miércoles, 18 de noviembre de 2015

How to cut the Gordian knot of the US-EU #digital dispute

Even before the ECJ decision on the Safe Harbour agreement, there was a growing anger in the US about the the EU digital policy. The pinnacle of this annoyance so far has been the Obama's interview for Re/Code. The complete interview is worthy to be watch, but one of its more interesting moments is when the US President accused the EU of developing a protectionist digital policy. Few days after the interview, VP Ansip marked the charge as not based on evidences.

The central point of the digital quarrel between US and EU are the so-called Internet Platforms and its regulation. The field of the dispute is hard to be defined as there is not a widely accepted definition for an Internet Platform. The services that are included under the term covers from the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) to Netflix without leaving aside the shared economy applications (Uber, Airbnb, ...). The complexity of the definition of the term and the related issues can be appreciated in the consultation on internet platforms published by the European Commission, which includes questions on cloud, data handling, shared economy and many more topics.

As times goes by, perhaps a growing consensus will appear: It does not exist such an animal as an Internet Platform. As the online and offline world gets more intermixed this consensus looks as the only way ahead. The acceptance of this fact would have implications on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and its Member states would need to leave aside the idea of having an specific regulation on Internet Platforms. While the US would need to accept the extension to the digital arena of the regulations that are usual in the offline world.

From the above perspective, we should expect in the forthcoming years more regulations as the Networks and Information Security Directive now under debate in the European Institutions. It looks quite logical that the Internet firms have to comply with the same cybersecurity obligations that energy, telecom, finances or transport companies. An equal rationale could be applied within other regulation areas such as consumer protection or competition rules. 

As the last year Nobel Prize states, we need to regulate the Internet Platforms but the question is how to do it. The recognition of the first part of this statement by the US is key to ease the relationship between US and EU. A non-holistic answer to the second question by the EU should be the other side of the equation. A win-win solution to the online platforms'  Gordian knot.

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