Welcome to EURACTIV’s Digital Brief, your weekly update on all things digital in the EU. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
“The end goal is clearly to use big data for intensive profiling, with AI and machine learning playing a significant role.“
– MEP Clare Daly, speaking this week on Europol’s use of Big Data in their law enforcement activities.
Story of the week: Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, has defended its record in using large datasets for criminal investigations while putting forward an ‘action plan’, seen by EURACTIV, to appease concerns raised over the agency’s ‘illegal’ data use by the EU’s data protection watchdog.
Podcast: The development of robotics technologies has been cited as an important part of the EU’s future economic growth and recovery. But there are also perilous pitfalls at play, should the bloc overlook various policy challenges, in terms of high-risk robotics, data protection, and consumer rights. This week, we hear from Commission experts and probe the future of EU robotics with Principal Advisor for DG Just, Paul Nemitz.
Don’t miss: You’ll want to keep an eye out for the bloc’s efforts in the 5G security space this week, after the Commission tasked the EU’s cybersecurity agency, ENISA, with coming up with a new certification scheme for next-generation mobile networks.
Also this week: Vestager aims for 2022 adoption on DMA, Online digital identity developments in Italy, EDPS warns Parliament on WiFi security, Irish DPC hits out at Parliament report, German copyright transposition latest, EU 5G security certification, Commission’s new regulatory environment for robotics, more maritime surveillance in the EU, Commission antirust claims against Apple, and much more…
Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, has defended its record in using large datasets for criminal investigations while putting forward an ‘action plan’, seen by EURACTIV, to appease concerns raised over the agency’s ‘illegal’ data use by the EU’s data protection watchdog.
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) slammed Europol in September after a probe unearthed evidence of national law enforcement agencies transmitting ‘large datasets’ to Europol, as opposed to ‘targeted data’ proportionate to specific criminal investigations, breaching the standards set out in the 2016 Europol Regulation.
In the action plan, Europol calls for the Commission to revise the 2016 Regulation, which lays down strict standards in terms of the agency’s data use, to allow the agency to continue its work. Read more.
A message by FACEBOOK:
Facebook partnerships to fight against COVID-19
Working together is more important than ever in the fight against COVID-19. In Spain, the World Bank is using Facebook’s Disease Prevention Maps to forecast needs for COVID-19 testing and hospital beds. Learn more about how we’re collaborating to keep communities safe and informed at about.fb.com/europe.
EU Commission Agenda
New College agenda. A new timetable for Commission presentations has emerged this week. Dates for your digital diary:
- Improving the working conditions of platform workers.
- Europe’s Digital Decade: 2030 Digital Targets
- Review of Roaming Regulation
- Updating the new industrial strategy for Europe
- Follow up on the white paper on artificial intelligence
- A trusted and secure European e-ID
- Communications on Horizon Europe research and innovation missions (tbc)
- Communication on the global approach to research, innovation, education and youth.
Digital Services Act / Digital Markets Act
Commission explains policy approach to partners. This week, experts from DG Connect have spent time explaining EU Digital policy and particularly the Digital Services Act to representatives from the Western Balkans & Turkey, as part of a workshop for the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange group. Here’s the Commission’s presentation on the DSA.
Vestager charts 2022 agreement for DMA. The Commission’s digital tsar Margrethe Vestager is “hopeful that an agreement will be found in spring 2022” on the Digital Markets Act, according to an interview in French publication L’Agefi this week.
Finland on DSA and DMA. “Competition must be effective and fair in the digital age too. In particular, access to data is a critical factor in competition, and at the moment, a few platform giants control access to data collected from users,” said Finland’s Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen this week, submitting his government’s positions on the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act to Parliament.
“This monopoly is so strong that, in practice, smaller operators may not have access even to the user data of their own content,” she added.
Extra-territorial impact. Law firm Clifford Chance has attempted to probe the implications of the DMA and the DSA for global jurisdictions in a wide-ranging study.
Italian online digital identity. The Italian government is considering measures to introduce a ‘public digital identity system’ in order to better control children’s access and use of social media platforms, writes Mariana Labbate.
Update on TikTok in Italy. The Italian data protection authority has said that the company has agreed to “take measures to block access to users under the age of 13, and evaluate the use of artificial intelligence systems for age verification.”
This comes after the authority imposed the immediate temporary block until 15 February on access to data for TikTok users whose age could not be verified, following the death of a 10-year-old girl from Palermo, who suffocated after participating in a ‘choking challenge’ on the social media platform.
EDPS warns Parliament on security of Wifi. Ever wondered about the security of your data if you’ve used the EU Parliament’s WiFi? Well the EU’s institutional data protection authority, the European Data Protection Supervisor, has told Parliament to update T&Cs for EP-Private network, perform a security risk assessment, and consider pseudonymisation and encryption in its operations.
