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  1. Although the online communication tools market has had its fair share of competition even prior to the COVID outbreak, the need for such utilities has seen a meteoric rise with the relatively recent shift to hybrid work trends. Although Microsoft Teams is the software of choice for many firms that are already leveraging Microsoft's suite of products, there are other competitors such as Slack and Zoom too. Now, it seems like European Union (EU) regulators are looking to investigate Microsoft over some antitrust issues related to Teams. Reuters has reported that the European Commission (EC) is looking to launch an investigation against Microsoft for purported anti-competitive practices related to its Teams software. The basis for this scrutiny is a complaint filed by Slack in 2020 in which it stated that bundling Teams with the Microsoft 365 suite of products forces it to be installed on many machines while "hiding the true cost to enterprise customers". It urged the regulator to force Microsoft to remove Teams from its Microsoft 365 suite and offer it separately at "fair" commercial prices. At that time, Slack's Vice President of Communications and Policy Jonathan Prince was quoted as saying: This is much bigger than Slack versus Microsoft – this is a proxy for two very different philosophies for the future of digital ecosystems, gateways versus gatekeepers. [...] Slack offers an open, flexible approach that compounds the threat to Microsoft because it is a gateway to innovative, best-in-class technology that competes with the rest of Microsoft’s stack and gives customers the freedom to build solutions that meet their needs. We want to be the 2% of your software budget that makes the other 98% more valuable; they want 100% of your budget every time. According to the report, the EC sent out a new set of questionnaires last month, which is a sign that it's considering ramping up its investigation against Microsoft. Two sources familiar with the matter noted that: The Commission is looking at (Microsoft's) interoperability and bundling but more detailed this time. They are looking for information that allows them to define remedies. They are preparing the ground for an investigation. This is not the first time Slack and Microsoft have clashed. At one point, Microsoft even considered acquiring Slack for $8 billion but ended up launching Teams itself. Both companies have thrown shade at each other from time to time. Slack's CEO once said that he doesn't see Teams as a threat, while Microsoft noted that "little companies (like Slack) come and go", and that the Redmond tech giant has it all covered. Either way, this would not be a good time for Microsoft to be engaged in yet another antitrust investigation. It's already being probed by European regulators over its $69 billion proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Source: Reuters EU reportedly gearing up to investigate Microsoft over Teams antitrust complaints from Slack
  2. Just as manufacturers gear up to announce and release their latest and greatest 8K capable televisions, new regulations are coming into place that may stop this launch in its tracks due to how power hungry these super high-resolution displays are. The EU has requirements in place for all consumer electronics that regulate how much energy they can consume, which fall under the Energy Efficiency Index (part of the wider Energy Efficiency Directive). The most recent change in March 2021 resulted in the majority of models falling into the lowest efficiency class possible (G). This is set to be reviewed again, in a drive by the EU to cut energy bills to consumers by doing what it can. This includes setting an upper limit on maximum energy consumption for TVs, which many manufacturers have said will effectively push back the rollout, or stop sale, of 8K TVs altogether. The 8K Association has provided a video response to the proposed change: The proposed targets for TVs are based on the size of the panel, but go up to a maximum of 178W for an 88" panel. For comparison, Samsung's QN900B 8K LCD is rated at 326W, which is significantly over the proposed limit, and shows the difficulties that manufacturers will face in meeting these requirements. Source: FlatpanelsHD Upcoming 8K TVs likely won't be available in the EU due to energy rules
  3. The European Union (EU) has approved the law that will require most portable consumer tech to use USB-C as the charging port by the end of 2024. Following spring 2026, the law will extend to laptops as well. The Parliament's rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said: “The common charger will finally become a reality in Europe. We have waited more than ten years for these rules, but we can finally leave the current plethora of chargers in the past. This future-proof law allows for the development of innovative charging solutions in the future, and it will benefit everyone - from frustrated consumers to our vulnerable environment. These are difficult times for politics, but we have shown that the EU has not run out of ideas or solutions to improve the lives of millions in Europe and inspire other parts of the world to follow suit” The law was proposed last year with the intention of reducing e-waste, so that customers won't have to purchase new chargers every time they buy an electronic product. Many OEMs had already made USB Type-C a de-facto standard because of its unified fast charging technology and other benefits. The devices currently impacted by the legislation are: Mobile phones Tablets Digital cameras Headphones/Headsets Handheld videogame consoles Portable speakers E-readers Keyboards Mice Portable navigation systems Earbuds Laptops (from spring 2026) The new legislation will impact Apple devices the most, as they still feature the company's proprietary lightning port and cables. The European Commission says that it will also harmonize interoperability requirements for wireless chargers as well. This will be done to avoid "having a negative impact on the consumers" and to get rid of "technological lock-in" effect where the consumers become dependent on a single manufacturer. The law also requires manufacturers to put dedicated labels about the charging characteristics of new devices. This is to ensure buyers to make an informed choice about whether or not to purchase a new charging device with a new product. EU votes in favor of law that requires consumer tech to feature USB Type-C by 2024
  4. The potential gold standard for online content governance in the EU—the Digital Services Act—is now a reality after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for the legislation earlier this week. The final hurdle, a mere formality, is for the European Council of Ministers to sign off on the text in September. The good news is that the landmark legislation includes some of the most extensive transparency and platform accountability obligations to date. It will give users real control over and insight into the content they engage with, and offer protections from some of the most pervasive and harmful aspects of our online spaces. The focus now turns to implementation, as the European Commission begins in earnest to develop the enforcement mechanisms. The proposed regime is a complex structure in which responsibilities are shared between the European Commission and national regulators, in this case known as Digital Services Coordinators (DSCs). It will rely heavily on the creation of new roles, expansion of existing responsibilities, and seamless cooperation across borders. What’s clear is that as of now, there simply isn’t the institutional capacity to enact this legislation effectively. In a “sneak peek,” the commission has provided a glimpse into how they propose to overcome some of the more obvious challenges to implementation—like how they plan to supervise large online platforms and how they will attempt to avoid the problems that plague the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), such as out-of-sync national regulators and selective enforcement. But their proposal only raises new questions. A huge number of new staff will need to be hired and a new European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency will need to attract world-class data scientists and experts to aid in the enforcement of the new algorithmic transparency and data accessibility obligations. The Commission’s preliminary vision is to organize its regulatory responsibilities by thematic areas, including a societal issues team, which will be tasked with oversight over some of the novel due diligence obligations. Insufficient resourcing here is a cause for concern and would ultimately risk turning these hard-won obligations into empty tick-box exercises. One critical example is the platforms’ obligation to conduct assessments to address systemic risks on their services. This is a complex process that will need to take into account all the fundamental rights protected under the EU Charter. In order to do this, tech companies will have to develop human rights impact assessments (HRIAs)—an evaluation process meant to identify and mitigate potential human rights risks stemming from a service or business, in this case a platform—something civil society urged them to do throughout the negotiations. It will, however, be up to the board, made up of the DSCs and chaired by the commission, to annually assess the most prominent systemic risks identified and outline best practices for mitigation measures. As someone who has contributed to developing and assessing HRIAs, I know that this will be no easy feat, even with independent auditors and researchers feeding into the process. If they are to make an impact, the assessments need to establish comprehensive baselines, concrete impact analyses, evaluation procedures, and stakeholder engagement strategies. The very best HRIAs embed a gender-sensitive approach and pay specific attention to systemic risks that will disproportionately impact those from historically marginalized communities. This is the most concrete method for ensuring all potential rights violations are included. Luckily the international human rights framework, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights, offers guidance on how best to develop these assessments. Nonetheless, the success of the provision will depend on how platforms interpret and invest in these assessments, and even more so on how well the commission and national regulators will enforce these obligations. But at current capacity, the ability of the institutions to develop guidelines and best practices and to evaluate mitigation strategies is nowhere near the scale the DSA will require. Given the enormity of these tasks, it seems that the European Commission will have to put in place dedicated professional teams of qualified human rights experts with a deep understanding of human rights impact assessments. These independent teams would need to be supported by a breadth of additional expertise and knowledge to ensure their actions are inclusive and meaningful. As it stands now, no role is foreseen for the European Fundamental Rights Agency to provide such support, and the public consultations envisaged in the development of guidelines that will shape these mitigation measures will be limited at best. The DSA notes the necessity for civil society’s input and expertise throughout the text, more so than any other text of its kind preceding it. It is clear that the commission will need said expertise in order to support the development and evaluation of such assessments. Quite simply, without the meaningful engagement of advocates in the implementation and enforcement of the entire DSA, the potentially groundbreaking provisions we have collectively worked so diligently to obtain in the text won't come to fruition. Establishing and formalizing civil society as an implementation partner, along with the European Parliament, will increase accountability and public scrutiny and ensure that a human rights-centered approach to enforcement is implemented. The European Commission has already established advisory committees, or high-level expert bodies and working groups, to aid implementation of legislation in other areas, which are structures that we could draw inspiration from. These entities are far from perfect and would have to be redefined for the DSA context, but the wheel would not need to be reinvented in this case, just reimagined. Enforcement of the DSA is going to be an uphill climb. Look no further than the ineffective and inconsistent cross-border cooperation when it comes to the GDPR. Unfortunately there’s no mechanism in the DSA to guarantee independence from political influence, and the depth of the challenges that lie ahead may not be fully understood for years. But it is not too late to rectify potential shortcomings. As the EU institutions and national regulators build more substance into their enforcement strategies, they must acknowledge that if the DSA is to be the gold standard for online content governance, they must innovate and be bold in their approach. Their commitment to systematic engagement with civil society has been written into the law; they must realize this vision by building a collaborative approach to the enforcement mechanisms. Europe's Big Tech Law Is Approved. Now Comes the Hard Part (May require free registration to view)
  5. EU competition regulators plan detailed probe in move that will delay acquisition. Broadcom’s $69 billion acquisition of cloud software company VMware is set for a lengthy antitrust investigation in Brussels over regulatory concerns that the deal will harm competition across the global technology industry. Broadcom is already in preliminary discussions with EU officials who will be looking into worries that the merger may lead to abusive behavior, including potential future price rises by the US chipmaker, three people with direct knowledge of the transaction said. Many large acquisitions receive similar interrogation, known in EU circles as a “phase 1” investigation, which typically takes a few months to complete. But those close to the situation suggest that EU authorities plan to push forward with a more detailed “phase 2” investigation, which could take well over a year and may ultimately derail the deal altogether. Nvidia eventually walked away from a proposed $66 billion purchase of chip designer Arm after being subject to a lengthy EU antitrust probe. Broadcom did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The company’s acquisition of VMware is among the largest in the history of the technology industry, second only to Microsoft’s proposed $75 billion purchase of games maker Activision Blizzard. Opponents of the deal, which include some existing VMware clients, have written to the EU to argue VMware’s customers could in the future be tied into buying Broadcom services. They point to two recent transactions led by Broadcom, its $18.9 billion takeover of CA Technologies in 2018 and its $10.7 billion deal to buy Symantec’s enterprise security business a year later as recent examples of how the US chipmaker risks undermining competition. In both deals, they claimed, Broadcom raised prices. These concerns are being aired before senior EU officials, including competition chief Margrethe Vestager, even though Broadcom is unlikely to formally file the acquisition for review by antitrust authorities until after the summer break, according to people with knowledge of the process. Further regulatory scrutiny is expected to come from the US, while the UK and China could still launch probes. The chipmaker has already fought cases against the European Commission for alleged anti-competitive practices. In October 2020, Brussels accepted commitments by the US group to ensure competition in the chipset market for modems. Broadcom has emerged as one of the largest chipmakers in the world on the back of a roll-up spree led by Hock Tan, its deal-hungry chief executive for more than a decade. The Malaysian-American executive was blocked from further consolidating the semiconductor industry in 2019. The Federal Trade Commission accused Broadcom of being a monopolist in the sector. The regulatory attack led Tan to shift his buying attention to software and cloud services companies, a move that aims to turn Broadcom into a broader tech conglomerate. Last November, the FTC prohibited Broadcom from asking for customers to buy bundles, called “exclusivity” or “loyalty” agreements, in its sale of semiconductors for Internet devices. It also prohibited Broadcom from “retaliating against customers for doing business with Broadcom’s competitors.” “The regulators are going to take a hard look at [the VMware deal] just because this is Broadcom and a large tech transaction,” said Andy Li, a senior analyst at research firm CreditSights. Broadcom will push back on these fears, according to people close to the company, by arguing that it is not a merger between competitors so will not lead to increased market power. It will also argue the deal is unlikely to raise prices or undermine the quality of the service or have any negative impact on innovation. Broadcom will also dismiss any comparison to Nvidia’s failed acquisition of Arm, where Nvidia’s competitors were dependent on licensing arrangements for Arm’s chips. But trade associations, representing hundreds of companies that are clients of VMware, including France’s Cigref, sent a letter this week to regulators in Brussels asking them to act preemptively to block the deal due to concerns over anti-competitive practices. Additional reporting by Harriet Agnew in London and Richard Waters in San Francisco. Broadcom takeover of VMware could be derailed by EU antitrust probe
  6. Last year, we heard that the European Commission (EC) has put forward a new proposal that will make USB-C charging necessary for most portable electronics in the European Union (EU). Today, we are taking one step closer to this reality as the EU, Parliament, and Council negotiators have agreed to make USB-C the charging standard for a variety of electronics by autumn 2024. The idea behind the move is to promote sustainability and reduce e-waste by empowering consumers to reuse their old chargers instead of buying new, and often different types of chargers for their devices. Currently, this legislation applies to the following portables that require a cable for charging: Mobile phones Tablets E-readers Earbuds Digital cameras Headphones and headsets Handheld video game consoles Portable speakers Keyboards Computer mice All of the aforementioned electronic categories will be required to have a USB-C port by autumn 2024. Interestingly, the legislation will also be applicable to laptops around 2026. Additionally, the EU has stated that consumers will be clearly informed via product documentation about whether their existing charging cables are supported for their new purchases or not. Consumers will also have the option to purchase new devices with or without charging accessories. The European Parliament's rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba stated: Today we have made the common charger a reality in Europe! European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device. Now they will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics. We are proud that laptops, e-readers, earbuds, keyboards, computer mice, and portable navigation devices are also included in addition to smartphones, tablets, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers. We have also added provisions on wireless charging being the next evolution in the charging technology and improved information and labelling for consumers. The EU hopes to save Europeans €250 million a year on needless charging accessory purchases and also reduce e-waste by 11,000 tons annually. Apple is among the companies most affected by this legislation because it uses its proprietary Lightning cables for many of its products. However, we have heard reports that it is considering transitioning iPhones to the USB-C standard by 2023. We will likely hear confirmation about this in the coming weeks or months. USB-C to become charging standard for most electronics in EU by 2024
  7. The Commission previously said the Digital Markets Act would come into force in October The European Union aims to begin enforcing the Digital Markets Act (DMA) in spring 2023, Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager announced at the International Competition Network (ICN) conference last week, as first reported by TechCrunch. Vestager previously stated that the antitrust legislation, which introduces a new set of rules to curb the power of Big Tech, could be implemented as early as October of this year. “The DMA will enter into force next spring and we are getting ready for enforcement as soon as the first notifications come in,” Vestager said during her speech at the ICN. As noted by TechCrunch, Vestager suggests that the Commission will be prepared to act against any violations made by “gatekeepers” — a classification that includes Meta, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon — as soon as the laws come into force. The DMA, which still needs final approval from the Council and Parliament, defines gatekeepers as companies that have a market capitalization of over €75 billion ($82 billion) and own a social platform or app that has at least 45 million monthly users. These entities can face fines of “up to 10 percent of its total worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year” if found in violation of the DMA’s rules, a fee that could increase to 20 percent in the case of a repeat offense. In accordance with the DMA, gatekeepers will have three months to declare their status to the Commission, followed by an up to two-month wait period to receive confirmation from the EU. This wait period, coupled with the delayed DMA enforcement, could mean that we won’t start seeing any real battles between the EU and Big Tech until the end of 2023. “This next chapter is exciting. It means a lot of concrete preparations,” Vestager explained. “It’s about setting up new structures within the Commission... It’s about hiring staff. It’s about preparing the IT systems. It’s about drafting further legal texts on procedures or notification forms. Our teams are currently busy with all these preparations and we’re aiming to come forward with the new structures very soon.” Pushing back the DMA’s enforcement could give the Commission more time to prepare, but as TechCrunch points out, the delay could also serve as a catalyst for criticism if the Commission fails to address any major violations that occur between now and the time the DMA becomes law. When passed, the DMA will likely disrupt the business models used by the world’s tech behemoths. For one, it could require Apple to start allowing users to download apps from outside the App Store, an idea that Apple CEO Tim is adamantly against, as he argues that sideloading could “destroy” the security of an iPhone. It could also require WhatsApp and iMessage to become interoperable with smaller platforms, a policy that may make it harder for WhatsApp to maintain end-to-end encryption. The EU could start enforcing rules to regulate Big Tech in spring 2023
