Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 49 - April 2020

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Digital policy developments in April

The digital policy landscape is filled with new initiatives, evolving regulatory frameworks, and new legislation and court judgments. In the Digital Watch observatory – available at – we decode, contextualise, and analyse ongoing developments, offering a digestible yet authoritative update on the complex world of digital policy. The monthly barometer tracks and compares the issues to reveal new trends and to allow them to be understood relative to those of previous months. The following is a summarised version; read more about each development by clicking the blue icons, or by visiting the Updates section on the observatory.

Global IG architecture

same relevance

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the office of the UN Under-Secretary-General Fabrizio Hochschild launched a series of webinars on digital co-operation in response to COVID-19.

Sustainable development

increasing relevance

The annual report of the UN Conference on Trade and Development shed light on development and the digital economy. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific released a Digital and Sustainable Regional Integration Index.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data partnered to strengthen Africa’s data system.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development called for action to extend Internet access and boost capacity to fight COVID-19. The Alliance for Accountable Internet issued recommendations on enhancing Internet access.

The ITU released a report on the role of digital technologies in protecting the environment.


same relevance

The UN Under-Secretary-General called for a ‘digital ceasefire’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF warned of increased child vulnerability during the pandemic.

USA and Australia issued joint guidance on detecting and preventing web shell malware. Energy company Energia de Portugal was hit by ransomware. Signal may leave the USA if the EARN IT Act passes.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

Airbnb extended the refund window due to COVID-19. Uber launched Work Hub to help drivers find work. Ride-hailing companies devised approaches to compensate workers during the pandemic.

Indonesia accelerated digital tax reforms amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Facebook announced changes to its Libra cryptocurrency plans. The G20’s Financial Stability Board outlined draft recommendations for global stablecoin arrangements. The People’s Bank of China launched internal tests for its central bank digital currency.

Google will require all advertisers to complete a verification process.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

New data breaches exposed data of Marriott guests, Facebook users, and Iranian and Pakistani citizens.

Zoom and Twitter announced changes to their privacy policies.

Brazil postponed the entry into force of the General Data Protection Law.

Contact tracing apps generate privacy concerns around the world. The European Data Protection Supervisor called for a pan-European COVID-19 mobile app. The European Data Protection Board adopted guidelines on health data processing and on geolocation and other tracing tools. EU member states developed a toolbox for the use of contact tracing apps.Apple and Google clashed with France and the UK over tracing apps and privacy issues.

The CoE published guidance on freedom of expression and information in times of crisis. Google and Facebook launched funds to support news outlets.

The World Wide Web Foundation and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts called for a safer online space for women and girls.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

A US judge decided that Twitter cannot reveal surveillance requests from the government.

The Washington Attorney General sued Facebook over political ads.

The UK Supreme Court ruled that employers are not liable for employee data leaks.

A French court limited Amazon deliveries to essential goods amid COVID-19 risks. The Court of Justice of the EU ruled that AmazonMarketplace does not infringe trademark rights by storing goods.

The French competition authority ruled that Google must pay publishing companies and news agencies for reusing content. Australia announced it will require digital platforms to pay media outlets for reusing content.


decreasing relevance

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved Google’s use of the Pacific undersea cable segment. US federal agencies called on the FCC to revoke China Telecom’s licence.

ICANN decided to withhold consent of the transfer of the .org registry from the Internet Society to Ethos Capital.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

The World Wide Web Consortium published ‘web of things’ recommendations.

The CoE adopted a recommendation on the human rights impacts of algorithmic systems. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) issued a statement regarding the ethical implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) systems for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency launched a programme exploring AI robustness against adversarial deception attacks. The US Army announced it will study human-AI interactions.

Argentina’s Central Bank started testing a blockchain-based payment settlement solution.

IBM and the National University of Singapore launched a partnership on quantum computing. RAND report sheds light on communications security in the quantum computing age.

Issue 49 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 4 May 2020, by the Geneva Internet Platform and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Katarina Anđelković, Andrijana Gavrilović, Pavlina Ittelson, Marco Lotti, Nataša Perućica, Sorina Teleanu | Design: Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Viktor Mijatović, and Mina Mudrić, Diplo’s CreativeLab. Get in touch: