miércoles, 18 de octubre de 2017

Brexit does not mean #Brexit in the digital dimension



After the position paper on the flow of personal data future relationship between UK and EU, UK government has published a paper containing its vision on the UK-EU cooperation on foreign policy, defence and development after Brexit. Coherently with the rising tide of threats for all countries coming from cyberspace, the paper has dedicated some space to the future cybersecurity cooperation.

It looks quite logical that UK and EU maintain a tight relationship on cybersecurity matters. According with the ITU Global Cybersecurity Index 2017, UK scored 4th among European countries and 14th globally in the world rank of countries commited towards cybersecurity. Besides beign an important global player in cybersecurity, UK has played the role of  bridge between EU and US in this field. However, in the cybersecurity field as in other areas it looks that UK asks for a Brexit without Brexit. 
The framework for cybersecurity relationships in the European Union is defined in the Network and Information Security Directive (NIS Directive). This Directive defines the existence of two groups for cooperation among Member States, the Cooperation Group (article 11) and the CSIRT Network (article 12). The first group aims to facilitate strategic cooperation, while the second has an operational nature, but, as I said previously, they are groups or Member States only by its legal definition. For the surprise of all, the UK proposes to "collaborating closely through participation in the CSIRT network and Cooperation Group" after Brexit.  

An important part of the European digital community was horrified after Brexit, and I include myself among them. But this position of Brexit without Brexit was beyond our expectations. After the aspiration to continue its membership of EU privacy cooperation groups, now UK has uncovered the same intention towards cybersecurity cooperation groups. Perhaps, they need to review those old Sesame Street chapters describing what means in and what means out.


miércoles, 11 de octubre de 2017

The case for a world summit on the future of work

There is a certain panic along the world with the unstoppable raising of the usage of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI). People so far from being a luddite as Elon Musk or Bill Gates have make calls to be cautious in their development and even the AI industrial leaders are advocates of a certain limitation on their usages. The identification of AI as the basis for new world empires by some kind of politicians do not contribute to dilute the apprehension.

But beyond the apocalyptic visions of Terminator-like robots exterminating the human race, what worries the man and woman of main street is the risk of losing their job. Trade Unions in different countries are drawing the attention on the challenge of boosting productivity but not a the cost of employees. Different proposals are begining to be debate aiming to sooth the population on these fears about a jobless future (and therefore, without a wage for living). The idea of taxing the usage of robots in the centre of this ideas, but it is facing the difficult task of defining what is a robot.

However, not everybody is equally worried about having robots as working mates and rivals for obtaining a job. Those who are going to be the main actors of the future look robots as a complement for their activities and an opportunity to avoid doing the harder tasks in working environments.On the other hand, the governments of aging and advanced societies like Germany are welcoming robots as the remedy for the shortage of workers.

As on the field of the AI and robot usages for wars, the role of robots on the future of work deserve an international UN summit. The alternative will be masses of unemployed and continuous global unrest. But if the summit is called, beware that this time everybody pays their fair share of the organisational fees.

miércoles, 4 de octubre de 2017

Personal Data in the future relationship EU-UK

Brexit negotiations are on march since some months ago. Strictly guided by the text of article 50 of the treaty, the conversations between the two parts has started talking only about the issues related with the UK´s exit from the EU. There are few if any digital issues to be tackled on this stage of the negotiations.

The British team is eeager to start the second stage of the negotiations on the future relationship, although for its dismay the efforts are despised by the EU. Not even the flood of papers on the future relationship published by the UK in August in order to prove its readiness to start the second phase has obtained any oficial reaction from the EU. Among the most ignored was the paper on personal data flows, "The exchange and protection of personal data - a future partnership paper".

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be one of the last EU regulations that are going to be applied in the UK. Although its applicability would end the Brexit day, there is a commitment with the continuity of its application on british soil. To be concrete, the new Brtish Data Protection Bill will bring the complete GDPR into British legal framework and the UK firms are taking seriously its fulfilment hiring people to meet with its obligations.

According with this privileged situation, the UK´s proposal for the future relationship on the field of data is continuity as if nothing has happened. Certainly, there is a sound rationale for the almost automatic publication of adequacy decission by the European Commission on Brexit day that would enable the continuity of data flows by UK and the EU. Furthermore, another option will be harmful for both parts.

Nevertheless, besides this logic proposal the paper also shows some clues that the UK has not grasp the dimension of Brexit. As an alternative for building up a regulatory cooperation in this area is to continue the involvement of the ICO (UK Data Protection Authority) in the EU Data protection Authorities network, but we the disclaimer that the UK government will be the unique responsible of the data protection in UK.

So it´s not a good start for the negotiations of the digital Brexit. As it was expected, digital economy looks as one cherry of UK´s cherrypicking strategy. That could mean on the end a tougher position from the EU on this field, and therefore more uncertainty about the final result. Another block on the middle of Europe´s digital policies.

miércoles, 27 de septiembre de 2017

The end of romance (II)

Definitely, something has been broken in our relationship with digital platforms. The end of romance looks more feasible as times goes by, In spite that some countries have recognised a semi-state status to the GAFAs, even some of the actions that have been praised in the past are now been calling digital colonialism. As the spouse who is desperate observing the unavoidable end of its marriage, they are spending more money than ever before to maintain the relationship. Even more, it looks that some of the GAFAs  are trying to make forget the rumours of some past little sins with a little bit of over reaction.

Unfortunately for the GAFAs, it looks that there are a growing consensus on their power and the need to curb it. To begin with, it has been quite significative that the EU´s fine on Google for anti-competitive actions have not raised any strong comments from the White House, neither before nor after the fine was imposed. This fact has not passed unnoticed to the US media, specially to those close to the GAFA´s world that has also underlined the Trump´s position in favour of a more agressive antitrust position. 

Meanwhile in Europe, new actions are under development. Germany is putting to practice a year-old idea expressed by Commissioner Vestager on the need to consider the role of data and digital issues in competition laws, specially regarding M&A cases. Firstly, the German Government published a white paper on the matter; later, an amendment to the competition law was adopted that introduces a new approach to competitition in the digital era. After Germany decission, it is not surprising that the European Commission itself has began to warn the GAFAs with taking actions applicable for the whole Union in order to increase the protection of online consumers.


It looks that the winds are beginning to blow against the sails of the digital  platforms. The world where everything is disrupted except legislation seems to dissapear. Regulation on digital issues are begining to take a more solid shape.

miércoles, 20 de septiembre de 2017

"The rise and fall of American growth" - Robert Gordon

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil WarThe Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living Since the Civil War by Robert J. Gordon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We live under the impression that never before growth of the economy and the standard of living have been so high, and we are wrong. As a matter of fact, we are in a declining phase. This is one of the central lessons of Robert Gordon´s book, which is focused in the US case but could be applicable also to the majority of the western nations. We are still leaving under the spell of what has happened between 1870-1970, the phenomenal change from a live without electricity, gas, water and communication networks to our fully connected society.

However, the second lesson of the book is the excepcionality of the century between 1870 and 1970. Growth may has declined since 1970, but has virtually no exist before 1870. The rise of growth has happened due to the great inventions of the first and second industrial revolutions, the steam machine and electricity, that has bring us the full set of facilities we enjoy in our dailiy routine and we would not be able to put aside: cars, washing machines, fridges, cheap clothing, ....

Finally, there is a warning for us. Although it looks us the other way around, ICT has not bring us as much growth us we think, except for a brief period between 1996 and 2004. Since them, after the main novelties were integrated in home and offices (PCs, Internet, substitution of the papers by bits, ...) growth has decline both in productivity and standard of living. The fall of innovation rythm has been a cause, but also the rising inequality, the demographics changes, the imbalances in the access to the different level of education, the downsides of globalisation and the failure of enviromental policies. The author undelines that unless we change these trends, growth will not return.

But the book is something more than just another book of an economy expert packed with graphics and figures that support his ideas. The book is also in great part a picture of how life was in the different periods it covers. The description of rural life by the end of the XIX century, the evolution of the urban areas, the changes in the entretaintement industry, the vanishing of horses as the main companion of human life, the blurring of distances brought by trains, planes and telecommunications, ... This is also the book if you want to get information for writing any social or non fiction paper which is set in any period after 1870.

In spite of its length, you will enjoy the book. It is going to consume may hours of your life its reading, but you will not repent. Final tip: if you are short of time, read at least the pages of conclusions of each chapter.

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miércoles, 13 de septiembre de 2017

The rising importance of free flow of data (II): How to

So data is important for growth and employment, and it is also important to promote the free flow of data in order  enable the sharing and aggregation of data  needed for the new services and products. Data and its free flow would also help for increasing the social well being through a new generation of health services and the digitalisation of government services. Therefore, it is needed to deploy the mesaures to tear down the barriers that stop the circulation of data between jurisdictions.

The European Commission is focusing on the supression of the restrictions on data localisation across the Union. The general idea is that there are unjustified legal restrictions on where the data could be stored and that these restrictions are different in each different Member State, so there is a need of a legal instrument to harmonized these restrictions. It is difficult to oppose these rationale. However, exceptions on the free flow of some kind of data is needed to be introduced. For instance, for national security reasons or maybe even taxation information.

But in spite of what many people looks to think, the elimination to localisation restrictions should be accompanied by other measures. Because the most important thing are enabling trust among the parties who intervene in the data economy and facilitate equal opportunities for all to jump on the data economy wagon. For enabling trust, on one hand, there is a need of cibersecurity standards on data storage and, in the other hand, a legal framework that defines who has the right to use, share and reuse data and under which conditions.

But we also need to establish a level playing field with the above mentioned conditions. It should be prevented that data could be used as a tool for unfair competition. We can oblige all to share data but there should be transparency on the conditions each one establishes and these conditions should be universally applied without discriminations. Also some kind of data should perhaps be universally made availaible, for instance, those generated around public and general interest services.

So, although supressing the restrictions for data localisation is important, it is difficult to imagine that data economy could flourish without accepted security standards for its storage and clear and fair conditions on the access, use and reuse of data. Free flow of data would never happened without all these things puting on the table at the same time.

miércoles, 6 de septiembre de 2017

The rising importance of free flow of data (I): Why

Enabling Free Flow of Data (FFD) in the European Union has jumped from a marginal note to a first rank priority on the European Digital Agenda. In order to appreciate this change, it is enough to compare the space dedicated to the issue in the policy documents published by the European Commission. While in the communication "A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe" the issue was described in few more than a paragraph; in the recently published "Mid-Term Review on the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy A Connected Digital Single Market for All" the item was described with greatest detail accross several pages.

Why the issue of free flow of data is so important? A few figures taken from recent studies are enough to provide the big picture. On one hand, the McKinsey Global Institute has estimated a growth of 45 fold of data flows which have boosted the world GDP by 10% since 2005. On the other hand,  according with a study on the European Data Market it is expected that the value of the data economy in the EU will be around €739 billion, 4% of the GDP.

Besides the economic figures, there are also political reasons. Enabling FFD is required to updating the European project. The basis of the European Union are the so called four freedoms: the freedom of movement of services, products, capital and people.  In an increasing digitalised world, the above freedoms heaviliy depend on the free movement of data. FFD has become the 5th freedom to guarantee for an ever closer Union. 

And it spite of its importance on the digital era, only 87% of the European companies shared data with other companies. This is what can be called an economic blindness. The value of data growth with its aggregation and processing, following a recursive pattern. Therefore, promoting the sharing of data is critical to reap the full of the data economy and the distrubution of its benefits among the whole society. Namely, the dat economy enable more innovation, new business models and accessing to new markets, and better welfare services based on policy evidences.

So far is what we can obtain from the data economy and the free flow of data. What we can do for the creation of the right environment for a thriving data economy will be the focus of the next post

 


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