Tag: eu

EU watchdogs want privacy assurances from Trump

European Union data privacy watchdogs are demanding that a move by US President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump to crack down on illegal immigration will not undermine a transatlantic pact protecting the privacy of Europeans’ data.

Trump wrote an executive order on January 25 aiming to toughen enforcement of US immigration law. It ordered US agencies to “exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information.”

This basically killed off any agreement that the EU had on safe harbour data transfers. It means that if there is a US company running a cloud operation in the EU it has to turn over any data on anyone.

The EU’s data protection authorities said they would write to U.S. authorities “pointing out concerns and asking for clarifications on the possible impact of the Executive Order” on that framework, known as the Privacy Shield, as well as on another agreement protecting law enforcement data shared between the United States and the EU.

The EU-US Privacy Shield is used by almost 2,000 companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft to store data about EU citizens on US servers and makes possible about $260 billion of trade in digital services.

It replaced a previous system thrown out by the top EU court on the grounds it allowed US spies unfettered access to data stored on US servers.

The European Commission press office has played down concerns over any threat to the privacy of Europeans’ data, saying the US Privacy Act had never protected Europeans’ data and so any changes to it would not affect EU-US data transfer agreements.

But it might be that the European court might see things differently.

EU wants Netflix and Sky subscriptions to follow users

European flagThe European Union moved a step closer to letting consumers access their online subscriptions for services like Netflix or Sky when they travel across the region.

An agreement between the European Parliament and Malta, which acts on behalf of all 28 EU states as the bloc’s current presidency, is apparently close to archiving another milestone in knocking down barriers in the single market of 500 million people.

Letting people take their online subscriptions abroad comes after the EU bloc decided to abolish roaming charges for using mobile phones when traveling within the EU.

The agreement must still be formally approved, though that is a rubber stamp task. It is aimed at people temporarily in another EU country for holidays, business trips or studies.

While meant to benefit consumers, the decision has been contested by rights-holders, who say the principle of territoriality is key to their financing rules. It will not apply to British people who voted to blame foreigners for their conservative government’s austerity measures, leave the EU and maintain their national pride by begging American for scraps of a trade deal.

EU clears final global roaming hurdle

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe European Union sorted out a preliminary deal early to cap wholesale charges telecom operators pay each other when their customers use their mobile phones abroad, paving the way for the abolition of roaming fees in June.

The caps were the last sticking point to abolish retail roaming charges as of June 15, 2017, crowning a decade of efforts by Brussels to allow citizens to use their phones abroad without paying extra.

Wholesale charges for data – which were the most controversial given the exponential use of mobile internet – will be capped at 7.7 euros per gigabyte from June 2017, going down to 2.5 euro per gigabyte in 2022.

Caps for making calls will decrease from five euro cents per minute to 3.2 euro cents per minute, while those for sending text messages will halve to one euro cent from two euro cents on June.

“Goodbye roaming,” tweeted Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, the EU lawmaker who steered the law on behalf of the European parliament.

The European Commission – the EU executive – will look at the wholesale caps every two years and propose new ones if necessary.

Wednesday’s deal still needs to be confirmed by the full European Parliament and member states but it is likely to be accepted.

The move was being important to show the great unwashed, er ordinary EU citizens, that it looked after their interests and not just those of French and German businesses.

After the agreement to abolish retail roaming charges in June this year, policymakers grappled with the challenge of who would foot the bill as telecom operators still need to pay each other to keep their customers connected abroad.

Countries in northern and eastern Europe where consumers gobble up mobile data at low prices favoured lower wholesale caps to avoid companies raising prices in their home markets, effectively making poorer customers subsidize frequent travellers.

However, places which depend on tourists such as the south, were worried that their operators could be forced to hike domestic prices to recover the costs of accommodating the extra tourist traffic.

EU roaming charge agreement crucial

Europe with flags - Wikimedia CommonsThe European Union’s digital chief has said that failure to solve the last remaining barrier to abolishing mobile roaming charges across the bloc would lead people to question its ability to deliver on promises.

EU lawmakers and member states are set to hold a third round of talks today on where to set caps for the wholesale roaming charges telecom operators pay each other when their customers call, send texts or surf the web abroad.

