Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 41 - June 2019

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Digital policy developments in June 2019

With so many developments taking place every week, the policy environment is chock-full of new initiatives, evolving regulatory frameworks, new court cases and judgments, and a rich geo-political environment.

Through the Digital Watch observatory, we decode, contextualise, and analyse these issues, and present them in digestible formats. The monthly barometer tracks and compares them to reveal new focal trends and to determine the presence of new issues in comparison to the previous month. The following is a summarised version; read more about each one by following the blue icons, or by visiting the Updates section on the observatory.

Global IG architecture

increasing relevance

The UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation presented its report with a set of recommendations and an invitation for stakeholders to commit to a Declaration of Digital Interdependence.

Sustainable development

same relevance

The EU’s Digital Economy and Society Index reveals that all EU countries improved their digital competitiveness, but some still lag behind in digitalisation. The Women in Digital Scoreboard, which assesses the digital inclusion of women, finds that the gender gap is still present in the EU.

The Global Survey on Internet Security and Trust finds that more trust in the Internet is needed to support the digital economy.


increasing relevance

The UN open-ended working group, established to address developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security, started its work.

Iran argues it has exposed and dismantled a US cyberespionage network. Security firms report an increase in Iranian cyber-attacks, while the US administration is said to have launched cyber-attacks against Iranian computer systems that control missile launches.

The USA is reportedly escalating cyber-operations against Russia’s electrical grid.

China released a draft regulation outlining measures for network operators to protect children’s personal information online.

Two cases in the USA are alleging that Amazon's smart assistant Echo is permanently recording children's interactions without consent, while the US Federal Trade Commission is investigating YouTube over unlawful collection of children's data.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

Ten European cities asked the European Commission for help in addressing the expansion of short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb.

G20 finance ministers committed to develop a consensus-based tax policy by 2020. G20 trade and digital economy ministers outline plans for a human-centred digital society.

Facebook announced the official launch of its digital currency Libra, expected to be operational in 2020. Brazil plans to establish a commission to develop cryptocurrency regulations. Australia issued guidelines for Initial Coin Offerings and crypto-assets.

Digital rights

increasing relevance

Google faces new privacy complaints in nine European countries.

Italy’s data protection authority (DPA) fined Facebook €1 million over privacy breaches in the Cambridge Analytica case.The Swedish DPA launched an investigation into Spotify’s alleged violations of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The USA is requiring visa applicants to provide social media usernames and e-mail addresses for the previous five years.

Sudan and Ethiopia face Internet shutdowns.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

increasing relevance

The  CJEU Advocate General opined that Facebook can be ordered to identify comments identical to an illegal defamatory comment.

The CJEU ruled that paid VoIP services represent electronic communications services and must comply with applicable EU regulations. Web-based e-mail services, however, are not subject to telecom rules.

Sri Lanka announced plans to introduce new penalties for spreading fake news and hate speech online.

YouTube and Facebook introduced new policies to fight hate speech.

The UN Secretary-General launched the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech.


increasing relevance

Net neutrality

decreasing relevance

The chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission argued that Internet speeds are higher since the repeal of net neutrality rules.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

G20 trade and digital economy ministers endorsed a set of artificial intelligence (AI) principles, drawn from the OECD Recommendation on AI. EU’s High-Level Expert Group on AI released a set of Policy and investment recommendations for trustworthy AI.

The USA updated its National AI Research and Development Strategic Plan.

Amazon joined other tech companies in calling for regulations to govern the use of facial recognition technology.

San Francisco authorities plan to use AI to prevent bias in prosecutions.

Policy discussions in Geneva

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

ITU Council 2019  | 10–20 June 2019 

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Council approved proposals such as the Operational Plans for 2020–2023 and the strengthening of the organisation’s regional presence. The Council announced that it will prepare a report explaining how ITU is currently utilising the Global Cybersecurity Agenda. It will also develop appropriate guidelines for utilisation of the framework in collaboration with member states to be submitted for approval of the Council 2020. The ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, indicated that the Council would soon be provided with more information on the new headquarters. He thanked the team of external auditors for their findings which will be used to reinforce internal control mechanisms.

108th Session of the International Labour Conference | 10–21 June 2019

The session, held under the theme ‘Building a future with decent work’, celebrated the Centenary of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The conference adopted the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work which emphasises the role and relevance of the ILO’s mandate in the changing world of work, and includes a roadmap for action for the organisation. The declaration takes a human-centred approach to the future of work and focuses on enabling people to benefit from changes in the world of work, by strengthening the institutions of work to ensure adequate protection of all workers, and by promoting sustained, inclusive, sustainable growth and full and productive employment. The conference also discussed the impact of technology on the work environment and highlighted the importance of privacy and data protection as well as the need to regulate new forms of work.

The Geneva Cybersecurity Law & Policy Conference  |  20 June 2019

The conference discussed civil liability for cyber-attacks and the challenges of liability for Internet of Things (IoT) or AI-based breaches. The panellists discussed data protection in relation to cybersecurity breaches and the legal challenges such incidents represent for the prosecution of attacks to personal data. The discussions further focused on risk management and the future of cybersecurity. 

UN Human Rights Council ‒ 41st session | 24 June–12 July 2019 

During the Council’s 41st session, two reports were presented which are of relevance for digital matters. The first report was introduced by Mr David Kaye (Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion) and the other by Mr Clément Nyaletsossi Voule (Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly). In addition, several sessions and side-events looked into digital rights issues. The session on human rights and digital technology emphasised the need for human rights communities to engage more actively in cybersecurity and e-commerce processes that may impact human rights such as personal data protection and access to information. The session on surveillance technology and human rights called for a moratorium on the sale, transfer, and use of digital surveillance tools and technologies. Read our reports from this and other sessions.

Issue 41 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 17 July 2019, by the Geneva Internet Platform and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Cedric Amon, Katarina Anđelković, Stephanie Borg Psaila (editor), Andrijana Gavrilović, Stefania Grottola, Arvin Kamberi, Marco Lotti, Nataša Perućica, and Sorina Teleanu | Design: Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Viktor Mijatović, and Mina Mudrić, Diplo’s CreativeLab.