European Commission’s alleged plans to impose monitoring obligations (“duty of care”) on online platforms would undermine the Internet as a platform open to posting and sharing content, argues Jens-Henrik Jeppesen, Representative and Director for European Affairs at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).
The Digital Post: The European Commission’s consultation on the role of online platforms hints at expanding the liability of intermediaries as regards illegal content hosted online. What exactly the Commission has in mind?
Jens-Henrik Jeppesen: We do not know exactly what the Commission has in mind. In its various recent policy statements the Commission has only hinted at the prospect of changing the current rules.
This is the case, both in the Digital Single Market Communication from May 2015, the DSM Platforms Consultation that has just finished (see CDT response here) and in the 9 December Copyright Communication.
In the latter document, the Commission says that it will consider options for amending the IP Enforcement Directive. It also notes that the platforms consultation raises the option of ’take down and stay down’.
Effectively this can only mean introduction of a general monitoring obligation on intermediaries, which is not allowed under the E-Commerce Directive. We want to preserve this protection.
TDP: What might be the general implications of these obligations, were it introduced?
JHJ: As we explain in various of our statements and documents, a monitoring obligation if it were to be introduced, would require intermediaries of all kinds to police, screen and filter for content that might be argued by some to be illegal.
This could be anything from alleged hate speech, defamation, radicalising content, or copyright infringement. It is often a difficult, delicate and highly subjective evaluation to make.
It would undermine the Internet as we know it as a platform open to posting and sharing of blogs, comments, podcasts, pictures and all kinds of material because any hosting platform would have to first ensure that whatever is posted/shared cannot be judged to be illegal.
The incentives for intermediaries would be to be overly restrictive to avoid expensive legal challenges and lawsuits. The consequence would without a doubt be to severely restrict free expression and debate on the Internet.
It would also impose massive costs and risks on start up Internet companies – exactly the type of enterprise European politicians would like to see grow and scale.
TDP: How, then, to ensure “greater responsibility” from online intermediaries without resorting to new legal obligations?
JHJ: First of all, the current rules (the E-Commerce Directive) rightly shield intermediaries from liability – but only if they take action once notified about illegal content on their networks. So, an intermediary cannot simply ignore notification that illegal content has been published on their network or platform.
If it does not act on a notice, it will lose its liability protection. That is already a strong incentive for intermediaries to act swiftly when notified about illegal content. Further, most intermediaries enforce their own terms of service.
Most social networks give users the possibility to flag content and comments that they consider to be illegal or against terms of service (for example, racist or anti-Semitic comments).
The same applies to content that violates copyright. There are also various agreements to ‘follow-the-money’, i.e. make it difficult for websites that systematically offer pirated content on a commercial scale to operate.
There is for example an memorandum of understanding between trademark owners and online trading services to stop trading in counterfeit goods, illegal medicines and the like.
TDP: The Centre for Democracy and Technology has also voiced doubts regarding the way the Commission is using the notion of “online platforms”. Why?
JHJ: As we explain in our platforms consultation response, the platforms definition is so broad that it captures so many types of companies in different industries that it becomes meaningless.
Furthermore, these companies are already subject to consumer rules, competition rules, data protection law etc., no matter whether they operate wholly or partly or not at all online.
It is not clear that it makes sense to create a new category of company to which particular regulation applies. Technology and business models evolve rapidly, and laws should not be drafted for specific technologies or business models.
photo credits: James Lavin
Artificial Intelligence is here to stay and is going to change our civilization in profound ways. That is why we must learn to live alongside machines and to make the best of their intelligence, argues Nell Watson engineer, entrepreneur and futurist thinker at Singularity University.
How do you see the AI developing in 10 years time? And what kind of challenges you see in perspective?
What are the main changes in our society that would result from such an evolution of machine learning?
What would be the negative impact and how to avoid it?
What kind of regulation would be needed? Should decision-makers start looking into it as of now?
Within the cultural landscape, if you should choose a science fiction book or movie, which better describes a likely future about the evolution of the Artificial Intelligence?
Nell Watson is an engineer, entrepreneur, and futurist thinker who grew up in Northern Ireland. She has a longstanding interest in the psychology of technology, and how that combination creates emerging social trends. Nell lectures globally on Machine Intelligence, AI philosophy, Human-Machine relations, and the Future of Human Society.
Implementing effective policies to counter the terrorists’ use of the Internet should be part of a strengthened cooperation between Europe and the North-African region, argues Hicham Rahil, National Bureau Member of Popular Movement of Morocco.
Terrorist networks such as IS are increasingly making use of the internet. What can we do to effectively face this threat at a global level?
What kind of cooperation with North-African countries does Europe need today to face the ongoing terroristic threat?
You advocate more cooperation between Europe, the North African region, and, more generally, the Mediterranean countries to oppose terrorism. Do you think the digital dimension should be part of this?
Do you have the impression that Europe is excessively focusing on Syria and overlooking the terrorist threat in Sahel and North Africa?
photo credit: Rappler.com
The Digital Post has met James Windon and Matt Mahan, respectively President and CEO of Brigade, the new much-hyped app for sharing political views. For now, the primary aim of the platform is to boost civic engagement in the US in view of the next presidential elections. Can it become also in Europe a useful tool to bridge the historical gap between the EU and its citizens?