UK DCMS on data strategy. Phil Earl, Deputy Director responsible for the National Data Strategy in the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has attempted to counter concerns that the country’s approach prioritises innovation and growth over data protection and privacy, in a new blog post this week.
Deutsche Telecom launch Schrems II taskforce. German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom’s Group Privacy Unit has launched a new project to probe compliance with EU data protection standards, following last year’s Schrems II ruling.
Irish DPC hits out at Parliament report. The Irish deputy commissioner at the country’s data protection authority, Graham Doyle, has hit out at a European Parliament motion that heavily criticises the operation of the Irish authority.
“The premise of the criticism directed at the DPC in the draft motion in relation to transfers is false,” he said, referring to the authorities alleged failure in addressing shortcomings over Ireland’s failure to deal with a complaint from privacy activity Max Schrems about international data transfers outside of the EU.
Last year, the European Court of Justice annulled the validity of the EU-US privacy shield, on the basis on the complaint, and also said that standard contractual clauses, the instrument used by the EU in the absence of adequacy agreements for international data transfers, was insufficient in protecting personal data.
Commission launches consultation on interoperable digital public services. The Commission has launched a public consultation on the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) in a bid to assess the support it gives governments to set up interoperable digital public services.
India’s biometric tech. Indian Health Ministry has put out a statement pushing territories to use biometric verification (Aadhaar tech) to track those who have received the COVID19 vaccination.
German copyright transposition. This week, the German government approved a draft law submitted by the Federal Minister of Justice to transpose the EU’s copyright directive into national law after a series of delays. More details on the background here.
Croatian parliamentary groups call for better protection of copyright. Parliamentary groups on Thursday supported stronger protection of creative industries online, as well as stronger and better protection of authors, performers, and publishers. Read more.
EU charts cyber certification for 5G. An EU-wide cybersecurity certification scheme for 5G networks will be rolled out across the bloc in a bid to patch technical vulnerabilities in next-generation mobile communications, the European Commission said on Wednesday (3 February).
The move comes as part of the EU’s cybersecurity act adopted in 2019, which attempts to encourage market players to make their connected devices more secure to achieve EU certification. The bloc’s cyber agency, ENISA, has been tasked with drafting the standards required to qualify for the certificate. Read more.
Commission’s regulatory environment for robotics. Robotics technologies in the EU could come under the scope of new rules to ensure the safety of next-generation technologies, it has emerged.
The European Commission aims to present a revision of the machinery directive in the second quarter this year, and it has recently been revealed that there are plans to tackle issues related to ‘human-robot’ collaboration, as well as improve the transparency of Artificial Intelligence algorithms in robots.
Moreover, the Commission will also look at the radio equipment directive, which covers communications transmitted by devices connected to the Internet of Things, in an attempt to bolster privacy protocols. Read more.
iBorderCtrl hearing. Today, the EU court of justice hears a transparency complaint brought by MEP Patrick Breyer against the Commission’s Research Executive Agency, regarding their refusal to release documents related to the iBorderCtrl project – the EU’s ‘video lie detector’ technology.
Paris and Amsterdam’s new AI pact. France and the Netherlands are moving ever-the-closer on digital initiatives. This time around, the two partners have formed a new agreement on Artificial Intelligence initiatives.
Surveiling the skies. The EU Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has published a new call for the provision of drone technologies to surveil the bloc’s maritime borders, operating in a radius of at least 500 kilometres. In our podcast last week, we probed this issue in detail.
Hikvision surveillance. Chinese video surveillance manufacturer Hikvision, famed for its employment of cameras in the Xinjiang province where Uighur Muslims minorities are surveiled, has now won a contract worth an estimated $33 million to employ 1,900 cameras with facial recognition in Shandong province, IPVM reports.
Greek ‘Smart Policing.’ This summer, Greek police forces will be provided with ‘Smart policing’ tech, allowing for real-time facial recognition of the public. The Greek DPA is nearing an investigation into the tech, to probe whether data protection rights could be at risk. More from Reporters United (in Greek).
Workers have nothing to lose but their (block)chains. Workers in Europe’s gig economy are resisting labour exploitation and market deregulation with increasing success, a study commissioned by the Left group in the European Parliament has found.
“The findings show that the battle for the status of platform workers is seminal.,” MEP Leïla Chaibi (France Insoumise, France) said.
“As part of my work in the European Parliament Employment and Social Affairs Committee, I am committed to ensure those platform workers have the same rights and work conditions as other workers.”
EU Vs Apple. EU antitrust enforcers have claimed a court made legal errors when it scrapped their order for iPhone maker Apple to pay €13 billion in Irish back taxes, in a filing to have the verdict overturned.
CMA requires viagogo to sell StubHub’s international business. The UK’s competition authority is requiring viagogo to sell all of StubHub’s business outside North America after its in-depth investigation identified competition concerns.
Microsoft / ZeniMax Media probe. EU antitrust regulators will decide by 5 March whether to clear Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the U.S. tech giant’s biggest gaming acquisition to better compete with Sony Corp’s PlayStation.
US moves against Big Tech. Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar has introduced a bill that makes it harder for mergers between big companies to get approved, as part of the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act.
The new act is not specific to Big Tech, but it will be the most affected sector, reports Mariana Labbate. Since some Republican members of the Senate have shared views against big companies in the SIlicon Valley, it is very likely that the proposal will get approved.
Von der leyen laments EU investment shortfall for digital. The EU continues to lag behind China and the US when it comes to investments into key technologies such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has warned.
Speaking at the annual conference of trade group Digital Europe, von der Leyen noted how the bloc is still underperforming in key areas, saying the EU executive aims to help bridge the funding vacuum.
“Europe is still punching well below its weight. I believe this is because of two main reasons. The first one obvious, a lack of investment,” she said on Thursday (4 February).
In the same breath, however, she praised public-private partnerships as a means to generate investment, highlighting the Commission’s proposal last year to create a new European Investment Fund for artificial intelligence and blockchain.
The EU executive is currently in talks with the European Investment Bank on the project, which has already generated €700 million in investment, the Commission president said, hoping the figure could go as high as €3 billion as the project gathers momentum this year. Read more.
HPC in Portugal. Today, the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking, which pools European resources to buy and deploy world-class supercomputers and technologies, announced the signature for a contract worth €20 million for a new supercomputing system: Deucalion in Portugal.
Tech jobs come to Ireland. Tech giants Microsoft and Huawei have this week announced intentions to step up operations in Ireland.
Microsoft announced on Tuesday the creation of 200 new roles in Dublin over the next four months, a move warmly welcomed by Irish Taoiseach Micheàl Martin. “We are very proud of the talented workforce that has made Ireland’s partnership with Microsoft such a huge success since 1985,” he said, following a call with Microsoft executives on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Chinese telecom giant Huawei announced that it will boost its Irish workforce by 110 people, accompanying that with a further €80 million investment in research and development.
“Huawei has a long-term commitment to Ireland, where since 2004 we have built a world-class team servicing our ever-growing consumer and enterprise customer bases,” Huawei Ireland chief executive Tony Yangxu said.
Jourová praises Slovak initiative fighting disinformation. “It is of utmost importance to know how member states act when they fight disinformation,” the European Commission’s vice-president for values and transparency, Vera Jourova, told the Slovak Network of Experts against Hybrid Attacks, known as SOPHIA – a recently established initiative, aiming to connect active institutions and organizations in the fight against disinformation. Read more.
Von der Leyen’s media problem. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has developed an unhealthy habit of avoiding press questions in public and carefully dosing her words to European media, while being seemingly omnipresent in a selected few, mostly German, publications, writes Alexandra Brzozowski this week.
Intellectuals publish another open letter against PM Janša. A group of intellectuals and journalists have sent a third letter criticizing Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, his party, and the government coalition for its management of the COVID-19 health crisis, for “spreading and encouraging hate speech”, and for not keeping the public informed. Read more.
US Ambassador warns of ‘foreign influence on the Montenegrin process’. The US will continue to support democratic principles based on the Constitution, electoral will, and the vision of Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic future, but it does not want to see foreign influence affecting the Montenegrin process, said US Ambassador Judy Rising Reinke during a meeting with President Milo Đukanović, according to the statement from the president’s office, writes Željko Trkanjec.
Ukraine media clampdown. TV broadcasters ZIK, NewsOne, and 112 Ukraine have been forced off the air for a period of five years following a decision by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Critics have accused the President of stifling freedom of speech, reports the International Federation of Journalists.
The New European receives investment boost. Anti-Brexit newspaper The New European, has been sold to a new group of investors, including former New York Times CEO and BBC director-general Mark Thompson, former Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, and former Irish press executive Gavin O’Reilly. NiemanLab reports.
Hackers assault Finnish banks. Several Finnish banks reported having been the target of criminal activity as the number of hacking attempts has increased rapidly during the last year. Read more.
Cyber criminality amid Covid. At the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) congress this week, Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly raised the threat of increasing cyber criminality amid COVID. In a similar spirit, this week, Europol issued a threat warning for COVID cybercrime groups.
Denmark’s covid passport. Denmark this week launched the development of a digital coronavirus passport. Announcing the plans, Finance Minister Morten Bodskov said “there is a business community that needs to be able to travel,” and efforts to develop such tools should be pursued rapidly.
Council Working Party on Cyber meets early next week to discuss the bloc’s bolstered cyber strategy.
What else I’m reading this week: