Thursday 24 July 2014

Currently browsing 'InfoSociety'



The EU v Palo Alto: An EU perspective on privacy

Posted by on 20/07/14

One year on from the Snowden revelations and the global privacy debate is by no means settled. FB announced it will be exercising its rights to sell users’ data to third party advertisers, Russia signed an act banning the export of all its personal data abroad and Google is portraying the ECJ ruling on the right to be forgotten not as a right to privacy but as an infringement on freedom of expression. As far as privacy is concerned the field is still wide open and it’s all to play for as governments, tech-companies and the EU square up for a show-down in the months and year to come.

Kathleen Garnett

Related links: Little BrotherBig BrotherBrother on Brother

Dave Eggers’ much hyped novel, The Circle, from a literary point of view is a flop. Set in an imaginary tech-campus modelled on Googleplex in California the characters have about as much charisma and fluidity as two-dimensional card-board cut-outs. The message is at times over-flagged to the point of tedium. The relationship between the protagonist and her “love interest” as implausible and artificial as the artificial intelligence the giant tech company “The Circle” is at the forefront of developing. A missed opportunity. Had Eggers’ characters and plot been that bit more nuanced this could have been a brilliant book and possibly, one day, a classic.

For what Eggers’ lacks in literary style he makes up for in vision. Like Orwell, Eggers’ has an uncanny ability to identify the threat and coin it in a slogan. Thus, the founding philosophy of the three Circle founders reads as follows:


When George Orwell conceived 1984 in 1948 Big Brother is portrayed as an ever present, all watching, insidious State from which individuals can never escape. Eggers’ fictional “The Circle” on the other hand is based on a cheerful “Little Brother” (i.e. a huge commercial tech company with billions of subscribers harvesting user data to sell on to third parties) that slowly but insidiously invades our personal lives. Like Big Brother Little Brother is ever present, all watching and impossible to shake off. The contrast between big brother and little brother is one of perception. Whilst big brother is sinister from the word go, little brother appears to be a more benevolent, well intentioned, harmless invader of our privacy.

This is where fiction and real life over-lap in unsettling detail. Modern populations are more than willing and happy to subscribe, by the millions and billions to apps and social networking sites, hardly viewing them as sinister or malevolent. In any case do the CEO’s of on-line service providers look like ominous, totalitarian dictators? Hardly. Steve Jobs gave inspiring TED talks that made millions want to weep. Zuckerberg? C’mon hardly a Blofeld plotting world destruction from a mountain top. Just a regular nerd in a hoodie. Sergei Brin – looks like a nice clever chap with a strange obsession for glasses and extreme sports. Nothing wrong with that.

Just as the three fictional founders of The Circle reinvest their billions into new on-line tools to solve the world’s evils so too do the larger than life Jobs, Zuckerberg and Brin. They too use their immense wealth and patented technology to devise on-line tools which they claim will be able to eliminate, in no particular order: crime, corruption, fraud, world hunger, poverty, child abuse, violence, disease. Identify the global challenge and Palo Alto (aka The Circle) is ready to step in and solve the problem through innovation and technology. Money is not an obstacle to their ambitions. Privacy, on the other hand, is. For their business ambitions to succeed three crucial factors must be set in stone.

First, complete transparency which is why the message secrets are lies must be promoted. Second, all registered users must keep on posting everyday events hence sharing is caring. Third, there is nothing in our private lives to be ashamed of unless we have a criminal past or criminal desires which is why privacy is theft and not a right.

Eggers’ novel portrays a not too distant future, where monopolistic, dominant tech-companies control each and every aspect of our everyday lives by tagging us with impunity on-line. A future, which many European regulators and civic privacy groups consider no longer fiction but reality. Continental Europe, more than any other global region, is pushing for a regulatory agenda to find a balance between the obvious benefits of on-line technology on the one hand and citizens’ expectations of their right to a private life on the other.

Let us then, take each of The Circle’s slogans and dissect them, one by one, in order to determine whether, from an EU perspective, there is anything to fear from the increasing influence of global tech companies on our everyday lives. Are their business practices well intentioned signalling more jobs and a better future for us and generations to come? Or could their business practices have a less obvious, though no less problematic down side? If yes, can European regulation square The Circle and bring it back into line with human rights law?

The first section will consider the assumption that “secrets are lies” and contrast it to the EU’s “right to be forgotten”. The second section will consider the idea that “sharing is caring” and contrast it with European citizens’ squeamishness with sharing their private lives with unknown third parties . The third section, “privacy is theft” considers whether our personal data is a proprietary right or, as the EU sees it, a human right.


Trasparenza, crowdfunding e il Parlamento europeo

Posted by on 16/07/14

Sono al Parlamento europeo, seduto con la mia amica G al bar del terzo piano: quello di fronte alla stazione media, con le sedie dalle gambe lunghe e i tavoli slanciati in metallo lucente.

Io e G stiamo parlando dei dossier del Parlamento europeo e di come seguire il lavoro degli eurodeputati, quando mi chiede: «Ma tu conosci ParlTrack?».

Le parole le escono spontanee come un pensiero cui ha dato parola.

«Sì ed è molto utile» e spiego che è un database che raggruppa tutti i dossier, i risultati dei voti, gli eurodeputati e le agende delle commissioni del Parlamento europeo. Poso il gomito sinistro sul tavolo, mi sporgo in avanti e aggiungo «Sai chi l’ha fatto?».

«No, chi?» risponde G, che intanto osserva un eurodeputato inglese passare dietro di me.

«Un informatico ungherese, Stefan Marsiske. L’anno scorso ha fatto una campagna di crowdfunding su Indiegogo, ha raccolto 10.000 euro e ha creato il database», ritorno con la schiena dritta sullo sgabello e chiedo «Sai perché l’ha fatto?»


«Per dare uno strumento alle persone per lottare per i propri diritti e fare leggi migliori» rispondo, finisco il caffè e aggiungo «Lui è la dimostrazione che chiunque può dare il proprio contributo».

Per chi fosse interessato ParlTrack è all’indirizzo:

To charge or not to charge: Paid vs. free access to Google’s Shopping box

Posted by on 15/07/14

In order to resolve its dispute with the European Commission (EC) over its abuses in dominant position in search, Google has proposed to use an existing commercial product, the Google Shopping box, as a basis for a settlement with the EC. The intended purpose was to give comparable presentation of rival products; note: comparable, not equal. We are seeking a non-discriminatory settlement based on equality, which will benefit Google, e-commerce businesses, and clients alike. Although we are mainly concerned with the shopping box, this issue also affects other sectors such as publishers, maps, travel, etc.

A fundamental question regarding the box is whether access to it should be paid or not. At the moment, the box is structured as a paid auction mechanism, an additional revenue stream for Google aside from the revenue coming from the normal Google Shopping product. In this mechanism, comparison shopping services, which are Google Shopping’s “rival links,” bid for a spot in the box and if they win, they are situated on the less clicked on right-hand side of the box. At the same time, Google Shopping benefits from free access to the box. As it is the freeloading child of Google, thus its parent does not charge him rent to cohabitate in the box. Think of it like this: Mr. and Mrs. Moneybags own the largest newspaper in your town and their son is opening a new restaurant which he wants to advertise in the family newspaper. As part of a settlement with a competition authority, the parents give him prime real estate on the first page of the paper for free, while other advertisements are placed on the second page or in the back with smaller ad space for which they have to pay. Where is the fairness in this scenario?

Currently, the box is diverting free traffic from the organic, or natural, search to the higher-up paid search. Considering that Google’s original abuse was against free traffic, it is unclear how the box ameliorates the situation. If the box were free for all to access, and the link placement were rotated so as to not guarantee Google the coveted left-hand side of the box, the settlement would be significantly better.

If Google insists that we continue with a paid approach, it would mean higher costs for the e-shops, thus increasing their prices and passing these costs to the consumer. If indeed the auction mechanism will continue to be used and rival companies will have to bid for space, then all actors appearing in the box, including Google Shopping, should have to pay. In this scenario, there would need to be a separation of accounts between Google and Google Shopping, so that the money that the spoiled child pays is not re-circulated into Daddy’s pockets.