What is the main idea behind Brigade?
What has been the general response so far? How do you think the tool might be of help in the context of the next US presidential elections?
How social and technologies can play a role in enhancing civic engagement?
Internet can be a formidable tool to push political engagement, but also towards undemocratic values, as it is illustrated in Europe by the rise of populism movements, which have been thriving on the use of social networks and media. What do you think?
photo credit: Stuart Boreham
Fintech startups and traditional banks are increasingly realizing that they need to collaborate to capture new opportunities, argues Mariano Belinky, Managing Partner at Santander InnoVentures. Traditional banks can learn from startups new ways of serving costumers while startups can leverage banks’ consumers to bring them their products.
The Digital Post: How InnoVentures is supporting the growing wave of fintech firms? What are the main aims of the fund?
TDP: Can fintech startups be an opportunity, instead of a threat, for traditional bannks?
TDP: How the rise of fintech firms are affecting and can reshape the financial sector, and in particular the baking industry?
TDP: Santander is among the banks investigating into the technology underpinning bitcoin. What is the potential for the traditional banking sector?
TDP: Is funding still a major barrier for the European startup ecosystem?
Mariano Belinky: Since December 2014 he manages Santander InnoVentures, Santander Group's global venture capital fund, focused in early stage Financial Technology investments. He joined Santander InnoVentures from McKinsey & Co., where he was an Associate Principal in the Corporate and Investment Banking and Global Risk Management practices, based in New York. Here, he spent six years advising global banks, asset managers and private equity firms acrossNorth America, Europe and Latin America on multiple strategic topics.
photo credit: Chewy734
In an exclusive interview released on the sidelines of the Web Summit in Dublin, the European Ombudsman talks with The Digital Post about the relationship between EU citizens and institutions in the time of social media, the impact of tech lobbying and much more.
Do you think digital technologies are improving the accountability of the EU institutions and their democratic dimension?
How the EU Ombudsman stand up for new forms of participative democracy based on digital technologies?
U.S. tech companies are the biggest spenders on corporate lobbying in Brussels. Do you see any risk?
Critics argue that Europe’s approach to U.S. tech companies is driven by protectionism. What is your opinion?
A few months ago the EU Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the EC’s handling of the Google antitrust case. How the investigation is progressing?
Emily O'Reilly was elected as the European Ombudsman in July 2013 and took office on 1 October 2013. She was re-elected in December 2014 for a five year mandate. She is an author and former journalist and broadcaster who became Ireland's first female Ombudsman and Information Commissioner in 2003 and in 2007 she was also appointed Commissioner for Environmental Information.
Photo credit:Matt Foster
One of the key points of the Google antitrust case in Europe is that there are also US companies among the complainants, which contradicts the argument that the EU is adopting a protectionist approach against US innovation, argues MEP Ramon Tremosa.
Have you had any second thoughts about the “Google break-up” motion?
Are we sure Europe is not waging a “protectionist” war against US tech giants as many critics argue?
Ms Vestager has taken an hard line on the Google case. After the first SO sent in April, what do you expect she will do in the following months?
Some critics insist that it remains difficult to determine an anti-competitive behavior in the online search business. What is your view about that?
US tech giants, including Google, are investing more and more millions to influence the European policy. What is your opinion about that?
Ramon Tremosa i Balcells is a Democratic Convergence of Catalonia politician - The Liberal Party in the current government of Cataluña. He follows the Economic and International Trade committee in the EP as well as the USA and Israel Dele. He has a special interest in economics, transport, logistics, trade and competition cases, in particular in the digital market field and the Google antitrust case.
photo credit: brett jordan
The European Commission has just launched a consultation to look into the needs for Internet speed and quality beyond 2020. We need to make sure that our broadband policies are driven by a vision that takes into account all the different scenarios we may face in the next twenty years, says Anna Krzyżanowska, Head of Unit Broadband at DG CONNECT.
The Digital Post: What is the purpose of the consultation?
Anna Krzyżanowska: Just after the launch of the Digital Single Market strategy and five years before the broadbandtarget date we have realized that the most active families and SMEs using current applications and services may be needing more than 30 megabits per second.
At the same time several organizations, including public institutions such as schools, may need a connection of more than 100 megabytes per second in order to perform their online activities.
Hence, having reviewed the available literature and the projections on the increased use of Internet networks, we want to know what is the opinion of the general public regarding the connectivity needs they might have beyond 2020.
Let me also stress one more important element of reflection: at the moment in Europe there is a large availability of publicly supported funds, with the European structural funds alone providing six billion euros for broadband networks and the opportunity to unlock huge resources under the European Strategic Investment Fund.
We need to make sure that these investments are supported by decisions and by a vision that look beyond 2020 to the trends of the next ten or twenty years.
The Digital Post: In a word, the consultation will help shape the new European Digital Single Market after 2020.
Anna Krzyżanowska: Definitely. This consultation is part of an evidence building exercise which will orientate our decisions as to whether or not a new broadband policy should emerge within the context of the digital single market.
It’s not about what we want to build or what we’re building today, but whether that’s going to be enough to enable the considerable benefits that the digital single market can bring us.
This is the main question we are trying to answer through this consultation by focusing on those sectors that will be the main users and beneficiaries of the digital single market.
The Digital Post: What are the sectors whose demand for connectivity will jump in the following years?
Anna Krzyżanowska: We want to listen from people building applications or those currently developing band-hungry services, mainly game producers or media companies.
We will look at the needs that will be generated by cloud computing as well as by the expanding availability of shared software and shared platforms, which is of particular importance for the definition of the needed upload capacity of networks.
In addition to that, there are certain services that will require higher security or ubiquitous access. It is difficult to imagine for instance a ministry of education introducing electronic school books if it cannot do it across the territory.
A similar consideration applies for instance to health monitoring, which could bring enormous savings to the public sector by keeping people out of institutionalized health, i.e. out of hospitals.
We will also take inspiration from the research programs of the Commission focusing on future services: on health services or in the manufacturing sector. And we obviously will talk to automotive companies which are working on the connected car.
At the moment we’re doing fine but what will be the implications for the quality of networks when all of us in Europe will have a connected car?
The Digital Post: And from the point of view of the households what will be the main factors driving a higher demand?
Anna Krzyżanowska: Looking at the future, it is the cloud computing which will mostly drive the need for more connectivity, especially in terms of upload speed. As for the download, the same can be said for the consumption and exchange of video content.
However, it is also very difficult to define what a household is. In the case of somebody starting his own company and working from home the needs of a household turn into those of a small enterprise, and in that particular case the value of services or software sharing becomes extremely important.
In any case, it’s very unpredictable what our home connection will serve in 10 years time. That is why we need to make sure that our investment decisions may reflect the different scenarios we may face in the future.
The Digital Post: However, setting higher broadband targets might stir discontent among some telecoms stakeholders.
Anna Krzyżanowska: The reaction of different stakeholders may be quite predictable. There’s a general resistance in accepting that the world is going in a certain direction.
Hence, we are not starting with a proposal, but rather with a public consultation so as to allow everybody to voice their views and perhaps their reservations.
Having said that, I believe that we can find plenty of examples in which we have underestimated technological developments and the strain they have put on infrastructures.
This is all the more true for the digital networks: we are not only facing more people using these infrastructures but we also facing different ways of using them. Hence, whereas it may be not in the interest of some people to have that discussion, I believe that it is very important.
Big telecom companies often tell us that the demand would not materialize quickly enough. And I believe that in some cases they’re right: there are some countries or certain population categories that are more conservative than others and it’s very difficult to make a generalized statement.
However, I believe that speed or quality of connection is addictive and it is contagious so the more people have it the more people will ask for it and that will probably drive the dynamics of demand fairly quickly.
The Digital Post: What is the link between this consultation and the concomitant consultation on the review of the telecom framework?
Anna Krzyżanowska: Telecom review is a legal requirement of the legislation. On one hand it is written within the legislation that it needs to be periodically reviewed.
Second, the Commission has made a commitment to better regulation and we in general look whether the regulation proposed has fulfilled its objectives, whether it’s still effective efficient and effective and has the right impact.
From that perspective we would have done a review of the framework irrespectively of whether the market needs for connectivity change or not. But since we have an instinct that they are changing and they will be actually changing throughout the period of the review and beyond, it is obviously important to link the two processes.
Regulation is there for a reason and the reason is to make sure that the consumers get the connectivity that they want. From that perspective there’s no difference between the regulatory objective and the policy objective as it is explained in the digital agenda and as it is intended in the digital single market.
I believe it’s particularly good that policy reflection, regulatory fine-tuning or improvements and the availability of funds are actually happening at the same time.
Anna Krzyżanowska is the Head of Unit « Broadband » at DG CONNECT of the European Commission. In addition to policy activities focusing on achieving Digital Agenda for Europe broadband targets, she is coordinating the efforts related to Connecting Europe Facility and future Cohesion Framework in the areas relevant to DG CONNECT.
photo credit: European Commission
In case of Brexit, UK tech would risk losing out on what is the most vibrant and growing sector of the UK economy, argues Tech London Advocates founder and chair Russ Shaw.
The Digital Post: How the UK government’s increasingly restrictive approach to immigration is affecting the domestic tech sector and why?
Russ Shaw: The pipeline for tech talent needs to be much larger, but the government’s increasingly restrictive approach to immigration is slowing this down. Experts predict that by 2020 we will suffer from a shortage of 300,000 digitally-skilled people. Members of Tech London Advocates have consistently identified a shortage of talent as the single biggest obstacle to the continued growth of London’s technology sector. The UK needs a growing, not a shrinking pool of skilled tech workers.
The Digital Post: Is this having an impact, or could it have an impact, on the European tech ecosystem as a whole?
Russ Shaw: London has been branded the most important tech hub across Europe, with the number of companies in London’s digital technology sector increasing by 46% since the launch of Tech City five years ago. Further restrictions to immigration policy could cause a redistribution of tech companies and leaders across other European capitals. Countries with more flexible immigration policies and respected tech reputations will attract much more EU and global talent deflected by UK immigration policy.
The Digital Post: The government immigration plans are not only targeting non-EU citizens. The Home Secretary openly called into question the free movement of workers across Europe. What this mean from the perspective of the UK tech industry?
Russ Shaw: The UK’s tech sector thrives off its diversity and international community. Thus, calling into question the free movement of workers across the Europe will distance us from the very tool central to much of the UK tech industry’s success.
The Digital Post: What would an EU exit mean for UK tech?
Russ Shaw: UK tech would risk losing out on what is the most vibrant and growing sector of the UK economy. Businesses will look to expand elsewhere and miss out on being part of EU-wide initiatives like the Digital Single Market, currently under development and discussion within the EU.
According to research conducted by business intelligence company Duedil and the Centre for Entrepreneurs, immigrant entrepreneurs have founded one in every seven companies in the UK and employ 1.16m people around the country. We need to continue to build the attractiveness for entrepreneurs doing business in London and across the UK in order to retain and nurture the best talent and create job growth.
photo credit: Jens Aarstein Holm
Protectionist policies, such as recently adopted German retrictions on public sector cloud use, can ultimately translate into a threat for the open and global structure of the Internet, argues Daniel Castro, Vice President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and Director of the Center for Data Innovation
The Digital Post: Newly adopted German rules for government cloud computing means official data can only be processed in Germany. What is your opinion?
Daniel Castro: This is an unfortunate development, both for Germany and for others. First, countries like Germany should be an ally in support of free trade, and by enacting these types of non-tariff barriers to trade it gives cover to other countries who want to enact protectionist measures.
Second, by restricting access to foreign cloud providers, Germany is “cutting off its nose to spite its face.” Germany organizations benefit from having access to the best cloud providers, and many of these are foreign companies. This will raise costs and decrease productivity for affected organizations.
Third, there is little real benefit in terms of privacy and security to storing data within the country versus abroad. Countries should be working to clarify any distinctions. This is one reason my think tank has called for a “Geneva Convention on the Status of Data” to determine when government agencies can lawfully request access to data.
Most developed countries should be able to agree to common standards and abide by them. The end goal should be a data free trade zone that extends globally.
The Digital Post: Ever since the Snowden revelations came out, German PM Angela Merkel has been advocating for a separate European communication network/infrastructure. What might be the implications of such project, if it ever is implemented?
Daniel Castro: United States and Europe are allies on many issues, and it would be counterproductive to build separate infrastructure rather than working together towards a common goal.
Neither wants the other to spy on them, so they should be able to come to terms to upgrade the infrastructure we already share.
The greater threat to both U.S. and German interests are from China, so there is an opportunity to put aside past issues and come together to confront a looming issue.
The Digital Post: You often speak about the rise of “data nationalism” across the world. What is this phenomenon about?
Daniel Castro: Many countries are trying to pass laws and regulations to keep data within their borders, such as by requiring data to be processed locally. One reason countries are doing this is because they believe it will help create jobs, such as construction jobs for data centers.
But the net impact is very negative, as it raises the cost of doing business for the rest of the economy, and many businesses are increasingly dependent on cloud infrastructure. Moreover, some rules limit cross-border data flows which means a multinational company will run into serious issues as it tries to operate on a global scale.
The Digital Post: Is data nationalism a threat to the current structure and functioning of the Internet? Why?
Daniel Castro: Yes. The primary benefit of the Internet is that it is a global, open network available to all. Protectionist policies can chip away at this ideal until we are eventually left with a series of disjointed national or regional Internets.
Policymakers should be very concerned about overreacting to short-term fears about data privacy at the expense of damaging the potential growth of data-driven innovation in the Internet economy.
photo credits: grinwithoutacat
The European Parliament is overwhelmingly supporting the European Commission’s plans to complete the Digital Single Market: it is now of utmost importance to act quickly, especially in areas such as frequencies harmonization, says Austrian MEP Paul Rübig. Member states, he argues, should not drag their feet. In the face of the dramatic increase of data usage or the predicted explosion of IoT technologies, if we do not forge an efficient, future-oriented digital single market, we are doomed to loose competitiveness. In order to prevent this scenario, we must also focus on addressing the shortfall in e-skills among Europeans and help SMEs embrace digital technology, concludes Mr. Rübig.
The Digital Single Market strategy lacks focus on digital inclusion and e-skills, says Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler. Nonetheless, she explains, the European Commission has made a step in the right direction but now the real challenge is to translate it into effective legislative measures. As digital is changing all the time and technology is running ahead of us, Europe’s push to unleash the potential of the digital single market ought to be future-proof, argues Mrs Stihler.
Photo credit: Josu Gonzalez
It would be wrong to assume that putting operators and Over-The-Top players under the same regulatory framework will provide the ultimate solution to the current imbalances. A true level playing field needs to be created on a fiscal level too, says Gérard Pogorel, Professor of Economics and Management at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications.
