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16 Oct

An independent report commissioned by the UK government on ‘Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK’ estimates that artificial intelligence (AI) could add USD $814 billion (£630bn) to the country’s economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of gross value added (GVA) from 2.5 to 3.9%. To achieve this, and transform the UK into ‘the best place in the world for businesses developing and deploying AI to start, grow, and thrive’, the report outlines a series of recommendations, especially for the government. Among them: increasing ease of access to data in various sectors; larger workforce with deep AI expertise and more development of lower level skills to work with AI (to be achieved through AI-focused masters, PhD programmes, continuing professional development courses, and an international fellowship programme for AI in the UK, among others); more research on AI in different application areas (including through transforming the Alan Turing Institute into a national institute for AI and data science), and coordinated research capabilities; the creation of an AI Council to promote growth and coordination in AI; developing a framework for explaining processes, services, and decisions enabled by AI; and developing practical guidance on the opportunities and challenges of successful adoption of AI across the UK economy.

12 Oct

The Ministry of Industry and Technology in China has approved eight (8) new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), making it possible for registrants to use domain names under these gTLDs:  .work, .law, .beer, .购物 (Chinese for ‘shopping’), .fun, .online, .store, and .tech. Domain names under gTLDs can be used by Chinese registrants only if approved by the country’s authorities; without such approval, domain names can be registered, but they cannot be put to use in practice. The approval also means that the registries need to apply ‘more stringent controls on Chinese registrants’.

11 Oct

In its recently published Young Workers Index 2017, which compares level of participation in employment, education, and training of young people across 34 OECD countries, PwC explored, among others, the implications of automation for young workers. PwC estimates that, by the early 2030s, around 30% of jobs could be at risk of automation in many large and OECD countries. The risk of automation varies considerably across industries, with transport, manufacturing, and retail facing some of the largest risks (while health and social work, arts and entertainment, and education face the lowest risks). PwC also outlines several recommendations on how governments and the private sector can support workers in the automated world. Most of these recommendations focus on education, and include broadening education and training options for young people during school, focusing vocation training in STEM areas (as these jobs tend to be less at risk from automation), and engaging employers in training strategies.

The Department of Motor Vehicles in California, USA, is proposing new rules that would allow self-driving cars to be tested on public roads without a human in the driver’s seat. At the moment, California regulations (among the strictest in the USA) allow car companies to test autonomous vehicles with a driver behind the steering wheel, and there are 42 companies that have such permits. Under the proposed regulations, car companies would need to obtain written support from the local jurisdiction before going fully driverless, and must have a communication link to the car, and provide plans for remote operations. The proposed new rules, under public consultation until 25 October, would be in line with the legislation currently debated in the US Senate, allowing the sale of self-driving cars without steering wheels or other manual controls.

The British government has proposed a levy on social media companies and Internet providers that would help fund the government's online safety strategy, mainly aimed to address online bullying and abuse for children and other vulnerable users. The levy would initially be voluntary, although the government may look into underpinning it in legislation. Ultimately, ministers are examining whether social media firms could be classified as 'publications' instead of 'communication platforms', which would increase the companies' responsibility for the content on their platforms. According to digital minister Karen Bradley, 'The Internet has been an amazing force for good, but it has caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people' and 'We need an approach to the Internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy'.

In the statement from the Russia’s President’s office, Mr Putin and financial officials urged for more regulation around cryptocurrency, on a high level meeting held on Tuesday 10th October. Problems like money laundering and tax evasion are the main reason for proposed regulation. After this meeting, finance minister Anton Siluanov stated that Russia agreed on regulating crypto-industry. Earlier this month, deputy governor of Russian Central Bank announced that Russia will support efforts to: ‘block access to external websites selling cryptocurrencies in the country’. Regulation is expected to be introduced until the end of 2017.

