last 7 days

19 Sep

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

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'. 

15 Sep

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to make a final decision with regard to the US net neutrality rules by the end of the year, a coalition of activists and civil society organisations is planning a new action in support of net neutrality, for late September. The Battle for the Net initiative, which also organised the Day of online action on 12 July, is now encouraging Internet users to travel to Washington DC, on 26–27 September, and meet members of the Congress, to advocate for maintaining the 2015 net neutrality rules. According to the campaign website, meeting with members of the Congress ’is by far the most effective way to influence their positions’ in the ongoing net neutrality debate. Activities in support of net neutrality are also planned throughout the country.

Google is being sued for gender discrimination in its employee practices, over pay discrimination and channeling of women into lower paying job tracks. Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano said that 'Job levels and promotions are determined through rigorous hiring and promotion committees, and must pass multiple levels of review, including checks to make sure there is no gender bias in these decisions.' The current lawsuit, however, 'alleges that Google segregates women into lower paying jobs that curb progression, while men with equivalent qualifications face no such hurdles'. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor 'found systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce', although Google disputes this contentionAccording to Google's VP of People Operations,  'Google’s updated workforce representation data shows that overall women make up 31 percent of our employees. In the past three years, women in tech roles have grown from 17 percent to 20 percent (from 19 percent to 20 percent over the last year) and women in leadership roles have grown from 21 percent to 25 percent (from 24 percent to 25 percent over the last year.'

Accessibility for persons with disabilities is possible and necessary according to The Internet Is The Next Frontier In Making The World Accessible To All. Author Anzilotti notes that the crucial space of the Internet has been bypassed, even though developers can program websites to be accessible, quoting Marek Lacek of Accessible360 as saying 'They’ve just never been trained because no one has raised it as an issue. When they write code, they write it for the able-bodied.' Lacek highlights the need to develop accessible sites, from a business, as well as an ethical standpoint: 'If you have a presence on the Internet, you need to be accessible.' Anzilotti concludes: 'Failing to bring along a near quarter of the population by leaving their websites inoperable for people with disabilities is both a poor business strategy and a breach of civil rights.'

14 Sep

To address the gridlock on European tax reform due to the current practice of unanimous decision-making, Jean-Claude Juncker urged EU states start making policy changes by 'qualified majority'. Yet, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the country will resist any plans that would remove its veto over tax policy. According to the minister, 'the need for unanimity...is a core issue of how the European Union manages issues like this', and the proposed tax reforms 'would be a very very big economic challenge for Ireland'. Donohoe argued that the OECD should continue to lead efforts in digital taxation and tax evasion.

ITU and UNESCO's UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has released The State of Broadband 2017: Broadband Catalyzing Sustainable Development(link is external). The report provides a global snapshot of Internet access, examines trends in connectivity, reviews policy and regulatory developments, and presents a number of policy recommendations. Key findings from the report point out to a growing digital inequality between developed and developing countries, which is also accompanied by a growing gap in transmission speeds. The quality of connection is also very uneven among the 48% of the world population with access to the Internet. “The majority of the connected world remains under-connected, mostly in developing countries”. On the level of infrastructure deployment, the report remarked that there is fast-paced growth of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Africa.

India’s central government has created an artificial intelligence (AI) task force whose mission includes making recommendations on how to leverage AI, drafting a policy and legal framework to accelerate the deployment of AI technology, and developing recommendations for specific government, industry, and research programmes. The task force, composed of 18 members, will focus its work on domains such as manufacturing, fintech, healthcare, education, human and robot interaction/intelligent automation, big data, and national security. It will also explore the social implications of AI and develop recommendations on how to implement AI in line with ‘India’s needs and its social fabric’.

Following last week's proposal by France, Germany, Italy and Spain to the EU to create an 'equalisation tax' - which would tax Internet companies where their revenues are generated - EU President Jean-Claude Juncker highlighted this issue in his State of the Union Address. Not only did he voice his support for 'fair taxes for the digital industry', he also expressed his hope for a Union 'where profits will be taxed where they were made'. These discussions only intensified with the presentation of a report by an EU lawmaker, concluding that between 2013 and 2015, the EU could have lost 5.4 billion euros in taxes from Google and Facebook. In the meantime, the Director of OECD's Centre for Tax Policy has voiced concerns about the four EU countries' proposal, claiming that taxes on revenue might result in loss-making firms being forced to pay.

The Advocate General Szpunar of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a preliminary opinion in the case VCAST Limited v. R.T.I SpA, C-265/16 referred to CJEU by the Turin Court of First Instance. The case concerns the interpretation of EU law when a commercial undertaking (the UK company VCAST, a 'video cloud recorder') provides cloud-based recording services for its users without authorisation from the relevant rightholders (RTI, part of the Mediaset Group). In his Opinion, Szpunar offered an explanation of cloud computing and noted that the CJEU is asked to consider whether the private copying exception is applicable in a context in which the act of reproduction is not done directly by the beneficiary of the exception, since copying requires the intervention of a service provider. The remote video recording of private copies of different programmes aired around the world was done with the involvement of the commercial undertaking VCAST, rather than by users themselves and thus the private copying exception does not apply, Szpunar concluded. A final decision is expected from the CJEU in this case.




ITU and UNESCO's UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has released The State of Broadband 2017: Broadband Catalyzing Sustainable Development. The report provides a global snapshot of Internet access, examines trends in connectivity, reviews policy and regulatory developments, and presents a number of policy recommendations. This year, the report adopts a particular focus on the utility of broadband technologies in accelerating towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the goals related to food security and ending hunger; health and well-being; inclusive and quality education for all; and protecting the environment. According to ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, 'Broadband is crucial to connecting people to the resources needed to improve their livelihoods, and to the world achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Facebook will stop allowing advertisers to make changes in the news articles they promote on the social media platform. The company was alerted of this practice by Wall Street Journal, which had found examples of advertisers subtly modifying press coverage about their companies or products. The publishers of these news articles are concerned that their content is shared with consumers in ways that are outside of their knowledge and control. According to the new policy, advertisers 'shouldn't be able to edit headlines on stories they didn't create'. 

13 Sep

The European Commission has shared draft guidelines with Reuters, increasing the pressure on Internet companies to remove illegal content more proactively. The guidelines include measures that  companies should take, including the creation of 'trusted flaggers' (teams with expertise in identifying illegal content) and 'taking voluntary measures to detect and remove illegal content'. Current EU legislation limits the influence of policymakers on the conduct of companies, which are not liable for the content posted on their platforms. Internet companies have been raising their efforts to tackle the problem of illegal content, agreeing to the EU Code of Conduct and the establishment of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism

The European Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament on a “Balanced and Progressive Trade Policy to Harness Globalization”. In this document, the Commission lays out its vision and priorities in the field of trade negotiations, and makes some concrete proposals in several areas such as: creating a framework to screen foreign direct investment in the EU; starting negotiations to create a multilateral court for the settling of investment disputes and engaging in negotiations to conclude trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand. The multilateral court would build on the investment court system already enshrined in two EU deals, including the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and in the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement. Both agreements contain a reference to a potential future multilateral system. The Commission also proposed measures to enhance transparency in trade negotiations, by making public its recommendations for negotiating directives and by creating a group to provide advice on EU trade policy. The document highlights the importance of trade objectives to the fulfilment of other European policies, such as development and security. Some of the topics included in the Communication were part of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s annual “State of the European Union” speech.

Does the Internet support multilingualism? Prof. Leketi Makalela discusses whether tech is killing indigenous African languages. African languages have faced many threats, but Makalela points out that technology is actually bringing hope to save African languages that might have died if it weren't for 'technology, social media, and popular culture, which help them evolve to adapt to the digital age'. While Makalela accepts the need for the lingua franca offered by English, he is ultimately optimistic about the effect of technology and the Internet: 'While technology is often seen as eroding African values, accelerating moral degeneration and the loss of ubuntu, practice is suggesting that it is having an opposite effect on languages.'

