Digital Brief: The French fight, Biotech in Parliament, ‘Soft’ EU rules for AI?

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“Content publishers are in a situation of absolute economic dependence on Apple for the distribution of their content on the iPhone.

– Letter from French and EU Publishers’ Groups to Apple’s Tim Cook, October 7. 


Story of the week: After having successfully struck a deal with Google, French publishing groups have now set their sights on fighting for better terms with another one of the Big Tech giants: Apple.


Also this week: ECJ mass surveillance ruling, Belgium Vs Facebook, new Parliament biometric system, US killer acquisitions, EU states call for ‘soft’ AI rules, TikTok Vs Hungary, and more…


On Thursday, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision by the French competition authority, which had called for fairer negotiations with publishers in France on the subject of ‘neighbouring rights’  – a key element outlined in the EU copyright directive.

The clause allows publishers to negotiate with platforms over forms of remuneration for the publication of extracts of their articles on Google News.

For their part, however, French press groups don’t look like ceding their quest for equal terms for journalists in the online space for anytime soon.

A conglomeration of French and European publishers’ organisations, led by the Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale (APIG) – the organisation that had been negotiating with Google – has written to Apple’s Tim Cook, highlighting their concerns over the company’s terms of service in the App store. Read more here.



Visegrad 4 copyright concerns. A cross-section of authors, performers, publishers & creative workers organizations has taken aim at US and Asian firms for attempting to undermine the EU legal framework on private copying in Visegrad countries.



Mass surveillance ruling. EU countries are permitted to carry out the indiscriminate transmission and retention of communications data only when there is a ‘serious threat to national security’, the bloc’s highest court ruled on Tuesday (6 October).

Commission presses Zoom for more details. The European Commission is looking for further assurances from US video conferencing platform Zoom regarding the security of its technology after concerns emerged earlier this year over the company’s privacy protocols.

Europol wants data access. The EU agency for law enforcement, Europol, has recognised the increasing difficulty of police authorities in Europe to access data stored on encrypted networks, as the EU itself attempts to find legal solutions that will facilitate police access to protected communications.

Belgium DPA V Facebook. Facebook and Belgium’s privacy watchdog sparred on Monday (5 October) at Europe’s top court over which data protection authority has the power to police the U.S. social media giant in a case that could escalate its privacy fights across the EU.

Greek data centre. Microsoft has announced the establishment of a new data centre in Greece, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis saying the new project would bring €1bn to the country.

German Presidency wants more encryption. Documents recently obtained by Statewatch show that the German Presidency is aiming to reintroduce a new working party on EU-wide blanket telecommunication surveillance – in the form of a so-called ‘Ad-Hoc Working Party on Data Retention.’

Data retention concerns. A wide scope of digital rights groups led by the German NGO digitalcourage has written to Commissioners Ylva Johansson, Thierry Breton, Didier Reynders, and Vice-President Margarethe Vestager, highlighting concerns with the Commission’s gesturing towards finding possible legal solutions for retaining data.

EDPS calls for US federal data rules. Speaking as part of an online event on Tuesday, the European Data Protection Supervisor Wojtek Wiewiorowski said that the Schrems II judgment in July would mean that any future EU-US data transfer deal would likely require legislative change in US surveillance law, moving towards a federal ‘data privacy’ framework.


Artificial Intelligence

Biometric Parliament system. The European Parliament is to test a biometric attendance register for MEPs taking part in meetings at its Brussels premises, internal documents seen by EURACTIV reveal. The move has provoked worry among privacy-conscious members of Parliament, who oppose the move to capture MEP fingerprint data.

Soft regulation call from EU states. Fourteen EU countries have set out their position on the future regulation of Artificial Intelligence, urging the European Commission to adopt a “soft law approach”.

In a position paper spearheaded by Denmark and signed by digital ministers from other EU tech heavyweights such as France, Finland and Estonia, the signatories call on the Commission to incentivise the development of next-gen AI technologies, rather than put up barriers.

“We should turn to soft law solutions such as self-regulation, voluntary labelling and other voluntary practices as well as robust standardisation process as a supplement to existing legislation that ensures that essential safety and security standards are met,” the paper noted.

