Technology

The ‘Bad Boys’ of the Private Sector turn into Corona-Angels

In light of the Corona virus, businesses that are usually on the top of politicians’ lists to be taxed, regulated, nationalized, or shut down are demonstrating how much value they produce for society.

En telcolobby hekelt netneutraliteit in coronatijd

Europees afknijpverzoek aan Netflix is ‘onnodig, en de schuld van netneutraliteit’.

“De EU dwingt het internet om langzamer te zijn, dankzij netneutraliteit”, luidt de boodschap van het Consumer Choice Center. Het beperken van de snelheid en kwaliteit van online-diensten zoals Netflix zou niet alleen onnodig zijn, maar ook schadelijk voor alle Europese consumenten die nu thuiszitten en thuiswerken. Aldus deze Amerikaanse lobbygroep die de belangen behartigt van onder meer sigarettenfabrikanten en telecomaanbieders.

Het verzoek van Eurocommissaris Thierry Breton aan Netflix om videokwaliteit terug te schroeven, wordt door het Consumer Choice Center geïnterpreteerd als EU-bevel wat onnodig en schadelijk is. Breton heeft afgelopen week in een tweet laten weten dat hij Netflix-CEO Reed Hastings heeft verzocht om naar standaardresolutie ‘terug te schakelen’ wanneer HD-video niet echt nodig is. Dit uit voorzorg om mogelijke overbelasting te voorkomen door thuiswerken en videostreamen bij zelf-quarantine en lockdowns in EU-landen.

Lobbygroep Consumer Choice Center stelt in een rondgemaild persbericht vandaag dat de Eurocommissaris voor de interne markt digitale streamingdiensten en dienstverleners heeft gevraag om hun bandbreedte te beperken tijdens de COVID-19 crisis. “Dit bevel is gegeven ondanks bewijs dat breedbandcapaciteit nog lang niet aan zijn grenzen zit”, aldus de in Brussel gevestigde organisatie. Bij deze stellingname over bandbreedtegrenzen verwijst het lobbycentrum naar een artikel in Engadget over Bretons tweet.

‘Geen problemen in UK, India en China’

Daarin stellen Vodafone UK en Telecom Italia dat er toenemend internetverkeer met andere pieken in de netwerkbelasting zijn, maar geen berichten van wijdverbreide uitval. Ook een tweet van de Britse security-expert Kevin Beaumont over bandbreedtebelasting in Manchester wordt aangehaald door Engadget, wat weer wordt aangehaald door het Consumer Choice Center. De lobbygroep voor onder meer de tabaks- en telecomindustrie linkt in zijn protesterende persbericht tegen het afknijpverzoek van de EU ook naar een artikel in The Indian Express.

Daarin worden meetresultaten van snelheidsmeetdienst Ookla belicht, voor vaste en mobiele breedbandverbindingen in bepaalde Aziatische landen. Daaronder China, waar het nieuwe coronavirus voor het eerst is losgebarsten, en India, Japan en Maleisië. In die landen was er vooralsnog geen sprake van grote stijgingen in het gebruik van bandbreedte sinds het uitbreken van COVID-19. “Zelfs in Italië, dat al weken in lockdown verkeert, zijn er geen meldingen van wijdverbreide storingen”, vervolgt het Consumer Choice Center zijn boodschap.

Marktwerking en netneutraliteit

Volgens topman Luca Bertoletti geven alle grote telecomproviders in Europa aan dat ze stabiele, sterke en snelle verbindingen leveren aan consumenten, en dat die dat zeer waarderen. “Tegelijkertijd vragen de Europese beleidsmakers bedrijven om hun internetdiensten te vertragen voor alle Europeanen, wat duidelijk onnodig is en schadelijk voor alle consumenten die vertrouwen op snelle internetverbindingen voor hun werk en hun privé bestaan”, aldus Bertoletti die ook lid is van een rechtse denktank die vóór vrije marktwerking is. De forse financiering voor het Consumer Choice Center zou ook vanuit rechtse hoek komen.

