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How Estonia’s cybersecurity strategy can help the EU cope with China

Fred Roeder, a German health economist and the managing director of the Consumer Choice Center, proposes Estonia to lead the European Union to a coherent cybersecurity strategy in order to protect consumers and businesses not only from cyberattacks from Russia but also from potentially much larger attacks and espionage from China.

Within the past twelve years, Estonia has emerged as a leading nation in the field of cyber defence and security. The cyberattacks of 2007 made Tallinn much earlier aware of the massive threat of online attacks compared with its larger NATO allies.

Especially under EU commissioner, Andrus Ansip (nominated by Estonia, Ansip was the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society from 2014 until July 2019 – editor), Estonia has been a driving force behind the European Commission’s new cybersecurity agenda. Estonia now needs to lead the European Union to a coherent cybersecurity strategy in order to protect consumers and businesses not only from cyberattacks from Russia but also from potentially much larger attacks and espionage from China.

China’s backdoors

The adoption of Internet of Things solutions and the highly anticipated rollout of very fast 5G networks will make consumers’ privacy even more vulnerable. The recent events in Hong Kong and the Chinese Communist Party’s reluctance to keep its commitments towards the rule of law are reasons why we must heed caution.

Some governments and manufacturers tend to be mostly concerned about competitiveness through low prices, which is important for consumers. However, we also care about privacy and data security. Therefore, a smart policy response is needed that would incentivise market players to give enough weight to consumer data security in Europe, all the while achieving that goal without undue market distortions and limiting of consumer choice.

n more than just one instance, the Chinese leadership has put legal or extra-legal pressure on private firms to include so-called backdoors in their software or devices, which may be exploited either by government agents alone or with a manufacturer’s help. As a response to threats like this, countries like Australia and the US went so far as to ban the Chinese network equipment manufacturer, Huawei, from its 5G networks.

Pressure on non-European suppliers to adopt the security-by-design approach

While some governments see bans as the best way to protect national security and consumer privacy, we know there is no single silver bullet solution for safeguarding privacy and data security. A mix of solutions is needed, and this mix will likely change over time.

Healthy competition between legal jurisdictions and between private enterprises is the best mechanism for the discovery of the right tools. But those working on cybersecurity solutions should also consider consumer interests. Keeping new regulation technology-neutral, and thus not deciding by law which technological solution is best, allows an agile framework for consumer privacy.

A Huawei phone (the image is illustrative/Pexels).

The EU’s current legal rules, like the General Data Protection Regulation, for example, do not provide sufficient clarity regarding liability of network operators for privacy violations made possible by hardware vulnerabilities. Thus, a clear standard of supply chain security must be defined.

Emphasising liability rules for using or reselling software or devices with vulnerabilities would give those rules more teeth and thus incentivise telecommunications operators and others to think about their customers’ privacy during their procurement decisions. This should, in turn, put pressure on non-European suppliers to adopt the security-by-design approach and to take pains to show that they have done so.

Smart regulation needed to prevent autocratic governments from spying on us

In solving the problem of unclear and ineffective legal rules on data security, we must take into account that technical standards should be as technology neutral as possible. Manufacturers from countries that are under scrutiny – such as China – might want to provide purely open-source technology in order to rebuild trust in their products.

Instead, the rules should be focused on outcomes and be as general as possible while still providing sufficient guidance. These standards should be possible to identify and adopt not just by the biggest market players who can easily devote significant resources to regulatory compliance. A certification scheme must be thorough in order to minimise the risk of any backdoors or other critical vulnerabilities.

5G 3.5 GHz cell site of Vodafone in Karlsruhe, Germany (the image is illustrative/courtesy of Tomas Freres/Wikimedia Commons).

The debate around 5G reminds us how vulnerable consumers are in a technologically and politically complex world and that cyber threats originate usually in autocratic countries.

Therefore, smart regulation is needed in order to protect consumers from data breaches and to prevent autocratic governments from spying on us. By continuing the legacy of commissioner Ansip’s leadership and strengthening the liability of network operators for technological vulnerabilities, both consumer choice and privacy can be ensured. Blunt instruments like total bans based on country of origin or regulators picking the technological champions should be seen as measures of the last resort.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Im Kreuzfeuer: 5G, China, Sicherheit und Datenschutz

Schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G vs. Verbraucherschutz?

Nie war Mobilfunk so politisch wie heute. Während die EU-Kommission Vorschläge für ein abgestimmtes Vorgehen der EU zur Sicherheit von 5G-Netzen vorlegt, kritisiert das amerikanische Consumer Choice Center – nicht ohne Ironie -, dass man in der Datenschutzhochburg Europa bei 5G ausgerechnet auf Technologie aus einem Land (= China) setze, in dem der Datenschutz mit Füßen getreten werde.

Nach allerlei Winken mit dem sprichwörtlichen Zaunpfahl seitens der US-Regierung oder regierungsnaher Stellen setzt sich nun auch die liberale Lobbyorganisation Consumer Choice Center kritisch mit dem wachsenden Einfluss chinesischer Anbieter von Mobilfunktechnologie auf dem europäischen Markt auseinander.

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia).

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia). (Bild: Consumer Choice Center)

Für Fred Roeder, Geschäftsführer des Consumer Choice Center, sollte die Privatsphäre der Verbraucher in dieser Debatte an erster Stelle stehen. “5G bietet eine völlig neue Art der Konnektivität und verspricht enorme Vorteile für das Internet der Dinge. Dies wird begrüßt, aber gleichzeitig sollten sich die europäischen Verbraucher des potenziellen Gepäcks bewusst sein, das einige Infrastrukturanbieter mitbringen”, so Roeder.

“Während die EU eine der strengsten Datenschutzbestimmungen der Welt hat die DSGVO die Geschäftstätigkeit vieler gesetzestreuer Unternehmen in der EU erheblich erschwert hat, sollten wir uns Sorgen machen, dass Technologieunternehmen mit Sitz in Ländern ohne Rechtsstaatlichkeit ein potenzielles Datenschutzrisiko für Verbraucherdaten darstellen. Während ein schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G für einige ein großer Sprung nach vorne sein könnte, müssen wir sicherstellen, dass wir nicht in dunklere Zeiten zurückkehren, wenn es um den Datenschutz der Verbraucher in Europa geht”, erklärt Roeder.

Read more here

Transatlantic dialogue and not tariff war is the future of EU-US relationship

The World Trade Organization today has published a ruling giving the US the green light to impose punitive tariffs on the EU over the tariff on the EU subsidies for Airbus.

Luca Bertoletti, Senior European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center says: “We hope policy makers will consider rejecting the use of tariffs to escalate the dispute between Airbus and Boeing. These tariffs will not only hurt the aerospace industry but also many other sectors and especially consumers. As there is a new European Parliament and very soon a new European Commission this is the right time for both EU and USA to bury the axe of war and restart the transatlantic dialogue” continued Bertoletti.

“The EU-US relationship is the strongest of the world and it should be based on common market challenges such as how to deal with growing authoritarianism in China, not on a commercial war among free nations which will just hurt consumers” concluded Bertoletti.

Originally posted here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Zölle schaden Ihrer Gesundheit

In New York tritt vom 17. bis zum 30. September zum 74. Mal die Weltgemeinschaft zusammen, um dringende Fragen zu diskutieren. Die Vollversammlung der Vereinten Nationen befasst sich nicht nur mit der Frage, wie die Waldbrände im Amazonas zu löschen wären, oder wie die Nachhaltigkeitsziele erreicht werden können. Die Delegierten fragen sich auch, wie in ärmeren Staaten die Gesundheitsversorgung verbessert werden kann. Dazu haben sie die Bekämpfung nichtübertragbarer Krankheiten und den umfassenden Zugang zu Gesundheitsleistungen auf die Tagesordnung gesetzt. In Schwellen- und Entwicklungsländern warten Patienten bis zu zehn Jahre auf ein neues Medikament und zahlen häufig auch noch das Dreifache des eigentlichen Importpreises.

In beiden Feldern ist der Rückstand auf die 35 reichsten Länder enorm. Patienten in ärmeren Ländern müssen häufig ihre Behandlungskosten selbst zahlen. Die Entwicklungshilfe, deren Milliarden seit Jahrzehnten auch in die Gesundheitsversorgung fließen, hat an diesem grundlegenden Missstand kaum etwas geändert. Die Förderprogramme scheitern an Korruption, Misswirtschaft und fehlender Infrastruktur.

Mit einigen einfachen und wirksamen Instrumenten kann die Weltgemeinschaft die Gesundheitsversorgung weltweit deutlich verbessern. Wenn Regierungen weltweit Einfuhrzölle und andere protektionistische Maßnahmen gegen lebensrettende Medikamente reduzieren, machen sie diese für die Ärmsten der Welt deutlich erschwinglicher.

Dort wo Krankenversicherungen nur unzureichend ausgebaut sind – wenn sie überhaupt existieren – müssen Patienten und ihre Familien die Kosten einer Krankheit allein bestreiten. Der Fiskus zockt sie dabei auch noch ab, indem er oft hohe Einfuhrzölle und Verbrauchssteuern auf innovative ausländische Medikamente erhebt. Indien beispielsweise erhebt einen zehnprozentigen Einfuhrzoll auf importierte Medikamente. Damit nicht genug. Der indische Staat hält noch einmal die Hand auf und verlangt von seinen Bürgern bis zu 18 Prozent zusätzliche Mehrwertsteuer auf ihre Arznei. Im benachbarten Nepal zahlen Patienten sogar fast 15 Prozent Einfuhrzoll auf Medikamente. Die Zölle und Sondersteuern sorgen dafür, dass den Ärmsten der Welt unnötig der bezahlbare Zugang zu lebensrettenden Gesundheitsleistungen versperrt ist. Wer ein Medikament nicht mehr bezahlen kann, weil es durch den Staat massiv verteuert wurde, muss an anderer Stelle verzichten – oder die Behandlung ganz bleiben lassen. Die gierige Bürokratie stellt Patienten vor eine teuflische Wahl: Ruin oder – potenziell tödliche – Krankheit.

In Indien 4.000 Bestimmungen zur Einfuhr von Medikamenten!

Der Ökonom Matthias Bauer hat errechnet, dass chinesische Patienten 5,5 Milliarden Euro sparen würden, wenn die Zollschranken gegen importierte Medikamente fielen. In Indien und Brasilien würde Freihandel die Medikamentenpreise nahezu halbieren.

Zusätzliche Steuern und Auflagen verursachen in Brasilien, Kenia und weiteren Staaten eine Verdoppelung – mitunter gar eine Verdreifachung! – des Endkundenpreises gegenüber dem eigentlichen Einfuhrpreis. Diese Steuern treffen die Armen der Welt am härtesten. Ihre Abschaffung macht eine würdige und angemessene Gesundheitsversorgung für hunderte Millionen Menschen deutlich erschwinglicher.

Doch nicht nur Zölle und Steuern verteuern die Medizin im Bestimmungsland. Langwierige Einfuhrprozesse, Etikettiervorschriften und missverständliche Bestimmungen erhöhen den Endpreis. Derlei Vorschriften nützen sicherlich den Zollbehörden, um ihre Budgets zu rechtfertigen. Diese bürokratischen Hürden schaden letztendlich den Patienten und treiben die Preise wichtiger Medikamente. 

Indien allein kennt beinahe 4.000 Vorschriften und Lizenzbestimmungen zur Einfuhr und dem Vertrieb von Medikamenten! Jeder Importeur muss sich diesen Regelungen beugen und die dadurch entstandenen Kosten auf den Preis für Endkunden aufschlagen. In Russland und der Türkei halten Regierungen die Patienten an, heimisch produzierte Medikamente zu kaufen und erschweren den Zugang zu ausländischen Produkten. So wird das Patientenwohl politisch-wirtschaftlichen Interessen untergeordnet. 

Und selbst wenn Patienten sich die Medikamente leisten könnten, sind diese häufig nicht verfügbar. Neue Arzneimittel erreichen diese Länder oft erst nach Jahren. Die lokalen Behörden verzögern die Anmeldung von Patenten und weiteren Rechten durch langwierige Prozesse. In Thailand dauert es 14 Jahre, ein Patent zu erteilen – 14 Jahre, in denen Patienten auf die Therapie warten, leiden und schlimmstenfalls sterben. Mit dem erteilten Patent ist das Warten aber längst nicht vorbei, denn dann geht es an die Verkaufsfreigabe.

Sieben Jahre bis zur Medikamenten-Freigabe

Es dauert lange bevor die einzelnen Länder Medikamente zum Verkauf freigeben: in China drei, in vielen afrikanischen Staaten zwischen vier und sieben Jahren. Die Aufsichtsbehörden in Entwicklungsländern wären gut beraten, sich auf die fundierten Zulassungsentscheidungen der amerikanischen FDA oder der europäischen Zulassungsbehörde EMA zu verlassen und auf einen erneuten Zulassungsprozess zu verzichten. Das käme den Patienten zugute, die nicht mehr jahrelang auf diese oft lebensrettenden Medikamente warten müssten.

Eines sollte den Delegationen bei der UN-Vollversammlung klar sein: Zölle und Vorschriften können sie einseitig und schnell abschaffen und verschlanken. Das ist in der Regel ein einseitiger Schritt des jeweiligen Landes, der besonders Entwicklungsländer bei den gesundheitsspezifischen Nachhaltigkeitszielen deutlich voranbringt. Schnellere Zulassungsverfahren und erleichterte Einfuhrbestimmungen senken den Leidens- und Preisdruck auf Patienten weiter.

Selten hat ein trockenes Thema wie Bürokratieabbau so weitreichende Folgen für große Teile der Weltbevölkerung. Zölle schaden Ihrer Gesundheit, es ist höchste Zeit für den kalten Entzug.


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Taiwan’s quest to become a “blockchain island”

It has been over ten years since the world first heard of Bitcoin, but blockchain’s applications are still in their infancy. One legislator in Taiwan wants to change that. Nicknamed “Crypto Congressman” by Vitalik Buterin, Jason Hsu worked as a tech entrepreneur before getting involved in politics in 2016. Today, he’s on a mission to turn Taiwan into the world’s next blockchain island and crypto nation. 

Hsu believes that one of the main challenges for global policy making is bridging the gap between society and technology. He’s bringing his open-minded perspective to Taiwan’s parliament in an effort to promote a more tech-driven future for the country. A future in which blockchain plays a key role. 

Taiwan’s tech-forward governance

 “In September 2017 when China banned ICOs, I realized that Taiwan could capitalize on this opportunity,” explained Hsu in an interview. That’s when his quest to introduce blockchain-friendly legislation in the country began.

What followed was the launch of a fintech sandbox in Taiwan. The idea was two-fold: to attract more foreign investment and to encourage more homegrown tech startups in the financial sector. Favorable regulations coupled with a big pool of local engineering talent are hoped to put Taiwan on the map of world-class fintech hubs. 

But Hsu’s aspiration reaches far beyond the sandbox. He envisions applying blockchain to various aspects of governance: from the Department of Health, through Education, to Justice. The Crypto Congressman is currently involved in 25 different projects that aim to increase efficiency and improve people’s lives with blockchain. He also promised to develop an entire blockchain district in Taipei with a special community coin that would be issued to entrepreneurs. 

What can blockchain do for the people? 

Blockchain has gotten a lot of bad reputation in the last few years. When the Bitcoin bubble burst, skeptics were quick to proclaim blockchain a fad. Others, on the other hand, pointed out that the internet started with a speculative bubble, too. It was only after the dot-com crisis that the World Wide Web reached its maturity. Is blockchain’s real potential still largely unexplored? 

According to Hsu and other visionary legislators, the answer is yes. They see the crypto speculation as a distraction from far greater tasks ahead: improving public services and increasing trust in governments. 

The most important thing you need to know about blockchain is that it consists of a chain of immutable blocks, or pieces of information if you will. Every single transaction is recorded and the records stay in the system forever. You can’t delete, change or hide the data. 

For governments, this could be a real deal-breaker. All the mundane transactions between the citizens and the government bodies would be revolutionized. Birth and death certificates, academic degrees, deeds, proof of identity and any other paperwork could all exist in the decentralized system. This would prevent fraud and make safe online transactions a lot easier, including e-voting or online property exchange. 

The distributed ledger system can also be used to hold governments accountable and fight corruption. Blockchain could provide a permanent record of all public funds and spendings. In a utopian scenario, each citizen would be able to track where every penny of their taxes goes. 

Blockchain adoption worldwide

Taiwan is not the only country to experiment with blockchain. The small nation of the Marshall Islands is set to become the world’s first state to adopt a digital legal tender. Sovereign, or SOV, will supplement the US dollar, which is currently the official currency of the Marshall Islands. Following the launch of the national cryptocurrency, the country will transition to a new model of governance, based on blockchain. 

Another country incorporating blockchain for governance is Estonia. The Baltic state uses Ethereum to manage its e-residency program. Under the first-of-its-kind scheme, anyone can apply online to become an e-citizen in Estonia and legally start a business there. With cutting-edge initiatives like this one, it’s no surprise that the Estonian government was quick to embrace blockchain. However, the plans to roll out a national cryptocurrency, Estcoin, were paused indefinitely. 

And finally, there is a contestant for the “blockchain island” title eyed by Taiwan. Malta is known as one of the most blockchain-friendly countries in the world, thanks to a very favorable regulatory framework passed in 2018. The island country already managed to attract many large cryptocurrency exchanges: OKEx and Binance, for example, have established their headquarters there. 

Technology is the only way forward

More and more governments around the world are realizing what Jason Hsu already knows: that “blockchain is here to stay.” Implementation of blockchain-powered technologies is no longer an “if” but a “when”. In a fast-paced digital environment, legislators have a choice to move forward with the tech developments or become obsolete. The entrepreneurial spirit of “moving fast and breaking stuff” that Hsu brings to Taiwanese parliament might be just what contemporary policymakers need. 


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Note to the new EU Commission: Consumer privacy is key

Brussels, BE – The incoming Commission President, Ursula von Der Leyen, will have a series of politically delicate hurdles to contend with in the field of cybersecurity. Here is why certification schemes are needed for that goal.

Not least in the domain of 5G, where the EU has come under increased pressure from American counterparts set to adopt a hostile position against next-generation technologies emanating from the far east.

Europe-wide, following a Commission recommendation for a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks, member states have recently submitted national risk assessments – providing an overview of their most pressing concerns in the future development of 5G infrastructure. These assessments will feed into the next phase, an EU-wide risk assessment to be completed by October 1st.

As part of the European cybersecurity strategy, certification schemes should be implemented on both services and networks.

Luca Bertoletti, Senior European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center responds: “We welcomed the implementation of the cybersecurity certification schemes but we hope the new commission will keep high standards.

“In our paper written by Mikołaj Barczentewicz, a research associate at the Oxford Centre for Technology & Global Affairs, we recommend using liability rules for operators and resellers of software and devices that expose consumers to the risk of malicious and illegal interference. Personal liability of company directors and executives should be also considered.

“We look forward to starting a productive discussion with the new commission on how to make consumers’ digital life, in the 5G era, more secure and private,” said Bertoletti.


The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Originally published here


The Dow Dropped 98 Points Because Tariffs Might Finally Hit Home

Unlike the previous tranche of levies imposed since last year, the latest round will mostly target popular consumer products, including cellphones, laptops, apparel, and toys. “Trump’s announcement about additional tariffs on Chinese goods will hit American consumers the hardest,” David Clement, North American affairs manager of the Consumer Choice Center, said on Thursday after the announcement.

“Given how interconnected the two economies are, it is ultimately American consumers who are going to be footing the bill for these new tariffs. Legislators need to better understand that tariffs on foreign products end up being a new tax for domestic consumers. Simply put, tariffs are taxes,” Clement said.

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Trudeau’s ‘plastic ban’ won’t help the environment. It could actually harm it instead

Opinion: Alternatives have a significantly higher total impact on the environment, while inflating costs for consumers

By David Clement

This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government will seek to ban many single-use plastics starting in 2021. Although the final list of banned items is still undetermined, it will likely include plastic bags, takeaway containers, cutlery and straws. To further justify the ban, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna cited images of marine wildlife being injured or killed as a result of plastic in our oceans.

It’s a hard-to-resist pitch. No one wants to contribute to marine deaths as a result of plastic, and most of us don’t like the idea of plastic items taking over 1,000 years to decompose in landfills. These concerns ultimately stem from worries about climate change, and the environmental problems that could arise as a result.

Unfortunately for the environmentally conscious among us, a ban on single-use plastics does almost nothing for the issue of plastics impacting ocean marine life, and does very little in terms of environmental impact. Canadians are not significant polluters when it comes to marine litter. Up to 95 per cent of all plastic found in the world’s oceans comes from just 10 source rivers, which are all in the developing world.

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Canada on average, contributes less than 0.01 MT (millions of metric tonnes) of mismanaged plastic waste. In contrast, countries like Indonesia and the Philippines contribute 10.1 per cent and 5.9 per cent of the world’s mismanaged plastic, which is upwards of 300 times Canada’s contribution. China, the world’s largest plastics polluter, accounts for 27.7 per cent of the worlds mismanaged plastic. Canada, when compared to European countries like England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France, actually contributes four times less in mismanaged plastic. The only European countries on par with Canada are the significantly smaller Sweden, Norway and Finland. A plastics ban might sound productive in terms of plastics pollution, but the evidence doesn’t suggest that Canada is actually a significant contributor for mismanaged plastic, which means that a Canadian ban will do little to aid marine life devastatingly impacted by plastic pollution.

However, proponents will say we should still support the ban on the basis of trying to curb climate change. Although noble, banning plastics doesn’t necessarily equate to better environmental outcomes. In fact, some alternative products, although branded as green alternatives, have a significantly higher total environmental impact once the production process is factored in.

Take plastic bags for example, which are public enemy number one. Conventional thinking suggests that banning single-use plastic bags will result in people using reusable bags, and that this reduction in plastic use will have a positive impact on the environment. Research from Denmark’s Ministry of the Environment actually challenged that conventional wisdom when it sought to compare the total impact of plastic bags to their reusable counterparts. The Danes found that alternatives to plastic bags came with significant negative externalities. For example, common paper bag replacements needed to be reused 43 times to have the same total impact as a plastic bag. When it came to cotton alternatives, the numbers were even higher. A conventional cotton bag alternative needed to be used over 7,100 times to equal a plastic bag, while an organic cotton bag had to be reused over 20,000 times. We know from consumer usage patterns that the likelihood of paper or cotton alternatives being used in such a way is incredibly unlikely. These results were also largely confirmed with the U.K. government’s own life-cycle assessment, which concluded that these alternatives have a significantly higher total impact on the environment.

While Canadians might support the idea of a plastics ban, they don’t want to pay for it. A Dalhousie University study showed us that 89 per cent of Canadians are in support of legislation to limit plastics. However, that same study also showed that 83 per cent of Canadians were not willing to pay more than 2.5- per-cent higher prices for goods as a result of plastic regulations. This creates a significant problem for Trudeau’s ban, because higher prices are exactly what we’d see.

There are simple solutions available to us that don’t involve heavy-handed bans. First, we could focus more strictly on limiting how plastics end up in our rivers, lakes and streams. Better recycling programs and stricter littering prohibitions could go a long way to curbing the plastic Canada does contribute. For those single-use products that otherwise end up in landfills, we could follow Sweden’s lead, and incinerate that waste. Doing so creates a power source for local communities, while capturing airborne toxins, limiting toxic runoff, and significantly reducing the volume of waste.

Good public policy should address a real problem and should make a meaningful impact on the said problem. Unfortunately, Trudeau’s proposed single-use plastics ban would have little to no impact on overall ocean waste, while promoting high-impact alternatives, and inflating costs for consumers. All three of these factored together create a fairly toxic policy mix.

David Clement is the North American Affairs Manager with the Consumer Choice Center.

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Consumer privacy must be priority

Nearly every day we hear of more major cases of identity theft, financial crime and other forms of attacks or malicious interference on the internet. Breaches become commonplace and lax standards leave consumers worried about how their information is safeguarded.

The colossal breaches at British Airways and Marriott and Starwood in 2018 compromised the private data of hundreds of millions customers, and dozens more cases have surfaced since.

Such incidents are evidence that consumer data security, and also consumer privacy, are not being taken seriously. The adoption of Internet of Things solutions and the highly anticipated rollout of very fast 5G networks will make consumers’ privacy even more vulnerable in the next few years.

President Trump’s executive order to prevent companies from buying hardware and software from telecommunications firms deemed a national security risk is at least one good step in protecting privacy, but it’s sad to see it had to come to that.

Trump is likely influenced by statements of FCC chairman Ajit Pai, who has warned against using telecom equipment vendors from China on the basis of both national security and concerns for privacy.

In one case last fall, it was reported that Chinese officials put immense pressure on specific private firms to include so-called backdoors in their software or devices, which may be exploited either by government agents alone or with a manufacturer’s help. That only provokes more questions as to the influence of the Chinese Community Party on the Chinese firms that sell abroad.

With that in mind, for the ordinary consumer looking to buy their next smartphone, laptop or WiFi router, how can they rest assured their privacy will be secured?

As a response to threats like this, Australia banned the Chinese network equipment manufacturer Huawei from its 5G network. The United States has effectively done the same. But blanket bans aren’t a silver bullet solution for safeguarding privacy and data security. A mix of solutions is needed.

What we need is a smart policy response that would induce companies to give sufficient weight to consumer data security, all the while achieving that goal without undue market distortions, wholesale bans of certain firms and the limiting of consumer choice.

Healthy competition between private enterprises is the best mechanism for the discovery of the right tools and applications for new tech gear. Keeping new regulation technology-neutral, and thus not deciding by law which technological solution is best, is a very good framework for consumer privacy.

The rules should be focused on outcomes and be as general as possible while still providing sufficient guidance. That means not just the biggest companies who can afford to comply will also have a chance.

At the same time, some kind of certification scheme, or even open source standard,  should be adopted to minimize the risk of any backdoors or other vulnerabilities. That said, perfect security cannot be guaranteed. But ensuring companies use encryption and secure methods of authentication should be on the table.

Ideally, there would also be more supply chain liability for telecommunications operators and infrastructure wholesalers. This would push companies to take consumer privacy and security more into account when making procurement decisions.

Outright bans motivated by security concerns have the same effects as trade restrictions in the context of a trade war. The first victim of any trade war are the consumers of the nation imposing tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade. Unless there is no other workable solution and unless the evidence of a serious security risk is clear, we shouldn’t resort to bans.

The debate around 5G reminds us how vulnerable consumers are in a technologically and politically complex world.

Therefore, smart regulation is needed in order to protect consumers from data breaches and to prevent autocratic governments from spying on them.

By strengthening liability of companies for technological vulnerabilities and by creating good standards, both consumer choice and privacy can be ensured.

Blunt instruments like total bans based on country of origin or regulators picking the technological champions should be seen as measures of the last resort.

Read more here

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