Digital Single Market strategy: Is the European Commission heading the right direction?
I believe yes, and I am very optimistic. The European Commission and the European Parliament seem very committed to opening new horizons. The priorities of the European Commission indicate that they consider the digital economy from a truly holistic perspective putting innovation, investment and growth at the forefront.
They show that Brussels is placing digital at the heart of the future European economy. Against this background, the main priority is to make the European Single Market attractive to investors.
We cannot talk about innovation or growth if the market is not attractive to investors. Telecoms and digital services regulation, as well as new legislation on data protection, are central elements of a consistent framework conducive to investment. I really think that it is with this in mind that the Commission is trying to re-organize things. This is very positive.
The Commission has signalled that it wants to create a level playing field in electronic communications by putting telcos and OTT under the same rules. Is it feasible?
It has to be done, the question is how. Any action should be considered from a global perspective. It would be wrong to take a purely defensive stance. It is important that the players that operate in Europe are put on the same level playing field, but it is even more important that they are encouraged to innovate and invest. They should all contribute financially. That is why a level playing field needs to be created on a fiscal level too. For the moment the fiscal situation in Europe is unbalanced.
We have, on the one hand, telecoms providers paying lots of taxes, say on radiospectrum. On the other hand, we have other players providing the same services, which pay far less taxes or no taxes at all. I believe that it would be wrong to think that putting these services under the same legal framework is the ultimate solution. Requiring OTT players to contribute to the universal service or the emergency number is not enough.
The important thing is that they contribute a fair share in terms of taxes and investments. That’s the main point. The playing field has not only to be leveled, it has also to be opened to innovation. We have to make sure the market is open to new entrants and innovators.
The European telecom sector is said to have an investment problem. What is your opinion?
The European telecoms sector is not attractive to investors for a series of reasons. The first reason is excessive fragmentation. Some people say that this is not important and that Europe can function with hundreds of operators. On the contrary, it is very important because size matters, for instance in terms of access to equipment or influence on the design of devices.
Big operators can enjoy a much more powerful position than small operators. That is why fragmentation is very detrimental to investment, and there should be some level of consolidation of the market. T he regulatory framework should be more oriented towards dynamic efficiency.
photo credits: Daniel Hansson
The more nation states try to build radio spectrum customized policies on a country-by-country basis, the slower the auctions happen, the later consumers get LTE, says Christopher Yoo.
The DSM strategy is a huge opportunity for Europe, he stresses, but it requires a genuine commitment by member states towards opening their borders: in the Internet economy refusing change is not an option and if you protect your domestic economy you’ll simply be left behind.
Europeans have to make sure that they do not cave in to people who oppose increased competition stemming from creating a pan-European digital market across borders, adds Professor Yoo. This change can be very disruptive but it will ultimately yield tremendous benefits.
photo credits: drew baker
The Commission is expecting European leaders to give strong political support to the DSM strategy, says spokesperson for Digital Single Market Nathalie Vandystadt, signalling that all the actions listed in the initiative have been called upon by a vast majority of Members States and MEPs.
What about the criticism that the strategy is lacking in both grand vision and on practical implementation? This is only the start of a long journey, she replies, and the commission is already working on concrete proposals. We cannot say the strategy is not ambitious enough – It is realistic.
I do want the Juncker Plan to be a success, yet I am not sure that what investors need more urgently is the European Fund for Strategic Investments but rather a regulatory framework conducive to their activity, says MEP Dominique Riquet.
The Juncker plan is still raising many questions with respect to its effectiveness. What’s your view?
Like the vast majority in the Parliament, I am very supportive of the idea of setting up an investment plan at EU level. President Juncker’s proposal goes in the right direction by targeting areas that are strategic for growth and by trying to attract more private funds.
At the same time, given the estimated investment needed in trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy and telecoms until 2020 (around 1000 billion), the objective of raising 315 billion of investments may seem a bit limited.
For telecoms, the investment gap mainly concerns the deployment of broadband in rural areas as the private sector usually takes charge of other kinds of investment. Another area of concern with this plan is the financing of the EU guarantee fund.
Why taking money in programmes already dedicated to investment, which are fully operational and already foresee the possibility to use innovative financial instruments?
Finally, I am not sure that what investors need more urgently is the European Fund for Strategic Investments but rather a regulatory framework conducive to their activity. Trust is the key. However, I do want the Juncker Plan to be a success and we are currently working very hard on achieving this.
Will the so-called leverage effect work, notably in helping Europe meet its ambitious targets for ultra-fast broadband?
The leverage effect targeted by the Commission with the EFSI is 15, which is not unrealistic. We also know that there are dozens of trillions available in the private sector, within pension funds or insurance companies for example, and these liquid assets are insufficiently redirected to real economy.
The leverage effect will depend on the EFSI capacity to attract contributions from other actors and the cooperation between the EIB and national promotional banks will be crucial in that respect, together with the efforts in improving the regulatory environment.
Changing rules all the time, having a fragmented market where taxation and public procurement vary from one country to another clearly acts as a deterrent for potential investors.
