Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 27 - January 2018

IG Barometer for January

The monthly Internet Governance Barometer of Trends tracks specific Internet governance issues in the public policy debate, and reveals focal trends by comparing the issues every month. The barometer determines the presence of specific IG issues in comparison to the previous month. Learn more about each update.

Global IG architecture

decreasing relevance

The World Economic Forum has launched the Global Centre for Cybersecurity, which will focus on cybercrime and the application of new technologies in finance, healthcare, telecommunications, and mobility. Based in Geneva, the autonomous organisation will gather governments, the corporate sector, experts, and law enforcement agencies to consolidate existing cybersecurity initiatives, establish an independent library of cyber best practices, and work towards an appropriate and agile regulatory framework on cybersecurity.

Sustainable development

same relevance

The UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has set new targets for connecting the other half of the unconnected population by 2025. The targets, published in 2025 Targets: Connecting the other Half, include access to broadband Internet for 75% of people worldwide, 65% in developing countries, and 35% in least developed countries.


increasing relevance

Researchers have discovered critical vulnerabilities in processor chips made by Intel, AMD, ARM, Qualcomm, and other companies. The two exploits allow attackers to access a core program of a computer's operating system, and extract protected data.

The US Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security have published a draft report – open for public consultations – titled Enhancing the Resilience of the Internet and Communications Ecosystem Against Botnets and Other Automated, Distributed Threats. The report recommends establishing basic security standards for IoT devices in home and industrial applications, and promoting international adoption through bilateral arrangements and the use of international standards. It also encourages more efforts from the industry to develop solutions for preventing and mitigating distributed threats.

Japan and Estonia announced they will strengthen their cooperation on cybersecurity, and in particular, cyberterrorism. Japan will also join the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence, based in Tallinn, Estonia.

A new German law has entered into force, requiring Internet platforms with more than two million users to proactively report and delete illegal content swiftly. Pressure on Internet companies to tackle illegal content mount also in the UK), and at EU level.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

Singapore, which started its chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2018, singled out e-commerce as a priority. ASEAN's digital economy is projected to reach USD$200 billion by 2025.

The EU has started its work on the 2018 programme, which will focus on adopting pending legislation in line with the Digital Single Market strategy. Two proposed directives for boosting e-commerce which the Commission will seek to finalise this year are the Digital Content Directive and the Online Goods Directive.

Google reportedly moved billions in revenue to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes, Bloomberg revealed. Following the growth of e-commerce in Southeast Asia, several ASEAN countries are introducing, or considering introducing, taxes on e-commerce sales.

Trade negotiations between the EU and several Latin American countries are picking up. EU–Mexico talks have resumed, while EU–Mercosur talks are also expected to resume shortly.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

In preparation for the entry into force of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), ICANN has proposed models to ensure compliance of the so-called WHOIS policy with the data protection rules. All three models proposed a tiered/layered access to domain name registration data, as opposed to current policies which allow broad access to such data.

France has added data and artificial intelligence to the list of sectors requiring approval by the state before companies are acquired by foreign investors. The French Finance Minister hinted that foreign investors should not be allowed to market citizens’ data.

A number of shutdowns were reported: In DR Congo, the telecommunications ministry has cut off access to the Internet as anti-government protests continue. The Iranian government control has shut down social media and disrupted Internet access in response to protests; online applications such as Toosheh (for downloading resources via satellite) and Torjani (resources for victims of domestic violence) are spreading to help users, especially women, continue to function online in spite of these controls.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

Apple has set up a new data storage centre in China to comply with the country’s rules. The company’s new terms and conditions agreement with China reveals that all personal information and files of Chinese customers stored on the iCloud will be shared with the Guizhou-Cloud Big Data and could be further assessed and scrutinised by Chinese authorities.

Around 300 companies, groups, and individuals have filed briefs with the US Supreme Court, in support of Microsoft in its long-standing battle with the US government over access to e-mails held on the company’s Irish data server. Among those who filed briefs were the European Commission on behalf of the EU, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy.


same relevance

Alphabet-owned Google is planning to build three submarine cables in 2019 to expand its cloud computing infrastructure. The first, called the Curie cable, will connect Los Angeles to Chile; the second cable, Havfrue, built in partnership with Facebook, will link the USA to Denmark and Ireland; the third cable, for the Pacific region, will run from Hong Kong to Guam. With these three connections, Google now has direct investment in 11 cable systems.

In line with President Trump’s memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba, the USA is examining technological challenges for expanding Internet access in Cuba.

