- IMD Business School
News Stories · Leadership

“Humans have given up consent and control for convenience”

Carlos Moreira, CEO of WISeKey, sounds the alarm on life on the web at Orchestrating Winning Performance
June 2019

What defines a person’s identity? Is it a passport? An ID card? A driver’s license? No. These are only characteristics of an identity.

Statistically, there are 1.1 billion people without an official identity in the world today.

If that’s just in the physical world alone, then what about online? Yes, people can have an official online identity certification too, based on an international standard. And they absolutely should to make the web a safer place.

Carlos Moreira, CEO of WISeKey, and his company are doing their best to change all that as he explains at IMD’s weeklong learning program OWP.

Think of the dark web, where some of the world’s worst crimes are facilitated, all thanks to anonymity.

After being Chief Security Officer for 15 years at the United Nations in Geneva – one of the most cyber-attacked centers in the world – Moreira founded his company and has been working ever since to make it easier and more secure for people to use the Internet.

We all pass hours using the internet every day but: “The internet is like fire. You can use it to heat your house, but it also can burn your house down,” says Moreira.

And he should know as he has been involved in the World Wide Web since day one when it was created in Geneva.

The web has revolutionized the world, but it also has enormous potential to be used to harm people and institutions as recent cyber-attacks and even alleged election meddling so brutally show us.

But the internet doesn’t really care, according to Moreira.

The internet is blind and agnostic. In the digital world it is very difficult to de-trust once you have given consent. The only way to delegate and revoke trust is with cryptography root keys. It is the same technology used with nuclear code process,” he says.

What does the expert think about some of today’s other hot topics?

  • Facebook and its new cryptocurrency Libra? Data is the oil of the digital economy. Facebook is the new Shell.” The expert says that Facebook’s latest venture is merely a new method of generating data.
  • China and its ringfenced internet? A country like China with control over its web has unlimited access to data.”
  • Is Blockchain all it’s cracked up to be? “Blockchain is one of the tools – used with others – that can create a disruption process. It will tokenize consent.” With blockchain there is no command center, making it less likely for temptation for abuse by individual companies, says Moreira.
  • What does the future hold? Companies will move to create more ecosystems in order to take back control from social media platforms. They want to have direct contact with their customers so they know more about them.

Creating an ecosystem is a top priority for all companies around the world. With an ecosystem you know everything about your company. It is like a central brain but if it gets attacked, it can be dangerous.”

For Moreira, the underlying issue is putting humans back at the center of gravity in digital transformation if we want to make change work for us. We also need to inject moral principles into technology and use tech and AI for the good of mankind.

But for now, he thinks we are losing the battle. “We have given away everything that is consent and control in exchange for convenience. Convenience is the business model of social media platforms,” he says ending his talk on an alarming note.