Digital Watch newsletter - Issue 40 - May 2019

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Digital policy developments in May

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

same relevance

The 50th World Telecommunication and Information Society Day emphasised the need to strengthen the participation of developing countries in the standards-making process of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Sustainable development

same relevance

At its 22nd annual session, the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (UN CSTD) discussed the impact of rapid technological changes on sustainable development.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) developed a framework to assess whether a nation’s science, technology, and innovation policies are in line with its development objectives. New Zealand launched an Action Plan to enhance digital inclusion nationally.


increasing relevance

The US President’s Executive Order on securing the information and communications technology and services supply chain affected Huawei.

France and New Zealand initiated the Christchurch Call to Action to eliminate extremist content online. Canada launched a Digital Charter for promoting trust in the digital world.

Singapore has a new law which criminalises the publication of fake news.

WhatsApp was exploited to install surveillance malware on smartphones. The Council of the EU adopted a decision allowing the EU to impose sanctions in response to cyber-attacks.

E-commerce and Internet economy

increasing relevance

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) opined that Airbnb is an information society service.

Uber drivers in several cities around the world protested against the company’s working conditions and pay practices. The US National Labor Relations Board concluded that Uber drivers are independent contractors.

Facebook announced plans to launch a cryptocurrency for digital payments by 2020. Kenya released a Digital Economy Blueprint with proposals to support the country’s economic growth. 

Digital rights

increasing relevance

The Irish Data Protection Commission launched investigations into ad tech giant Quantcast[link] and Google’s personalised advertsfor breaching the EU GDPR.

One year after the entry into force of the GDPR, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourová asked member states to respect ‘the letter and the spirit’ of the regulation.

The US Justice Department indicted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 17 counts of violations of USA’s Espionage Act.

Jurisdiction and legal issues

same relevance

An Australian worker won a landmark case against his employer after he refused to provide his fingerprints to sign on or off for work.

The US Federal Trade Commission is delaying a decision on a multibillion USD settlement with Facebook over privacy breaches.


same relevance

ICANN’s decision to continue processing the applications for .amazon attracted criticism from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

Huawei plans to invest $100 million in the development of cloud infrastructure in Chile.

SpaceX launched the first Starlink satellites, as part of its plans to provide affordable broadband across the globe.

Net neutrality

decreasing relevance

In a letter to EU officials, several organisations, companies, and individuals expressed concerns over the impact of deep packet inspection technology used by Internet access providers on net neutrality.

New technologies (IoT, AI, etc.)

increasing relevance

San Francisco banned the use of facial-recognition technology by the police and other city departments. A UK worker who believes his image was captured by the police via street cameras launched a legal action against the use of such technology.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued recommendations for combating gender bias in AI applications. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) adopted a Recommendation on AI, outlining principles for the responsible development of AI systems we can trust.

The UK government launched a public consultation on proposed security requirements for consumer Internet of Things products.

The Czech Republic adopted a National Strategy on AI, while the UK appointed a multistakeholder AI Council to help boost the growth of AI.

Chinese institutes and companies launched the Beijing AI Principles to guide the development and use of beneficial AI.

Policy discussions in Geneva

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

22nd Session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development – 13–17 May

The session discussed the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development and the role of science, technology, and innovation (STI) in building resilient communities. It further stressed the crucial role played by the sharing of knowledge and education to foster UNCTAD’s mandate and marked the launch of its Technology and Innovation Report 2018: Harnessing Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development. Read our reports from the sessions.

50th anniversary of World Telecommunication & Information Society Day – 17 May 2019

The 50th version of the World Telecommunication & Information Society Day (WTISD) recognised the efforts of the ITU as a driver of international standards and enabling mechanisms for the sharing of innovation. Discussions focused on the importance of standards through the example of smart cities, digital finances, and financial inclusion as well as through examples of joint World Health Organization (WHO) – ITU standards on safe listening and AI for health (AI4H). Read our report from the event.

72nd World Health Assembly – 20–28 May 2019

During its 72nd Assembly, the WHO adopted the eleventh revision of its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11), which recognises gaming disorder as a medical condition. The disorder is defined as 'a pattern of gaming behavior (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.'

AI 4 Good Global Summit – 28–31 May 2019

The summit was held under the theme of ‘Accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals’ and discussed practical applications of AI. Recognising the efforts of a number of countries that have developed or are developing national AI strategies, discussions focused on aspects of sustainable development and identified existing practices, missing norms and necessary adjustments to harness the potential of AI for sustainable development. Read our reports from designated sessions.

Issue 40 of the Digital Watch newsletter, published on 7 June 2019, by the Geneva Internet Platform and DiploFoundation | Contributors: Cedric Amon, Stephanie Borg Psaila (editor), Andrijana Gavrilović, Marco Lotti, Clement Perarnaud, Natasa Perucica, Vladimir Radunović, and Sorina Teleanu  | Design: Aleksandar Nedeljkov, Viktor Mijatović, and Mina Mudrić, Diplo’s CreativeLab