Adjunct-directeur Yaël Ossowski van het Consumer Choice Center wijst in het ook online gepubliceerde persbericht nu Europese netneutraliteit aan als de boosdoener. “Dit scenario in Europa is exact de reden waarom de Verenigde Staten in 2018 netneutraliteitsregulering heeft herroepen.” Hij spreekt van ‘beleefde dwang’ die overheidsinstanties uitoefenen op digitale bedrijven om streamingdiensten van lagere kwaliteit te leveren.

‘Verkeer overlaten aan telcombedrijven’

“Dat is niet alleen slecht publiek beleid, maar het toont ook aan waarom breedbandproviders en niet overheidsregelgevers het beste gepositioneerd zijn om ons online-verkeer te dirigeren, of dat nu in normale tijden is of in tijden van crisis.” Ossowski uit de hoop dat dit mensen tot nadenken zet wat betreft steun voor verdere overheidsregulering van het internet en digitale diensten.

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

Low-battery warning fight

Microsoft’s carbon dating, Google in $1tn club, Logitech’s split keyboard

Don’t tell anyone, but my iPhone charger is hidden under some newspapers on my desk so that it’s less likely to go walkies when I’m not there.

I’ve always taken precautions, with people very eager to “borrow” this vital energy supply, and in future, I may have to bolt my chargers to the desk. The European Union just doubled the chances of me losing them this week when it revived the idea of universal chargers that would fit Apple, Samsung and any other smartphones.

Apart from the extra jeopardy I will face personally, the tech industry’s own selfish interests are in focus here. “The EU-enforced common charger is the enemy of progress” was the headline of a release from the corporate-backed Consumer Choice Center, which said any such move would undermine innovation and restrict competition. It echoed the argument when this last came up from Apple, which is the king of proprietary technologies and whose Lightning connectors are still cursed by anyone wanting to plug in a headphone jack.

I don’t buy their concerns. Where would we be without common USB and HDMI standards, and WiFi and Bluetooth, all with dongle-less backwards compatibility? I would happily trade a little innovation and commercial advantage for those invaluable conformities. 

Of course, legislators are always behind the tech curve and the common charger debate would become moot if we all bought wireless charging mats that removed the need for hard connections completely. Then again, some companies are not being as innovative in taking us to that bright new future as they think they are. Apple announced its AirPower wireless charging mats in 2017, but had to cancel the product less than two years later after struggling to make one that worked properly.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Microsoft’s carbon dating The software shop has gone further than other tech giants in committing to become “carbon negative” by 2030 and offset all carbon emissions made since it was founded. The $1.2tn company also announced a $1bn innovation fund to tackle the climate crisis.

2. There’s another trillion-dollar tech titan Alphabet on Thursday became the fourth Big Tech company to reach a market capitalisation of $1tn. Apple was the first public company to achieve the milestone, in August 2018, and is now more than a third of the way to a second trillion. It was followed by Amazon, which has since fallen back below the 13-digit threshold, and then Microsoft. Meanwhile, Tesla’s soaring share price is giving short sellers the heebie jeebies.

3. Peacock proud of its free streaming strategy The last major streaming debut is also the cheapest. Comcast unveiled its NBCUniversal Peacock streaming service on Thursday and said it would be free for its existing cable customers when it launches fully in July. There will be live sports and news, a large catalogue of older sitcoms, and the service will primarily rely on advertising rather than the subscriptions favoured by rivals. “We like the idea of zigging when others zag,” said NBCUniversal chairman Steve Burke.

4. WhatsApp won’t rely on ads Facebook is dropping plans to show ads on its WhatsApp messaging service, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. WhatsApp disbanded the team working on integrating ads on to the platform recently and even the code they had created was deleted from the app.

5. Ad industry faces wrath of regulator The UK’s data protection regulator is braced to do battle with the country’s £13bn online advertising industry, saying it will start investigating individual companies that are in breach of European data protection law and enforcing it against them. The Information Commissioner’s Office said the ad industry had responded insufficiently to a six-month grace period to get its house in order.

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

Le BREXIT une chance pour la science britannique ?

Science: Avec la victoire triomphale de Boris Johnson, le Royaume-Uni se dirige irrémédiablement vers une sortie de l’Union européenne. Alors que certains scientifiques britanniques semblent catastrophés, d’autres y voient une opportunité pour plus de liberté.

Scientists for EU est une association militante de scientifiques britanniques fondée en 2015 par Mike Galsworthy (1) et Rob Davidson dans l’optique de faire campagne pour maintenir le Royaume-Uni dans l’UE. Sur leur site internet (2), ils n’hésitent pas à annoncer la couleur : « La science est vitale pour l’économie et la qualité de vie du Royaume-Uni. La science est également au cœur des défis sociaux mondiaux auxquels nous sommes tous confrontés. Nous pensons que nous pouvons faire beaucoup plus de bien pour le Royaume-Uni et le monde au sein de l’UE. »

Malgré la victoire du camp des brexiters, ils continuent de faire campagne et n’ont d’ailleurs pas perdu espoir dans leur cause. Ainsi, sur leur page Facebook, on trouve un mème moquant le Premier ministre Boris Johnson essayant de faire rentrer une « cheville carrée dans un trou de forme ronde » symbolisant ainsi sa tentative de réaliser le Brexit.

Dans la lettre (3) qu’ils avaient publiée dans le Times de 2015, on pouvait lire « Il n’est pas suffisamment connu du public, que l’UE est un trésor pour la science et l’innovation du Royaume-Uni. La liberté de mouvement pour le talent et les ambitieux programmes de financement pour la recherche qui soutiennent la collaboration internationale, mettent le Royaume-Uni dans une position de leader mondial. Ceci a des conséquences sur l’éducation, la formation, les petites entreprises innovantes et le futur de notre économie ». La lettre insiste également sur l’expérience positive qui découle de la collaboration étroite avec la communauté scientifique de l’UE. En conséquence , les signataires renouvellent leur soutien à l’Union, sa direction scientifique et son adhésion à l’UE… On trouve des signataires prestigieux comme l’astronome Lord Rees of Ludlow, Tom Blundell, président du Science Council et co-fondateur d’Astex Therapeutics, Sir Paul Nurse, prix Nobel de physiologie et médecine et Andrea Taroni, éditeur en chef de Nature Physics… pour n’en citer que quelques-uns. Hélas, il ne semble pas que cette initiative ait été entendue des Britanniques ; une question se pose alors sur les conséquences pour la science britannique du Brexit à venir et également pour la science UE.

UN FINANCEMENT PERDANT ?

Au début de l’année 2019, Paul Nurse, un prix Nobel de génétique, a soutenu que le Brexit serait un désastre pour la science britannique (4). Qu’en est-il ? Sur Brexit Myths, un site qui passe en revue les arguments pour et contre le Brexit, on trouve une analyse d’une tribune du Guardian de Matthew Freeman, membre de Scientists for EU, qui affirme que le Royaume-Uni ne peut pas se permettre de perdre la réserve d’argent que représente le financement scientifique de l’UE. La thèse de Freeman étant que l’UE « paie directement une grande partie de la recherche et de l’innovation au Royaume-Uni ; et parce que la science en Grande-Bretagne est performante, il y a un gain financier et scientifique net. » (5) D’après lui, le Royaume-Uni percevrait davantage qu’il contribuerait. Les auteurs du blog remarquent alors que ces sommes évoquées sont insignifiantes par rapport au fait que les Britanniques font partie des plus gros contributeurs au budget de l’UE avec 11,3 milliards de livres et que pour de tels montants le pays pourrait mieux lui-même servir ses propres scientifiques (6).

On conçoit que la question du financement de la recherche représente aujourd’hui un enjeu stratégique. Surtout pour ce qui concerne les projets qui nécessitent des efforts colossaux et où les pays pris individuellement n’ont pas les budgets disponibles. On pense notamment à la recherche spatiale, à l’IA ou encore à la recherche militaire dont les budgets récemment ont battu des records. La question se pose également du devenir de la participation britannique à Horizon Europe, le plan censé prendre la suite d’Horizon 2020, et pour lequel l’UE prévoit d’engager 100 milliards d’euros pour la R&D. Une solution évoquée prévoit que les britanniques deviennent partenaires d’Horizon Europe, mais cela n’est pas garanti. Et il est également envisagé que le gouvernement britannique finance lui-même une transition. Notamment pour les chercheurs dont les travaux à ce jour dépendent de fonds européens. Aussi, si le partenariat avec Horizon Europe n’était pas concrétisé, un rapport (7) prévoit la mise en place d’un programme phare (flagship) de bourses de recherche semblable à celui du Conseil Européen de Recherche, reconnu comme efficace. Reid, un des auteurs du rapport, affirme que la version britannique proposerait « des subventions plus importantes, une durée plus longue et une supervision par les pairs plus rigoureuse ». Une autre idée suggérée consisterait à attirer des chercheurs du monde entier.

On le voit, la question du financement trouble la communauté scientifique britannique, jusque sur la page d’accueil du site de l’incontournable Royal Society : « La Royal Society s’efforce d’obtenir les meilleurs résultats pour la recherche et l’innovation au travers des négociations sur le Brexit et de soutenir les relations continues et d’en créer de nouvelles en Europe et au-delà. » (8)

DES SCIENTIFIQUES LIBÉRÉS DE LEUR CARCAN ?

Et pourtant, les scientifiques britanniques ne sont pas tous des « remainers ». Certains d’entre eux vont même jusqu’à se réjouir de la situation. C’est le cas de Matt Ridley, auteur scientifique à succès, par exemple, qui vient d’intituler une de ses chroniques pour le Times, « L’aversion absurde de l’UE pour le risque étouffe de nouvelles idées » (9). Après avoir affirmé qu’une régulation excessive avait pour conséquence de supprimer les avantages qu’apportaient les nouvelles technologies pour la santé et l’environnement et les politiques protectionnistes, il compare la réglementation de l’UE et celle de l’Organisation Mondiale du Commerce.
Selon lui, le problème de l’Union est qu’elle se base sur le « danger », alors que celle de l’OMC considère le risque global présenté par un produit (10) . En raison de ce distinguo, certaines autorisations sont plus difficiles à obtenir. Tout ceci étant la conséquence de l’adoption d’une version forte du principe de précaution à la suite du traité de Lisbonne. Selon lui, ceci a pour conséquence de créer d’énormes différences avec les standards scientifiques mondialement acceptés et créer des obstacles à l’innovation : « de manière assez ironique, l’application du principe de précaution rendra impossible le développement de certaines technologies qui peuvent améliorer la santé humaine, l’environnement et promouvoir la biodiversité. » Le chroniqueur évoque le cas de l’agriculture européenne, par exemple, où on veut interdire le glyphosate et faire la promotion d’agriculture bio qui emploie des pesticides plus nocifs pour l’environnement. De même l’UE a une réglementation des plus strictes sur les OGM elle l’a transposée récemment aux organismes obtenus par CRISPR.