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has announced new initiatives in the area of net neutrality. First, the entity has taken a decision to develop a net neutrality opt-in measurement tool, to be used by national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and end-users to measure the quality of fixed or mobile Internet access services and detect potential illegal traffic management practices such as blocking or throttling of specific applications. A tender for the development of the tool is expected to be launched in early 2018, and specifications are available. BEREC has also adopted a ‘Net neutrality regulatory assessment methodology’, aimed to assist NRAs in monitoring and supervising the implementation of the new neutrality provisions outlined in EU’s Open Internet Regulation adopted in 2015.

10 Oct

Estonia is said to be working on legislation aimed to address the legal status of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. The country’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is considering the creation of the term ‘robot-agent’, something which would place AI between having a separate legal personality and being an object that is someone else’s property. The ministry, however, needs to gather political support to go ahead with this idea. Siim Sikkut, Estonian government’s Chief Information Officer, sees advantages in giving AI the same legal status as natural and legal persons, noting that ‘if we seize this opportunity as a government, we could be one of the trail blazers’.

last 30 days

9 Oct

Apple CEO Tim Cook has met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, at Cook's request. France is leading a group of countries that are looking into ways to tax the Internet industry more effectively. According to French officials, Cook didn't push back against the plans of the French president and 'accepted that fiscal laws worldwide are shifting toward making companies pay tax where money is actually earned'. Cook and Macron also reportedly discussed climate change, education, and economic reforms.

The Federal Network Agency in Germany has decided that Deutsche Telekom’s StreamOn service partially violates net neutrality rules. StreamOn, a zero rating video and audio streaming service, was found to be in breach of net neutrality as the company does not treat video and audio services equally when reducing the high-speed data volume integrated in consumers’ mobile phone tariffs. The company, which has two weeks to address the issues identified by the regulator, has declared that it does not agree with the authority’s legal position, as ‘it only applies its own very narrow interpretation of EU law in this case’. On the other hand, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations is dissatisfied with the decision, arguing that the zero rating service should have been completely banned, as it ‘reduce[s] the freedom of choice for consumers, but also competition between service providers’.

Uber has decided to suspend its unlicensed service UberPOP in Oslo, Norway, until new regulations are introduced by the country. The service will be suspended on 30 October, but other Uber licenses service will continue to operate. Unlike UberX services, which relies on licensed drivers, UberPOP allows unlicensed drivers to provide transportation services to Uber users. UberPOP has already been suspended in other European cities, such as Paris and Brussels. In Finland, the service has been suspended for one year, until new taxi regulations are introduced. According to Uber, these measures are a result of the company ‘[learning’ the hard way that ‘it’ must change […] in order to serve the million of riders and drivers who rely on [it]’.

6 Oct

Internet companies face growing pressure for failing to address the ways in which their platforms were used to spread misinformation during the 2016 elections. According to Facebook, 470 profiles connected to Russian agents purchased about 3,000 advertisements ahead of Election Day, which were viewed by approximately 10 million U.S. users. Russia's interference through social media channels is being investigated by Robert Mueller, as well as the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Intelligence Committee, and the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to federal law, foreigners cannot purchase political ads, yet the automated purchasing systems of social media companies and the limited rules around ad disclosure make it difficult to enforce the law today. As a next step, Facebook and Twitter will face congressional hearings by the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee on 1 November.

5 Oct

In an unprecedented case, a Swedish man has been charged with the online rape of girls in three different foreign countries. Sweden's definition of rape does not require physical intercourse, but requires 'an act deemed to be as serious a violation of sexual integrity as intercourse'. According to one of the prosecutors, 'It’s only the sexual predator’s imagination that sets the limits. The technology knows no limits. So we have to adapt our mindset to, "What can a rape be?"' The charges involving 27 victims involved death and other threats unless the girls performed sexual acts while he watched on webcams. While this presents new and unusual facets of crime, prosecutors are hoping to set a precedent.

4 Oct

Hurricane Maria largely damaged Puerto Rico’s telco infrastructure in September 2017 leaving more than 90 % of Puerto Rico’s cell towers offline. The Puerto Rico’s telco regulator (Junta Reglamentadora de Telecomunicaciones de Puerto Rico), has announced only 43.3 % of telecommunication services were re-established by October 4. Local mobile carriers have agreed on opening their networks and signal sharing. International community and big Internet companies offered their help too. The NetHope’s Emergency Response team has been helping with connectivity restoration works in the Caribbean region since Hurricane Irma made landfall. Facebook sent its connectivity team and the Project Loon, the initiative of Alphabet, is exploring possibilities to bring emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico. For many Puerto Ricans the mobile connection can be the only option how to access the Internet due to the degree of damage on electrical grid and other networks. 

The European Commission has found that Luxembourg provided illegal tax benefits to Amazon of around €250 million. According to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, 'Amazon was allowed to pay four times less tax than other local companies subject to the same national tax rules' and could channel a large share of its profits to a holding company. As a result of the findings, Amazon needs to pay the €250 million to Luxembourg in back taxes. Luxembourg has rejected the findings and said it was considering legal options, while Amazon is considering an appeal. Amazon is one of the biggest employers in Luxembourg.
Commission finds Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon

The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in the US Senate has approved a bill on self-driving cars. The bill, which still needs to pass approval by the full Senate, would allow auto companies to sell a certain number of self-driving cars annually, as long as they demonstrate that they are as safe as regular cars (15.000/company on the first year, 40.000 on the second year, and 80.000 within three years). The bill would also allow states to adopt regulations on issues such as registration, safety inspection, and insurance, but the regulation of performance standards would be the sole responsibility of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This provision is seen as useful, as it would lead to uniform national safety standards, instead of different standards across different states in the USA. In terms of data protection, companies would be required to disclose what information the cars are collecting about individuals, and how that information is used. While companies working on self-driving cars welcome such legislation, there are also voices against it, coming especially from auto safety advocates.

3 Oct

DeepMind, Alphabet Group’s company focused on artificial intelligence (AI), has announced the creation of DeepMind Ethics & Society. The new research unit will complement the company’s work, by exploring the real-world impacts of AI and the key ethical challenges facing the field of AI. The unit will have two main objectives: helping technologists put ethics into practice, and helping society anticipate and direct the impact of AI to the benefit of all. Five key principles are to guide the work of the unit: social benefit (developing AI that serves the global social and environmental good), rigorous and evidence-based research (that explores the opportunities and challenges posed by AI), transparent and open, diverse and interdisciplinary, and collaborative and inclusive.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced the successful evaluation of Mauritania’s request for an Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) country code top-level domain (ccTLD). The IDN ccTLD, in Arabic script, is now pending delegation into the Domain Name System (DNS). At the moment, 58 IDN ccTLD requests for a total of 40 countries/territories have successfully passed through ICANN’s String Evaluation process. Of these, 56 IDN ccTLDs representing 38 countries/territories are delegated in the DNS root zone, with the remainder either readying to apply, or actively applying for delegation of the string.

2 Oct

Cameroon is suffering a new Internet shutdown, especially affecting social media sites, amid renewed protests in its Anglophone regions. Protests during the past year have been triggered by the requirement to use the French language in schools and courts in the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions. The government recently denied rumours that another shutdown was imminent, and telecoms companies are reporting disruptions in service without explanation.

                                                                     Map showing English-speaking regions of Cameroon

 

 

 

 

 

Billions are now online, but the digital gender divide persists in several ways. Women in developing countries still face difficulties in obtaining access. The number of women using the Internet is 12 percent lower than men, and in least developed countries, only one in seven women is online (compared to one in five men). Detailed statistics are available in the ITU's report  ICT Facts and Figures 2017.  On the job front, in the USA, for example, Internet access is widely available, but technical career conditions are not generally favourable for women. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, the largest global meeting of women technologists will discuss this issue in October. 