Net neutrality

increasing relevance

Following December’s vote by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to repeal net neutrality rules, legislators in different states across the USA are proposing bills to enforce the net neutrality principle at state level. The US Senate is expected to vote on a draft billthat would reverse the order with which the FCC repealed the net neutrality rules. The bill is now entitled to bypass committee review and move directly to a Senate floor vote.

Meanwhile, AT&T has called for an Internet Bill of Rights to be adopted by the US Congress. Critics argue that the call is targeted at Internet companies such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google, which have not been subject to as much regulatory scrutiny as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

In line with its Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, announced in 2017, China will build a technology park for over 400 companies working in artificial intelligence, with an investment of USD$2.1 billion.

Half of all new cars in China will be powered by AI by 2020.

In Stockholm, citizens can use driverless buses for free during a trial project implemented by Ericsson in collaboration with Stockholm City.

Geneva digital developments

Many policy discussions take place in Geneva every month. The following updates cover the main events of the month. For event reports, visit the Past Events section on the GIP Digital Watch observatory.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Working Groups

The Expert Group tasked with reviewing the the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) met on 17–19 January, and continued discussions on whether the ITRs should be revised. Some members stated that a revision is not necessary, as the ITRs should remain focused on international telecommunications. Others called for substantive revisions, such as including provisions on cybersecurity and data protection issues.

The ITU Council Working Group (CWG) on International Internet-related Public Policy Issues held an open consultation on 22 January, on ‘Bridging the gender digital divide’. Recommendations were made for how stakeholders could enhance women’s empowerment through digital technologies. The topic was also addressed at the Group meeting on 25–26 January.

The CWG on Child Online Protection met on 23 January and discussed the results of a youth online consultation on digital literacy. Participants also exchanged experiences in areas such as eliminating child sexual abuse imagery online, and addressing cyberbullying.

The CWG on WSIS: Implementation of Outcomes, on 24–25 January, reviewed ITU activities related to the implementation of outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), while making recommendations for strengthening the alignment of WSIS and sustainable development goals (SDGs) processes.

Big Data, Big Problems?

This roundtable on ‘Challenges and Opportunities in the context of Data Ownership, Privacy and Protection’, held on 24 January, was organised by the Carlo Schmid-Network for International Politics and hosted by the Delegation of the EU to the UN in Geneva. It gathered 70 participants, most of whom young professionals at international organisations, who engaged in a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of big data in the fields of global health, trade, humanitarian affairs, migration, and diplomacy. While the opportunities of big data in these fields are becoming increasingly evident, many argued that appropriate regulation of big data and data ownership today is more urgent than ever before, not only to protect privacy rights, but also to make sure that as many people as possible benefit from the huge opportunities big data promises.

WSIS Forum 2018 Open Consultation Process – Second Meeting

WSIS Forum will be held on 19–23 March this year. Preparations started at the end of 2017, and the second open consultation meeting, on 24 January, provided an opportunity to provide updates to the community on improvements, changes, and deadlines for this year’s event. As in previous years, WSIS will feature 17 Project prizes, a WSIS Photo contest, more than 55 exhibition stalls from all stakeholder groups, a hackathon, a TEDx event, and a high number of workshops. What is special this year is the celebration of 15 years from the Geneva Plan of Action, for which planning is ongoing for both a high-level component and a social event. More than 2500 participants are expected and early registration is encouraged.

CSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation – 5th Meeting

The WGEC was created by the UN General Assembly in 2017 with the aim ‘to develop recommendations on how to further implement enhanced cooperation as envisioned in the Tunis Agenda’. The fifth and final meeting on the WGEC, on 29–31 January, was expected to produce a final report, building upon the second draft report prepared by the chairman of the group.

The chair’s report provided an overview of the steps taken by the group to better define enhanced cooperation, and made recommendations: a set of high-level characteristics and principles that should guide the implementation of enhanced cooperation and some ways for promoting dialogue and coordination among member states and other stakeholders, taking into account of existing work and support existing international fora.

Based on the feedback received during the meeting, the chair put forward a third draft report, with a shorter set of recommendations, which provoked mixed reactions among WG members. As divergences could not be bridged, the meeting concluded without an agreement on a final report. Instead, the chair is expected to prepare a Chair’s Summary, to be discussed at 21st session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) in May 2018.

Issue no. 27 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 31 January 2018, by the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Stephanie Borg Psaila, Jovan Kurbalija, Marilia Maciel, Roxana Radu, Barbara Rosen Jacobson, Sorina Teleanu | Design by Viktor Mijatović, layout by Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Diplo’s CreativeLab