On comprendra alors que la réglementation UE pénalise la recherche et le développement de solutions technologiques au sein des états membres. Nous nous étions interrogés, il y a peu de temps, sur le fait que l’UE exporte les peurs et doive importer les bénéfices du progrès . Du coup on peut imaginer qu’en quittant ce « corset » les scientifiques britanniques vont pouvoir retrouver une liberté perdue et rejoindre la compétition de la scène scientifique mondiale. Ainsi, comme le remarque Maria Chaplia du Consumer Choice Center, « si le Royaume-Uni choisit de s’éloigner de ces réglementations typiques de l’UE à la suite du Brexit, il pourrait devenir une puissance biotechnologique mondiale tournée vers l’avenir (…). L’approbation de cultures GM résistantes aux ravageurs, par exemple, pourrait économiser environ 60 millions de livres sterling (79 $ millions) par an d’utilisation de pesticides au Royaume-Uni. » (11) Ce qui permettrait un gain considérable pour le consommateur britannique. On peut imaginer que cela peut s’appliquer à bon nombre d’innovations.

La science britannique sortira-t-elle grandie du Brexit ? L’avenir le dira. En attendant, les scientifiques britanniques qui voudraient continuer d’échanger sur la politique scientifique et témoigner de leur expérience restent toujours les bienvenus sur European Scientist.

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


(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Galsworthy
(2) http://www.scientistsforeu.uk/about
(3) https://twitter.com/Scientists4EU/status/601811591802269696/photo/1
(4)  https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00694-w
(5)  The EU “directly pays for much UK research and innovation; and because Britain is scientifically outstanding, there is a net financial as well as scientific gain.”, in https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/may/13/eu-science-funding-the-uk-cannot-afford-to-lose-out-on-this-pot-of-money
(6) The sums involved in Professor Freeman’s science grants pale into insignificance against this figure, from which a substantial quantity of money could be taken to fund British science after Brexit. https://brexitmyths.wordpress.com/2015/05/29/brexit-myth-britain-cannot-afford-to-lose-eu-science-funding/
(7) https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03444-0
(8) https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/brexit-uk-science/
(9) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-eus-absurd-risk-aversion-stifles-new-ideas-z7wffs0bc
(10) « The problem is that the EU, unlike the rest of the world, bases its regulations on “hazard”, the possibility that a chemical could conceivably cause, say, cancer, even if only at impossibly high doses. WTO rules by contrast require a full “risk” analysis that takes into account likely exposure. Coffee, apples, pears, lettuce, bread and many other common foods that are part of a healthy diet contain entirely natural molecules that at high enough doses would be carcinogenic. Alcohol, for instance, is a known carcinogen at very high doses, though perfectly safe in moderation. The absurdity of the EU approach can be seen in the fact that if wine were sprayed on vineyards as a pesticide, it would have to be banned under a hazard-based approach. », ibid.
(11) https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2019/12/11/viewpoint-conservatives-say-uk-could-break-from-outdated-eu-gmo-crispr-regulations-if-they-sweep-brexit-election/

Elizabeth Warren Outraged by Social Media Bans She Champions

In a tweet she published on Tuesday, Democratic Presidential Candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted Twitter’s new ad policy that won’t approve any political advertising.

The problem with Sen. Warren’s outrage is that she herself is a champion of breaking up social media networks as an end goal, and restricting political advertising in the meantime.

Therefore, when such policies are then implemented by social networks as a way to placate political interests and ensure good relationships with lawmakers, shouldn’t that be celebrated?

It seems Warren is upset that the policy affects more people than those she intended.

Here is a good lesson in advocating public policies and regulations that affect real people: they actually affect, and sometimes harm, real people.

Because regulations are rules that impact everyone and considering that these regulations are promoted as part of a candidate’s platform, it doesn’t take much to understand that ordinary groups, charities, and organizations will actually end up getting penalized. Noble intentions are great, but the actual impact is what matters.

This is something we’ve discussed before, and we’d advocate against.

The Consumer Choice Center, the consumer organization I work for, now won’t be allowed to make ads because Twitter’s algorithms consider our content “political advertising,” even though we do not endorse candidates. We discuss ideas and advocate for ideas that promote consumer choice.

Bans on political advertising, as promoted by Warren, are effectively an attempt to regulate speech, albeit in the private sphere. And not just the speech of the fossil fuel companies or political candidates from parties she deplores.

