The initial promise of the internet age was for a free and open space to exchange information. However the advent of algorithm-driven content raises important questions about what we see, how much we share a common information landscape and the reliability of what we rely on for news.
All eyes in the tech community in Europe and beyond are fixed on 25th May 2018 when the EU’s General Data Protection Agreement (GDPR) finally enters into force. But many are misunderstanding what is driving the agenda here - focusing on the apparent loathing of big tech in Brussels when, in truth, the European Commission is driven more by fear of failure.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the EU and the US legislated for an online ‘liability exemption’ under which websites and online platforms are broadly not held liable for the content or products that their customers and users upload to their sites. This approach was replicated globally and has been key in allowing user-generated and user-uploaded platforms such as YouTube, eBay and Twitter to grow, flourish and consolidate. It has also been criticised by more traditional media that do not enjoy the same immunity.
UK government proposals on cybersecurity in the automotive sector highlight how one unexpected outcome of digitisation could be the introduction of strict corporate governance rules previously unseen outside of the financial services sector.
After an eight-month hiatus, the EU looks finally set to have a new Commissioner in charge of its flagship, the Digital Single Market (DSM) agenda. Mariya Gabriel is a former MEP, and it showed, in an effective hearing before the European Parliament, which is now certain to rubber stamp her appointment. This support matters for Gabriel as she will need to mobilise MEPs to publicly back her agenda, particularly on issues where member states in the Council are proving intractable. Gabriel acknowledged that she had two years remaining in the post, and, rather than proposing a slew of additional reforms, her primary responsibility will be in cajoling MEPs and member states into finalising proposals that are already on the table. Her main task will be implementation rather than policy formulation.
A vote today in the European Parliament’s Culture Committee on the reform of the Audio-Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive signals a significant re-nationalisation of the EU’s single market in online broadcasting.
In the 2016 Presidential election, Silicon Valley burnished its credentials as a liberal bastion. In the combined counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda, 78% of voters supported Hillary Clinton with only 16% voting for Donald Trump.
The European Commission today brought charges against Facebook, alleging the company misled the EU’s competition authorities during its acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014. The social media giant stands accused of submitting evidence to the Commission to the effect that it was technically impossible to match its users’ accounts with WhatsApp’s, something subsequently shown not to be the case when the companies announced in August this year that their accounts would be matched.
"I am tackling the longstanding problem of our fastest growing technology firms being snapped up". So said UK Chancellor Philip Hammond this week. Yet the very next day it was announced that Skyscanner, one of the UK’s leading tech companies, had been “snapped up” up by Ctrip.com, the Chinese online travel company for £1.4 billion. Should we see this as an example of the kind of problem Hammond thinks he needs to solve? If so, what might he do?
Ed Vaizey made a splash at Global Counsel’s breakfast “Digital Tech: Bridge or Barrier to Social Mobility?” when he suggested that self-employed platform workers should receive the minimum wage. The former Minister of Culture and the Digital Economy was responding to a succession of controversies over working conditions in the so-called “gig economy”: Deliveroo riders have protested changes in their remuneration structure; the courier service Hermes is potentially facing an investigation from HMRC; and an employment tribunal ruling against Uber could fundamentally transform their self-employed business model.