  8. The EU has reached an agreement on the final text of the Digital Services Act (DSA). The new legislation sets clear guidelines for how online platforms and services must prevent abuse and the spread of illegal and harmful content. The DSA will help to keep "big tech" accountable and also comes with some new rules and requirements for takedown notices. In recent years the European Commission has proposed and adopted various legislative changes to help combat online piracy. This includes the Copyright Directive which passed in 2019 as well as the Digital Services Act (DSA), which was officially unveiled at the end of 2020. The new legislation was met with fierce criticism. Some believe that it will lead to more ‘dumb’ upload filters. At the same time, copyright holders believed that it didn’t go far enough, as there’s no ‘staydown’ requirement. DSA Agreement After the official adoption by the EU Parliament earlier this year, representatives of the Parliament, the Council and the Commission engaged in trialogue negotiations to flesh out the final details. On Saturday morning, after 16 hours of discussions, the parties reached an agreement. At the time of writing the final text is yet to be published. It is clear, however, that the main goal is to keep large online platforms and services accountable to stop the spread of harmful, misleading, and illegal content. “The DSA will upgrade the ground-rules for all online services in the EU. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says. The DSA is the official successor to the E-Commerce Directive. The new package aims to bring EU legislation into line with the current state of the digital age, which has changed dramatically over the past several years. Takedown Transparency The legislation includes new rules for big tech and also touches on some copyright issues. These set out how online services should handle takedown notices, without being held liable for user uploads. In addition, it will allow “trusted flaggers” to get preferential treatment in the takedown process. The DSA proposal also strengthens the rights of users with a strong focus on transparency. For example, if platforms or services work with trusted flaggers, the public has the right to know who these are. Also, if a hosting provider removes content following a takedown notice, users should be informed on what grounds this action was taken, and how they can appeal. On top of that, platforms have to take measures to prevent abusive takedown notices. According to the DSA drafters, this added transparency is required to safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Big Tech The new rules and requirements don’t apply equally to all online platforms and services. The DSA makes a distinction between intermediary services, hosting services, online platforms, and very large platforms. The strictest rules apply to the latter category, which includes “big tech” outfits with more than 45 million EU users. For example, the DSA requires online platforms and big tech to properly verify the identities of third-party suppliers to tackle the sale and distribution of illegal content. This KYBC requirement does not apply to intermediaries and hosting platforms. The big tech companies also have to allow for external audits and offer broad transparency into how their recommendation algorithms work. If a company doesn’t comply with any of these rules, the EU can issue multi-million euro fines. It is hard to properly evaluate the final agreement without the final text. However, over the past months, we have seen that both rightsholders and digital rights activists are not completely happy with the DSA, which is an indication that it’s somewhat of a compromise. The new DSA rules will go into effect for big tech platforms later this year. For the other platforms and services, it can take up to 2024 before the changes go into effect. EU Reaches Agreement on Digital Services Act, Including New Takedown Rules
  9. The European Union (EU) will adopt the Digital Services Act, which is designed to be even more powerful than the Digital Markets Act. The new law will come into effect in 2024, and it would impact giants like Facebook that rely heavily on profiling users for targeted advertising. EU’s Digital Services Act seeks to bring greater transparency about the algorithms that govern the majority of content served to social media users. Specifically speaking, the new law effectively bans ads that target individuals based on their religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or political affiliation. Moreover, no internet company will be allowed to serve targeted ads to minors. Speaking about algorithms, the Digital Services Act will seek information and clarity about the processes used to display content to users. Additionally, social media companies will need to offer alternative systems that are not based on profiling. In other words, platforms would need to offer chronological feeds instead of content that is arranged by optimization algorithms aiming to boost engagement and drive-up ad exposure. Speaking about the Digital Services Act, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: Today's agreement on the Digital Services Act is historic, both in terms of speed and of substance. It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses. It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online. Internet companies found violating the rules and regulations stipulated within the Digital Services Act could be fined up to six percent of their global turnover. Repeat offenders, or those companies that attempt to flout the guidelines, could also invite a temporary or permanent ban from operating or offering services within the EU. Any company that has at least 45 million users in the EU will be required to comply with the Digital Services Act. Needless to add, aside from Google and Meta; Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Spotify too would have to comply with the new laws. EU Digital Services Act tries to block profiling for targeted ads and seeks transparency
  10. TikTok, meanwhile, is joining the EU's code of conduct. The European Union wants tech giants to do more than they have to counter fake news for users on the continent. EU foreign policy lead Josep Borrell and European Commission values and transparency VP Vera Jourova have said Facebook, Google and Twitter should produce monthly reports on their efforts to stamp out disinformation campaigns. The officials are not only concerned about attempts by Russia and China to influence European politics, but the direct damage to people from COVID-19 misinformation and anti-vaccination myths. “Disinformation does not only harm the health of our democracies, it also harms the health of our citizens,” Jourova said. The hoped-for reports would detail both efforts to limit COVID-19 falsehoods, including ads, as well as steps taken to promote trustworthy material. Internet companies might not need that much prodding, mind you. Jourova added that TikTok was joining the EU’s voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation (where Facebook, Google, Mozilla and Twitter are already members) to fight fake news. TikTok is promising to foster truth and transparency in ads, enforce policies against false identities and bots, prioritize “authoritative” info when relevant and help researchers looking into disinformation campaigns. This won’t necessarily lead to a significant shift in TikTok’s existing approach, but it reflects the social video service’s attempts to reassure the world that its international content policies aren’t subject to Chinese government influence. Source
  11. BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany threw their weight on Thursday behind plans to create a cloud computing ecosystem that seeks to reduce Europe’s dependence on Silicon Valley giants Amazon, Microsoft and Google. The project, dubbed Gaia-X, will establish common standards for storing and processing data on servers that are sited locally and comply with the European Union’s strict laws on data privacy. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, speaking in Berlin, described Gaia-X as a “moonshot” that would help reassert Europe’s technological sovereignty, and invited other countries and companies to join. “We are not China, we are not the United States, we are European countries with our own values and with our own economic interest that we want to defend,” his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said in Paris in a joint video news conference. The initiative comes as France and Germany step up economic cooperation to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Both have backed an EU-wide recovery plan while Berlin has just announced a major fiscal stimulus. In an initial step, 22 French and German companies will set up a non-profit foundation to run Gaia-X, which is not conceived as a direct rival to the “hyperscale” U.S. cloud providers but would instead referee a common set of European rules. “Building a European-based alternative is possible only if we play collectively,” said Michel Paulin, CEO of independent French cloud service provider OVHcloud. One important concept underpinning Gaia-X is “reversibility”, a principle that would allow users to easily switch providers. First services are due to be offered in 2021. That is already far too late, according to analysts at Gartner, who forecast that the global market for public cloud services will grow by 17% to $228 billion this year. “The leading cloud providers have already moved quickly to build up this market,” said Gartner analyst Rene Buest. Source
  12. Car groups throw spanner in works of EU’s hydrogen drive Industry pours cold water on idea hydrogen can vie with battery power to replace ICEs. Enlarge / The lettering "BMW i - Hydrogen Next" can be seen on the front of a BMW X5 equipped with a hydrogen drive. The car is equipped with two 700 bar tanks for a total of 6 kg of hydrogen. picture alliance | Getty Images Europe’s two biggest industrial and economic powers are laying billions on the table in an attempt to take on China in developing a “green” hydrogen sector to replace fossil fuels—but the continent’s top motor groups are wary of going along for the ride. “You won’t see any hydrogen usage in cars,” said Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess. The idea of a big market for vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells is “very optimistic,” according to Diess, who has overseen a €35 billion push into electric cars. “Not even in 10 years,” he told the Financial Times, “because the physics behind it are so unreasonable.” France and Germany have driven the region’s effort to build a world-leading industry based on the most abundant element in the universe, a pillar of the EU’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Together they have pledged a combined €16 billion to hydrogen power generation technologies, the largest direct public investment in the field by EU countries. Their carmakers, however, remain unconvinced. VW, the world’s second-biggest by sales, has all but abandoned its hydrogen plans. German rival Mercedes, which invested in hydrogen for decades to no avail, quietly shelved its last passenger car fuel cell project last year, while BMW maintains only a toehold in the technology. France’s PSA, which has bet heavily on electric vehicle technology, also remains deeply skeptical. Carlos Tavares, the outspoken CEO of the recently formed Stellantis group resulting from the merger of Fiat Chrysler with PSA, even suggested to the FT that “most of the people who have pushed for the hydrogen-powered cars are the ones who are late in the electric vehicles.” The European carmakers’ stance stands in stark contrast to those of their biggest Asian rivals. Japan’s Toyota, the world leader by sales and whose Mirai launched in 2014 was the first mass-produced hydrogen car, and South Korea’s Hyundai continue to invest heavily, bolstered by state incentives and demand from specific customers such as corporate fleets. Enlarge / The drivetrain of the Mirai. Ian Bott | Financial Times Strict EU emissions regulations have instead pushed its carmakers to pour tens of billions of euros into battery technology that provides more certainty, establishing global supply chains and building dedicated electric vehicle platforms to bring down costs. As a rule of thumb, industry executives say that without subsidies carmakers need to sell 100,000 units a year before cost curves start falling. Annual deliveries of hydrogen vehicles in Europe languish in the hundreds. According to Bernd Heid, a McKinsey analyst, a “ramp-up of both commercial vehicles and passenger cars” powered by hydrogen would be required for the “rapid increase in refilling infrastructure” required to scale up the industry. However, Renault head of alternative fuels Philippe Prevel said that although hydrogen-powered passenger cars would not be a viable option until 2030 at the earliest, vehicles on fixed routes or closed networks could start to bring costs down before then. Enlarge / How hydrogen fuel cells work. Ian Bott | Financial Times Benoît Potier, chief executive of France’s Air Liquide, one of the biggest and earliest backers of hydrogen, shares Prevel’s view. “Taxis, buses, trains, boats, light commercial vehicles... I mean, everything that is flying back to a fixed point or going back to a fixed point is a good candidate,” he said. Europe’s largest trainmakers have already experimented with the technology. The world’s first hydrogen train trundled through rural Germany in 2018 after being unveiled by France’s Alstom, which argues that for routes of more than 120 km hydrogen can be a better solution than batteries. The first hydrogen trains in France will start to roll from 2023. “Having started in Germany, hydrogen trains are now spreading across Europe and the reason is simple: it's that all countries are engaged in replacing their fleet of diesel trains, and 50 percent of the rail network in Europe is not electrified,” said Alstom chief executive Henri Poupart-Lafarge. He added that 4,500 to 5,000 regional diesel trains were up for renewal across Europe. Siemens in November announced a partnership with Deutsche Bahn to develop a regional hydrogen train that can be refueled in 15 minutes. The project offers the potential to decarbonize Germany’s 1,300 diesel-powered trains, which are forced to use the fossil fuel on the 40 percent of the DB network that is not electrified. “We need to bring our fossil fuel consumption down to zero,” said DB board member Sabina Jeschke, adding that by 2050 the company “won’t have a single diesel-powered train operating in our fleet.” Trucks are a bigger problem to solve. While only accounting for 2 percent of vehicles on the road in the EU, they are responsible for 22 percent of road transport carbon emissions, according to pressure group Transport and Environment. And powering them with batteries is not as straightforward an option as it is with cars. Steve Angel, chief executive of hydrogen pioneer Linde, said large commercial vehicles “can't afford to sacrifice the payload to accommodate the weight of batteries.” Daimler has established a joint venture with arch-rival Volvo to develop hydrogen-powered trucks. Tavares is also preparing to launch a fleet of trucks powered by hydrogen fuel cells. Those cells are being built by Symbio, a French joint venture with Michelin and Faurecia, which already equips Renault’s hydrogen vans. While Renault has only sold 200-300 of the first-generation hydrogen Kangoo van since its launch in 2014, it remains cautiously optimistic about the “emerging technology.” It plans to launch two new hydrogen-powered light commercial vehicles in coming months with its new partner, Plug Power. But others are dismissive—including VW’s Diess, whose group includes the MAN and Scania truck brands and who once worked on hydrogen projects as an engineer at BMW. He noted that energy is lost converting hydrogen into liquid form—and that the fuel cell itself “has an efficiency of 70 percent” because it requires a “buffer” battery to transmit its energy to the vehicle. “You can’t ramp the fuel cell up and down like a combustion engine,” he said. “So you need another 10kW battery, you need an electric engine, and you need to run the fuel cell.” The technology, Diess argues, does not even make sense for commercial vehicles. “A truck is really prone to cost per kilometer, load per kilometer and hydrogen is so expensive that you would triple the cost per kilometer against an [electric] truck.” Battery-powered trucks could have a range of 200 km to 300 km, he added. Renault’s Prevel counters that beyond that 300 km mark, the sheer weight of batteries means hydrogen has a role to play. He would like to see Renault take 30 percent of the hydrogen light commercial vehicle market, although he acknowledges it is too early to say how big that market will be. Hydrogen’s credentials as a clean energy source remain an issue, as does the cost of production compared with fossil fuels until the price of renewable energy required to produce it comes down. Executives who have lived through several hydrogen “hype cycles” remain wary. “We cannot expect everything to be green and sustainable and our individual behaviors and lives remain the same,” said Christian Bruch, the boss of Germany’s Siemens Energy, which has signed a hydrogen production deal with France’s Air Liquide. “The worst thing that can happen is that we talk about a silver bullet [green hydrogen] that never comes, and it's always five years away.” Car groups throw spanner in works of EU’s hydrogen drive
  13. EU faces fresh shortfall of AstraZeneca vaccine supplies Italy is among the nations to have banned the use of batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine / © AFP The European Union is facing further shortfalls in its coronavirus inoculation programme after pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca said production problems and export restrictions would reduce planned deliveries of its vaccine. The Anglo/Swedish firm's image has already taken a hit with several countries suspending the rollout of its vaccine over blood clot fears, even as the World Health Organization said there was no reason to stop using it. It is just the latest blow for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the cheapest vaccine aimed at fighting back against a pandemic that has claimed more than 2.6 million lives worldwide. Germany has already reported adverse effects due to the delay, the state of Thuringia cancelling appointments and suspending a pilot project for general practitioners to administer the vaccine. Tunisia was among the latest countries to have started its vaccine rollout / © AFP The head of the country's disease control agency Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, meanwhile warned that "the third wave has already started in Germany". Despite the worrying signs, thousands joined protests in German cities on Saturday against anti-Covid measures. - 'Razor's edge' - French Prime Minister Jean Castex said his government still expected to exceed its target of 10 million vaccinated by April 15, though he said some labs were not respecting delivery deadlines. Coronavirus trends this week / © AFP Castex defended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine despite precautions taken by other nations. "I would not allow myself to send poison to my fellow citizens," he said during a visit to a vaccination centre. He also did not rule out a new lockdown in the Ile-de-France region, which is home to the capital Paris, saying he was ready to take "additional measures" if necessary. "We are on a razor's edge," he told Le Monde newspaper, as the first three intensive care patients were moved from Ile-de-France to nearby regions on Saturday to relieve the pressure on overwhelmed hospitals in the capital. - Oxygen shortage - The United States, the country hit hardest by the pandemic, has ramped up its vaccination programme after a shaky start. Health workers in the United States have administered more than 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses / © AFP The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 100 million doses had been administered so far, just less than a third of the total given worldwide so far. Tunisia and Ethiopia both launched vaccination campaigns on Saturday, with Ethiopian officials flagging an alarming rise in cases. There was outrage in Jordan after at least seven Covid-19 patients died on Saturday when a hospital ran out of oxygen. "I have submitted my resignation to the prime minister," said health minister Nazir Obeidat, adding that he took "full moral responsibility" for what happened. - 'Blood clot fears' - Several countries suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine this week, with Norway reporting an "unexpected death from a brain haemorrhage" after receiving the shot. Norwegian officials added on Saturday that the country had "received several adverse event reports about younger vaccinated people with bleeding under the skin" after getting the shot. Performers participate in 'We Will Be Back', a live pop-up event and commemoration of Broadway's 'lost year' / © AFP It also said it had received "three more reports of severe cases of blood clots or brain haemorrhages in younger people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine". The World Health Organization, which said its vaccines advisory committee was examining the safety data coming in, has stressed that no causal link has been established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clotting. "Yes, we should continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Friday, stressing that any concerns over safety must be investigated. AstraZeneca insisted its jab was safe, adding there was "no evidence" of higher blood clot risks. Italy and Austria have banned the use of jabs from separate batches of AstraZeneca and Thailand and Bulgaria said this week they would delay their rollout. Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Latvia meanwhile called for EU talks to discuss "huge disparities" in vaccine distribution, according to a letter published on Saturday. "If this system were to carry on, it would continue creating and exacerbating huge disparities among member states by this summer, whereby some would be able to reach herd immunity in a few weeks while others would lag far behind," the letter said. Italy on Friday announced tough new restrictions, with schools, restaurants, shops and museums were ordered to close across most regions of Italy, including Rome and Milan from next week. Source: EU faces fresh shortfall of AstraZeneca vaccine supplies
  14. EU Parliament Wants Pirated Sports Streams Taken Down Within 30 Minutes The European Parliament is considering a draft resolution that requires online services to take pirated sports streams offline within 30 minutes. This includes a proposal to allow copyright holders to act as trusted flaggers. According to Pirate Party MEP Patrick Breyer, the plan is dangerous as it can cause massive collateral damage. In recent years the European Commission has proposed and adopted various legislative changes to help combat online piracy. This includes the Copyright Directive which passed last year as well as the Digital Services Act, which was officially unveiled last December. These laws will have a significant effect on how online services respond to copyright infringement complaints. However, according to some, upload filters and other broad enforcement tools don’t go nearly far enough. Next week, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament will vote on a draft resolution that goes a step further. The proposal in question is superficially tailored to deal with pirated live sports streaming, which is a thorn in the side of major sports leagues. 