Financial support will be provided for local wireless access points in the EU under the project WiFi4EU, free of charge and without discriminatory conditions. The funds will be used in a “geographically balanced manner” in more than 6000 communities across member states on a “first come, first served” basis. Connection will be available in centres of public life, including outdoor spaces accessible to the general public, libraries, public administration and hospitals.

Over the summer, YouTube removed thousands of videos of the Syrian civil war, flagging it as illegal content. Now, Syrian activists are concerned that YouTube's content policy could mean that crucial evidence of human rights violations has disappeared. According to the Syrian Archive, which aims at preserving open source evidence of crimes committed in the Syrian conflict, about 180 channels were shut down since June, when YouTube started to sift through videos using machine learning methods. While the Syrian Archive managed to salvage around 400,000 videos, 150,000 videos remain lost, and are subject to YouTube's decision on whether to reinstate them. According to the group's co-founder, 'this is very dangerous, because there is no alternative for YouTube'. 

The US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration have released a new set of guidelines for automated driving systems (ADS), replacing those approved in 2016. Under the title ‘A Vision for safety 2.0’, the guidelines are intended to provide ‘a nonregulatory approach to automated vehicle technology safety’. One section on ‘Voluntary guidance for automated driving systems’ outlines 12 priority safety design elements for consideration by the automotive industry, on issues such as cybersecurity, human machine interface, crashworthiness, consumer education and training, and post-crash ADS behaviour. The guidelines also clarify federal and state roles in the regulation of ADSs, and provide best practices and recommendations for states to consider when developing legislation and regulations for ADSs.

last 30 days

12 Sep

In a letter sent to the ICANN Board on 7 September and published by ICANN on 12 September, Amazon asks the Board ’to immediately approve [its] long-pending .amazon applications’. The company builds its request on the July 2017 declaration of an Independent Review Process Panel (IRP), which concluded that the Board acted in a manner inconsistent with ICANN bylaws when rejecting the application for .amazon. The letter also underlined several reasons why Amazon is of the view that its generic top-level domain applications should be approved: ‘because there is no sovereign right under international or national law to the name “Amazon”, because there are no well-founded and substantiated public policy reasons to block our Applications, because we are committed to using the TLDs in a respectful manner, and because the Board should respect the IRP accountability mechanism’.

11 Sep

10 Sep

In the context of an increasing wave of concerns with regard to autonomous weapons, the UK Ministry of Defence has reportedly announced that the country has a policy of not developing and using fully autonomous weapons. According to the policy, cited by The Guardian, the UK opposes the development of autonomous weapons system that could operate without human control: ‘UK policy is that the operation of weapons will always be under control as an absolute guarantee of human oversight, authority and accountability. The UK does not possess fully autonomous weapon systems and has no intention of developing them.’ Minister Mark Lancaster was quoted for saying that, while the UK does not ignore robotics and is keeping its military up to date with technological evolutions, ‘weapons will always be under human control’.

The government of Mexico signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alibaba to help Mexican business owners reach a larger audience and facilitate their entrance in the Chinese market through e-commerce. Alibaba will also share their logistics and payment platforms to foster the cross-border e-commerce capabilities of Mexican SMEs.

9 Sep

DMM Group, the Japanese e-Commerce giant, recently unveiled plans to mine Bitcoins, aiming to become one of the world’s largest mining farms. The details of the plan will likely be revealed in the beginning of 2018, but DMM has already established a Virtual Currency Division tasked to oversee the project.

Finance ministers of France, Germany, Italy and Spain are requesting the EU to create an 'equalisation tax', which would tax Internet companies on their turnover rather than on their profits. This would force Internet companies to pay tax where they make money, instead of where they are registered. Currently, profits are only reported where the companies' subsidiaries are located, such as Ireland, even if the revenues are generated elsewhere. Earlier this year, French judges ruled that Google was not required to pay taxes on its revenues made in France as it lacked a 'permanent establishment' there. According to the letter sent by the four ministers, the EU 'should no longer accept that these companies do business in Europe while paying minimal amounts of tax to our treasuries'.

8 Sep

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has proposed the creation of a single global drone registry, with the aim to make drone-related data accessible in real time. As explained by Reuters, the registry would act as a one-stop-shop allowing law enforcement agencies to remotely identify and track drones, as well as their operators and owners. The idea is expected to be further discussed at ICAO’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Industry Symposium, to be held on 22–23 September, in Montreal, Canada.

Aljazeera and Quartz Africa both report that Togo has shut down Internet access to counter protests against President Gnassingbe's rule. Blocking of text messages has also been reported.  While WhatsApp, Facebook, and other apps are being blocked, some users are crossing the border to Ghana to find access.

7 Sep

In an interview over net neutrality with the Marketplace, the chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, spoke in favour of the net neutrality issue being tackled by the US Congress. Making reference to the past months of intense debates in the USA over net neutrality rules, Pai said ‘the Congress would be well-positioned to take hold of this issue and just figure out what the rules or the road are going to be long term’. He added that a regulatory framework set by the Congress would bring more certainty for the FCC as well as the public as to what rules are applicable and to what extent. But Pai also noted that there is a potential downside with a legislative solution to the net neutrality debate, saying that ’the trade off with legislation is that you're capturing a snapshot of the marketplace in a moment in time, and that snapshot can be yellowed with age’.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University have released a report outlining security flaws in IOTA, a cryptocurrency that supports Internet of Things transactions. Currently the eighth largest cryptocurrency by market cap, IOTA worths over a billion dollars, and is working with entities like Microsoft, University College of London, and Cisco. Researchers explained that they were able to break the hash function used by IOTA as part of its digital signature scheme (which is used to ensure that funds can only be spent by rightful owners). They demonstrated how an attacker could forge a digital signature to steal users’ funds. The vulnerability was reported to the IOTA team in July, and a patch was issued in August. While the vulnerability is no longer present in IOTA, researchers have published their findings to draw attention on the fact that organisations need to vet technologies before they partner with them.

IBM and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced a 10-year partnership on research in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), and the creation of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. The Lab, aimed at achieving ‘fundamental scientific breakthrough at the heart of AI’, will be focused on four research pillars: AI algorithms, the physics of AI, the application of AI to industries, and advancing shared prosperity through AI. As explained by IBM’s Vice President of AI and IBM Q, Dario Gill, the Lab will try to address some of the main ethical and societal concerns surrounding AI, by working on ’the creation of AI systems that can detect and mitigate human biases, building trustworthiness and explainability into AI systems, ensuring that AI systems complement worker skills that might be in short supply and exploring how productivity gains will be distributed across firms, workers and consumer’. The company plans to invest $240 million in the Lab over the next 10 years.

5 Sep

The member countries of the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – held a summit from 3 to 5 September. The Xiamen declaration, published at the end of the meeting, contains language on how to strengthen cooperation and covers topics from global economic governance to international peace and stability. The member countries committed to expand converging interests in trade and investment and to support the multilateral trade system embodied in the WTO. More specifically, members intend to strengthen coordination on positions towards the upcoming Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference. Among the outcome documents of the meeting, there is a BRICS Action Agenda on Economic and Trade Cooperation, a BRICS Trade in Services Cooperation Roadmap and a BRICS E-commerce cooperation initiative.

4 Sep

Leaders of the BRICS group of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) adopted a joint Declaration of their meeting in Xiamen, China. The Declaration expresses support to the central role of the UN with regards to developing norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, and re-confirms the principles of the International law as in the UN Charter – especially related to sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, non-interference, and human rights and freedoms. The BRICS leaders call again for a UN-based universal regularity binding instrument on combatting cybercrime, and invite for enhanced international cooperation against terrorist use of ICT. The Declaration also announces a BRICS Roadmap of Practical Cooperation on Ensuring Security in the use of ICTs, and the future BRICS intergovernmental agreement. In addition, the leaders advocate for the establishment of internationally applicable rules for security of ICT infrastructure, data protection and the Internet that can be widely accepted by all parties concerned, and jointly build a network that is safe and secure.

The Australian National University has announced the creation of an Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Institute (3A Institute), to focus on developing Australia’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Co-founded with CSIRO’s Data61, Australia’s largest data innovation network, the 3A Institute ‘will bring together the best researchers from around the world and a range of disciplines to tackle complex problems around AI, data and technology and managing their impact on humanity’. While welcoming the initiative, Arthur Sinodinos, Minister for industry, Innovation and Science noted that AI ‘represents a huge opportunity for Australia, but in order to seize this opportunity, we need a collaborative approach to understanding its implications’.

Continuing his series of warnings about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI), Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that AI could lead to the third world war. Few days after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned about the risks of global monopolies in AI, Musk said that ‘competition for AI superiority at national level’ will most likely lead to the third world war. Musk’s concerns are related to both the possibility of world leaders starting the war, but also of an overcautious AI system that could decide ‘that a [preemptive] strike is [the] most probable path to victory.

Chinese regulators put a hold on an Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) system of crypto-company monetization. The Initial Coin Offering is a principle in which companies working on cryptographic/distributed solutions, issue tokens as a way of monetizations. In the past two years ICO’s became significant income for the entire industry. Only in 2017 more than 1.2 Billion of dollars were raised from investors following the ICO. Chinese officials are claiming that ICOs are not legal money raising procedures and put a hold on every future ICO. They are reasoning this decision as a way of protecting the investors from the unregulated territory. Indeed, many ICOs served as a smoke mirror for illegal activities and financial scams like a pyramid scheme. This decision made an impact on crypto-solutions market causing it to sink for 20 per cent. There are some indications that China government might allow ICOs again, once they are regulated accordingly. People's Bank of China, China Securities Regulatory Commission, China Banking Regulatory Commission and China Insurance Regulatory Commission issued a joint statement [chinese] where they reiterated that ICOs are unauthorized illegal fund raising activity.

1 Sep

The five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) have each been allocated the equivalent of a /20 of IPv4 address space from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). These allocations have been made from IANA’s recovered IPv4 pool, in line with a global policy adopted in May 2012. The recovered IPv4 pool which contains fragments left over in the IANA inventory after the last /8s of the IPv4 space are delegated to the RIRs, and IPv4 addresses returned to IANA by any means.

In August, the UK government launched a consultation on the implementation of the network and information systems (NIS) Directive - also knows as the Cybersecurity Directive), running until 30 September. EU member states have to implement the NIS directive into national law until 9 May 2018, before the end of the Brexit negotiations. Among other provisions, the NIS Directive imposes security and incident reporting obligations on key digital service providers - online marketplaces, search engines and cloud computing services - for which the UK government proposes definitions open to comments during the consultation. Following the Brexit referendum in June 2017, the consultation document mentions the 'government's intent that on exit from the European Union this legislation will continue to apply in the UK'. 



India has established new rules that legalise temporary phone and Internet service shutdowns 'during a "public emergency" or for "public safety'"'. The new rules [original] are reportedly in response to strong criticism of the more than 40 shutdowns in 2017 alone.

Speaking about artificial intelligence (AI) during a meeting with students, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that AI brings in ‘colossal opportunities and threats that are are difficult to predict now’, and that ‘the one who becomes the leader in this sphere will be the ruler of the world’. Putin also warned that ‘it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position’ in this field, and said that Russia would be willing to share its expertise in AI with other countries.

30 Aug

The Ministry of Electronic and Information Technology in India plans to issue Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) e-mail addresses to around five million civil servants in the country. In line with the plan, government employees are to be allocated Hindi-script e-mail addresses – in the format @सरकार.भारत (in English translation, government.india). The main motivation behind this decision seems to be related to the government’s desire to bring government data under its jurisdiction, as much of such data ‘resides on servers outside India and on servers beyond the control of the government of India’.

Alibaba commented on a report produced by AliResearch Institute, showing that e-commerce will become a thriving industry in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and will help to strengthen the ties among these countries. The report claims that gross merchandise volume generated via online shopping portals with grow 340% by 2020 and reach USD 3 trillion in BRICS countries. This would represent 59% of global e-commerce transaction value in five years, an increase by 41.8% since 2016. AliResearch attributed the foreseeable e-commerce boom to the maturing IT infrastructure, the prevalence of smartphones, and enhanced payment and logistics capabilities.The report was published a few days before the BRICS summit, which will take place from 3 to 5 September in Xiamen, China.

29 Aug

Cuban Internet access continues to evolve. The Cuban 'intranet' is both cheap and highly censored, according to Amnesty.org. Some sites, like Skype, are not accessible in Cuba without a VPN. Skype is blocked in Cuba, according to a report from the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), which works under the Tor Project. According to the Miami Herald, while pervasive, these methods are not truly sophisticated. Wall Street Journal columnist Mary Anastasia O’Grady just called Google a 'resource provider' to the Castro regime in Cuba. Google servers went live on the island of Cuba in April — meaning that services like YouTube videos can now be cached locally, inside the country. In addition to localisation, the supporting agreement signed in Havana in December contains a clause in which ETECSA (La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A) commits to 'not censor, surveil or interfere with the content stored as cache on those servers'. SNET, a separate and 'dark(ish)-web intranet first concocted in the early 00’s by gamers tired of lugging their desktops to each other’s houses to play StarCraft or Counter-Strike,' which evolved separately, offers the closest thing to the access that most of the world uses, sometimes with faster speeds.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in the Philippines has lifted the one-month suspension on Uber, after the company paid almost $10 million in penalties. The suspension, imposed earlier this month, was due to the fact that Uber failed to comply with an order to stop accepting new driver applications. The company resumed operations in the country after paying $3.72 million as a penalty, and $5.87 million as financial assistance to drivers, as requested by the Regulatory Board.

24 Aug

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The judgment, which will impact the lives of over 1.34 billion Indians, comes as the Indian government is seeking to roll out a biometric database (Aadhaar) linking personal details with iris scans and fingerprints. Petitioners had challenged the government's move to make Aadhaar mandatory. The Supreme Court’s judgment, which overruled an earlier lower court judgment declaring that the right to privacy is not a fundamental right, does not however invalidate Aadhaar. The validity of the scheme will be tested separately by the Supreme Court.

Google will roll out free Wi-Fi hotspots across hundreds of venues in Indonesia. The program called Google station will focus on public spaces like railway and bus stations. Google works with a range of partners that include ISPs and venue owners that operate the hotspots locally. The project started in India in 2016. Although the hotspots are free to use, they serve as an advertising platform and can be monetised eventually. 

Freedom of online speech is being actively discussed in conjunction with current events involving extremist views and events, such as the recent Charlottesville and Boston USA demonstrations. Positions vary widely, from the US National Review's Journalists Overreach in Their Quest to Purge ‘Hate’ from the Web to The Washington Post's Silicon Valley Escalates its War on White supremacy Despite Free Speech Concerns but include overlapping arguments. White supremacists are the target of Mashable's We've Crossed the Free Speech Rubicon. As this cartoon from XKCD from April 2014 illustrates, this is not a new topic but is currently an issue under serious discussion. From a technical analysis viewpoint, Measuring the Internet for Freedom describes a tool being used to explore the extent of censorship and blocking. Techcrunch describes What Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Others are Doing to Tackle Hate Speech.

Right to Free Speech Cartoon from XKCD

23 Aug

Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure has announced that it has adopted an action plan for the implementation of a set of guidelines for the programming of automated and networked driving systems. The guidelines, developed by an ethics commission on automated driving, contain principles such as: automated and networked driving is ethically necessary if the systems cause fewer accidents than human drivers; in the event of danger, the protection of human life always ha stop priority; in the case of unavoidable accidents, any qualification of people according to personal characteristics (age, sex, physical or mental constitution) is not permitted; in any driving situation, it is necessary to define and identify who is responsible for the driving task: the human being or the computer; drivers should have full control over what personal information is collected from their vehicles.

Unidentified criminals have managed to penetrate the network of the HBO and steal 1.5 terabyte of data, The Guardian reports, also conveying an HBO statement with confirms the incident though without additional information. The data includes the unreleased episodes and scripts of top shows such as ‘Game of Thrones’. The criminals have sent the ransom message to the HBO CEO, requesting 6.5 million dollar ransom in Bitcoins, warning that otherwise the emails, financial reports and unreleased episodes of hit shows will be published, Mirror reports. HBO has provided updates through Mashable that their investigations are ongoing, but there are no signs that sensitive data such as emails and reports have really been stolen, and it has not paid the ransom.

22 Aug

Google and Walmart have strengthened their partnership on e-commerce. Starting in late September, customers will be able to make Walmart purchases through Google Express, a platform where customers can buy and set up delivery from stores like Target and Walgreens. Google also announced changes to Google Express to better compete with Amazon Prime. The partnership between Google and Walmart represents a real test for Amazon. Walmart items will also be available through Google’s artificial intelligence interfaces, Google Assistant and Google Home smart speaker, which competes with Amazon’s Echo, the market leader for voice-controlled devices.

Salesforce.com, an American cloud computing company headquartered in San Francisco, California, has invested on e-commerce and artificial intelligence to spur Saleforce’s growth. Its products will be displayed in Dreamforce, the company’s annual conference. Commerce Cloud and Einstein are its main products. Commerce Cloud challenges the established software giants like Oracle Corp. The platform is powered by ‘Einstein’, which is able to offer products based on artificial intelligence/machine learning.

Mandatory arbitration clauses become more frequent in all type of contract with consumers, especially in Banking sector, which is why U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau started research about its effect. After many years of examination they proposed the rule that should preclude companies of depriving consumers of right to class action by accepting arbitration clauses. Class actions are very important mechanism in consumers disputes, given the unequal position of the parties in dispute, the value of the dispute, the cost of arbitration and many other factors. This is it is important to enable consumers to join together in claims over same manner since in this manner they can initiate actions that in other case would not be feasible, if they would be up to individual consumer. This decision is still waiting for Senate to give final call.

The World Economic Forum has recently launched the report 'Beyond Fintech: A Pragmatic Assessment Of Disruptive Potential In Financial Services'. The document considers the evolution and impact of fintech firms on financial services and presents outlooks for the future of the industry. Some key findings point to an increasing financial regionalization and the rising importance of platforms, which offer the ability to engage with different financial institutions from a single channel. This report draws and expands the conclusions of previous WEF’s publications: “The Future of Financial Services”, “The Future of Financial Infrastructure”, and “A Blueprint for Digital Identity”.  

The British government is considering creating an Internet ombudsman, who would address complaints related to hate crimes. In addition, a levy on social media companies would raise funds to assist in managing the rising costs of policing online offences. The idea of creating an ombudsman is also being developed in France and Australia.

The global spam rate for July was the highest seen since March 2015, increasing to 54.9 percent, reports Symantec in its July Intelligence report. Similar proportion of spam also reports the Kaspersky lab in its Spam and phishing in Q2 2017 report, however not indicating a peak in spam traffic. Both companies use their own metrics and mostly report on spam identified by their systems. 

Following news that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had requested a hosting company (DreamHost) to provide the IP addresses of visitors to a website used to organise anti-Trump inauguration protests, the DoJ has modified and narrowed down its initial request for information from the company. In a reply to the court, the DoJ explains that, at the time of the initial request, it was not aware of several details regarding the website and extent of visitor data maintained by DreamHost, and that it ‘has no interest in records related to the 1.3 million IP addresses that are mentioned in DreamHost’s numerous press releases and opposition brief’. In the light of this new information, the DoJ modified its request to state, among others, that: ‘DreamHost should not disclose records that constitute HTTP request and error logs’. In reaction, the hosting company said that, now, ‘visitors’ IP addresses are largely safe’, but that it goes ahead with its filling against the request, as ‘there are still a few issues we consider to be problematic’.


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