Digital Brief: Facebook’s crypto concerns

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“Any further concentration of personal data poses additional risks to the rights and freedoms of individuals.”

– European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli, Wednesday, 19 June.


Facebook’s Crypto concerns. Facebook’s plans to launch its own cryptocurrency, Libra, have already started to raise concerns in the EU, with European Data Protection Supervisor saying on Wednesday (19 June) that the move will “require careful scrutiny” from relevant bodies.

In an interview with Business Insider, Buttarelli added that “it would be deeply concerning, for example, for a company with access to massive volumes of personal information, gathered through its social media platforms and communications services, to be able to combine this information with the tracking of online digital purchases.”

Buttarelli hasn’t been the only one to raise concerns. On Wednesday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that the notion of Libra becoming a “sovereign currency” is “out of the question.”

Trustworthy media. In other Facebook news, last week I was in Athens to hear from Facebook’s Director of Media Partnerships,  Jesper Doub, who revealed that the tech giant has plans to enable “trustworthy” news publishers to generate additional revenue on its social media site.

“We want to try to build a place on Facebook where news can actually live and be reflected, from trustworthy sources only,” said Doub, director of media partnerships at Facebook.

Such news sources will be “vetted” and required to “adhere to journalistic standards,” he told the audience at the Global Editors Network (GEN) on Thursday (13 May).

Anti-fake news department. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pointed to the need for battling untrustworthy news in an interview with German newspaper BILD.

“I would advise him or her to make more energetic public statements to counter the repeated attempts to smear the EU,” Juncker said. “The Commission should set up an anti-fake-news department which would do nothing else but expose these lies.”

Huawei’s charm offensive. EURACTIV’s Alexandra Brzozowski sat down with the US Ambassador Gordon Sondland earlier this week, and he said America cannot have close security, intelligence and technology ties with Europe unless the EU cuts ties with Chinese tech giant Huawei and embraces “Western telecom industry.”

This has been a consistent narrative from the Americans with regards to Chinese tech firms, and many in Brussels are now considering the pressure to be undermining the EU’s political independence.

Meanwhile, Huawei themselves have made an interesting move: the firm has decided to launch its own cartoon network channel on YouTube. The series presents a selection of educational videos, “targeting a broad range of ages,” and covering a breadth of “intellectual issues,” Eric Cui, Chief Content Officer at Huawei’s Brussels office told EURACTIV.

“We are trying to create something that can help educate and inform online communities on interesting and engaging subjects,” Cui said. The videos attempt to tackle some challenging topics, ranging from the connection between black holes and Wi-Fi, the makeup of the human brain, and why Octopuses could be considered as a type of super-animal.

Farewell, Mr VP. Andrus Ansip, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, thanked his colleagues on Monday for “excellent cooperation” over the past year, as he announced his departure from Commission at the end of this month. Meanwhile, Digital Economy and Society Commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, announced recently that she would not take up her seat in the European Parliament, as a means to see out her final few months in the Commission.

Connected cars legal opinion. Earlier this week, I obtained a copy of the legal opinion on the controversial C-ITS cooperative intelligent transport systems delegated act. Interesting takeaway on the technology-neutrality point. No specific requirement under ITS, but “it must be considered” by the Commission.

Commission officials had earlier said that plans to get connected cars on Europe’s roads could face a setback of “two or three years” should the Delegated Act on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) be rejected by MEPs, which they eventually were, in April.

Porn delay. The UK’s Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright is due to announce today that the government’s plans to introduce a porn age verification scheme are to be indefinitely delayed in Parliament on Thursday, following concerns over the tracking of porn watchers’ identities and browsing habits.

On My Radar

Next week, the Commission hosts the AI Assembly, marking the one year anniversary of the creation of the European AI Alliance platform. The aim is to discuss the latest achievements in AI policy as well as future perspectives of the European Strategy on Artificial Intelligence, including its impact on the economy and society.


What else I’m reading this week:

Upcoming events

Keep an eye out for our high-level event on Media Policy presented by Fondation EURACTIV, coming up next week at the European Parliament.


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