The Digital Single Market Strategy presented Wednesday by the Commission is a crucial step in improving the EU competitiveness in this sector but it remains to be seen whether Member States will embrace the same ambition and have enough political will to put an end to all kind of obstacles.
Do you see the digital economy benefitting from the plan as touted by the European Commission? The proposal to divert funds from Horizon 2020 and the CEF to the EFSI, which the European Parliament has rejected, seems to prove the contrary.
The potential of the digital economy is huge and more should be done to reap its benefits. We do not want to choose between Horizon 2020, the Connecting Europe Facility and the EFSI as all are needed and this is why we have suggested to rather use unallocated resources such as margins and surpluses to finance the EFSI guarantee fund.
Just for 2014, the surpluses which remained this year were 1,4 billion, an amount which largely covers what we are supposed to put for 2015 in the EU guarantee fund. However, the surpluses currently serve to reduce Member States contributions to the EU budget which is why it is so difficult to use them for the EFSI.
As regards the EFSI, innovation and digital economy have clearly been identified as an investment area and there are a lot of possibilities : equipment of universities, support to SMEs in this sector, promotion of connected vehicles and of smart grids in order to reduce our energy consumption are just a few examples.
Negotiations between the EP and the Council have just started and they seem rather tense. What to expect?
There are a lot of divergences between the European Parliament and the Council but the main issue is by far the way we will finance the EU guarantee fund.
We are not protecting “our money” as I can hear from time to time. The Parliament is simply doing its job when defending programmes that have been democratically adopted just two years ago after a wide consultation, and I must say that in six years I have rarely seen our assembly being so united.
We are having the third trilogue today and, to be honest, the discussions have been quite difficult so far. If we are to find an agreement before the summer break as the Commission wants, each side of the negotiation will have to make efforts.
Dominique Riquet (born in 1946) holds a degree in general medicine and a degree in urological surgery. Elected at the European Parliament in 2014 for a second mandate, he is the first Vice-Chair of the transport and tourism committee and a member of the industry, research and energy committee. As a member of the UDI (Union des Démocrates et Indépendants) in France, he joined the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) within the European Parliament. Particularly involved in infrastructure financing, he was rapporteur on the Connecting Europe Facility and he recently created an intergroup on long-term investment. Prior to that, he was Regional Councillor for the Nord Pas-de-Calais region (1992-2009) and he also served for ten years as the mayor of Valenciennes (2002-2012). Follow him on: @
photo credit: European Parliament
If we want the European digital sector to thrive we should focus more on promoting a cultural change than on regulatory intervention, argues MEP Kaja Kallas.
What should be the right regulatory conditions to help the European digital companies emerge and become global leaders?
I feel that very often less is more. If we think about all the possibilities we have today and all the new business models that have emerged, then we should keep in mind that these have been created in a rather innovation-friendly regulatory framework in that field. We should therefore be very careful before introducing new regulations.
What we should however promoting is a change in the way we treat failure in Europe – not through regulation but through cultural change- failure is not a bad thing, it shows that at least you tried. If more people are not afraid to fail, then more people will be encouraged to start something new.
The growth of the app economy is certainly creating jobs. However, in the eyes of its critics it may, by disrupting traditional business models, be also destroying jobs. How would you respond to these concerns?
Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have written a very good book called “Why nations fail?” In that book they show through different historical examples how people have always tried to protect the traditional sectors whereas in order to be successful you should embrace creative destruction.
It means that yes, old jobs will disappear, but new jobs will emerge. You can fight against the knitting machine but if it has already been invented, it will come sooner or later and the craftsmen will have to find new jobs.
How the European Union should address the “threats” the app economy poses on trust and security?
Trust and security are important pillars of the internet economy; service providers have understood this as trust is at the heart of their business model which means that the market already regulates this to some extent. However, from the policy makers side we have to ensure that the right framework is in place for people to trust service providers with their data.
This means that it must be clear that the person is owner of his or her own data and he/ she can decide who can access and use this data.
In November you voiced skepticism about the European Parliament’s resolution requiring the unbundling of search engines. Why going down this way is a bad idea?
I think the debate was on wrong grounds – it was about one company in particular. My statement was that it is wrong for the parliament to start intervening in the investigation procedures that the Commission is already conducting.
The Commission has the right to demand unbundling if it finds that the search engine is an essential facility and abuses its dominant position.
The Commission has the tools to deal with this and the Parliament should not make it political.
How do you see the debate about the so-called principle of “platform neutrality”?
It is a very wide question. In general it seems to me that there is a push from some stakeholders to shift the discussion from net neutrality to platform neutrality that would only be applicable to one US Company. I do not think this is right as we might end up harming our European companies even more.
There are many layers to this discussion. First, the use of one platform does not necessarily preclude the use of another similar platform. If one is more user-friendly than the other one, people will change from one to another, as the switching costs are often quite low.
In addition, due to low barriers to entry and the limited cost of creating internet platforms, new ones can emerge quickly.
On the other hand, some platforms might have network effects that can make market entry more difficult for the newcomers.
Thirdly, many of the business models of internet platforms are built on unneutrality.
photo credits: Johan Larsson
The European Commission has signalled that it will be going after those barriers currently limiting investments in broadband networks. This is the right level of ambition, argues ETNO chairman Steven Tas.