It also affects environmental groups, pro-LGBT groups, political clubs, NGOs, and everyday civil society organizations like ours.

Let that be a warning to those who promote tech regulation that stifles speech. It won’t just be speech that you don’t like that will end up censored, but all political speech. That’s bad for ordinary social media users, and it’s bad for well-meaning organizations who are just trying to spread a message.

For more, check out this Consumer Choice Center poll that shows that 77% of Americans believe government should not interfere with newer tech-enabled businesses where possible to ensure consumers have the greatest possible choice of services.

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.

Is the Cookie Law outdated and frankly just annoying?

Cookies are a basic part of how the Internet works but there’s hardly anyone I know that is in favour of pop ups on just about every website due to the EU’s Cookie Law. They store little bits of information about you such as when you are logged into a site, what you add to your shopping basket and all the useful things that personalise websites to you. Cookies are also used to track what you do on the Internet and can be used to link your activities across sites, for instance if your browse a flight for your next trip abroad, you might then see adverts for flights to the same destination on social media sites.

The EU hates Cookies with a passion as they’re big on protecting your personal information and that’s why a Cookie Law came into effect. It spawned horrible pop-ups on websites across the web which you have to click to accept or decline to whenever you visit a new site. The law was relaxed a little for implied consent but GDPR strengthened it and it’s back with a vengeance.

One of the reasons I detest the Cookie Law is because an increasing number of US sites refuse to bow down to the EU. Rather than installing Cookie Policy pop ups to infuriate 350 million US consumers, they’ve taken the attitude that it’s easier just to geo-block EU consumers and block them from even seeing their websites. That’s annoying.

Now, the Court of Justice of the European Union has decreed that “Storing cookies requires internet users’ active consent. A pre-ticked checkbox is therefore insufficient”. In a judgement that comes from German Court asking for an EU ruling (a country where it’s considered normal behaviour for a retailer to sue another claiming an unfair advantage if they don’t comply with every banal regulation going), the Court decided that the “consent which a website user must give to the storage of and access to cookies on his or her equipment is not validly constituted by way of a pre-checked checkbox which that user must deselect to refuse his or her consent”.

The Court went on to say that you have to tell the user how long the cookies will last for and and whether or not third parties may also have access to the cookies your site places on their computer. This is clearly information overload and best advice is firstly to not use Cookies where they are not needed but more importantly surely it’s time for the Cookie Law to change to acknowledge that Cookies are pretty essential to the Internet and that by using the Internet acceptance of Cookies can be implied to be accepted?

“The court has clearly established that current EU rules are outdated. Bombarding internet users with cookies isn’t user-friendly, informative, or productive.
 
When retrieving the information from your device, the website knows what particularly caught your eye, and they can improve their website structure or marketing based on this data. However, cookies can also be useful to the user, in that it stores your password, and keeps you logged into your favourite social media platform or airline account.
 
A well-reflected reform would put all cookie use under implicit consent, with the knowledge that users can use often free and already existing software that allows them to opt-out of all cookie use that they deem unsuited for them. This allows consumers to take their data use into their own hands, without an unnecessary and ineffective pop-up on every website.”

– Bill Wirtz, Senior Policy Analyst , Consumer Choice Center

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.

Public security must be a priority in Europe’s 5G rollout

A national assessment of the risks associated with the next generation of communications infrastructure is the first step toward an EU-wide cyber-security strategy.

The European Commission’s incoming president, Ursula von Der Leyen, will have a series of politically delicate hurdles to contend with in the field of cyber security when she assumes office on 1 November 2019.

Not least is the domain of 5G communications, where the EU has come under increased pressure from its American counterparts to adopt a hostile position against next-generation technologies emanating from Asia-based companies.

Following a Commission recommendation for a common EU approach to the security of 5G networks, member states have recently submitted national risk assessments that provide an overview of their most pressing concerns in the future development of 5G infrastructure. These will feed into the next phase, an EU-wide risk assessment to be completed by 1 October 2019, which the Commission says will be the first step toward implementing a real cyber-security strategy across the EU.

Is this so important for ordinary users and consumers? It’s not so long ago that we heard the news about vendors from illiberal countries being involved in scandals such as the backdoors in Vodafone Italia’s fibre network provided by Huawei. As we move to a society where connected devices are part of daily life, from smart lights to smart home locks to connected cars, the privacy and security of the network will be central to everyday life.

According to research by analysts Berg Insight, there were a total of 22.5 million smart homes in Europe at the end of 2017. This number is predicted to grow to 84 million homes by the end of 2022, representing a market penetration of 35 per cent. Add to this an estimated 45 million smart homes in the United States at the end of 2017.

Consumers want to be able to rely on their network provider to keep what happens inside their smart buildings private and stored securely. For this reason, security must be a defining feature of the standards and norms that govern the global ICT supply chain, as well as the individual pieces of software and hardware that businesses and consumers depend on. Inaction risks undermining the ability of businesses and individuals to exercise meaningful choice in critical 5G and other ICT products and services.

Some of the EU’s largest member states, including Germany and Italy, have used the auctions of spectrum licenses as a cash cow for their national budgets instead of seeing newly utilised frequencies as a gamechanger for consumer connectivity. This has led to the undesired consequence that many operators are cash-strapped and tend to go for cheaper and less trustworthy infrastructure providers. The result is a toxic reliance on very few suppliers, some of whom are accused of operating with questionable motives.

If the next Commission wants to successfully secure the digital ecosystem, it has to coordinate technical standards for interoperability, such as the more trustworthy open-source solutions, and promote an environment based on transparency and trust to make sure national governments will implement liability rules for operators and resellers of software and devices that expose consumers to the risk of malicious and illegal interference. This is the only way to protect consumers, promote innovation and foster safe digital lives for consumers.

Luca Bertoletti is senior European affairs manager at consumer advocacy group the Consumer Choice Center.

Article 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

Opinion: Facebook trustbusters motivated by partisan politics, not consumer protection

Channeling the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt and nostalgia for the early 20th century Progressive Era, the latest bad idea being circulated in elite circles is to use the trust-busting power of the federal government to break up the social network Facebook.

The idea has been promoted by such Democratic politicians as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, and Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz. Even Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, has hitched his wagon to the idea, as expressed in his now infamous New York Times op-ed.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes the keynote speech at F8, the Facebook’s developer conference, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in San Jose, Calif.
Tony Avelar, AP

But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not dealing with a corporate monopoly akin to Standard Oil, U.S. Steel or even Microsoft. We’re talking about social media websites and services available on the open web.

No one is forced to use these platforms, and are very free and cheaply able to create their own. This is not a monopoly in the literal sense, or even a figurative one.

There are already plenty of competing social networks that people use for a host of services. Whether it’s Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest or Twitter, there are plenty of services where people connect with friends and share information. Facebook just happens to have “clued in” to the needs of the greatest numbers of consumers. Does that warrant government intervention? No.

Let’s be clear: The internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations, however, will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed.

No doubt, some actions by the company have been egregious and they’ll be rightfully punished. The Federal Trade Commission’s expected $5 billion fine on Facebook because of its mishandling of data and consumer privacy is a good first step.

But the movement calling on federal regulators to use their power to break up the company reeks of partisan politics.

Democrats are incensed that users on the platform may have been persuaded to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election due to an impressive outreach effort by the Trump campaign (not to mention alleged Russian front groups). Republicans, on the other hand, decry Facebook’s liberal-heavy moderation that has specifically targeted conservative pages and posts. Its censoring of a post citing the Declaration of Independence because it was considered “hate speech” is just one example.