1 Oct

Freedom of expression is a concern in Egypt, illustrated by a Northwestern University in Qatar report on the results of a seven-nation survey on media use in the Middle East. The report includes an analysis of media use, free speech, and other issues. Interactive comparison charts of media use by platform, news consumption and preferences, Internet usage patterns, mobile media, and perceptions about free speech, privacy, and other related topics are included. The study 'also calibrates again the state of freedom of expression and other aspects of the media’s interplay with society and culture.'

                                                                 Chart: Political speech/freedom of expression on the Internet in the Middle East

North Korea established a new Internet connection via Russian TransTeleCom’s network. New connectivity makes the North Korean network more resilient against attacks and increases bandwidth capacity. Until now North Korea has been connected to the global Internet solely by China Unicom. TransTeleCom now handles roughly 60 % of North Korean Internet traffic, reports Dyn Research. Permission to access the Internet in North Korea remains tightly restricted.

In what may be a 'watershed' case, a U.S. professor is using the British court system to find out how he was digitally profiled and targeted by Cambridge Analytica, the company at the heart of the Trump campaign. Based on their online behavior, the company had created profiles of 240 million Americans, to subsequently target them with tailored content. U.S. citizens are unable to reclaim their personal data in the USA, due to lenient data protection laws. Yet, Cambridge Analytica originated from a 'British military and elections contractor', SCL, and it still has staff in SCL's London office. As a result, data from U.S. citizens was processed in the UK, and the US data protection framework indicates that 'it doesn't matter where people are: it matters where the data is processed'. The case could shine light on how the company could buy anonymous data from sources and re-identify their origins, as well as the company's ties with the military through SCL. Ultimately, it could be 'a really significant case in terms of the future of algorithmic accountability and data protection'. 

28 Sep

The European Commission has released guidelines to help Internet companies remove illegal content more effectively from the web, as they are under increasing pressure to do so. The guidelines include the companies' desired cooperation with EU Member States, the use of trusted flaggers, improving user-notifications, and investing in automatic detection and filtering technologies. The Commission may introduce legislation next Spring if it is not satisfied with companies' progress, although it is reluctant to move into that direction. EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova, said: 'I don't like this running to the Internet, and we politicians blaming the Internet for all our problems.' The Computer and Communications Industry Association, which represents the Internet industry, welcomed the Commission's guidelines. Yet, some are concerned that the Commission's recommendation for automation could infringe on free speech and could even represent 'an attack on our fundamental rights'.

The Canadian government made a deal with Netflix, which has agreed to invest 500 million Canadian dollars to create Canadian content. The company will establish a 'permanent production presence' in Canada, which will be the first time it has done so outside of the USA. Netflix has received criticism, as people fear that local content will disappear in the face of what some consider to be unfair competition. Yet there are concerns that the Canada-Netflix deal will not solve these issues, as 'the company has not had to abide by the same regulatory rules as Canadian broadcasters'. In addition, Quebec's Minister of Culture and Communications said he felt 'angry' and 'speechless' that the deal did not define the proportion of the money that would be dedicated to original French-language content. The government did not decide to impose special taxes on Netflix, as was suggested in January.

26 Sep

A mobile app which will provide information and support for persons with disabilities was launched by Union Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot in New Delhi. The app, 'Divyang Sarathi', will provide easy access to information about scholarships, and institutional support systems. An official statement said that 'This mobile application aims at providing all relevant information pertaining to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) including its various acts, rules, regulations, schemes, employment opportunities and the disability market in an accessible format'. Information, including audio notes, will be available in Hindi and English. The mobile application is compliant with the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, and addresses the needs of 2.2 percent of the population in India.

23 Sep

On 23 September, the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) issued a new resolution concerning the applications for the .amazon generic top-level domain. The resolution concerns a declaration of an Independent Review Panel which recommended that the Board re-evaluates the previously rejected applications and ‘make an objective and independent judgement regarding whether there are, in fact, well-founded, merits-based public policy reasons for denying Amazon’s applications’. In its resolution, the Board stated that further consideration was needed with regard to the Panel’s recommendation, and asked its Accountability Mechanisms Committee to review and consider the recommendation and provide options for the Board on how to address it.

