Welcome to this week’s digest. We bring updates from last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos and the fourth Ad Hoc Committee meeting in Vienna, which ran 9–20 January. In other updates, Ukraine called for a Cyber United Nations; Microsoft and Google employees were in for shocking layout announcements; and an AI training software landed in a UK court.
Let’s get started.
Stephanie and the Digital Watch team
// WEF IN DAVOS //
Talk of the town: Cybersecurity, ChatGPT, and the state of our world
The Swiss Alps were host to one of the major mostly-rich-countries’ meetings last week. Several key people made an appearance, including the UN Secretary-General and the European Commission chief, amid the launch of new WEF reports. The main highlights:
A Category 5 hurricane: In his remarks in Davos, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was unsurprisingly harsh about the ‘sorry state of our world’. One of the major global rifts – the East-West divide, that is, USA-China – risks creating ‘two different sets of trade rules, two dominant currencies, two internets and two conflicting strategies on artificial intelligence’. It’s essential that the USA and China resolve their differences on climate issues, trade, and technology.
Boosting clean tech: European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who focused mainly on the EU’s climate plans, applauded technology’s growing role: ‘The next decades will see the greatest industrial transformation of our times – maybe of any time. And those who develop and manufacture the technology that will be the foundation of tomorrow’s economy will have the greatest competitive edge.’
Economic progress: China’s vice-premier Liu He touted his country’s economic progress, which is down to five reasons. These include pursuing innovation-driven development, allowing the market and government to work together, and opening China’s door to the outside – which He says ‘will only open wider’.
Cybersecurity trends: WEF’s newly launched Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023, which assesses the private sector’s attitudes towards cybersecurity and risk, speaks of three trends: (1) Company chiefs believe that the aim of cyberattackers has turned towards disrupting business and inflicting reputational damage. (2) The companies’ security levels are as good as the level of security of other companies in their supply chain. (3) Since companies think the likelihood of a cyberattack is higher than ever, they’re directing resources to day-to-day defences rather than longer-term plans.
More bad news: Speaking of cybercrime, the WEF’s Global Risks Report 2023 identified ‘widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity’ as a new entrant on the list of the ten most severe risks in the next decade.
A new ville in the metaverse: The Global Collaboration Village – a WEF initiative, in partnership with Microsoft, Accenture, and 80 other organisations – hosted its first meeting during Davos week.
More digital from Davos: There were several digital-related sessions during Davos week, including a conversation between WEF’s Klaus Schwaab and Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella on AI’s golden age and ChatGPT’s potential (one of many sessions on ChatGPT), and a session with – among others – ITU’s new Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin and Microsoft President Brad Smith on the rising threats in cyberspace. Read the WEF’s digests from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.
// CYBERCRIME //
Ad Hoc Committee wraps up fourth session
The Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime, tasked with advancing a new cybercrime convention, wrapped up its fourth session last week in Vienna after a thorough second reading of the consolidated negotiating document (here’s the new version, as at 20 January). The highlights:
The USA, UK, and the EU, among others, want a stronger provision for protecting human rights in accordance with international human rights law (Article 5); China, Russia, India, and others are opposed to the entire article.
The so-called ‘clusters’ of offences are still an issue of contention, with one camp in favour of limiting the convention to cyber-enabled and cyber-dependent crimes (clusters 1 and 2), while the other wants to expand the convention’s competence to other offences (clusters 3 to 11).
One exception is the criminalisation of child sexual abuse (cluster 5), which attracted the most changes to the text. Negotiations indicate that the issue is not whether to extend the convention to include these crimes, but how to word the provisions. For instance, CARICOM is in favour of the original text; the EU, UK, and others want the convention to allow countries to change the definition of a child to include persons younger than 16 (currently, it’s below 18).
The procedural measures and law enforcement sections saw proposed changes to Article 43, which requires countries to enact laws that mandate the retention of traffic data and metadata for criminal investigation purposes, and a new Article 55, a loosely-worded provision for encouraging cooperation between national authorities and service providers.
// UKRAINE //
Ukraine calls for a ‘Cyber United Nations’
Ukraine has called for a Cyber United Nations – a global entity which would help share threat information and prepare for future attacks. The call was made by Yurii Shchyhol, the head of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, in a media interview.
‘We need the Cyber United Nations, nations united in cyberspace in order to protect ourselves, effectively protect our world for the future, the cyber world, and our real, conventional world,’ he said, with reference to Russia’s continuous cyber-menacing. ‘What we really need in this situation is a hub or a venue where we can exchange information, support each other and interact.’
// JOBS //
Microsoft announces job cuts for 10,000 workers
Microsoft announced that it would lay off 10,000 workers – nearly 5% of its global workforce – this year. The announcement was made by Satya Nadella, the company’s CEO. The backdrop? Cautious spending by customers and organisations due to the post-pandemic recession, and new advances in AI.
As for those whose jobs are safe, pressure is mounting: ‘Every one of us and every team across the company must raise the bar and perform better than the competition to deliver meaningful innovation that customers, communities, and countries can truly benefit from.’
Google to lay off 12,000 employees
Layoffs are spreading across the tech sector. Google has announced it will be letting go 12,000 employees – just over 6% of its workforce.
The reasons Google’s CEO Sindar Pichai gives in his announcement are similar to Microsoft’s: ‘Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth. To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today.’
There’s less pressure on the rest, though: ‘If you are just starting your work day, please feel free to work from home today,’ Sandella concludes.
// AI & IPR //
Getty Images sues Stable Diffusion AI image generator for copyright infringement
Getty Images has sued Stability AI, the company that produced AI art software Stable Diffusion, in the UK. The complaint is that the AI image generator scraped millions of images, infringing intellectual property rights in the process. The issue is not the software itself, but that Stability AI failed to obtain a licence from Getty Images to train its AI system.
A new trend. In a sign of things to come, in September 2022, Getty Images banned AI-generated content on its platform. So did its main competitor, Shutterstock. AI content generators may usher in a new wave of copyright infringement cases.
// DATA PROTECTION //
Ireland fines Meta €5.5 million for data breach
The Irish data protection authority has fined Meta €5.5 million for breaches of the EU’s data protection regulation by its instant messaging platform WhatsApp. In addition, WhatsApp Ireland must make its operations compliant within the next six months.
The main issue: The authority said that WhatsApp Ireland was forcing users to consent to processing their personal data ‘for service improvement and security’, in breach of the rules.
The other issue: In reaching this decision, the Irish data protection authority was following a binding decision by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB), required to be consulted by Ireland when it failed to bring its European peer regulators to agree with its decision. But the two are now at loggerheads: The EDPB has directed the Irish body to conduct fresh investigations on its WhatsApp cases; the Irish body says EDPB doesn’t have the authority to order it to do so. The case continues.
The ITU is hosting the second edition of the DC3 Conference, which will include a thematic track on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), and another on stablecoins and cryptocurrencies, plus high-level discussions.
25 Jan: Deadline for tax pros to comment on the OECD’s ‘Pillar One – Amount B’ consultation document. Pillar One forms part of the new global tax deal, which over 130 countries have signed up to.
26 Jan: Can we beat the chimps with data and statistics? Hans Rosling, the Swedish physicist behind Project Rosling, the organiser of this Geneva event, has often said that experts know statistically significantly less about the world than chimpanzees.
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