It has taken Brussels a decade to reach the point where its citizens will be able to use their phones abroad without paying extra.

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said that it was important to get the agreement sorted out because Brussels has sought to show it works for ordinary citizens.

He called on the negotiators to start showing some “significant flexibility” to achieve a final agreement

The two sides remain far apart on where the wholesale caps for data should be set, with the European Parliament pushing for an initial cap of 4 euros ($4) per gigabyte while member states want it to start at 8.5 euros per gigabyte.

Ansip wrote that if no political compromise can be achieved, people will rightly question its common will and ability to deliver on its promises.

“That is a risk we should not run,” Ansip wrote.

The split on wholesale roaming caps stems from wide differences in domestic prices and travel patterns across the bloc.

Countries in northern and eastern Europe with low domestic prices and generous packages favour lower wholesale caps to avoid companies raising prices in their home markets, effectively making poorer customers subsidize frequent travellers.

Countries in the tourist-magnet south worry that their operators could be forced to hike domestic prices to accommodate the seasonal tourist traffic. They also fear operators will put off investment in networks if foreign operators can gain cheap access to their infrastructure and undercut them domestically.

EU wants mandatory kill switches on robots

humans-channel4-amc-sci-fi-tv-seriesThe European Parliament’s legal affairs committee wants all robots to be equipped with emergency “kill switches” to prevent them from causing excessive damage and taking over the world.

Legislators have also suggested that robots be insured and even be made to pay taxes.

Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who authored the proposal said that a growing number of areas of daily lives were increasingly affected by robotics. To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, there needed to be a robust European legal framework.

The proposal calls for a new charter on robotics that would give engineers guidance on how to design ethical and safe machines. Designers should include “kill switches” so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. They must also make sure that robots can be reprogrammed if their software doesn’t work as designed.

The proposal states that designers, producers and operators of robots should generally be governed by the “laws of robotics” described by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The proposal adds that robots should always be identifiable as mechanical creations.

That will help prevent humans from developing emotional attachments and start thinking that a robot is a human and loves you.

The proposal calls for a compulsory insurance scheme — similar to car insurance — that would require producers and owners to take out insurance to cover the damage caused by their robots.

The proposal explores whether sophisticated autonomous robots should be given the status of “electronic persons.” This designation would apply in situations where robots make autonomous decisions or interact with humans independently.

It would also saddle robots with certain rights and obligations — for example, robots would be responsible for any damage they cause. If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security.

EU wallops WhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail

Europe with flags - Wikimedia CommonsWhatsApp, iMessage and Gmail will face tougher rules on how they can track users under planned new laws being worked out by the European Union executive.

The web companies would have to guarantee the confidentiality of their customers’ conversations and get their consent before tracking them online to target them with personalised advertisements.

This means that Gmail and Hotmail will not be able to scan customers’ emails to serve them with targeted advertisements without getting their explicit agreement.

The European Commission extends some rules that now apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, and seeks to close a regulatory gap between the telecoms industry and mainly US Internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

This means that telecoms companies will be allowed to use customer metadata, such as the duration and location of calls, as well as content to provide additional services and so make more money.

The proposal will also require web browsers to ask users upon installation whether they want to allow websites to place cookies on their browsers to deliver personalized advertisements.

All it is really doing is getting people’s permission, before they view a web page. Something most people will allow anyway.

But Online advertisers say such rules would undermine many websites’ ability to fund themselves and keep offering free services.

The proposal will need to be approved by the European Parliament and member states before becoming law.

Skype and Facebook face tough data rules in EU

EU and country flags - Wikimedia CommonsMessaging services such as Microsoft’s Skype and Facebook’s WhatsApp will face stricter rules on the way they handle customer data.

New privacy laws due are to be proposed by the European Union, which could give messaging services a few headaches.

The EU wants to extend some rules that now only apply to telecom operators to web companies offering calls and messages using the internet, known as “Over-The-Top” (OTT) services, according to the draft.

Under the move, messaging services must guarantee the confidentiality of communications and obtain users’ consent to process their location data, mirroring similar provisions included in a separate data protection law due which will operate in 2018.