But from what we’ve learned from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other tech elites, banning individuals or pages are highly complex decisions made by thousands of moderators who follow an internal set of guidelines, whether at YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. The investigative article published on the Verge about Facebook moderators’ workload and stress while removing bad content from the platform speaks to that.

Despite these follies, the overwhelming majority of users are happy with their profiles. They’re able to connect with friends and family around the world, and share images and posts that spark conversations. Millions of small businesses, artists, and even news websites are dependent on these platforms to make their living.

Using the force of government to break apart businesses because of particular stances or actions they’ve taken, all legal under current law, is highly vindictive and will restrict the ability for ordinary people like myself or millions of other consumers to enjoy the platforms for which we voluntarily signed up.

We should hold these platforms accountable when they make mistakes, but not tip our hand to invite the federal government to determine which sites or platforms we can click on.

The government’s role is not to pick winners and losers. It’s to ensure our rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence states. Let’s not use temporary partisan politics to determine the fate of online services and platforms from which we all enjoy and benefit.

Yaël Ossowski is a consumer advocate and deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

Read more here

Facebook Trustbusters Are Motivated by Partisan Politics, Not Concern for the Consumer

By Yaël Ossowski

Channeling the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt and nostalgia for the early 20th century Progressive Era, the latest bad idea being circulated in elite circles is to use the trust-busting power of the federal government to break up the social network Facebook.

The idea has been promoted by the likes of Democratic politicians like senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar and also Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz. Even Chris Hughes, an original Facebook co-founder, has hitched his wagon to the idea, as expressed in his now infamous New York Times op-ed.

But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not dealing with a corporate monopoly akin to Standard Oil, U.S. Steel or even Microsoft. We’re talking about social media websites and services available on the open web.

No one is forced to use these platforms, and are very free and cheaply able to create their own. This is not a monopoly in the literal sense, or even a figurative one.

There are already plenty of competing social networks that people use for a host of different services. Whether it’s Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest or Twitter, there are plenty of services where people connect with friends and share information. Facebook just happens to have “clued in” to the needs of the greatest numbers of consumers. Does that warrant government intervention? No.

Let’s be clear: the internet is the ultimate playground for consumer choice. Government attempts to intervene and regulate based on political considerations, however, will only restrict consumer choice and deprive us of what we’ve thus far enjoyed.

No doubt, some actions by the company have been egregious and they’ll be rightfully punished. The Federal Trade Commission’s expected $5 billion fine on Facebook because of its mishandling of data and consumer privacy is a good first step.

But the movement calling on federal regulators to use their power to break up the company reeks of partisan politics.

Democrats are incensed that users on the platform may have been persuaded to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election due to an impressive outreach effort by the Trump campaign (not to mention alleged Russian front groups). Republicans, on the other hand, decry Facebook’s liberal-heavy moderation that has specifically targeted conservative pages and posts. Its censoring of a post citing the Declaration of Independence because it was considered “hate speech” is just one example.

But from what we’ve learned from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and other tech elites, banning individuals or pages are highly complex decisions made by thousands of moderators who follow an internal set of guidelines, whether at YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. The investigative article published on the Verge about Facebook moderators’ workload and stress while removing bad content from the platform speaks to that.

Despite these follies, the overwhelming majority of users are happy with their profiles. They’re able to connect with friends and family around the world, and share images and posts that spark conversations. Millions of small businesses, artists, and even news websites are dependent on these platforms to make their living.

Using the force of government to break apart businesses because of particular stances or actions they’ve taken, all legal under current law, is highly vindictive and will restrict the ability for ordinary people like myself or millions of other consumers to enjoy the platforms for which we voluntarily signed up.

We should hold these platforms accountable when they make mistakes, but not tip our hand to invite the federal government to determine which sites or platforms we can click on.

The government’s role is not to pick winners and losers. It’s to ensure our rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, as the Declaration of Independence states. Let’s not use temporary partisan politics to determine the fate of online services and platforms from which we all enjoy and benefit.

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