You may remember the mother of all data grabs. So far as I know, it’s still going. But also, something is moving.

First, the news has raised the attention of Glyn Moody over at A writeup by a big name on a famous site means the piece of news will not be easily buried. So, if you are reading this and you sit in the European Parliament, I would say this is the right time to file a formal interrogation to the Italian government.

In the meantime, Italian MP Pierpaolo Vargiu has locally decided to have a better look into the question.

Hon. Vargiu (together with MPs Salvatore Matarrese, Domenico Menorello, Ivan Catalano, and Roberta Oliaro) has filed a formal interrogation to the Ministry of Health questing to know (my translation from Italian):

  1. whether the terms are known of the agreement between the Italian Government and IBM (or any of it controlled or participated companies), and if such terms are at least in part as reported by the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano and the website
  2. whether so far any data of Lombardy patients have been supplied to IBM or any of its controlled or participated companies and, in that case, to what end they have been provided, following what criteria, and what consensus has been granted by the owners of those data
  3. whether any preliminary verification has been undertaken, according to Data Protection Law, by the Italian Data Protection Authority, before the agreement was signed
  4. if the Italian Data Protection Authority has expressed its opinion on the legitimacy of this supply of health data.

It may not seem much but, you know, we started with an agreement signed in private between an IBM-controlled company and then Prime Minister Renzi, and withheld not only from public scrutiny, but from parliamentary oversight, too.

Now, the interrogation means the government, through the Ministry of Health Hon. Lorenzin, will have to publicly disclose all the terms of the agreement, and own up to it.

Or maybe not.

Since a different Prime Minister is now in charge, chances are the agremeent in its present data-grab form may be put on hold or, who knows, scrapped.

It is customary to say things like “I have nothing personal against company X blah blah business ethics blah blah”.


I have something personal against IBM, in this instance, and against digital giants in general, and it has to do with their treating the world with an unacceptable colonial attitude. They want to trade beads and mirrors for gold and gems.

They want  our data for free, and in return we get the privilege to pay for services that were developed thanks to those data? Thanks but no, thanks.

If digital giants proposed some sort of equitable exchange, like our data in return for a 50/50 split of IP on everything that is developed from those data, there would already be enough ethical issues to discuss before proceeding. And actually, 50/50 would be an exceptionally generous offer on our side.

But to even seek our data for free is patently offensive. And that some of our politician can be digitally illiterate enough to agree to that is a problem we must fix.

Stay tuned, and ping me if you think it would be a good idea to have the dataKnightmare podcast in English.

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