Tag: eu

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.

Amazon wants ebook problem sorted out with EU

AmazonAmazon is chatting to European Union antitrust regulators about settling a year-long investigation into its e-book deals with publishers without a fine.

The book seller is in a lot of hot water with the EU over its tax deals with Luxembourg, which may result in the US online retailer paying millions of euros in back taxes.  It is possible that the last thing it wants is to be hit with another big fine from the ebook case.

It is early days yet, but it seems that Amazon is keen to settle the ebook case. Under the EU’s settlement rules, the company would not face any fine or finding of wrongdoing if it can offer concessions to allay regulatory concerns.

European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso is saying nothing about any deal.

The EU competition watchdog opened an investigation into the case in June last year, saying Amazon’s e-books contracts with publishers giving it terms as good as those for its rivals may make it difficult for other e-books distributors to compete.

The focus is on Amazon’s e-books in English and German. The company is the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, while the market is growing rapidly.

Outrageous apple tax case unique claims the OECD

apple-hanged-on-christmas-treeA multi-billion euro back tax bill handed to Apple by the European Commission should not be seen as a precedent for future tax cases as it was based on state aid rather than tax law, according to a top e OECD official.

Pascal Saint-Amans, who is leading the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s flagship Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, said that under the new OECD rules, most of the tax from US technology multinationals like Apple should be paid in the United States, not Ireland.

But the European Union antitrust regulators last month ordered Apple to pay up to $14.6 billion in back taxes to the Irish government after ruling that a special scheme to route profits through Ireland constituted illegal state aid.

Saint-Amans said that in transfer pricing terms, the bulk of the profit clearly belongs to the United States” rather than Ireland or any other European country, told journalists in Dublin.

Transfer pricing, the setting of prices for the transfer of goods or services from one subsidiary to another which critics say is used to reduce tax liabilities in relatively high-tax countries, is a key target of the BEPS process.

“My understanding is that the EU decision is based on a certain form of legalistic state-aid reasoning which is specific to the state-aid investigation. It is not a transfer pricing case,” he said.

“What is extremely important is that these rules, these standards, be implemented consistently by everybody and that the state-aid cases do not undermine the standard, in particular, on transfer pricing rules,” he said.

Saint-Amans said Apple’s tax planning in the period studied by the EU was “outrageous”, would not be possible under the BEPS rules.

Irish government votes to tell the EU to feck off

hqdefaultThe Irish have voted overwhelming to fight the EU for their right to be shafted by a big US multi-national for billions of dollars of tax money.

The government, which was once so desperate for money that it forced its citizens into a number of particularly unpleasant austerity measures says that it does not want Apple to give it the 13 billion euro of unpaid tax.

Ireland’s fragile coalition overcame initial misgivings from independent members of cabinet to join Apple last week in fighting the ruling that Ireland granted state aid to the company through undue and selective tax benefit.

The government insists Ireland did not give favourable tax treatment to Apple, despite the fact that fruity cargo cult only pays .5 per cent tax instead of the 15 per cent that every other company does. It insists that no state aid was provided, and it won a motion to endorse its position in parliament by 93 votes to 36.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that the picture of Ireland painted by the Commission in its decision, as a country prepared to play fast and loose with the law to gain unfair advantage, could not be more damaging or further from the truth.

“This is not a Commission finding that stands by a small country that has played by the rules. It cannot be allowed to stand.”


EU says Apple ruling not “anti-American”

apple queueThe EU is fighting Apple’s spin that somehow demanding it pay the same tax as everyone else is “anti-American”.

Apple is telling its Tame Apple Press, and its “lobbied” US politicians, that the EU is targeting it as part of an anti-American campaign inspired by those nasty communist Europeans.

But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Sunday that the EU ruling was clearly based on facts and existing rules and was not a decision aimed at the United States,

France and Germany have come out to back Brussels on the decision.

Juncker said EU Commission investigations on taxation had mainly targeted European companies.

The decision comes amidst a coordinated global initiative to crack down on tax evasion by multinational companies, spearheaded by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The ruling against Apple has pushed the issue into the limelight and raised the risk of significant push-back from the United States, analysts say, where some lawmakers are saying the result represents a European encroachment on the US potential tax base.

Pascal Saint-Amans, director of the OECD Center for Tax Policy and Administration, dubbed Apple’s tax planning “outrageous” but, like Juncker, said the decision was based on enforcing current regulations.

Saint-Amans said he believed it would be unlikely to serve as a precedent for enforcement on future income earned by multinationals.