30-Minute takedown Window According to the draft, prepared by rapporteur Angel Dzhambazki, sports event organizers face significant challenges in the digital environment due to piracy. To help combat this problem, online services should remove infringing content as soon as possible, within minutes of an event beginning. Specifically, this means that current legislation should be updated to “specify that the removal of the illegal content should take place immediately after reception of the notice and no later than 30 minutes after the event started.” According to some EU lawmakers, this proposal doesn’t go far enough and several compromise amendments have been negotiated to make the language even stronger. This includes the use of “trusted flaggers,” who may act on behalf of copyright holders. These takedowns could be sent to streaming services such as YouTube, but they may also be targeted at hosting providers. A similar system is already in play in the UK, where sports streams can be taken down in real-time, with proper court approval. No Court Order Needed The EU proposal doesn’t necessarily require judicial oversight and will involve more parties. This is something sports organizers will welcome, but it opens the door to overblocking as well, which occasionally happens in the UK too. The proposed resolution is not welcomed by all Members of Parliament. Patrick Breyer, MEP for the Pirate Party, says that he and his fellow members of the Greens/EFA Group will vote against it. “This text reads as if it had been dictated by lobbyists in the rights holders industry, it threatens fundamental digital rights,” Breyer says. Shorter Takedown Window Than Terrorist Content According to Breyer, the Digital Services Act should be sufficient to deal with online copyright infringement issues. The new proposal is overbroad and excessively burdensome to online services, he adds. “A 30-minute deletion requirement would be shorter than is foreseen for terrorist content, and outside of business hours it would be much too short, especially for small and non-commercial providers. “Allowing private interest groups with self-interest to have content removed without review by a court would foreseeably lead to an excessive blocking of legal content as well,” Breyer adds. Breyer informs TorrentFreak that he had submitted an amendment that called for the deletion of the new legislation. That would be the best solution in his view. “There is no need for the specific legislation on sports streams the resolution calls for. The existing means and instruments are more than sufficient,” Breyer says. EU Parliament Wants Pirated Sports Streams Taken Down Within 30 Minutes
  15. Amazon fined massive $888 million by EU Privacy Regulator The Luxembourg data protection authority, the CNPD, has fined Amazon a massive $888 million for violating GDPR regulations, reports Bloomberg. Amazon is based in Luxembourg in the EU and the regulator has the power to fine Amazon for up to 4% of its global revenue. The fine is based on a 2018 complaint by French privacy rights group La Quadrature du Net who accused Amazon of processing the data of EU citizens without their consent. They wrote: Amazon is criticized for announcing that it is carrying out certain processing operations personal data concerning the persons in whose name the this complaint is lodged (2.2) without, however, basing this processing on one of the legal bases required by law (2.1), rendering therefore these illicit (2.3). The news was not announced by CNPD but was confirmed by Amazon who disclosed it in a regulatory filing today, saying it was “without merit.” “We strongly disagree with the CNPD’s ruling, and we intend to appeal. The decision relating to how we show customers relevant advertising relies on subjective and untested interpretations of European privacy law, and the proposed fine is entirely out of proportion with even that interpretation.” The original complainant is not running a victory lap either yet. “It’s a first step to see a fine that’s dissuasive, but we need to remain vigilant and see if the decision also includes an injunction to correct the infringing behaviour,” said Bastien Le Querrec, a member of La Quadrature’s litigation team, adding the group hadn’t received the decision yet. Amazon fined massive $888 million by EU Privacy Regulator
  16. French data protection regulators on Thursday found the use of Google Analytics a breach of the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws in the country, almost a month after a similar decision was reached in Austria. To that end, the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) ruled that the transatlantic movement of Google Analytics data to the U.S. is not "sufficiently regulated" citing a violation of Articles 44 et seq. of the data protection decree, which govern the transfers of personal data to third countries or international entities. Specifically the independent administrative regulatory body highlighted the lack of equivalent privacy protections and the risk that "American intelligence services would access personal data transferred to the United States if the transfers were not properly regulated." "[A]lthough Google has adopted additional measures to regulate data transfers in the context of the Google Analytics functionality, these are not sufficient to exclude the accessibility of this data for U.S. intelligence services," the CNIL said. "There is therefore a risk for French website users who use this service and whose data is exported." As part of the order, the CNIL recommended one of the offending websites to adhere to the GDPR by ceasing to utilize the Google Analytics functionality or by using an alternative website traffic monitoring tool that does not involve a transfer outside the E.U., giving it a deadline of one month to comply. In addition, the watchdog underscored that website audience measurement and analysis services such as Google Analytics should only be "used to produce anonymous statistical data, thus allowing for an exemption from consent if the data controller ensures that there are no illegal transfers." The development comes amid fresh warnings from Meta Platforms, the owner of social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, that legislation dictating how E.U. citizens' user data gets transferred to the U.S. could lead to it pulling out the services from the region. "If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs (standard contractual clauses) or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe," the company said in an annual report issued earlier this week. The ruling also arrives less than two weeks after a regional court in the German city of Munich found that embedding Google Fonts on a website and transferring the IP address to Google via the library without users' consent contravenes GDPR laws, ordering the website operator to pay €100 in damages. Source: https://thehackernews.com/2022/02/france-rules-that-using-google.html
  17. European and particularly German Data Protection Regulators have been having a long-running issue with Microsoft regarding the data its operating system sends back to Microsoft. The concern is that the telemetry the OS sends back can include personal information, such as email addresses and text snippets being sent back in keyboard and auto-correct telemetry data. This has resulted in German data protection agencies announcing that Windows 10 is not GDPR-compliant and was not fit for use in schools and government work for example. Microsoft has made efforts to be compliant with the rules, for example moving their servers into the EU, and today Microsoft scored a significant win, after the Bayerischen Landesamts für Datenschutzaufsicht — Bavarian agency for data protection, announced that Windows 10 Enterprise version 1909 (and Education) does not send back any telemetry data to Microsoft when properly configured for this purpose. This testing was completed in December 2019 and was done in a laboratory environment with Microsoft staff in attendance. It included setting the telemetry settings to ‘security’ and using recommended Microsoft tools and settings to further adjust what data is collected. Monitoring the network the computers were placed on showed no data was being transmitted except for certificate requests (though even this could be deactivated), though the agency noted that this needed to be confirmed in a real-world setting. The agency was not able to configure Windows 10 Pro (and Home) in a similar fashion, but this should mean that where data privacy is essential telemetry collected by Windows 10 Enterprise should no longer be an issue, saying: Should this result in real use of Windows 10 at companies confirm then at least dealing with telemetry data in Windows 10 Enterprise (also in managed environments) does not constitute an obstacle to data protection law of this operating system. The information is contained in a report which can be seen here. MSpoweruser
  18. BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Friday that travel site Booking.com had committed to end “manipulative techniques” for offers, such as wrongly presenting them as time-limited, and misrepresenting discounts. The EU executive and the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets have been in talks with Booking.com for the past year and accepted commitments the company made to bring its practices in line with EU consumer law. “As a market leader, it is vital that companies like Booking.com meet their responsibilities in this area,” Didier Reynders, EU commissioner for justice and consumers, said in a statement. No one at Booking.com was immediately available for comment. Booking.com had committed to make a series of changes by June 16, the Commission said. These include making clear that the statement “last room available!” only referred to offers by Booking.com and not presenting offers as time-limited if the same price applied after the time limit expired. The company should also ensure offers presented as discounts represented genuine savings, display the total price in a clear way and clearly indicate if accommodation was offered by a private host or a professional. Reynders said the Commission and national consumer authorities would continue to monitor all online travel sites to ensure fair treatment for consumers. Source
  19. Facebook tried to block the referral but today an influential advisor to Europe’s top court has issued a legal opinion that could have major implications for the future of the EU-US Privacy Shield personal data transfer mechanism. It’s a complex opinion, dealing with a fundamental clash of legal priorities around personal data in the EU and US, which does not resolve question marks hanging over the legality of Privacy Shield . The headline take-away is that a different data transfer mechanism which is also widely used by businesses to transfer personal data out of the EU — so called Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) — has been deemed legally valid by the court advisor. However the advocate general to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is also at pains to emphasize the “obligation” of data protection authorities to step in and suspend such data transfers if they are being used to send EU citizens’ data to a place where their information cannot be adequately protected. So while SCCs look safe — as a data transfer mechanism — per this opinion, it’s a reminder that EU data protection agencies have a duty to be on top of regulating how such tools are used. The reason the case was referred to the CJEU was a result of Ireland’s Data Protection Commission not acting on a complaint to suspend Facebook’s use of SCCs. So one view that flows from the opinion is the DPC should have done so — instead of spending years on an expensive legal fight. The backstory to the legal referral is long and convoluted, involving a reformulated data protection complaint filed with the Irish DPC by privacy campaigner and lawyer Max Schrems challenging Facebook’s use of SCCs. His earlier legal action, in the wake of the 2013 disclosures of US government mass surveillance programs by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, led to Privacy Shield’s predecessor, Safe Harbor, being struck down by the CJEU in 2015. On the SCCs complaint Schrems prevailed in the Irish courts but instead of acting on his request to order Facebook to suspend its SCC data flows, Ireland’s data protection watchdog took the unusual step of filing a lawsuit pertaining to the validity of the entire mechanism. Irish courts then referred a number of legal questions to the CJEU — including looping in the wider issue of the legality of Privacy Shield. It’s on those questions that the AG has now opined. It’s worth noting that the advocate general’s opinion is not binding on the CJEU — which will issue a ruling on the case next year. Although the court does tend to follow such opinions so it’s a strong indicator of the likely direction of travel. The opinion, by advocate general Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, takes the view that the use of SCCs for the transfer of personal data to a third country — i.e. a country outside the EU that does not have a bilateral trade agreement with the bloc — is valid. However, as noted above, the AG puts the onus on data authorities to act in instances where obligations to protect EU citizens’ data under the mechanism come into conflict with privacy-hostile laws outside the EU, such as government mass surveillance programs. “[T[here is an obligation — placed on the data controllers and, where the latter fail to act, on the supervisory authorities — to suspend or prohibit a transfer when, because of a conflict between the obligations arising under the standard clauses and those imposed by the law of the third country of destination, those clauses cannot be complied with,” the CJEU writes in a press release on the opinion. In a first reaction, Schrems highlights this point — writing: “The advocate general is now telling the Irish Data Protection Authority again to just do its job… After all the Irish taxpayer may have to pay up to €10M in legal costs, for the DPC delaying this case in the interest of Facebook. “The opinion makes clear that DPC has the solution to this case in her own hands: She [Helen Dixon] can order Facebook to stop transfers tomorrow. Instead, she turned to the CJEU to invalidate the whole system. It’s like screaming for the European fire brigade, because you don’t know how to blow out a candle yourself.” We’ve reached out to the Irish DPC and to Facebook for comment on the AG’s opinion. “At the moment, many data protection authorities simply look the other way when they receive reports of infringements or simply do not deal with complaints. This is a huge step for the enforcement of the GDPR [the General Data Protection Regulation],” Schrems also argues. Luca Tosoni, a research fellow at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law at the University of Oslo, suggests that the likelihood of EU DPAs suspending SCC personal data transfers to the US will “depend on the Court’s ultimate take on the safeguards surrounding the access to the transferred data by the United States intelligence authorities and the judicial protection available to the persons whose data are transferred”. “The disruptive effect of a suspension of SCCs, even if partial and just for the U.S., is likely to be substantial,” he argues. “SCCs are widely used for the transfer of personal data outside the EU. They are probably the most used data transfer mechanism, including for transfers to the U.S. Thus, even a partial suspension of the SCCs would force a significant number of organizations to explore alternative mechanisms for their transfers to the U.S. “However, the alternatives are limited and often difficult to apply to large-scale transfers, the main ones being the derogations allowing transfers with the consent of the data subject or necessary for the performance of a contract. These are unlikely to be suitable for all transfers currently taking place in accordance with SCCs.” “In practice, the degree of disruption is likely to depend on the timing and duration of the suspension,” he adds. “Any suspension or other finding that data transfers to the U.S. are problematic is likely to speed up the modernization of SCCs that the European Commission is already working on but it is unclear how long it would take for the Commission to issue new SCCs. “When the Court invalidated the Safe Harbor, it took several months for the Commission to adopt the Privacy Shield and amend the existing SCCs to take into account the Court’s judgment.” On Privacy Shield — a newer data transfer mechanism which the European Commission claims fixes the legal issues with its predecessor — Saugmandsgaard Øe’s opinion includes some lengthy reasoning that suggests otherwise and certainly does not clear up questions around the mechanism’s legality which arise as a result of US laws that allow the state to harvest personal data for national security purposes, thereby conflicting with EU privacy rights. Per the CJEU press release, the AG’s opinion sets out a number of reasons which it says “lead him to question the validity of the ‘privacy shield’ decision in the light of the right to respect for private life and the right to an effective remedy”. The flagship mechanism is now used by more than 5,000 entities to authorize EU-US personal data transfers. Should it be judged invalid by the court there would be a massive scramble for businesses to find alternatives. It remains to be seen how the court will handle these questions. But Privacy Shield remains subject to direct legal challenge — so there are other opportunities for it to weigh in, even if CJEU judges avoids doing so in this case. Schrems clearly hopes they will weigh in soon, skewering Privacy Shield in his statement — where he writes: “After the ‘Safe Harbor’ judgment the European Commission deliberately passed an invalid decision again — knowing that it will take two or three years until the Court will have a chance to invalidate it a second time. It will be very interesting to see if the Court will take this issue on board in the final decision or wait for another case to reach the court.” “I am also extremely happy that the AG has taken a clear view on the Privacy Shield Ombudsperson. A mere ‘postbox’ at the foreign ministry of the US cannot possibly replace a court, as required under the first judgement by the Court,” he adds. He does take issue with the AG’s opinion in one respect — specifically its reference to what he dubs “surveillance friendly case law” under the European Convention on Human Rights — instead of what he couches as “the clear case law of the Court of Justice”. “This is against any logic… I am doubtful that the [CJEU] judges will join that view,” he suggests. The court typically hands down a judgement between three and six months after an AG opinion — so privacy watchers will be readying their popcorn in 2020. Meanwhile, for thousands of businesses, the legal uncertainty and risk of future disruption should Privacy Shield come unstuck goes on. Update: The Irish DPC has now responded to the opinion saying it welcomes the “clarity and analysis”. Head of communications, Graham Doyle, sent us this statement: The DPC welcomes the publication of the AG’s opinion. The opinion illustrates the levels of complexity associated with the kinds of issues that arise when EU data protection laws interact with the laws of third countries, to include the laws of the United States. Equally, the opening section of the opinion recognises the significant tensions that arise between, on the one hand, the need to show pragmatism, and on the other, “the need to assert the fundamental values recognised in the legal orders of the Union and its member states, and in particular, the Charter”. Some of the points of complexity engaged here go to matters of substance. To take just three examples: does EU law apply at all when data subject’s personal data is processed by public authorities in a third country (the AG believes it does); do US laws and practices facilitate interferences with the data protection rights of individuals that are incompatible with EU law (they do, in the view of the AG); and are those problems cured by Privacy Shield (no, in the opinion of the AG). Separately, the opinion notes that, in individual cases, the standard contractual clauses likewise may not provide an answer to the problems that arise when data transfers bring EU citizens’ data within the remit of US public authorities. At this point, procedural complexities also come into view. Specifically, who should intervene when, in the context of an individual transfer, the level of protection demanded by EU law cannot be maintained? Here, whilst acknowledging its imperfections, and the practical difficulties it presents, and notwithstanding the risk of fragmentation amongst supervisory authorities within the member states, the AG concludes that the approach settled upon by the EU in the context of the SCCs strikes an appropriate balance between pragmatism and principle. That approach is one in which responsibility for ensuring the protection of the data protection rights of EU citizens rests with controllers in the first instance and, in the view of the AG, with national supervisory authorities where a controller fails to discharge its obligations. Whilst noting that these issues are yet to be determined by the Court, the DPC welcomes the clarity of the analysis contained in the AG’s opinion. Facebook has also now sent us a statement, attributed to associate general counsel, Jack Gilbert: We are grateful for the Advocate General’s opinion on these complex questions. Standard Contractual Clauses provide important safeguards to ensure that Europeans’ data are protected once transferred overseas. SCCs have been designed and endorsed by the European Commission and enable thousands of Europeans to do business worldwide. We look forward to the final decision from the CJEU. Source
  20. No, the EU isn’t asking Apple to kill the Lightning cable It’s all about chargers, and Apple already makes them You might have read headlines today about how the EU is looking to force Apple to ditch the Lightning cable. That’s not really true. Since 2009, the European Commission has been trying to convince tech companies to adopt a single wall charger instead of opting for a proprietary method, one that can power any and all portable devices. And now, following a recent statement by the Commission at Parliament that calls for stricter enforcement on the matter — possibly to the point of regulation — a few publications have been erroneously convinced that this action could lead to Apple’s Lightning port and cable disappearing once and for all, and forcing Apple to adopt USB-C across the board. But that’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of both the EC’s intent and how charging actually works. First, this statement wasn’t even about phone cables or connector ports, unlike in previous years. (At the behest of the Commission in previous years, Apple complied by making a Micro USB to 30-pin adapter for phones predating the iPhone 5, and for more recent phones, it made a Micro USB to Lightning adapter). This time, it’s about wall chargers. Vice president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič shared that when its quest for the common charger began in 2009, there were over 30 proprietary charging methods in use. Now, there are apparently just three. Even so, he shares that old, discarded chargers make up for 51,000 metric tons of e-waste per year. But as hopeful as we are that USB-C will take Lightning’s place in 2020, the European Commission isn’t proposing that anything happen to the Lightning port or cable. Again, it’s about chargers — and Apple already makes a charger that probably does what the Commission is asking! Apple already includes 18W USB-C wall chargers, as well as Lightning to USB-C cables, with its iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The company’s 2018 iPad Pro and complete lineup of MacBook laptops use USB-C chargers and cables as well, and the most powerful USB-C chargers that Apple ships are equally capable of powering a laptop, tablet or phone — they’re universal. Apple might lag behind with the chargers included with some of its products, like the 5W USB Type-A charger that comes with the standard iPhone 11, but it’s making progress toward this common charger initiative, and that progress doesn’t seem to be coming to an end. And even if every charger in the world magically turned into a USB-C charger tomorrow, that still wouldn’t force Apple to remove the Lightning ports from its phones. Again, Apple already sells and ships a USB-C to Lightning cable. It makes sense that news outlets are invoking Apple’s name when it comes to cables and chargers. (The EC didn’t mention Apple at all.) It’s one of the biggest companies in the world, and thus, defunct Apple chargers likely make up a large part of the e-waste pile. Until 2014, the European Commission says it relied on the tech industry itself to volunteer in making the shift toward a common charger. Now it’s considering regulations to put them in line. And, if that’s what is necessary to force them all to include fast-charging USB-C wall adapters in the box, Apple included, it’s hard not to get behind the initiative. Source: No, the EU isn’t asking Apple to kill the Lightning cable (The Verge)
  21. Google has announced the inaugural winners of its controversial Android “choice screen” search engine auction in Europe, with privacy-focused Google alternative DuckDuckGo emerging as one of the big winners. Microsoft’s Bing, by contrast, faired less well. DuckDuckGo will be one of three alternative search engines offered by Google during new Android phone setups in every European country, while Bing will be an option only in the U.K. However, given that this was a closed auction process, it’s difficult to know which search providers applied for inclusion in which markets — it could be that Microsoft only applied for Bing in the U.K. The story so far By way of a quick recap, EU antitrust regulators hit Google with a record $5 billion fine in 2018 over the way it bundled its services on Android, claiming that Google forced manufacturers to preinstall certain Google apps to gain access to others. While Google (correctly) argued that manufacturers are free to use Android as they wish, given that the operating system is released under an open source license, to offer core services such as YouTube and Google Maps they have to preinstall a broader array of Google apps, including Chrome and Google as the default browser and search engine, respectively. In response to the fine, Google overhauled its Android licensing model in Europe, electing to separate Google Search and Chrome from its other suite of apps and to offer different licenses for each “bundle” — which it would charge for. As part of measures to placate European regulators, Google started suggesting alternative browsers and search engines for Android users, though these were in addition to Chrome and Google Search, which were still set as defaults. The next step toward appeasing regulators was an auction process that would give alternative search engines a better chance to become the default provider on mobile devices in Europe. The winner would agree to pay Google every time a user chose them as the default search engine (regardless of whether the user later changed their choice). Above: Default search example screenshot: Google’s Android Not every Google Search rival was ecstatic about this auction process. Ecosia, the Berlin-based not-for-profit search engine that plants trees with 80% of its surplus income, called this an “affront” to the EU’s ruling the previous year. And Cliqz, a browser that sports its own built-in search engine, said the auction “obstructs the market for competitors.” Needless to say, neither Ecosia nor Cliqz entered the auction process, and as a result they don’t appear as a default choice anywhere in Europe. “We believe this auction is at odds with the spirit of the July 2018 EU Commission ruling,” Ecosia CEO Christian Kroll told VentureBeat. “Internet users deserve a free choice over which search engine they use, and the response of Google with this auction is an affront to our right to a free, open, and federated internet. Ecosia is the largest European search engine, which begs a question: Why is Google able to pick and choose who gets default status on Android? Planting trees in biodiversity hotspots is our priority, this means that biddings processes like this cut out purpose-driven search engines like Ecosia.” The winners by market Above: Android choice screen options in Europe (March to June, 2020) The options vary by country, with Google’s Russian rival Yandex showing up in Estonia and Finland, and meta search engine Info.com, which aggregates results from multiple search providers, appearing as an option in all 31 markets across the European Economic Area (EEA), much like DuckDuckGo. Upon selecting an option, the user will then access that search engine by default through the search widget on their device’s homescreen, and it will also become the default search engine in Chrome if it’s installed. Google will also install the Android app of the chosen search engine provider if it isn’t already installed. These options will start showing up on new or factory-reset devices from March 1, 2020 for a four-month period, after which Google will repeat the auction process again for each quarter. This appears to be at odds with Google’s original plan — back in August it said that it would operate the auction on an annual basis. At any rate, the entire auction process could still come unstuck, with Ecosia already planning to raise its concerns with European regulators. “Now that this process has come to a conclusion, we’ll raise our broader concerns over Google’s monopolistic behaviour with European Union legislators — we’ll also look at other ways to work with regulators to challenge this result,” Kroll continued. “If this were to go unchallenged, we firmly believe that this would set a dangerous precedent over how large technology firms address competition rulings.” Source
  22. The European Commission is working on its 2020 piracy watch list, which will provide an overview of notorious markets located outside of the EU. The annual report is largely based on input from copyright holders but the Commission is actively approaching accused pirate sites to rebut these claims before publication. Following the example of the United States, the EU started publishing its very own piracy watchlist two years ago. The annual ‘Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List’ is put together by the European Commission. As in the US, it is based on reports from copyright holder groups that report several problematic sites and services. For example, the first watch list included ‘non-EU’ targets such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz2, Rapidgator, Uploaded, Sci-Hub, and H2converter. In addition, some third-party intermediaries such as Cloudflare were called out as well. EU’s 2020 Piracy Watchlist The European Commission is currently working on its 2020 watchlist and has already completed the public consultation. This resulted in a list of sites and services which are now being vetted for publication. “This list will again identify and describe the most problematic marketplaces […] in order to encourage their operators and owners as well as the responsible local authorities and governments to take the necessary actions and measures to reduce the availability of IPR infringing goods or services,” the Commission writes. A common critique with this type of watchlist is that they are often based on one-sided input. The ‘piracy’ and ‘copyright infringement’ claims come from copyright holders and are often repeated before hearing from the accused party. EU Commission Consults Accused Sites The European Commission breaks with this tradition. It has recently contacted several accused parties, allowing them to have their say. TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of a torrent site who, on the condition of anonymity, agreed to share the letter he received from the Commission. “We contact you because the website you operate was one of the reported marketplaces,” the letter starts. “According to the stakeholders, [redacted] is reportedly a popular BitTorrent website hosted in [redacted] facilitating access to a wide range of content, including music, films, TV programmes, software and videogames.” The Commission acknowledges that the targeted site responds to takedown notices, but copyright holders report that infringing material is usually quickly reposted. In addition, the site reportedly generates income from ad revenue and pay-per-install links that could link to malware. Based on these third-party reports, the EU Commission is inclined to add the site to the forthcoming piracy watch list. However, it allows the site operator to have his say as well. “Based on the public consultation, we are considering including the name of the site you operate in the next edition of the Watch List. We would like to give you the opportunity to express your views concerning the above-mentioned allegations reported by stakeholders and to send us your comments.” Proper Verification is Welcome The site operator we spoke with isn’t sure whether he is going to reply. However, it is laudable that targeted sites are allowed to chime in before the list is published. It’s not entirely clear what constitutes a ‘pirate’ site in the eyes of the EU Commission. The letter suggests that simply taking down reported files isn’t good enough as they will simply reappear. However, that same logic applies to many sites and services, including YouTube. When the European Commission announced its most recent consultation earlier this year it said that all information received will be thoroughly verified. This is crucial, as its first report wasn’t free of errors, and included a perfectly legitimate site. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. The European Commission has just released a draft of its Digital Services Act, which will dictate how online services deal with potentially illegal content. The proposed legislation prohibits monitoring or filtering obligations. In addition, it improves transparency and allows senders of false takedown notices to be suspended. For roughly two decades, major EU copyright rulings have been founded in the E-Commerce Directive. This legislation defines how online services and platforms should handle potentially infringing content if they don’t want to be held liable. Today, the EU proposed the Digital Services Act (DSA), which is the official successor to the E-Commerce Directive. The new package aims to bring EU legislation into line with the current state of the digital age, which has changed dramatically over the past several years. The official text (pdf) has just been released and needs to be properly analyzed but there are some early broad conclusions that we can draw. Since we mostly cover copyright issues, we will focus on that angle specifically, but the full proposal has a much greater scope. The DSA will have far-reaching consequences and applies to all platforms and services that can be accessed in the EU. The rules and regulations for each company differ based on their size and what type of service they provide. There is a strong focus on notice and takedowns and the European Commission summarizes the impact of the new obligations as follows: “The Digital Services Act significantly improves the mechanisms for the removal of illegal content and for the effective protection of users’ fundamental rights online, including the freedom of speech. “It also creates a stronger public oversight of online platforms, in particular for platforms that reach more than 10% of the EU’s population,” the Commission adds. The removal of illegal content includes, but is not limited to, material that infringes copyright law. While there have been some discussions about including “harmful” content as well, these proposals were rejected. So what is the definition of illegal content? What is Illegal Content? The DSA proposal has a rather broad definition of illegal that may cause controversy. It specifically includes “information relating to illegal content”, as the proposal explains. “In particular, that concept should be understood to