One of the new European Commission’s priorities is “giving more ambition to the ongoing reform of telecoms rules”. What are ETNO expectations?
I think that it’s very important to look at the programmatic milestones of the new Commission, especially at the mission letter of Commissioner Oettinger and at the Investment Plan presented last December.
Both documents indicate that the Commission will be going after those barriers currently limiting investments in broadband networks. This is the right level of ambition, and we think the first, urgent step is to look into the Review of the 2009 Telecoms Framework.
The coming “digital single market” package will focus on copyright, e-commerce or online services. What do you think?
We agree that reforming copyright, as well as looking at demand-sensitive aspects like e-commerce and stimulus to online services is pivotal. Investments without real digitalization of society are not enough to create prosperity.
In our view, any policy plan to create a Digital single market needs to prioritize items like spectrum harmonization measures and the review of the current access regulation.
Do you think the Juncker’s investment plan live up to its ambitions? Will it manage to leverage funding from the sector?
We agree with Juncker and Oettinger that the objective should be to maximize private investments. For this reason, ETNO looks with huge interest at one of the main pillars of this plan: removing regulation that hampers investment and that is outdated. We really need to reduce the complexity of our European regulatory framework. That comes at no cost for public budgets, and it can be a really smart way to stimulate broadband deployment. Let’s remember that having the best networks is not a stand-alone objective: it is the pre-requisite to building a competitive Europe”.
Some Member States, such as Germany and France, are now echoing your longstanding pleas for more equal treatment with Internet giants, both on regulatory and competition terms. How the European Commission should respond?
The European Commission has announced a study on the impact of new online services on digital markets. At the same time, there is a push from Member States to consider a public consultation on basically the same topics.
[Tweet “ETNO believes in less and simpler regulation for all”]
Changes in markets reality and consumers’ behaviour need to be at the core of the upcoming digital policies. This will unleash the innovation and investment potential of our Continent”.
How do you see the on-going debate on Net Neutrality and on the end of roaming charges, especially in light of the Council agreement on the Connected Continent package?
Developing Net Neutrality rules means regulating the internet. This is a serious matter. If we believe that the internet should be regulated, I think we are better off with a light touch approach, based on simple principles that do not interfere with innovation and do not depress investments.
On roaming, I think we need first of all to admit that the industry was in the past not fast enough to respond to concerns. But today we have a variety of offers matching consumers’ increasing quest for mobility. So the market is responding well now. It is also important to have regulatory certainly and consistency with the previous roaming regulation that was introduced only recently.
By the way, given that most Connected Continent landmark proposals have been dropped by the Council, do you believe that it should be envisaged to withdraw the proposal and start the work from the scratch?
The power of initiating or withdrawing a legislative proposal lies with the Commission. From an industry perspective, as the debate on the Regulation approaches its final stage, ETNO believes there is an even stronger sense of urgency to reforming the current set of digital policies and regulation. We need to do more, and faster, to remove barriers to investment. We must not miss the momentum of achieving a stronger digital Europe.
photo credits: Natan Vance
The European Union needs to have common privacy standards in place as soon as possible. For this to happen, member states need to show far more engagement, says German MEP Jan Albrecht
More than three years on from the publication of the first draft proposal, the Data Protection Regulation is still under negotiation. However there are doubts over whether it can be agreed before the end of 2015. What is your view?
I think that for the legislation to be finalized by the end of this year member states need to show far more engagement. Negotiations in the Council are advancing at a slow pace due to simple issues and disagreements popping up over and over again, thus postponing the whole process.
So ultimately it’s a question of political will. If the Council does want to achieve an agreement, it can do it very quickly. The European Parliament has voted its position in October 2013: since then we are waiting member states to reach a deal in order to start the trilogue.
Speaking of the trilogue, how do you see the future negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament?
First of all, it will be key that the Council delivers on high standards for the protection of privacy. However, looking at the ongoing talks among member states some of the provisions of the proposal already run the risk of being diluted compared to the protection levels set in the 1995 directive.
This is a red line for the European Parliament: we won’t accept lower standards than the 1995 directive. If member states want to get on a common ground with the European Parliament they need to agree on stronger individual rights and sanctions.
Given that the regulation will have a two-year transitional period before it applies, don’t you fear that the technological evolutions will render the text obsolete by the time it enters into force?
I do not think that the text voted by the European Parliament will be outdated soon because it already encompasses all the actual developments and it is as much technology-neutral as possible.
But it’s true that if the Council doesn’t find an agreement anytime soon and negotiations stretch into 2016, adding the transitional period, it means that there are at least three years left before Europe has a single data protection standard. This equates to three more years of losses and struggle for the European IT companies in comparison with US Internet giants. I do not think that we can afford this to happen. We really have to hurry up!
However critics of the regulation lament that the regulation will result into more burden placed on companies.
On the contrary, the European Parliament has included in the text provisions that protect all the companies from too much burden – for example we excluded smaller companies from some duties of documentation and information.
Moreover, the new regulation would reduce bureaucracy by replacing 28 different national regimes with just one. The benefits for SMEs will clearly outstrip the potential burden which I do not think will be higher than today.
Is it possible to restore trust in transatlantic data flows and on which basis?
First, the European Union and its single market need to have common privacy standards in place in order to ensure legal certainty for consumers, citizens and enterprises in Europe.
Only then, we can start negotiating with the US on common transatlantic standards, i.e. the application of certain basic data protection rules. In short, that will be only possible if we pass the data protection regulation as quickly as possible.
How can we negotiate with the US on common standards and create a transatlantic market if Europe has not a single standard itself? As long as we do not achieve this objective it won’t be possible to negotiate on privacy standards in the framework of TTIP.
In addition, the US has also to do its own homework. New legislation on data protection recently announced by President Obama is a starting point and the first requirement for any further negotiation. Without such legislation in place it is almost impossible for the European Union to agree on common privacy standards.
What’s wrong with the EU’s plans for the passenger name record (PNR) system? Why the European Parliament is opposing the proposal?
In the last years nearly every terrorist attack we have seen involved attackers who were already known by the authorities as potential or suspicious terrorists. However, we have focused on collecting personal data of citizens – for instance through the data retention directive – who are completely not suspicious or risky.
Collecting just more hay if you are looking for a needle in a haystack is the wrong approach to improve security. The right way would be to spend the money that would go to the PNR system (hundreds of millions of euro) into better equipment for police and law enforcement authorities in Europe and into improving coordination and exchange of information on suspicious persons. This is what we ask.
A no less important issue is that last year the European Court of Justice ruled that retention of data without any link to suspicious or risk is not legal and proportionate. Therefore, we should not vote laws that we know are illegal.
photo credits: KylaBorg
Alessandra Poggiani, the director general of the Agency for Digital Italy (Agid), tells The Digital Post how the government is working towards the objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe. “Embracing the digital economy is not only a question of growth and new opportunities for Italy. It is also a question of democracy”, says Ms Poggiani.
phot credits: Giuseppe Moscato
There is a need for leadership on the highest political levels to curb a worrying trend towards limiting the open internet, seeking to use internet for intelligence gathering, or for repressing dissent, argues Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake
2015 seems to be a key year for a long-awaited (and long discussed) “reform” of Internet Governance. What are your predictions?
Indeed it will be an important year for internet governance. However, for me internet governance is more than just the scope of responsibilities and procedures in international organizations such as ICANN, WCIT and the IGF.
The broad goals of ensuring the internet remains open and that people´s human rights and fundamental freedoms apply also online, is influenced by decisions made by states and companies every day.
I see a worrying trend towards limiting the open internet, seeking to use internet for intelligence gathering, or for repressing dissent. There is a need for leadership on the highest political levels to curb this trend.
What should be the role of the EU?
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This means diplomats from the European External Action Service, and Ministers and diplomats from Member States to better understand technology and how it works, and most importantly to push an ambitious agenda.
Civil society organizations and experts can help ensure there is sufficient knowledge, and connection to the various stakeholders.
Is Europe contributing enough to the global debate on Internet Governance?
I believe the EU can and should do more in showing leadership. After the credibility of the United States was hurt by the NSA revelations, the internet freedom agenda should be adopted by the EU, and given more meaning.
We have a historic sense of protecting people from an over reaching state, and need to show leadership in human rights online globally, as we have done with a human rights agenda in the past.
We should work with the US to restore trust and to work along a shared agenda. There are plenty of developing economies that we may consider as ´swing states´ in terms of seeking to pursue top-down governance, or to choose a forward looking internet governance agenda that puts human rights online in the centre.
What initiatives do you expect from the new European Commission?
I will continue to push for better coordination between different Commissioners, and with Member States, in developing a future proof en ambitious internet governance agenda.
Do you think the way ICANN is adjusting its governance is responding to current concerns about Internet Governance?
We have to give it a fair chance. It would be a real improvement if the multi-stakeholder model actually succeeds and further develops. Dominance of any one significant player should be avoided, and that included the United States.
At the same time, fundamental principles and values must be ensured. I will observe and evaluate the impact with great interest, also as a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
How to reconcile the tension between current IG, led by nongovernmental players, and increasing demands for a stronger role for governments? How big is the risk that governments, notably from non-liberal (or undemocratic) countries, could use the current transition to take over more powers over the Internet?
Actually, governments do not depend on internet governance platforms. They can adopt laws without input from multiple stakeholders, while impacting many of them. We see this happening every day. What some of these governments with repressive agenda´s seek, is legitimacy to do what they are already doing.
The transition to more global governance was needed, and should be considered an opportunity to create a more shared responsibility globally. Given the strong interlinkage between economic interests and the open internet, we must seek…
[Tweet “…to convince as many people as possible that repression and fragmentation is a boomerang.”]
I also worry about the role of major companies and significant market players, that put commercial interests above all else, and at the expense of the open internet and its users.
We must ensure that as the internet is to a large extent dependent on private actors, that there is sufficient oversight. I would ideally like to see an internet governance system based on democratic values globally.