22 Sep

Transport for London (TfL), the regulator of transportation services in the UK capital, announced that it is not renewing Uber’s licence as a private hire operator (which expires on 30 September). In a statement about its decision, TfL said that ‘Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence’, as Uber’s ‘approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications’. The company, which has 21 days to appeal the decision, said that it would do so, ‘to defend the livelihoods of all […] drivers, and the consumer choice of million on Londoners who use our app’.

Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Spain’s data protection watchdog, has issued a 1.2 million euros fine against Facebook for collecting personal data from Spanish users without informing them of how it was to be used. AEPD found Facebook collecting its users’ personal and sensitive data, such as user’s ideology, religious beliefs, and personal tastes and navigation, among others, without their ‘unequivocal consent’ and making the profit by sharing this data with advertisers and marketers. Media quotes Facebook’s response denying any wrongdoing and expressing the intent to appeal the AEPD’s decision.

21 Sep

Microsoft announced the Marea subsea cable has been completed. The cable has been laid along a route south of existing transatlantic cable systems making it an alternative route for data flows in case the existing system of cables is disrupted. One of the impetuses to build the Marea subsea cable were disruptions made by the Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The cable will be operational in 1Q 2018 and its maximal throughput will be 160 Tbps. It will be the highest capacity undersea link across the Atlantic. The Marea project is a common venture of Microsoft, Facebook and Telxius (Telefónica's telecommunications infrastructure company).

The joint press statement by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová, on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Review has been published. The first annual review of the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework took place in Washington, DC. It states that since the program’s inception, more than 2.400 organizations joined the Privacy Shield. The input on Framework compliance shared by Privacy Shield participants, civil society, and independent recourse mechanism providers was welcomed by the officials underlying the continued functioning improvements of the program this way. The review examined all aspects of the administration and enforcement of the Privacy Shield, as well as commercial and national-security matters. Both sides stated commitment to continued collaboration for the benefit of the Framework’s success.

Equifax, one of the three big consumer-credit reporting companies in the US, has confirmed a data breach that has possibly leaked personal data of 143 million people, including names, addresses, social security numbers and other. Recent report by Bloomber, however, claim that Equifax has discovered the breach in March, almost half a year before it reported it, possibly because it believed to had had the incident under control. According to ArsTechnica, the attackers likely spent months escalating their intrusion into Equifax's network. Security company Mandiant, which was hired by Equifax to investigate the breach, has reported dozens of IP addresses used by the attackers to penetrate the system, but has identified the identity of the attackers.

At its New York meeting on 20 September, members of the Internet for All Initiative of the World Economic Forum discussed various questions related to providing access to the Internet. Digital skills training was one of the focus areas of the group composed of numerous stakeholders, most of them from the donor communities. Internet for All establishes and facilitates physical and digital platforms at the global, regional and national level, that aim to create new Internet users, with a focus on the hardest to reach. The work on the digital skills will also be reflected in the upcoming event concentrated on inclusion organised by IEEE.

One of the three main U.S. credit reporting agencies, Equifax, issued a press release stating the discovery of ‘an unauthorised access’ to personal data of their consumers. First information indicates the data breach may have affected 143 million Equifax consumers exposing their full names, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, date of birth, home addresses, and in some cases driver’s license numbers, as well as ‘certain dispute documents with personal identifying information’. The company added that the breach also affected ‘limited personal information’ of certain U.K. and Canadian residents. Media reports the investigation has shown that the unauthorised access occurred from mid May through July 2017. The company has set up a website for their consumers to get an information whether their personal information have been impacted by the breach. 

