines, namely Political Sciences, Literature and Arts. We encourage the reader to have a look at the new staff composition: such diversity of backgrounds and methodologies represents precious lymph for the life of the Center, that was born in 2006 specifically to be interdisciplinary. Increasing diversity, however, often entails increasing complexity: the real challenge will be to turn such variety of languages, cultures and methods in fruitful dialogue and reciprocal intellectual growth, instead of simply juxtapose them. If we will reach this ambitious goal, not only the staff, but the whole Nexa community will benefit: it will be the best way to thank all the people who worked and dialogued with the Nexa Center in the first 10 years of its life.

Juan Carlos De Martin and Marco Ricolfi – Faculty Directors