We are not asking that the box be done away with. The idea of providing users with direct answers in the form of attractive pictures rather than plain search results is something we agree can be a better consumer experience. Instead of showing people long lists of blue links, it is preferable to display something fun and vivid such as pictures. We want the user to have the best experience possible, and a rich interface such as the box can achieve this goal. The main concern is that access to the box must be granted on equal terms: if rival sites pay for access, so should Google shopping; if Google shopping gets in for free, so should everyone else. It’s time to stop the spoiled child from freeloading, and ensure Google treats everyone equally.


Statement on the election of Mr Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission

Posted by on 15/07/14

Huawei warmly welcomes the election of Mr Jean-Claude Juncker as the new President of the European Commission, approved by the European Parliament’s vote in Strasbourg today.

Having made the creation of a digital single market for consumers and businesses one of his key objectives, we fully support Mr Juncker’s stated objective that Europe must drive digital progress and help Europeans get the most out of digital technologies.

His commitment to growth spurred by technology dovetails with our strategy for creating a better connected Europe. We share many of the future President’s priorities, in particular with regard to the need to take full advantage of the EU single market for telecoms and spectrum management, and in competition law.

Huawei is also pleased that Mr Juncker has recognised the transformative role of digital technologies in creating more and better jobs. As a company with a strong European footprint, Huawei is doing its part to help drive this process, heavily investing in our European R&D operations with a high staff localisation rate.

We look forward to working with the new Parliament and the future Commission to make the ambitious objectives of the Digital Agenda for Europe a reality, and boost the competitiveness of the European economy.


It’s time to help Europe! It’s time to communicate!

Posted by on 13/07/14
Over the last 15 years EurActiv has developed a unique concept of understanding the EU affairs landscape, both in Brussels and in the main EU capitals. Combining expertise in political science with communication and technology, EurActiv is now more than a media: it is a knowledge centre of expertise on EU communication techniques. To support [...]

UNBELIEVABLE INCOMPETENCE EUROPEAN SCHOOLS HAVE MESSED UP BAC 2014, same exam, same inspector, same subject, different year

Posted by on 01/07/14

eeb1.com_fichiers_news_fichiers1_1679_2014-06-LD-34 BACC 2014 CHEMISTRY

VP Sefcovic made some commitments to the European Parliament. He said in 2013 ”Concerning European Baccalaureate 2012 exams, the Commission regrets the problems encountered at the mathematics and chemistry exams. The Commission requested a detailed report from the Office of the Secretary-General of the European Schools which was prepared by independent external experts. A number of recommendations were made that will be followed-up closely in order to avoid similar problems in the future.”

Mr Kivinen the Secretary General should be querying his position now 

I have previously told you that for Chemistry no such independent external expert report was prepared, the report is here RIES report i queried whether the Commission had mislead Parliament.

What were the recommendations he refers to?

what was the close follow-up and by whom?

in the light of this how did it happen again?

I expect MEPs will want to here from the Commission yet again.

the latest disastrous news from the school is at the top of this post.

Will the EURSC now admit its fundamental problems

Will the Member States and the Commission now recognise the harm being done to pupils?

Will the Member States and the Commission now redress the lack of any appeal rights or legal accountability of the EURSC

Will EURSC become subject to EU law, instead of being anarchic?


in shock at latest snafu?

oops they did it again!



Posted by on 29/06/14

Barack Obama most certainly did not mean by his „Change“ buzz word what is now going on in the relationship between USA and Germany. According to the revelations of former NSA employee, Edward Snowden, Federal Ministries in Germany are now canceling their contracts with US-provider Verizon and switching over to German Telekom. The US-company was previously responsible for ensuring the often highly sensitive communication between different administrative sites. According to a spokesperson it is „unclear“ to what extend Verizon is committed to pass data over to US Government. Seems that Germans would be less naive in the future as they have been so far.

New Crisis at European Schools? Rumours are that the Baccalaureate exam mess of 2012 has been repeated.

Posted by on 26/06/14

The European Schools (EURSC) administration appear to surpass themselves yet again.

Having botched the Baccalaureate in 2012, and since then having seen all sorts of commitments to put things right one might expect that things can only get better.