In her speech to the United Nations General Assembly, British Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the dangers of extremist online content. According to May, 'we need to go further and faster to reduce the time it takes to remove terrorist content online, and to increase significantly their efforts to stop it being uploaded in the first place'. In a separate event organised by France, Italy and the UK, French President Macron stressed that 'in one hour, the content must be identified, analyzed and withdrawn to avoid it being broadcast widely', and Italian Prime Minister Gentolini argued that 'we can't reduce our ambition because of the difficulties'. Yet, Kent Walker, general counsel for Google, warned for the 'enormous technological and scientific challenge' of timely removing content. On behalf of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, he claimed that 'The haystacks here are unimaginably large and the needles are both very small and constantly changing.'

Russia has drafted a universal convention on countering cybercrime, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated during his speech at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, and proposed to open the discussion on it during the current UN session already. The draft of the convention was presented to the UN experts in Vienna in April but has not been made public; earlier this year, however, media has reported that Moscow sees the draft as a necessary replacement of the Council of Europe Budapest Convention of 2001, which it has not signed due to, among other, concerns over national sovereignty in case of trans-border access to stored computer data during investigation. According to these and other media sources, the draft convention lists various crimes including illegal access to information and its interception, creation of malware, and violation of copyrights; presents options of international cooperation such as joint investigations, information-sharing, and extradition of suspects even in case no bilateral agreements exist; proposes a 24/7 contact and support center for investigation; calls for holding regular conferences under the UN and the set-up of a permanent international commission on the technical means for combating crime. According to Lavrov, the draft convention on countering cybercrime also includes hacking. Appealing against the militarisation of information space and politico-military confrontation within it, Lavrov also invited for UN efforts on elaboration of the rules of responsible behavior.

20 Sep

An Internet ban continues in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) according to Bolo Ghi, an NGO that has called for an end to the shutdown. The suspension of Internet access, which includes mobile Internet services, has been in place for over a year, The current ban began on 12 June 2016 after a border incident with Afghanistan and is alleged to leave a 'gaping hole in terms of access to information and news'. Internet access has frequently been restricted or blocked in the area since broadband services were first available in 2005.

                                                                         History of Internet ban and access in Fata Pakistan

                                                                         Image source

Saudi Arabia is removing a ban on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Skype. VoIP apps have been prohibited since 2013, as the regime claimed they didn't comply with the country's regulations. According to the ministry of communications, the decision to allow access to VoIP is 'an important step in the kingdom's Internet regulation', which would 'reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship.' The ministry said that it will continue regulating the Internet to restrict content that violates the Saudi laws.

In Spain, judicial authorities have issued an order asking Fundació puntCAT, the registry for .cat (a generic top level domain serving the Catalan linguistic and cultural community), ‘to block all .cat domain names that may contain any kind of information about the forthcoming independence referendum to be held in Catalonia on October 1st’. The referendum had been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts. In a letter sent to ICANN, the registry has expressed concerns over the order, stating that it amounts to a censorship request and ‘places the burden of blocking domain names based on the content they may contain on the Registry operator’. Few days after the order, the Spanish police raided the offices of Fundació puntCAT and arrested the company’s head of IT.

According to a New York Times article, Google and Facebook have been trying to reach a compromise with lawmakers in response to a proposed bill against sex trafficking, which would hold Internet companies responsible for the harmful content on their platforms. The article states that companies have had to recognise the 'new environment in Washington' in which Internet firms are a focus of lawmakers, and that they 'could not stop the bill entirely because of strong political headwinds'. The bill would allow state and local authorities to prosecute websites that contain content related to sex trafficking. Industry and critics are concerned that the law would lead to numerous lawsuits to Internet companies as users' actions are difficult to control. Yet as the bill has received extensive political support from, Facebook and Google are discussing changes to the bill with senators.

19 Sep

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his annual speech on the State of the European Union at the European Parliament on September 13th.  Outlining particularly important priorities for the year ahead, Mr Juncker underlined that the EU needs to better protect Europeans in the digital age. According to Mr Juncker, Europe is still not well equipped when it comes to cyber-attacks, and cyber-attacks can be very dangerous to the stability of democracies and economies, know no borders and no one is immune to them. The Commission has proposed establishing a European Cybersecurity Agency, aiming to help defend the EU against cyber-attacks. According to the EU Observer, the existing EU cyber agency ENISA will thereby extend its mandate, boost its staff and budget, to be able to give operational assistance to EU states – including conducting cyber drills and creating protocols for cyber-crisis management - besides current work on policy recommendations. Details are available in the Commission proposal.