New group. The EU has yet another ‘pro-innovation’ group: the tech ‘Coalition of the Willing.’ Launched this week by Dutch Interior Minister Raymond Knops, it includes the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany & Portugal -focussing on AI, digital identity, Cybersecurity and more.



Connected mobility. The Commission’s 5G Public-Private Partnership published last week the Strategic Deployment Agenda for the roll-out of 5G corridors – allowing connected vehicles access to next-gen telecommunications networks on the road.

Huawei in Belgium. Telecoms operators Orange Belgium and Proximus have decided to progressively replace Huawei-made mobile equipment in Belgium and Luxembourg with Nokia gear, two sources close to the matter said.

UK Huawei concerns. The British parliament’s defence committee said on Thursday that it had found clear evidence that telecoms giant Huawei had colluded with the Chinese state and said Britain may need to remove all Huawei equipment earlier than planned.

5G arrives in the capital city next week. Luxembourg telecom giant POST will launch its ultra-fast 5G network in Luxembourg. POST, Orange, Proximus and Luxembourg Online successfully bid in a government auction in July for the rights to use slices of the radio spectrum to provide its 5G offerings. POST aims to provide 90% of Luxembourg with 5G network coverage by 2024. The technology should be rolled out in the rest of the country next year.


Digital Euro. The European Central Bank is looking into the possibility of launching a digital euro, launching a three-month public consultation on the plans on October 12. The ECB’s president Christine Lagarde said last week that the institution should be prepared to launch such a currency if necessary in the future. A decision on when such plans will materialize is likely to come forward mid-2021, the ECB has said.

Thiel investments. Peter Thiel’s investments are pervading deeper and deeper into the European digital economy, this time in Austrian cryptocurrency trading platform Bitpanda, according to



New, free news portal in Hungary. The media website, launched by former journalists who resigned because they saw Index’s independence and integrity undermined, is now online.

A statement read: “The journalists who resigned from at the end of July are launching a new portal called Our goal is to fill the growing void on the Hungarian media landscape and give readers back the freedom to get informed, to have something they can read.” Read more.



Big-Tech hearing. As Renew MEP Stéphanie Yon-Courtin continues to make the case for holding a Big Tech Hearing in Brussels, in the US, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg & Twitter’s Jack Dorsey will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct 28.

US Killer acquisitions. A US House of Representatives group probing potential abuses of market power by the GAFA four found that the firms used “killer acquisitions” to stifle competition in digital markets, in addition to a trove of anticompetitive practices.

DSA and Hate Speech. The German NetzDG law to counter illegal online speech has become a prototype for internet censorship in authoritarian states. The Commission’s proposal for the new Digital Services Act must avoid this template, write Jacob Mchangama and Natalie Alkiviadou.

TikTok investigation. Hungary’s competition authority launched an investigation into TikTok on the suspicion that the platform did not provide consumers with relevant information “such as the scope and use of data processed” when using the application, as would be required by “principles good faith and fairness”, reported.

The authorities also raised an issue with the fact that TikTok did not make available its terms of use in Hungarian and did not act with the “expected professional diligence” to “moderate” children’s exposure to advertisements when using the app.



UK presses Commission on merger. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is putting pressure on the European Commission to conclude its investigation into the proposed merger of Telefonica and Liberty Global’s local operations. Liberty Global plc (Liberty) owns Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile in the UK, and Telefónica S.A. (Telefónica) owns O2. The Commission’s say on the deal is slated for November 5.

Broadcom-Commission deal. US chipmaker Broadcom will scrap its exclusivity deals with TV and modem makers in a deal with EU antitrust regulators aimed at ending a year-long investigation without a finding of wrongdoing, the European Commission said on Wednesday (7 October).

New Competition Tool. The results of the Commission’s Impact Assessment on the New Competition Tool are now published on DG Competition’s website.


On my radar

Next week, EU leaders gather to discuss, amongst other things the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and relations with the UK in the context of Brexit. In the digital domain, concerns are ongoing with regards to future EU-UK data transfers. Stay tuned.   


What else I’m reading this week:

  • Facebook rebuts ‘the social dilemma’ (CNBC)
  • Twitter is working on a fix for its automated image cropping (Engadget)
  • Amazon is trying to crack down on fraudulent reviews (The Verge)

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