Advertisers will also face strict rules on how they can target ads at web users based on their browsing history.

It will solve a few fairness problems in the online world. Telecoms companies have long complained that groups such as Alphabet Inc’s Google, Microsoft and Facebook are more lightly regulated, even though they offer similar services.

The phone companies want European Union rules specific to telecoms firms to either be repealed or extended to everyone. Obviously they want them repealed but if they can’t have that knowing that Google and Microsoft are suffering in the same way will make them feel better.

Lise Fuhr, director general of ETNO, the European telecoms operators association said that if Europe wants a Silicon Valley, it needs radical regulatory simplification. We won’t get new digital services unless we overhaul e-Privacy.

The draft proposals would prohibit the automatic processing of people’s data without their consent. Advertisers say such automatic processing is low risk as it involves data that can not identify the user.

Fines for breaking the new law will be steep at up to four percent of a company’s global turnover.

A Commission spokeswoman said the aim of the review was to adapt the rules to the data protection regulation which will come into force in 2018 and simplify the provisions for cookies.

Cookies are placed on web surfers’ computers and contain bits of information about the user, such as what other sites they have visited or where they are logging in from. They are widely used by companies to deliver targeted ads to users.

It would also remove the obligation on websites to ask visitors for permission to place cookies on their browsers via a banner if the user has already consented through the privacy settings of the web browser.

Microsoft tries to win over EU anti-trust watchdogs

cat versus dogSoftware king of the world, Microsoft, is doing its best to win over EU anti-trust watchdogs to allow its deal with business social notworking site LinkedIn to go through.

Vole will still allow LinkedIn’s rivals access to its software and give hardware makers the option of installing other services to try to win EU approval for its takeover of the US outfit.

Microsoft submitted its LinkedIn concessions to the European Commission last week after the EU competition enforcer expressed concerns about the $26 billion deal, Microsoft’s biggest ever acquisition.

The offer aims to show that Microsoft will not favour LinkedIn at the expense of rivals which is the sort of thing which annoys watchdogs.

Both the Commission and Microsoft, which have not provided details of the offer are saying nothing.

The EU wants feedback from rivals and customers before deciding whether to accept the concessions, demand more or open an investigation which can take up to five months. They have until Tuesday to do so. The Commission is scheduled to rule on the deal by  6 December.

Professional social networks which have access to Microsoft’s API (application program interface) will continue to have this facility once LinkedIn becomes part of the company, the people said.

The other key element of the company’s concessions is the option for computer hardware makers to install either LinkedIn or rival networks on computers, indicating that the company is keen to avoid any suggestion of packaging products to crush competitors.

Microsoft’s website shows it has software deals with hardware makers such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Huawei.

Privacy group launches legal challenge against US data deal

Data centreAn Irish privacy group has issued a legal challenge against an EU deal which allows Euro data to end up in US hands.

The EU-US Privacy Shield commercial data transfer pact has been running for  two months but it was hammered out after the European Union’s highest court struck down the previous such framework over concerns about intrusive US surveillance.

The framework enables businesses moving personal data across the Atlantic a way of avoiding falling foul of tough EU data transferral rules.

Digital Rights Ireland has challenged the adoption of the “Privacy Shield” in front of the second-highest EU court, arguing it lacks adequate privacy protections.

It will be a year or more before the court rules on the case and it could still be declared inadmissible if the court finds the Privacy Shield is not of direct concern to Digital Rights Ireland.

More than 500 companies have signed up to the Privacy Shield so far, including usual suspects Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

Commission gives Google more time in Ad-sense case

stalin-googleGoogle has been given an extra week to respond to EC allegations that it was blocking rivals in online search advertising. It might only be a week but it is likely to delay a regulatory decision on the case until next year.

European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said, making the second extension because Google asked for additional time to review the documents in the case file.

The Adsense case has been brewing against Google since July and is the third antitrust case to be raised by the EU accusing it of having abused its market power in the placement of search advertising on third-party websites.

Google still has to respond to another charge that it favors its own shopping service over those of rivals and a second accusation that it abuses the dominance of its Android operating system for phones to squeeze out rivals .

Both deadlines have been extended several times. Google always said it did nothing wrong, it was someone else, it was broken before it got there.