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Newsletters 30 July 2019

European Regional Bureau Newsletter – 6 – 12 July 2019

Internet Access

Global: An overview of 5G deployment – Lessons learned and way forward

  • The OECD’s Working Party on Communication Infrastructure and Service Policy (WPCISP) have released a new report analysing the evolution of 5G deployment and the opportunities it could bring to the global telecoms market.
  • The analysis highlights the benefits of 5G, showing how a growing variety of communication supports such as fibre, Wi-Fi and satellite technologies are playing a role to support future 5G networks.
  • These networks will, however, continue to be costly, says the report, and new regulatory challenges will include tackling power density, network densification, and network slicing.

EU: Portugal signs-up to quantum technologies partnership

  • On 11 July, Portugal became the ninth signatory of the European Commission’s joint declaration on quantum technology, launched in Bucharest (June 13-14 2019) during the Commission’s Digital Assembly to help establish the basis for the development and deployment of quantum communication infrastructure (QCI) in the EU.
  • The eight other countries include Germany, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, and signal the EU’s desire to further explore the possibilities brought by quantum technology, which would allow data to be transferred in a faster and ultra-secure way.


Global: Chile and the EU to cooperate on data protection

  • The Chilean Ministers of Finance and Justice met earlier this week with the EU’s Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová to find ways to improve the cooperation between the two regions in the area of data protection and data flows.
  • During the meeting, both sides acknowledged how data protection has evolved to become a crucial element of citizens trust in a data-driven economy, expressing their will to bilaterally cooperate towards that goal.
  • Concrete actions include a pledge to remove barriers for information exchanges between competent authorities and the recent incorporation of Chile to the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regards to Automatic Processing of Personal Data.

EU: “Change business model’ is the new “break up big tech”

  • Politico’s technology reporter Laurens Cerulus reports back from a board meeting of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), claiming a shift is underway in how regulators perceive the need to regulate platforms: focusing more on changing business models of behavioural advertising rather than breaking up big platforms.
  • For Giovanni Buttarelli, the EU’s Data Protection Supervisor, the second year of the GDPR should be about a “move to changing the business model”, while his UK counterpart Elizabeth Denham said “we need to change the business model and fines are not going to do it.”
  • Germany’s competition regulator Andreas Mundt emphasised the need for structural remedies: “we have to impose structural remedies that make sure this behaviour is not the future”, arguing that European regulators must stop excesses and demand from platforms to limit data gathering and keep its data on specific platforms (referencing WhatsApp and Facebook’s data sharing regimes).

EU: Amazon to be investigated by the European Commission

  • The European Commission is preparing to launch a formal investigation into Amazon’s dual role as a platform and seller, with an announcement due by August.
  • In September 2018, the Commission announced it had launched a preliminary competition investigation into how Amazon uses data about merchants trading on its marketplace.
  • The investigation is expected to look into Amazon’s role as both a competitor and host to third-party merchants which sell goods on Amazon’s websites.
  • In an unrelated case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled earlier this week that e-commerce platforms such as Amazon are not obliged in all cases to make their telephone number available to customers before the conclusion of their contact.

EU: New cybersecurity consultation launched on Europe’s ICT industrial policy

  • The EU Cybersecurity Agency, ENISA, launched this week a consultation paper on ‘EU ICT Industrial Policy: Breaking the Cycle of Failure’.
  • The paper tackles issues such as digital sovereignty and risks to Europe’s supply chain of cybersecurity products in Europe, while providing an overview of the relationship between the global ICT and cybersecurity markets.
  • ENISA is seeking the views of citizens, private and public stakeholders on how the EU market may be understood and improved. The deadline to respond is the 31 August 2019.

EU: Regulating the Internet – policy-makers struggle to balance freedom with risk, says expert

  • The Financial Times published this week an opinion piece entitled “the Internet: Regulators struggle to balance freedom with risk”.
  • The article by Law Professor Frederick Mostert (King’s College, London) highlights the need for a global set of rules to help regulate the Internet, echoing calls by Sir Tim Berners-Lee for a “Magna Carter for the web” to respect users’ rights to privacy and data protection but also to preserve the accessibility and openness of the web.
  • Mostert argues global guidance is needed to focus on uniform digital tools and administrative measures inclusive of due process, a type of “ius gentium (law of nations), natural law, in the form of a universal body of customary rules common to all humankind must be developed for cyber space”.

EU: Digital taxes in UK and France make leap forward

  • This week, France and the UK introduced measures to tax digital services (3% and 2% respectively), both said these are temporary until work at OECD level concludes, with discussions planned for G7 meeting in Chantilly next week.
  • As a consequence of the French initiative, the United States government triggered on July 10th a “Section 301” investigation into the proposed digital services tax. This procedure gives legal authority to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) led by Robert Lighthizer to impose trade sanctions on economies it deems to be implementing unfair trade practices.
  • Faced with the repeated failure of passing new corporate taxes at EU-level, including the Common Corporate Tax Base, Financial Transactions Tax and now the Digital Services Tax, the Commission proposed back in January 2019 to simplify rules on tax policy-making, setting out an approach to relax the voting rules on tax legislation to Qualified Majority Voting in the Council by 2025 (instead of unanimity).

UK: Facial recognition technology under scrutiny

  • The UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham raised serious concerns earlier this week about facial recognition technology currently being tested by the South Wales and Metropolitan Police.
  • The criticisms brought by the Commissioner pick up on a study by the University of Essex and commissioned by Scotland Yard that finds that such technology has an estimated 81% error rate – a claim that the police strenuously
  • In her blog post, Denham claims that there needs to be “demonstrable evidence” that this technology is necessary, and states that “these (police) trials represent a widespread processing of biometric data of people […[ And that is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all”.

France: National Assembly passes hate speech law

  • On Tuesday, French MPs formally voted to adopt Laetitia Avia’s law on online hate speech (434 to 33 votes), a law intending to mandate platforms to remove content deemed “hateful” within 24 hours.
  • The original text was heavily amended, with amendments broadening the scope to include posts denying crimes against humanity. The amendments now ensure that illegal content deleted by platforms can be archived for one year for research or prosecution purposes. MPs also approved the creation of a special prosecutor for hate speech online, clarified the notification procedure, and agreed on more protections for minors.
  • The law will now pass to the Senate to complete its first reading.

France: Competition authority releases annual report

  • According to the latest report of France’s Autorité de la concurrence, Emmanuel Macron’s government must aim towards a “coordinated regulation at EU level of online platforms”.
  • Audio-visual is high on the agenda, with the authority calling for an upgrade of rules in terms of production and advertising for large tech companies like Netflix and Google.
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