miércoles, 27 de julio de 2016

Brief introduction to surveillance capitalism

Some weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend a keynote speech given by Shoshana Zuboff. Many people study the digital transformation we are living and makes easier to others to understand it, but it is difficult to find someone who is more brilliant explaining the excesses and rationale of the greed for information of Internet giants.

Her speech was around the concept of "surveillance capitalism", which she defines in one of her papers as "a new form of information capitalism that  aims to predict and modify human behavior as a means to produce revenue and market control".  Silently, we are attending a mutation of capitalism based on the accumulation of data assets. As she warns, we have lived previous technology revolutions that have brings new levels of automatisation "But when it comes to information technology, automation simultaneously generates information that provides a deeper level of transparency to activities that had been either partially or completely opaque". This new source of knowledge becomes in a source of unlimited power to those who are in control of it. The data originated from automatisation and mediation of activities starts up a virtuous circle of creation of services based on behaviour that generates new information and, therefore, new services. 

Until the present century, capitalism was based on the division of labour. After many generations, we reached a balance (probably not fair enough) between firms and workers based on the awareness of the unity of worker-customers. The companies saw the human beings as the source of customers and employers, and therefore there was an interdependence between the progress of companies and workers-customers. This is not the case of the Internet giants, the so called GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). On one hand. although they are heading the list of more valued companies the number of employees are a few ten of thousands ( As contrast: at the height of its power in 1953, General Motors was the world’s largest private employer). On the other hand, they break the unity worker-customers through mediation. GAFA customers are not the consumers but the private companies who hire the ads and other services.  So in "surveillance capitalism" the value of human beings for companies are not as worker-customer but merely as a source of information and the new power is not based in the division of labour but in the division of learning.  The more the companies are able to learn the more powerful they are, so it is needed a new equilibrium around data: Who participates and how? Who decides who participates? What happens when authority fails?

The rationale described above is behind the interest of GAFA in avoiding regulation related with the management digital information, not the risk of stifling the innovation. As Shosana Zubof says, the strategy to capture data is "incursions into legally and socially undefended territory until resistance is encountered". Therefore, the bigger the lack of regulation regarding the handling of information, the less the resistance and the better for increasing their resources of data. And therefore, their power.  

This is only an introduction on surveillance capitalism. In this summer, read a paper or essay written by Shoshana Zubof. You will feel like Neo in his first minutes out of the Matrix.

miércoles, 20 de julio de 2016

The free flow of data: Lost in the maze of legacy regulations

The free flow of data is one of the basis of Internet services. The conscious of its importance is growing with the threat towards its survival. 

Since October 6th of last year a exists a certain risk of the end of Internet as we know. The European Court of Justice ruled the invalidity of the agreement. Although the European Data Protection Watchdogs initially declared their will to be patient, their initial deadline has been fulfilled without an effective agreement. Furthermore, the watchdogs do not like happy with the draft of the new agreement reached by the European Commission for personal data flows, the so-called "Prvacy Shield". 

The European Parliament is equally unsatisfied with the "Privacy Shield" . The MEPs approved a resolution signalling how some of the deficiencies of the "Safe Harbour" are still alive in the new agreement. Not listening its advice, as well as the advice of the Data Protection Watchdogs, may have as a consequence a future declaration of invalidation of "Privacy Shield" by the European Court of Justice.

However, the European Institutions are used to reach consensus in difficult issues. It will be more difficult to convince the US government on providing more guarantees on data protection as a citizenship right, but in the end and agreement will be reached because there is no alternative but a new deal. So let us be optimistic. 

But Is it everything solved with the "Privacy Shield"? Unfortunately, it is not everything solved. Beyond, personal data protection regulations other laws impose data location restrictions across Europe. Although few deep studies have been done on the matter, the tip of the iceberg points to restrictions on data flows for tax and accounting records, public archives, financial sector documents and health files. The European Commission has set the course to overcome this barriers within Europe. An initiative will be presented by autumn as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy. 

The idea of creating a Schengen Area for data in Europe is not new, but it looks that Europe is now mature for it. An important group of Member States has welcomed the idea. Although the devils are in the details, they even called for the removal of barriers to the free flow of data both within and outside the European Union. A similar claim was made by the US negotiators of the TTIP according with the GreenPeace´s leak of the negotiation documents. The importance of the issue also has also deserve a relevant position in the recent OECD declaration on digital economy. 