Rumour has it that the 2014 BAC has suffered a fate even worse than that in 2012.

Most likely this is a direct result of the EURSC being an anarchic body, not subject to any normal legal oversight. Amazing though it might be it is not subject to the TFEU or European Law

Watch this space.

Mainstreaming the Digital Agenda: the time is now

Posted by on 03/06/14

Europe’s voters have spoken. Now its institutions are gearing up to shape the union’s destiny over the next five years. As new MEPs set up their offices in Brussels and political leaders convene to agree priorities for the new commission, one challenge in particular will be the focus of many minds: how can we digitally enhance Europe’s future?

In a recent plea to lead contenders for commission president, EU ‘digital champions’ called on candidates to present a strategy speeding up progress towards ICT targets. “There is no ‘digital economy’ – the economy is digital,” they wrote. Cities are smartening up, technology is helping us curb energy consumption, students are taking lessons without leaving their homes, small businesses are storing their data on servers on another continent, and even criminals take their ‘business’ online. The digital agenda is crossing policy boundaries. We must both follow, and lead. As a provider of ICT solutions across Europe, Huawei will naturally be watching closely as decision makers consider the digital topics on the European agenda over the coming months. Many of them dovetail with our strategy and we have given them strong support already. Now, however, we aim to consider the digital aspects of virtually any topic on the new parliament’s and the future commission’s to-do list.

Huawei is already putting its considerable global weight behind digital in Europe. Not just through words, but, more importantly, through deeds. Europe is as much a major focus of our R&D investment strategy as China and we are at the forefront of initiatives pushing towards hyper-connectivity, for instance with our contributions to European 5G research.

China’s ICT sector complements Europe’s. Huawei is well placed to enhance cooperation so both can play to their strengths and tap the other’s expertise to shore up any weaknesses. We are also taking a proactive approach in forging business-to-business innovative partnerships and fostering ICT skills for Europe’s future generations. Since 2011, we have been running an undergraduate work experience programme offering students from European countries the opportunity to receive hands-on training in China.

For young and older generations, digital progress means greater inclusion in our societies, with widespread access to eHealth, eLearning and eGovernment. Europeans take for granted being able to cross borders physically, but less than 10 per cent of internet users buy goods and services online from another country. If we want a truly integrated market of cross-border services and a future of fast fibre networks carrying digital content to every household in Europe, we need to make progress on the necessary legislation.

At Huawei, we are glad to see a deal on commission proposals to create a single market for telecoms among parliament’s priorities. Another major step forward would be final agreement on EU rules to step up cyber security, something that is within reach before the end of 2014.

With the new parliament and future commission, Europe has a fresh chance to drive digital progress as the most effective way to enhance its future. We look forward to discussing with you how best we can use this window of opportunity.

Let’s get a digital strategy off the ground that works for all Europeans, everywhere. Let’s build a better connected Europe.

- Antonio Salvatore Graziano


About the author

Since May 2011, Mr Graziano has held the position of Vice-President at Huawei’s European Public Affairs and Communications Office in Brussels.

Mr Graziano holds a B.Sc. Honours in Electrical and Electronic Engineering and a Master’s certificate in Business administration from the University College of Cardiff, UK. Starting off as an engineer for AB Electronics Newport, Wales, he spent nine years at Matsushita Electric (Panasonic) Television Division, where he held senior European and international positions. He went on to join EACEM (the former European Association of the Consumer Electronic Manufacturer) where he was appointed Technical Officer charged with organising, coordinating and administering EACEM’s Technical Committee liaisons with standardisation institutes and EU legislators and with providing expert information and advice on regulatory issues.

In 2001, Mr Graziano joined DIGITALEUROPE, the organisation representing the ICT industry in Brussels, to become their Director of Public Affairs with a specific focus on technical and environmental policy and regulation.



The curious case of the Court versus Google – The Aftermath

Posted by on 02/06/14
Reactions to my earlier article published on 20 May continue to reverberate in Europe and across the world. However, I did choke on my breakfast on 30 May when I heard on BBC radio that “Google has agreed to comply with a recent EU privacy ruling”. In an interview with the Financial Times, Larry Page, [...]

Why Transparency is not a Virtue

Posted by on 27/05/14
We keep talking about transparency as a social good and a basis for trust. The Risk-Monger finds this to be contradictory - the demand for transparency is indicative of a lack of trust and a social malnourishment.

Dialogue of the deaf: interpreting the election results

Posted by on 26/05/14
Over 70% of EU voters did not vote for the EU. Where now? There will no doubt be, as Ron Patz predicted Sunday, endless analyses of the EP 2014 results, with analysts furiously and spuriously spinning results to future advantage. I have neither their agenda nor time and resources for this dialogue of the deaf, [...]

Google-bashing with a boomerang

Posted by on 26/05/14

Google-bashing has become very fashionable. Businesses, individuals, and politicians around the world, but especially in Europe, have taken great delight in attacking Google: Google the monopolist, Google the privacy-killer, Google the tax-dodger, Google the facilitator of online piracy, Google the free-rider over telecoms networks. The list goes on.


My company is one of those that has most publicly opposed Google in the high-profile competition case currently being examined by the European Commission. We have proven that the proposed settlement with Commission will worsen, rather than improve, the situation for our business. The case is of critical importance to the future of the European digital economy. But this does not mean that we welcome indiscriminate Google-bashing. On the contrary, Google-bashing is likely to hurt us more than Google.

Google is a pioneer in the development of Internet policy. It is at the forefront of advocacy for a sound regulatory framework for almost anyone with a web site. It puts its money where its mouth is, promoting critically important policies like net neutrality, or opposition to ACTA, with a willingness to invest in studies, events, publicity campaigns, direct advocacy, and many other things. It is the standard-bearer of our industry, and the leader behind which many of us can unite on a whole host of issues.


Unfortunately for Google, this also means that it is the prime target for opposing interests. The dangerous thing about that is that unless policy makers understand that we are debating issues and policies, and not a specific company, there is a big risk that we make wrong turns in our headlong rush to “do something about Google”, and harm European Internet companies much more.


Take tax. Google makes use of the current international system to optimise its tax structure. A business like Google Shopping, which competes with European comparison shopping sites, siphons off most of the money it makes to Bermuda. This is frustrating for us because we are not similarly optimised. But the solution is not necessarily to adopt new tax laws in France or Italy that make it harder for Google to operate there, since such laws will probably hurt French or Italian businesses more.


Take privacy. Google-bashers around Europe have been cheering that in the wake of the ECJ “right to be forgotten” judgment, Google will finally be forced to comply with EU data protection law. But the judgment raises serious questions. Does our data protection legislation provide for the right balance between the right to data protection and other fundamental rights like free speech? Will the right to be forgotten benefit European society, or only European elites? It seems unlikely that a European company seeking to develop a Google-killing search engine could ever get off the ground in this tightly regulated environment, instead of moving to California or elsewhere, like so many European tech entrepreneurs do.


Google-bashers who have the interests of the European Internet industry at heart should ask themselves whether the solutions they are considering might not be boomerangs that will come back and do more harm than good.


The curious case of the Court versus Google

Posted by on 20/05/14
In the past decade several hundred newspapers in Europe have ceased publication; indeed there are probably several hundred closing each year. Almost all traditional newspapers maintain archives, while they are still publishing, it is less clear as to what happens to these archives once they cease publication. The European Court of Justice delivered a curious [...]

Where’s the enemy?

Posted by on 20/05/14

From cold war to hot war we are getting a new dimension by cyber war and it’s still ongoing. US blames China for massive spying and attacking US-structures but can be assumed acting similarly. And as the old game of good guy and bad guy does not fit anymore, it also isn’t able to set borders or differentiate between domestic and abroad. Major crackdown of malicious software „Blackshades“ by FBI last week has shown the dimension. And there does not even fit the old rule of big or small business. The malware, used to hijack computers and webcams remotely has been available for $40. Everyone is spying out everyone. Consequently it is not only China and USA or criminals acting in this sector. Did you know that German companies are among the market leaders in the global market for surveillance technology? German Minister of Economy, Sigmar Gabriel, has now started action in order to prevent the export of those technologies at least in authoritarian states and regimes, suppressing their own people. Until now there has been no regulation.