Welcome to EURACTIV’s Digital Brief, your weekly update on all things digital in the EU. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.
“Our services could be at risk if combining products is not allowed.”
– Google’s Europe President, Matt Brittin.
Story of the week: After rumours circulating in Brussels earlier this week, the Commission confirmed that the publication of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act would be pushed back to 15 December. This week, we have all the latest on the plans.
Also this week: Democracy Action Plan, & Media Action Plan, Twitter decision to come December 17, Google-Fitbit approval, broadband cost reduction, EDPS on migration pact, NIS directive review, and lots more…
Digital Brief: The New Competition Tool is dead
Digital Services Act / Digital Markets Act
Market Investigation Tool at Risk. Our big scoop this week covered the European Commission’s ‘market investigation tool’, expected to feature as part of the upcoming Digital Markets Act. We got inside information that the tool will be scaled down and its powers limited after the EU executive’s internal review panel raised concerns over its operation.
The Commission’s regulatory scrutiny board, an independent body that advises the executive on its legislative texts, is believed to have recently aired its opposition, for a second time, on the details of the market investigation tool in the Digital Markets Act, which the Commission is set to present on 9 December.
However, EURACTIV has learnt that following criticism from the regulatory scrutiny board, the apparatus is to be stripped of powers that would have allowed it to impose remedies for uncovering market failures, because of concerns over the ‘legal basis’ of the tool, in light of powers that EU competition regulators already have. Read more.
Google’s last-ditch plea to the Commission. Google has warned that features used across the firm’s Maps services are at risk of being dropped in the EU should the Commission introduce prohibitions against certain types of activity in the platform economy as part of the upcoming Digital Markets Act (DMA). Read more here.
Austria on the DSA. Austria has called on the European Commission to make online platforms more accountable for the hosting of illegal content in a series of recommendations for the EU’s Digital Services Act, citing the country’s Communication Platforms Act as an example for the EU to follow. Read more here.
A message from Google:
Responsibility is YouTube’s top priority
We’ve created new technology, hired expert reviewers, worked with specialists, and reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for the evolving challenges we face online. In Q3, we removed over 7.9M videos for violating our Community guidelines.
Democracy Action Plan / Media Action Plan
Commission unveiling. The European Commission unveiled on Thursday (3 December) its Democracy Action Plan and Media Action Plan, the first piece of a digital agenda package that aims to fight disinformation, enforce rules on fair competition in online public debates, and protect the integrity of elections.
Disinformation sanctions? As part of the Democracy Action Plan, presented on Thursday, the EU is charting the establishment of punitive measures to improve the bloc’s and member states’ capacity to counter disinformation. Read more.
UK Vs Huawei. British telecommunications firms must not install new Huawei 5G kit after September 2021, the government said on Monday, as part of a plan to purge the Chinese firm’s equipment from high-speed mobile networks.
Ericsson 5G forecast. Sweden’s Ericsson on Monday (30 November) raised its global forecast for 5G mobile subscriptions to 220 million by the end of this year, citing faster than expected uptake in China.
Connected cars. Europe’s transport sector is one of the few parts of the economy where emissions are still growing and as policy-makers mull how best to reduce mobility’s environmental impact, the idea of cranking up efficiency through technological fixes is gaining momentum. Read more here.
Broadband costs reduction. We heard in May that the Commission was considering a review of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive, as a means to bolster connectivity amid the pandemic. This week, the Commission opened up a public consultation.
China’s market protectionism. China’s preference for its own 5G vendors over European suppliers has created “an unfair playing field in the country’s telecommunications market”, according to the EU ambassador to China. Read more from Tech Node.
Video games and extremism. Online video games can be used to propagate extremist ideologies and even prepare attacks, the EU’s anti-terrorism coordinator told AFP in an interview, in which he called for more regulation. Read more.
Online terrorist content. Speaking of terrorist content, there is still no date for the next round of trilogue negotiations as part of the online terrorist content regulation, but a shadows’ meeting has been set for next Tuesday.
France Vs Wish. The French consumer authority has submitted a report to a Paris court on concerns they have with the American online e-commerce platform Wish, with regards to the alleged sale of counterfeit goods.
CSAM open for feedback. The Commission is accepting public feedback on plans to clamp down on child sexual abuse material online. The executive has considered several options in its initial inception assessment. Read them here.
Mass counterfeit goods takedown. As part of the international operation ‘In Our Sites’ (IOS) XI, law enforcement authorities from 26 EU member states and third parties have seized more than 21,910 domain names offering counterfeit and pirated items over the internet.
ECJ Rules on taxi platforms. Earlier this week, the European Court of Justice ruled that a service that puts taxi passengers directly in touch with drivers via an app constitutes an information society service, and not a taxi service, meaning that such apps may not have to face the same regulatory burdens as taxi firms. Read more here.
