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#Environment needs saving through innovation, not starvation

As the winter times come closer, people resume their arguments about the thermostat at home. While there is great convenience that comes with heating, it also comes at an environmental cost. Environmental protection and development are, undoubtedly, both a necessary and noble cause, and while we may sometimes disagree with the fearmongering or reactionism that comes with eco-politics, it’s a wonderful thing to see consumer preferences gravitate towards greener alternatives, writes Bill Wirtz.

It is through changes in consumer attitudes that force innovations to become safer, more sustainable, and just generally ‘green-er’. The same however also applies to price: as companies attempt to reduce prices, their incentives force them towards the use of less energy. This is what we’ve seen happen to cars, which have seen fuel efficiency double since the 70s, or air travel, which has seen 45% less fuel burn since the 1960s.

The beauty of consumer-driven innovation is that it comes naturally through the marketplace. In the area of food, we’ve seen immense strives towards safer, more affordable, and less energy-consuming crops. With current agro-tech innovations, like through gene-editing, this becomes a promising prospect. However, the political world seems unimpressed with innovation, and more interested in reacting to fear-mongering. Nowhere are the dangerous effects of this felt more than in the developing world. Advanced countries with good intentions ignore the needs and abilities of poorer nations in the name of pretended environmental protection.

Take, for instance, a recent conference, jointly held in Kenya by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Preservation Center. The ‘First International Conference on Agroecology Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems in Africa’ aims to implement the policies of ‘Agroecology’ throughout the continent.

The “agroecology” touted by the conference refers to a more ‘organic’ style of farming, one that is free (or, at least, less dependent upon) synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. In many parts of Africa, where this conference had its attention, this could have devastating. It should come as no surprise that agroecological methods of farming are, typically far less efficient than the modern, mechanised alternative (a conclusion reached in a study performed by agroecological advocates).

On a continent that has long been plagued with poor economic growth and, far more seriously, severe famines and food shortages, taking the risk of switching to less-productive methods in the name of the environment would be blind to the necessities of a developing economy. Viewed simply, one could easily label this worldview and prescription as arrogant. If people in developed countries (or anywhere else for that matter) wish to establish an organic, agroecological farm to promote a more environmentally-friendly system, then more power to them. But we simply cannot expect this to apply to developing countries such as those in Africa. Bringing sustainable practices and technologies to the developing world should be achieved through increased scientific innovation, stimulating economic growth and development.

Following Brexit, the UK will be in an ideal position to do this without the restraints of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and biotech regulations, which has made trade with farmers in developing countries, as well innovative crops domestically, impossible to achieve. While the hearts of those arguing for “agroecology” are certainly in the right place, we need to understand that their suggestions threaten the chances of developing economies to grow and develop.

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.

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.

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

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