So the aim is shared and crystal clear: there is a need to ensure the free flow of data in the network. The question is which should be the roadmap to reach that point. Until now, governments have been reluctant to reach international agreements on the matter. Digital data is the new form of the paper based documents. The maze of legacy regulations for paper documents has a way out difficult to find. 

lunes, 18 de julio de 2016

#Innovation #Brexit Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (18/7/2016)

European Innovation Scoreboard

The European Commission reviews each year the state of innovation in Europe. The European Innovation Scoreboard provides a comparative assessment of research and innovation performance and the relative strengths and weaknesses of national research and innovation systems.

Procedural steps towards Brexit

One of the many detailed descriptions of the Brexit roadmap. Worthy to read.

miércoles, 13 de julio de 2016

The #digital dimension of #LGTB rights

The recognition of LGTBI rights is spreading, at least in Europe. The policy of naming and shaming the countries less respectful with gender indentity and sex orientation is having as a result in the European Union a relentlessly progress towards equaility. However, if we take a closer look, we will discover that in this matter, once more, we are forgetting the digital dimension of policy making. For instance, there is usually no explicit recognition of the same rights of laws to the digital world. Although it could be understood an implicit extension of equality rights, this oblivion sometimes creates gaps and could be improving in its enforcement.

There are few policy papers dedicated to the LGTBI dimension of Internet policies. I have only encountered one paper called "A Vision for Inclusion: An LGBT Broadband Future" and a debate in the IGF 2015 on "How Can Internet Policy-Making Support LGBT Rights?". Both of them put forward common ideas. Above all, the importance of having internet access for LGTBI individuals based in some results of the 2013 study of the Pew Research on LGTB behaviours. LGTB adults use more social networks than the general public (80% vs 58%) , it is for them a critical tool for connecting with each other (more than 55% have ever met a friend online) and helps in getting out of the closet (46% have revealed their identity or orientation online). 

A recent article on the New York Times focused in the special importance of Internet access for the transgender community. The minor size of the group and its fragmentation makes the network one of the few scenarios where they can meet others like themselves. Therefore, Social Networks are growing in its importance for activism and visibility of a long time ignored community

But the networks can also be a dangerous place for the LGTBI individuals. For instance, in Spain nearly 13% of Internet hate speech cases in 2015 were focused in gender identity or sexual orientation and school cyberbullying is thrice more frequent towards LGTB children. The former are consistent with the data from a GLSEN study that showed that US LGTB youth were nearly three times as likely as non-LGTB youth to say they had been bullied or harassed online (42% vs. 15%). However, no special attention to this sad reality is paid in pro-LGTBI rights legislation.

Freedom of information in the network has also a different dimension for LGTBI individuals. Beyond the usage of the network for LGTBI activism and visibility, the network provides affordable access to prevention and health information and LGTBI-oriented goods and services. The GLSEN study, once more, remarks its special importance for the transgender subgroup. In spite of this, it is still usual to find that internet filters are not LGTBI friendly and classifies LGTBI information as porn and, therefore, makes it non-accesible. This biased classification has a big consequence in rural areas where Internet access relies in libraries or schools where a growing amount of educational resources are Internet based.

The internet platforms poses also policy making challenges to ensure LGTBI rights. To begin with the enrollment, some big platforms are respectful with gender identity as facebook (58 gender options) or google (free definition of gender), but this is not the case of all of them. Besides being respectful with your identity, colaborative economy providers may be legally forced or should self-regulate the conformity with LGTBI rights of prosumersThe recent outcry about transgender discrimination on AirBnB in The Guardian should be an example of naming and shaming.

In spite of the last years progress, we are just at the beginning of long and winding road towards to equality of LGBT individuals.  The global dimension of the Internet provides a unique platform for spreading the message of equality and denounce the cases of gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. The network is just another battlefield. nevertheless there is still some efforts to do in order create the awareness of it. Even in the European Union supporting an LGTB friendly Internet it is not seen as one of the the ten key actions for improving LGTB rights.

lunes, 11 de julio de 2016

#Skills Somewhere in #digital Europe ... (11/7/2016)

How mobile is tech talent? A case study of IT professionals based on data from LinkedIn

Skills, labour mobility and Information technology (IT) all rank high on the European policy agenda and feature among the key priorities of the European Commission. This report aims to produce new insights into how European IT professionals move from one region to another within Europe and beyond, using the sizeable collection of data amassed by the business networking site LinkedIn, aggregated by region and provided to us in anonymised and relative terms.

The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet

There is a clear need of reaffirming that we should enjoy in the network the same rights that we enjoy offline. The UN Human Rights Council approved in its last session a resolution on "the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet".

miércoles, 6 de julio de 2016

An insurance sector for the #digital era

We can define an insurance policy as a risk-transfer mechanism that ensures full or partial financial compensation for the loss or damage caused by events beyond the control of the insured party. The digital revolution of society and economy is introducing both new risks and new tools for monitoring risks. As a consequence, big changes in an industry as ancient as the human being are about to happen. Some of these changes can be appreciated already.

The main new risk brought by the digital revolution is our growing technology dependence. Companies try to establish protection measures against threats for their digital assets. Cybersecurity is a flourishing industry valued in $75 billion in 2015 and it is expected to be worth $170 billion by 2020. Nevertheless, whatever the protection deployed a failure could happen. The number of security and data breaches are also growing and, as a consequence, the laws defining the economic liabilities for the companies who have not deployed the right measures.  These new kind of economic liabilities have created the new cyber insurance sector. Only in the US, the businesses spent more than $2 billion for cyber insurance in 2014 and it is expected the market grows up to $6 billion by 2020

Beyond the basic insurance policies that aims to ensure compensation for the failure of the IT security measures, the complexity of some digital products will require an specific type of policies. That is the case of driverless cars and other kind of robots. The amount of different components that collaborate in providing the final service to the consumer, demands to set a clear divsion of responsibilities in case of failure. Who is accountable for it? The hardware? The AI software? The telecommunication network? Some driverless car insurance policies have already be launched in some countries, like United Kingdom, for the basic autopilot functionality already in place in high-rank cars (e.g. auto-parking). However, a bigger debate should be opened to develop a future-proof legislation, whatever evolution of technology happens.

The sharing economy is offering also new business opportunities to the insurance sector. With the new services of the digital economy also appear new grey areas of responsibilities. In the medium term, these grey areas could both inhibit consumers from using sharing economy services as private persons from providing services and products. So platforms are turning to the insurance sector as strategic partners to bridge this potential gap of trust. An incipient market for sharing economy insurance products is under development, mainly based on start ups that offer this kind of products like "Take Slice" or "Safe Share". Even some of them are also offering products based on the sharing economy paradigm, as Lemonade.

Not only new business opportunities are appeared for the insurance sector in the digital era. IT are providing the sector with new tools to be more efficient and productive and develop more personalised products. Telematics provide more data that could be handle in a more efficient way with Big Data technologies and smart phones the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the new breed of customers composed of digital natives. For instance, it is forecasted that "remote healthcare monitoring will become as common as internet banking " in the medium term, it is not difficult to imagine health insurance products with different designs depending on your sport practices or feeding habits. The potential for insurance products based on remote monitoring is behind the investments of insurance companies in Internet of the Things industry.

Every day, each European spends €5.4 on life and nonlife insurance combinedIn 2014, U.S. insurance companies earned approximately $338 billion in profitsThe digital technology paved the way for new kind of insurance products and more appealing versions of the existing products. The way we face daily risks is about to change,  jointly with the big disruption of another big economic activity.

lunes, 4 de julio de 2016

#Broadband #BigData Somewhere in #Digital Europe ... (4/7/2016)

State of the Internet

The executive summary of the lat Akamai´s report on analysis of Internet connectivity. It includes the significant metrics and learnings on Security and Connectivity.

Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization

This article describes an emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere, ‘surveillance capitalism,’ and considers its implications for ‘information civilization.’ Beyond automatisation, digitisation brings the generation of a huge amount of information that creates a new form of exploitation.

palyginti kainas