Geoblocking. Earlier this week, the Commission published its review of the EU Geo-blocking Regulation, in force since December 2018, which prohibits unjustified geographical restrictions on access to goods and services within the EU. The report also considers the possible extension of the scope of the legislation, including with regard to copyright-protected content, after stakeholders raised concerns.
Google-Fitbit. Google is on course to win ‘conditional’ Commission approval for its takeover of health tracker Fitbit Inc later this month, Bloomberg reports.
Apple in Italy. Italy’s antitrust authority said on Monday (30 November) it had fined Apple 10 million euros ($12 million) for “aggressive and misleading” commercial practices regarding its iPhones.
Netherlands payment apps probe. The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets ( ACM ) is starting an investigation into access for payment apps to NFC communication (‘Near Field Communication’) in smartphones.
Final decision in first major cross-border GDPR. The EU’s first major cross-border GDPR case is due to be published on 17 December despite the “very divergent views” between EU data protection authorities with regards to a probe into potential data breaches by Twitter, according to Irish Data Commissioner Helen Dixon. Read the full story.
EIB grants €20 million to Spire Global. The European Investment Bank announced at the Web Summit that it would lend up to €20 million to Spire Global, a start-up that specialises in tracking global data sets powered by a large constellation of nanosatellites, EURACTIV’s Anne Damiani reports. This is the first time the EIB has allowed a player to benefit from its “venture debt” mechanism, which allows the financial institution to keep control of its activity as much as possible.
EDPS Opinion on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. “Data protection is one of the last lines of defence for vulnerable individuals, such as migrants and asylum seekers approaching the EU external borders,” the EDPS (European Data Protection Supervisor) said earlier this week. As well as other recommendations for the pact, the EDPS wants to see a full data protection impact assessment carried out. Read the EDPS in full opinion here.
Post-Brexit data transfers. As we all wait in anticipation for a potential EU adequacy decision on UK data transfers, EU jurisdictions are issuing their own guidance on post-Brexit data transfers. A recent one here from Latvia, as well as another one from the government of Gibraltar.
UK extends data strategy deadline. The UK has extended the deadline to submit feedback to its national data strategy, due to heavy interest.
NIS Directive Review. The European Commission will attempt to bolster the bloc’s cybersecurity rules as part of an upcoming review of the network and information security (NIS) directive, it has been revealed.
As part of an upcoming review of the directive, due to be presented on 15 December, the EU executive will propose an expansion to the sectoral scope of services to be covered by the rules, as well as the possibility of transforming the directive into regulation, as a means to address the problems of fragmentation that has occurred across EU member states. Read more here.
Connected devices. Council this week adopted conclusions on the cybersecurity of connected devices, including backing cyber standards throughout the “entire life cycle” of products. We brought you this story last month after getting our hands on some internal documents.
New cyber centre jockeying for support. Spain’s candidacy to host the new European Cybersecurity Industrial, Technology and Research Competence Centre (ECCC) has recently received a boost with public support from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICCWBO).
Translations and transposition. A new research project uncovers that the ‘best efforts’ expression used in the Copyright Directive’s Article 17 may have led to boundless creativity amongst the translators that produced the EU Official Journal translations, with 15 out of the 24 languages ‘getting it wrong to very wrong’. Read more.
Digital Tax. The European Union hopes Joseph Biden’s incoming administration will clarify the US position on digital taxation within two months of taking office, a French Finance Ministry source said on Monday (30 November). Read more here.
Auditors probe. The European Court of Auditors has embarked on an audit to assess the effectiveness of the EU’s intellectual property protection system. On 25 November 2020, the European Commission published a new Intellectual Property Action Plan to support the EU’s recovery and resilience initiative.
Digitalisation in agriculutre. The German Agriculture Ministry and the European Agricultural Research Initiative examined what politics and research can do to effectively tackle the problem of digitisation in agriculture at an online conference on Wednesday (2 December). EURACTIV Germany reports.
New alliance. The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell proposed a plan on Wednesday for a renewed alliance between the EU and the US under President-elect, Joe Biden, based on greater climate cooperation and new efforts to smooth out commercial and digital friction. Read more.
Belgium & Spain Apple lawsuits. Consumer group Euroconsumers has announced two class-action lawsuits against Apple in Belgium and Spain over their planned obsolescence of iPhones. Additional lawsuits in Italy and Portugal will be filed over the next several weeks.
EIC Innovations. Fifty-eight novel, high-impact technologies have been selected in the last round of investment from the European Innovation Council (EIC) ‘Pathfinder Pilot’, funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.
A ‘right to disconnect.’ Outside of working hours, EU workers must be allowed to switch off digital devices without facing consequences, Parliament’s Employment Committee has said. MEPs noted that EU countries must ensure that workers are able to exercise the right to disconnect effectively, including by means of collective agreements.
On my radar
Next week, EU Telecommunications meet for a round of discussions on some interesting issues, including the latest on ePrivacy talks.
What else I’m reading this week: