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Convergence

2019

The European Commission decided to harmonise the radio spectrum in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band to enable future use of 5G across the countries. The amending implementing decision is in line with the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) which requires from Member States to support this band for 5G systems by 21 December 2020.  The decision of the Commission is based on the principles of technology and service neutrality, both provided by the EECC. The EU has tried to integrate this band since 2008, but a few number of licences has been required. The harmonisation of spectrum for wireless broadband electronic communications services will boost connection speed, provide more reliable mobile networks and expand mobile network coverage. The 5G is considered an important building block for the future of the digital economy.

The Catalan government released proposals for regulating ride-hailing apps, including a 15-minute wait time between a user booking and being able to take the transportation. The time proposed did not attend the taxis drivers who require the wait time to be at least 24 hours. In response, taxis drivers are now on strike. In August 2018, the central government agreed to transfer the regulatory competency for the ride-hailing apps to the regions, but the change was not enough to put an end to the disputes between both sectors. Taxi drivers want regulation to ensure fair competition.   

A court in Brussels ruled that UberX respects the legal requirements in Brussels and can continue to operate in the Capital of Belgium. The judge dismissed the appeal filed by a taxi association claiming that the company unlawfully provides taxi services. According to Lalibre.com, the judge decided that Uber does not provide transportation, does not own any vehicle, and does not need taxi license. In addition, it was ruled that the drivers cannot be considered employed by Uber, because they are free to choose their work time and there is no relation of subordination between the company and the drivers, which is typical of an employment relationship. 

2018

In the view of the permeability of algorithmic technics and automated data processing in all aspects of the contemporary life, the Council of Europe Committee of experts on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence has published a drafted Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member states to evaluate the impacts of the application of algorithmic systems in public and private spheres on the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The document outlines that the misuse of algorithmic systems can jeopardise the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and prohibition of discrimination provided by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although public and private sector initiatives to develop ethical guidelines for the design, development and deployment of algorithmic systems are welcome, they do not substitute the duty of member States to guarantee that human rights obligation are embedded into all steps of their algorithmic operations. In addition, member States should ensure appropriated regulatory frameworks to promote human rights-respecting technological innovation by all actors. The guidelines for States on actions to address the use of algorithmic system include data quality and modelling standards; principles of transparency and contestability; provision of effective judicial and non-judicial remedies to review algorithmic decisions; the implementation of precautionary measures to maintain control over the use of algorithmic systems; and empowerment through research and public awareness. The document also engages responsibilities for private actors that member States should ensure, including guidelines on data quality and modelling.  ​

The last ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, held in Dubai, managed to make Resolution WGPL/3 through adoption. It was recognised that emerging over-the-top (OTT) telecommunications technologies pose both opportunities and regulatory challenges for national telecommunication regulations. Specifically, the Resolution resolves (1) 'to raise awareness and promote a common understanding and dialogue among stakeholders for enabling OTT environment and ecosystem within the remit of ITU'; (2) 'to continue fostering studies on OTT aspects'; (3) 'to foster capacity-building programmes among ITU members in order to share information related to best practices and technical guidance on OTTs, especially for developing countries'. It also instructed the Secretary-General to continue collaboration with other relevant organisations to further the objectives of the resolution; and to submit an annual report on the council on the activities undertaken under the resolution.

The Council of Europe Committee of experts on human rights dimensions of automated data processing and different forms of artificial intelligence has published a Draft Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the manipulative capabilities of algorithmic processes. The document draws the attention of states to the rights of all human beings to take decisions and form opinions independently of automated systems. It underlines the risks of using massive amounts of personal and non-personal data to sort and micro-target people, to identify vulnerabilities, and to reshape social environments to achieve specific goals and vested interests. The draft encourages states (1) to consider additional protective frameworks to address the impacts of the targeted use of data on the exercise of human rights; (2) to initiate inclusive public debates on permissible forms of persuasion and unacceptable manipulation; (3) to take measures to ensure that effective legal guarantees are in place against such forms of interference; and (4) to empower users by promoting digital literacy on how much data are generated and used for commercial purposes.

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