Economic ministers from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) - a proposed free trade agreement between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing free trade agreements (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand) - pledged to ramp up their negotiating efforts on an extensive regional free trade deal, following a meeting in Pasay City, Philippines. The mega trade agreement aims to cover goods, services, investment, competition policy, and intellectual property rights, among other issues. The next negotiating round for RCEP is scheduled for mid-October in Korea. RCEP would cover more than 3.5 billion people, or half the world's population, and 30% of global gross domestic product and trade. Although the RCEP countries will likely not meet the target of concluding the negotiations within this year due to differences in tariff reduction as well as services to be opened up, they aim to achieve a significant breakthrough when the leaders of ASEAN and their dialogue partners meet in November.

The members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are preparing another round of negotiations, due for 23-27 September. The gathering is part of an accelerated timeframe planned by ministers. The proposals under discussion touch upon several points related to digital commerce, such as taxation of online purchases. NAFTA has been in place for over two decades, with the countries involved responsible for approximately one-quarter of the world’s gross domestic product. An issue that remains unclear is how much of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s (TPP) terms will carry over into the NAFTA process. All three NAFTA parties were involved in the TPP negotiating process, until the US decides to leave the deal earlier this year.

18 Sep

Last December Uber made changes to its privacy settings removing the ‘While Using’ setting to location-sharing options. In practice, for users this meant having to agree to ‘share location information’ with the app all the time or not use the app. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that Uber reconsidered this change now giving their user the choice about sharing their location information. The ‘While Using’ setting is back, and Uber stated that the post-ride tracking will end also for users who pick the ‘Always’ option.

In its 2017 Global Internet Report: Paths to Our Digital Future, the Internet Society presents artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) as main drivers of change. According to the report, AI and the IoT ‘will transform both the Internet and the global economy’, bringing both opportunities (such as new services and scientific advancements) and uncertainties (ranging from changes to industry, employment, and public services, to questions of transparency, ethics, and accountability). The report recommends, among others, that economies and societies prepare for the disruption that AI and IoT are to bring, while drawing attention to the fact that there is a risk of AI benefits being unevenly distributed, and thus widening the digital divides. It is also suggested that ethical considerations be prioritised in the design and deployment of AI, and that humans remain ‘in the driver’s seat’.

China's second biggest e-commerce company, JD.com, and Thai retailer, Central Group, will jointly invest $500 million to establish two joint ventures in Thailand covering e-commerce and fintech services. JD.com will provide technology, e-commerce and logistics support to the e-commerce joint venture and provide its knowledge in financial technology sector to the fintech services joint venture. Central Group will open multiple flagship stores on the e-commerce platform for its department stores and key retail chains, as well as for select brands owned or operated by Central Group.

At a meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, EU finance ministers discussed the recently proposed plans by France, Germany, Italy, and Spain to tax Internet companies on their revenue, rather than their profit. Although there was agreement on the need to 'move forward swiftly', there was division among the EU on the proposal. About a third of the EU member states backed the proposal, which they hoped would enhance 'economic efficiency', 'tax fairness and sovereignty'. Yet, the plan also received extensive criticism. Denmark pointed out that it might push innovative companies away from Europe, and Luxembourg added that 'it doesn't make sense' to move without a global agreement. Some countries identified technical and legal challenges, and others feared it would divide the EU and cause friction with the USA. Generally, the plan was seen as a 'quick fix' for the short term, while in the meantime, more structural solutions should be found. One of these long-term solutions was proposed by Estonia and would 'permit states to tax companies where they have a digital, and not just a physical, presence'. 

 

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