Apr 16 2014

Data Portability Series: Capitalising on the Market for Interoperability

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Paul Moura 2.pngIn the next post in the Data Portability Series curated by our colleagues at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT (ICRI) of the KU Leuven – University of Leuen, LSE Alum and lawyer Paul Moura argues that a focus on interoperability is key to ensuring data portability inspires innovation rather than resistance. 

With the data protection reform discussion centred around privacy and security issues, it may seem counter-intuitive that the European Commission is proposing to make data portability easier. Yet the consumer protection benefits are clear. As Inge Graef mentioned in the inaugural post of this series, data portability can also be seen as a competition issue. By reducing the likelihood of being “locked-in” to online services, users would have better control over their data and can more easily switch from service to service. But will a strict portability requirement work in practice, or will platforms balk at the thought of transmitting their user base to competitors?

The Problem of High Switching Costs

High switching costs are not uncommon in cyberspace. As users incorporate more and more data into the services that they use, it becomes increasingly difficult to switch services, even if better, cheaper, or more privacy-enhancing platforms become available. Continue reading

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Apr 15 2014

ICO Needs Input on Guidance for Media – Especially from “Citizen Bloggers”

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Sally headshot brighterAs the deadline approaches, LSE MPP Research Officer Sally Broughton Micova reminds those with an interest in British journalism to respond to the ICO’s draft guidelines for media on data protection and journalism and argues that more clarity is needed for the “citizen blogger”.

The deadline for responding to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) draft document Data protection and journalism: a guide for the media is 22 April. The guide is a response to the Leveson Inquiry’s recommendation that the ICO “prepare and issue comprehensive good practice guidelines and advice” for the press on data protection and privacy. The main message of the draft reads loud and clear: there is no blanket exemption for journalism.

The draft that the ICO has produced goes a long way in explaining how the exception for journalism should be understood and implemented in practice. More importantly, it explains how the ICO interprets the journalism exemption and intends to make judgements in cases of suspected breaches of the Data Protection Act (DPA) or complaints against journalists. As Lorna Woods pointed out, when the ICO started the process of responding to Leveson’s recommendations, this matters because the DPA represents a form of statutory regulation that applies to the press and the ICO does have some enforcement powers. Continue reading

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Apr 11 2014

Data Portability Series: At the Crossroads of Protection and Competition Policy

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Inge GraefAhead of the upcoming Brussels Internet & Telecom Seminar on data portability in Brussels, Inge Graef  and Yuli Wahyuningtyas of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT (ICRI) of the KU Leuven – University of Leuven will be curating a special series on the topic. In this first post of the series Inge Graef explains how data portability lies at the crossroads of competition and data protection policy.

In January 2012, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation that includes a new right to data portability which would enable data subjects to transfer their personal data “from one electronic processing system to and into another, without being prevented from doing so by the controller”. The review of the Commission’s proposal in the European Parliament that was concluded in March 2014 has led to the adoption of a number of amendments which substantially reduce the potential impact of the right to data portability.

The new right would not only give individuals more control over their personal data in the digital environment, but may also reduce lock-in by enabling users to switch easily between services. In this respect, the right to data portability has a competition law aspect. In the absence of a strong right to data portability under data protection law, competition law may play an increased role in facilitating data portability among online services. Continue reading

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Apr 9 2014

ISPs will Break the Law if They Continue to Retain our Data

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jim-killockIn another reaction to the recent ECJ decision to invalidate the EU’s Data Retention Directive, Open Rights Group’s Jim Killock takes the view that there is now a vacuum at the national level that leaves no legal basis for internet and communications companies to retain our data.

Yesterday’s invalidation of the Data Retention Directive opens up the question, what do the government and ISPs do next? Both are in a dubious legal situation now that data retention has no legal basis.

The Data Retention Directive is retrospectively invalid: not only is it gone, but in legal terms it never was. The UK Regulations are also gone, as the power for the Secretary of State to pass them under the European Communities Act 1972 (UK legislation) relied on the validity of the original Directive. The obvious conclusion is that, for now, data retention should stop. We have yet to hear any argument that the government could carry on using the ex-directive’s powers, although of course it may try. Continue reading

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Apr 9 2014

Book Review: Collaborative Media: Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions by Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer

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With many new forms of digital media – including social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr – the people formerly known as the audience no longer only consume but also produce and even design media. Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer term this phenomenon collaborative media, and in this book they investigate the qualities and characteristics of these forms of media in terms of what they enable people to do. Their analysis of projects in collaborative media that range from small multidisciplinary research experiments to commercial projects used by millions of people enriches the existing academic and public debates, writes Vyacheslav W. Polonski.

Collaborative MediaCollaborative Media: Production, Consumption, and Design Interventions. Jonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer. MIT Press. December 2013.

Find this book:  kindle-editionamazon-link

The emergence of digital communication technologies has significantly changed the traditional media landscape, providing users with new means for communication and creative expression. In this context, a number of claims have been put forth by academics, policy makers and pundits alike regarding the nature of this change, leading to heated debates on the effects of digital media and the re-imagined relationship between media producers and consumers. In their new book Collaborative MediaJonas Löwgren and Bo Reimer provide a fresh perspective on the changing patterns of infrastructure, design, production and consumption of new media, as well as the practices and properties of its novel cultural forms. Continue reading

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Apr 8 2014

Messy Consequences for National Legislation following Annulment of EU Data Retention Directive

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Innocenzo JennaThe ECJ has just ruled that most of the EU’s data retention directive is not compatible with privacy rights. Innocenzo Genna, an Italian lawyer with expertise in European regulation and ICT policy, explains the decision and the consequences for countries that have implemented the Directive. 

The European Court of Justice has declared invalid the data retention directive (Directive 2006/24/EC), i.e. set of rules obliging ISPs and telcos to retain data and information of citizens using electronic communications networks.

The Court has recognised that retention of personal data for purpose of investigation is per se compatible with the European framework, although it may interfere with basic fundamental rights such as privacy. However the Court also found that the set of obligation laid down by current directive is disproportionate and contrary to the principle of privacy protection because: Continue reading

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Apr 4 2014

Will Commissioner Kroes be Able to Skype Her Grandchildren’s Mobiles in Retirement?

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Chris MarsdenIn another response to the Connected Continent vote in the European Parliament, Chris Marsden, Professor of Media Law at the University of Sussex, explains why he thinks it took so long to get a strong EU move on net neutrality and what he sees happening next.

On the morning of 3rd April 2014, the European Parliament did what it said it would do five years ago – enforce minimum standards on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to stop them from blocking YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Skype, WhatsApp and other online services that European consumers enjoy. Specifically, it voted at First Reading to amend the European Commission-proposed ‘Connected Continent’ Regulation. Those European consumers are voters who matter – particularly given the imminent European elections.

But if Parliament thought it stopped discrimination by ISPs five years ago, why has it had to revisit the issue and when will net neutrality happen? The answers are both legal and political.

Legal loopholes and lack of political will

First, the law that was passed in 2009 allowed governments to impose net neutrality, but did not ban blocking and throttling of services the ISPs dislike, unlike US regulator’s action in that period. As a result, many ISPs – particularly 3G mobile operators – blocked access to Skype and Whats App. They did this via surveillance of their users with techniques such as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). This was both illegal and highly intrusive of their users’ privacy. The reason was to block content that competed with their own, so they could then begin to market a ‘specialised service’ unblocked lane to companies such as Skype that might pay for the extra service. Continue reading

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Apr 4 2014

Why not “Go Dutch” and Protect Net Neutrality without Defining Specialised Services?

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Inge GraefNet neutrality was the most contentious issue in the debates leading up to the passage of the new Connected Continent regulation on 3 April in the European Parliament. FWO PhD Fellow Inge Graef of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT (ICRI) of the KU Leuven – University of Leuven argues that since the notion of  “specialised services” remains in the regulation net neutrality is still at risk.

The European regulatory framework for net neutrality put forward by Digital Agenda Commissioner Kroes in the Connected Continent proposal in September 2013 stirred a lot of controversy among different stakeholders over the past months. The intense review of the Commission’s proposal in the European Parliament ended yesterday with MEPs giving their final opinion on the issue in a plenary vote. The adopted amendments tighten the regulatory framework of the Commission and would bring European legislation closer to the national rules on net neutrality already in force in the Netherlands and Slovenia. Yet, an important difference remains.

Specialised services

One of the most contentious issues in the Commission’s Connected Continent package is the introduction of the concept of ‘specialised services’. Under Article 23(2) of the Commission’s proposal, ISPs and content providers would be entitled to offer specialised services with an enhanced quality of service to end-users. Internet activists have argued that this concept would give rise to a two-tier internet enabling ISPs to charge content providers for prioritizing traffic from their services. The definition of the term specialised service plays a vital role in the net neutrality debate. Continue reading

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Apr 3 2014

EU Net Neutrality Battle Comes to a Head

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Monica Horton PhD Graduation PicturesAs the European Parliament votes today on the first reading of of the draft ‘Connected Continent’ regulation for a single market for telecoms. LSE Visiting Fellow Monica Horten explains the battle lines drawn on the most contentious issue – net neutrality – and argues it might be best to go back to the drawing board.

The duel between the telecoms industry and European citizens’ advocates  over net neutrality as the European Parliament prepares for a decisive  vote.  At stake is the very principle of net neutrality – will Europe be brave enough to enshrine it in law?

At stake is the entire future of the Internet in Europe.  The telecoms operators have a plan that will totally disrupt the Internet as it stands, enabling them to charge both users and content owners provision of content services. Such charging would position the telecoms operators as the gatekeepers for content, and erode the public service nature of the Internet   – if they are allowed to get away with it. The outcome of the vote will be a determinant of what they can, or cannot, do. Continue reading

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Apr 2 2014

False Balance in Climate Reporting Reveals BBC’s Sensitivity to Political Pressure

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climate changeAs the BBC is criticised again for its coverage of climate change, this time in a Parliamentary report, Nicholas Robin argues that the need to head off accusations of left-wing bias in the lead up to its Charter renewal puts the BBC under political pressure to present a “false balance”.

A stinging report just published by the Science and Technology Select Committee has criticised the BBC for its coverage of climate science. The year-long Parliamentary inquiry found that “BBC News teams continue to make mistakes in their coverage of climate science by giving opinions and scientific fact the same weight”. The cross-party committee of MPs calls on the BBC to develop editorial guidelines on the facts of climate science and have recommended it introduce rules to prevent programmes giving undue weight to commentators or lobbyists whose opinion does not reflect the balance of scientific evidence. In the lead up to Charter renewal however, this might be a big ask.

A prime example of false balance

The report follows recent protests over the BBC’s climate coverage sparked by a debate on BBC Radio Four’s flagship news show, the Today programme. On 13 February, with much of the West Country under water, the programme introduced a debate on whether climate change was a factor in the extreme weather hitting Britain. Instead of inviting two scientists on to debate this scientific question however, the programme’s editor chose to ‘balance’ the assessment of leading climate scientist Sir Brian Hoskins Professor of Meteorology at Reading University,  with Lord Lawson, a sceptical politician with no scientific qualifications who heads a ‘think tank’ that lobbies against policies designed to limit global warming. Continue reading

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