June 26, 2020 — Panelists on a Thursday webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council discussed Europe’s search for digital sovereignty and its potential effect on transatlantic relations, following the launch of a related issue brief by fellow Frances G. Burwell and non-resident senior fellow Kenneth Propp.
When the new European Commission took office under President Ursula von der Leyen, enhancing digital capabilities across the European Union immediately emerged as a top priority. Von der Leyen called for European “technological sovereignty in some critical technology areas.”
COVID-19 has only proven to accelerate the discussions within the European Union around digital policy.
While the term digital sovereignty has been heavily utilized by the Commission in recent months to the point that panelists recommended “toning down the rhetoric”, panelists could not pinpoint a singular clear definition of the phrase.
“The term seems to imply a ramping up from its use in past EU policy,” Burwell offered.
According to the brief, the German economy minister Peter Altmaier equates digital sovereignty with data localization, the effort to store the data produced in a nation on servers stored physically within the nation. Altmaier equates storage of European data abroad by US cloud-services companies to be a loss of sovereignty, panelists said.
This definition reveals a deeper universal tension, often underscored by populism or nationalism, between nation states and global digital corporations. In fact, many of the EU initiatives seem to be intended to counter the strong position of US and Chinese digital companies in the European market.
The Commission appears to be moving to restrict the activities of non-EU firms within Europe, in order to foster both competition and protection.
In the industry of cloud computing, three large US companies dominate the market, currently supplying the overwhelming share of cloud-computing services used in Europe. Ninety-two percent of the Western world’s data is stored in the United States.
No EU companies rival these huge U.S.-based cloud computing platforms. Apple alone is valued at $1.42 trillion, which is more than the combined value of Germany’s leading 30 companies.
Europe is seeking homegrown alternatives to the services offered by global tech companies, panelists said.
“I think Europe is waking up too slowly in the digital field,” said Axel Voss, a member of the European Parliament. “We’ve been too focused on protectionism to innovate. Europe is seeking a way in a global space dominated by China and the US.”
France and Germany have already attempted to create domestic alternatives to global corporate services, independent of the EU. In October 2019, the two governments, in conjunction with national industrial companies, announced GAIA-X, a project to connect cloud providers around Europe.
“Digital sovereignty is an issue where the US and the EU can make their way forward together,” said Burwell, calling for the creation of a platform for dialogue to keep the Atlantic community as close as possible.
Representing U.S. tech firms, Karan Bhatia, an attorney for Google, concluded by championing a message of convergence.
“We absolutely understand the desire for policymakers to make sure that there is robustness and resilience in their economies, though the essence of global economy implies that there is a degree of interaction,” he said. “Let’s continue to build off the record of the last few months, which has been so promising.”
Big Tech Must Unite Against Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Just as America and EU
The head of the Center for European Policy Analysis said America and EU need to agree on Big Tech.
WASHINGTON, March 4, 2022 — In the wake of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine on February 24, big tech companies are grappling with how to respond. And on Monday, many leading thinkers on the role of internet in society urged them to do more.
Technology companies in the Western world need to agree on an approach to handling misinformation regarding the invasion, said Alina Polyakova, CEO of the Center for European Politics Analysis, speaking at the State of the Net conference here on Monday.
Polyakova’s plea came during a panel regarding the U.S. and EU relations at the annual Washington policy event that takes place during the week of the State of the Union address. She said that international tech giants were being forced to grapple with what role the might be able to play in response to the Russian invasion.
Platforms including Facebook, Google and Twitter have all significantly reduced Russian-backed ads. Meanwhile, YouTube, Meta’s Facebook and TikTok are blocking Russian media organizations, like RT and Sputnik, from using their platforms within the European Union.
But Polyakova said that tech giants shouldn’t be making these decisions without government help.
“If the United States and Europe are divided on the tech agenda front, then we’ll be divided on the values front. I think we need to start really pushing our governments to not leave companies fighting the large authoritarian states on their own,” she said.
Collective action by U.S. and EU, collective action by big tech
The implementation of aggressive sanctions, including banning many Russian banks from using the international payments system SWIFT on Saturday, demonstrated a united front, at least as Ukrainians began mounting their strong defense of their capital city Kyiv as Russian forces began attacks on the city on February 25 and Saturday.
Speaking on Monday, Polyakova said she was optimistic about the cooperation between the American and Europe, stating, “Hopefully the unity we’re seeing right now between Europe and the United States in response to Russia will be channeled into greater cooperation on this agenda as well.”
Still, the lack of a united front by the big tech companies does create a disconnect, she said.
Twitter may flag a propaganda post from the Russian government, yet Facebook may not. That adds fuel to the fire of misinformation, Polyakova said: It hinders “our ability to counter disinformation across narratives on the online space.”
She urged general regulations of big tech. “We still don’t have just a basic, regulatory framework that will give companies some guidance on what they should or should not be doing,” she said.
Openreach Partners With STL For Fiber Build
Openreach aims to get 20 million fiber-to-the-premise connections by later this decade.
April 14, 2021 – STL, or Sterlite Technologies Limited, announced Wednesday a partnership with Openreach, the United Kingdom’s largest digital network business to expand its “Full Fiber” broadband network across the UK.
STL, a global network designer from India, will provide millions of kilometers of fiber to develop Openreach’s goal of 20 million fiber-to-the-premise connections by late 2020s.
“This collaboration with Openreach strengthens a 14-year-old technology and supply relationship between the two companies and further reinforces STL’s commitment to the UK market,” the company said in a statement.
Openreach will use STL’s Opticonn solution, a fiber and cable build that the company claims offers better performance and faster installation, according to the release statement. The company will also utilize STL’s new celesta ribbon cable that boasts a capacity of up to 6,912 fibers, the statement added.
“Our Full Fiber network build is going faster than ever. We need partners like STL on board to not only help sustain that momentum, but also to provide the skills and innovation to help us go even further,” Openreach’s Kevin Murphy said in a statement. “We know the network we’re building can deliver a host of social and economic benefits – from boosting UK productivity to enabling more home working and fewer commuting trips – but we’re also trying to make this one of the greenest network builds in the world.”
Ankit Agarwal, CEO of connectivity solutions business at STL, said, “our customized, 5G-ready optical solutions are ideally suited for Openreach’s future-proof network requirements and we believe they will enable next-gen digital experiences for homes and businesses across UK. This partnership will be a major step towards our mission of transforming billions of lives through digital networks,” he said in a statement.
Openreach’s network now reaches 4.5 million premises, offering gigabit-capable connection through a range of competing providers on the network, and the company is building at a rate of about 42 thousand new homes and businesses a week, according to the release.
The UK parliament has set a goal to get 85 percent of UK homes and businesses access to gigabit-speed broadband by 2025. They reported that as of September 2020, 27 percent of UK premises received that connection speed, and 95 percent have access to “superfast broadband” which the government defines as at least 30 megabits per second download speed.
Parliament acknowledged that although “superfast broadband is sufficient for most household needs today, the demand for data-intensive services such as online video streaming is increasing and can push the limits of a superfast broadband connection. The coronavirus pandemic has further highlighted the need for widely available and reliable digital connectivity.”
STL is a sponsor of Broadband Breakfast.
Privacy and ‘Right to be Forgotten’ Laws Complicate Rules for Global Reporting
February 8, 2021 – When sharing content in any form, publishers need to understand the legality and impact of the content may have on foreigners, especially given the European Union’s privacy law, a panel of experts concluded at a Tuesday conference hosted by the American Bar Association.
The complexity of what is legal or illegal to publish has risen in light of continuing evolution in protecting peoples’ privacy rights.
Nowadays, some question whether the posting of mugshots in a newspaper might reveal personal bias, or promote a community of discrimination among its readers. Other news organizations have moved to take down archived stories of articles that might haunt the victims involved – otherwise known as the “right to be forgotten” – or even refrain from publishing minor crimes to protect privacy rights.
To further complicate the issue, what might be acceptable and perfectly legal to publish in one country may not be the same in another country, legal experts said at the ABA’s Communications Law Conference forum on February 2.
There are a few ways news organizations can accomplish this, said Lauren Fisher, chief legal officer at Vox Media.
When distributing content, news organizations can geoblock their audience from sharing information widely that may run offside of foreign laws.
EU’s General Data Protection Regulation complicates global reporting
In comparing U.S. law with the EU’s stringent General Data Protection Regulation privacy law, Fisher said it would be best for a U.S. organization to have no physical or digital presence in the EU if it wants to avoid complying with GDPR requirements.
However, this is extremely difficult because the internet has no borders, and the dissemination of information online can hardly be contained.
The GDPR is crucial knowledge because it ensures U.S. companies are respecting trade agreements between the U.S. and the 27-country pact.
Relatively recently, U.S. companies have needed to ensure their audiences know precisely what is being done with the collected personal data. For example, GDPR-compliant websites now require users to transparently make clear that tracing cookies are being used. Other rules include explicit opt-in for data collection or tracking.
Difficult-to-square rules from country to country
And therein lies some of the complications: Publishing rules can vary significantly between countries.
For example, when trying to conform to EU rules, a newsroom in New York can be hamstrung by foreign privacy laws if an investigation it’s doing involves British citizens, said Randy L. Shapiro, global newsroom counsel for Bloomberg news. Reporters need to understand the legality of reporting such information, he said.
Similarly, publishing companies abroad must be aware of proper reporting rules. If a reporter from a global newspaper moves from the U.S. to the EU, their reporting practices may not be allowed through border security. This is so because it’s not just about foreign publishing issues — it’s also about domestic privacy concerns.
For example, in some jurisdictions sports athletes can sue if information about their drug test failure is leaked, on the grounds of invasion of privacy concerning medical records, said Mark Stephens, Partner at London-based
In other cases, said Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, senior counsel of the Future of Privacy Forum, it’s also about knowing which other countries are following GDPR rules.
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