refer to information, irrespective of its form, that under the applicable law is either itself illegal […] or that relates to activities that are illegal, such as […] the non-authorized use of copyright protected material…” While we don’t expect writing about copyright infringement to be outlawed, people who create specific in-depth tutorials on how to commit copyright infringement (such as how to pirate movies or music, for example) will likely be impacted. No Monitoring Obligation There are also positive notes in the proposal in respect of Internet freedom. For example, the DSA clearly states that there are no monitoring obligations for online services and platforms. In fact, such obligations remain prohibited, as they were in the E-Commerce Directive. “The new Regulation prohibits general monitoring obligations, as they could disproportionately limit users’ freedom of expression and freedom to receive information and could burden service providers excessively,” the proposal reads. Tackling Abuse Both Sides Regular takedown requests remain an option, as expected. There are no ‘staydown’ requirements, as some rightsholders previously requested. However, online platforms must respond to abuse. This applies to both senders and recipients. The DSA notes that there is a need to act against repeat offenders who continue to submit illegal content. However, the same applies to persons or rightsholders who continue to send unfounded takedown requests. “[T]here is a need to put in place appropriate and proportionate safeguards against such misuse,” the proposal reads, noting that it harms the rights of the parties involved. For this reason, and under the right conditions, these abusers should be suspended. “Under certain conditions, online platforms should temporarily suspend their relevant activities in respect of the person engaged in abusive behavior.” Takedown Transparency The DSA proposal also has a strong focus on transparency. For example, if platforms or services work with “trusted flaggers” who have extra rights to remove content, the public has the right to know who these are. Also, if a hosting provider removes content following a takedown notice, users should be informed on what grounds this action was taken, and how he or she can appeal. The DSA clarifies that this transparency is required in light of “the negative consequences that such decisions may have for the recipient, including as regards the exercise of its fundamental right to freedom of expression.” Going Forward The issues we highlighted here are just a small selection of the broader proposal, which is available in full here. This also includes obligations for the largest platforms to allow audits of their algorithms and policies. During the coming weeks and months, all proposals will be carefully analyzed by various experts and stakeholders. The same is true for the proposal Digital Markets Act, which was also released today. Needless to say, the DSA proposal will ignite yet another battle between various stakeholders. Copyright holders, for example, are likely to ask for stricter measures and obligations, while digital rights groups and online services will argue in favor of the opposite. Source: TorrentFreak
  24. The European Commission has released its 2020 piracy watch list which provides an overview of notorious markets located outside of the EU. The report is largely based on input from copyright holders and has a strong focus on malware threats. For the first time, it also lists 'social media' platforms including the popular messenger app Telegram. Following the example of the United States, the EU started publishing its very own piracy watchlist two years ago. This ‘Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List’ is put together by the European Commission. As in the US, it is based on reports from copyright holder groups that report several problematic sites and services for inclusion. For example, those platforms included ‘non-EU’ targets such as The Pirate Bay, Torrentz2, Rapidgator, Uploaded, Sci-Hub, and H2converter. In addition, some third-party intermediaries such as Cloudflare were called out as well. This week the European Commission released the second edition of the piracy watch list. The overview highlights examples of non-EU based apps, services, websites, and physical marketplaces that facilitate or benefit from counterfeiting and piracy. While the EC doesn’t draw any legal conclusions, the watch list is supposed to motivate the operators and foreign governments to take action. In addition, it’s also meant as a warning for consumers. “The Watch List aims to encourage the operators of these marketplaces and of the intermediaries providing services to them, as well as local enforcement authorities and governments to take action to stop or prevent intellectual property infringements,” the European Commission notes. “It also aims to raise awareness among EU citizens on the environmental, product safety and other risks of purchasing from these potentially problematic markets.” The 56-page document sums up a wide range of problematic areas. We will highlight those that apply to online piracy. This includes some familiar names such as The Pirate Bay, Rapidgator, SciHub, and Y2mate as well as some new entries, which are listed per category at the end of the article. The Malware Threat The document relies heavily on input from copyright holders, who increasingly emphasize the threat of malware in an effort to keep people away from pirate sites. While experts don’t agree on the gravity of this threat, it is prominently mentioned in the EU piracy watch list. “Piracy also has a negative impact on consumers and the security of their devices and the personal data and other information stored therein. Along with pirated content, infringing websites commonly distribute various kinds of malware and potentially unwanted programs,” the report reads. Pirate sites reportedly lure users into downloading these malicious files which use artificial intelligence and psychology to trick their users. “These programs use deceptive techniques and social engineering to trick end-users into disclosing their sensitive information or payment card details. Social engineering has evolved, now equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) tools to further exploit human psychology and gain access to systems and data.” EU Adds Social Media A new category in this year’s list is social media. While these platforms are not typically aimed towards pirates, they are used to share copyright-infringing content. According to copyright holders, bad actors use social media platforms to distribute pirated content on a broad scale. For this reason, the EU decided to add this as a new category, hoping to motivate the targeted platforms to up their anti-piracy games. “The service providers are not reported as having engaged in unauthorized activities, but are mentioned in this Section for the reason that they are reported to allegedly lag behind in efforts to combat piracy or counterfeiting,” the report reads. The list of problematic social media platforms is limited to the Russian Facebook-equivalent VK.com and the messaging application Telegram, which both objected to their inclusion on the list. Telegram, for example, informed the European Commission that it swiftly takes down reported content. This takedown policy is similar to those of many other online service providers. “Telegram claims that they do not tolerate any malicious content on their platform and delete within 24 hours,” the EC notes. “For instance, Telegram shut down the 26 channels in Italy following an order issued by AGCOM.” VK also detailed its anti-piracy policies but despite these rebuttals, both VK.com and Telegram are listed. Cloudflare Countering the piracy allegations has worked for Cloudflare. In the previous list, the company was prominently highlighted as a problematic service. While Cloudflare didn’t change its policies, the Commission changed its opinion. This year several copyright holders again nominated Cloudflare but, despite the ongoing debate about its role in the piracy ecosystem, the EU decided not to include any CDN services. “CDNs might be difficult to categorize, as they usually provide a package of services related to the transmission, delivery and storage of content and relate to various players in the internet ecosystem,” the EC writes. Among other things, Cloudflare informed the EU that it shares IP-addresses of pirate sites with trusted notifiers. While the company doesn’t disconnect pirate sites, this information should allow copyright holders to go after the hosting services directly. What Now? The European Commission notes that the new watch list will be used for further discussions with all relevant stakeholders, including some of the targeted services and foreign governments. Whether it will have a major impact is doubtful though. The classic pirate sites are not going to be affected much. The Pirate Bay and other sites have been put on watch lists for years and if anything, they could see it as a badge of honor. Legitimate companies could be earlier to sway but, as Cloudflare, VK, and Telegram show, they often have counterarguments. In fact, VK has been listed as a problematic service for nearly a decade on the US watch list despite increased anti-piracy efforts. To some degree, these annual and bi-annual piracy watch lists may serve as inspiration for prospective pirates. But that is another discussion. —- A copy of the European Commission’s second Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List is available here (pdf). A list of all the online piracy targets and intermediaries can be found below. Cyberlockers – uptobox.com – rapidgator.net – uploaded.net (ul.to, uploaded.to) – 4shared.com – Wi.to and Ddl.to – dbree.org Stream-Rippers – y2mate.com and youtubeconverter.io – Savefrom.net – Flvto.biz and 2conv.com – Rlsbb.ru Linking or referring websites – Fullhdfilmizlesene.com or .org – Seasonvar.ru – Swatchseries.to – Rezka.ag BitTorrent and P2P Sites – ThePirateBay.org – Rarbg.to – Rutracker.org – 1337x.to Unlicensed download sites – Music-Bazaar.com and Music-Bazaar.mobi – Sci-hub.tw; sci-hub.cc; sci-hub.ac; sci-hub.bz; sci-hub.ren; sci-hub-im; scihub.shop – Libgen.is and mirror sites Piracy Apps – Popcorn Time Hosting providers – Private Layer Unlicensed IPTV services – King365tv.com – VolkaIPTV.com – Electrotv-sat.com Social media – VK.com – Telegram Source: TorrentFreak
  25. In a letter sent to the European Commission, a large group of anti-piracy organizations and copyright holders calls for stricter online identity checks. As part of Europe's planned Digital Services Act, online services such as hosting companies, domain registrars, and advertisers, should be required to perform "know your customer" checks. This can help to combat all sorts of illegal activity including online piracy. Anonymity is a great good on the Internet but increasingly there are calls for stricter identity checks. Such requirements are not new. In daily life many people have encountered situations where they had to prove their identity. When opening a bank account, for example. But online it is rare. If it’s up to a large group of organizations with ties to copyright industries, this should change. They call for stricter policies so that hosting companies, domain registrars, and advertisers must properly check who their customers are. This message was sent in a letter to the European Commission this week. The signatories include anti-piracy outfits such as MPA, BREIN, BPI, IFPI, and RettighedsAlliancen, as well as the international brands Heineken, Nike, and Philips. Together, they call for thorough “know your customer” requirements. Europe’s Digital Services Act The letter was sent in response to a public inquiry on Europe’s proposed Digital Service Act, which will determine how online services and platforms are regulated. The senders zoom in on one element, namely, the “Know Your Business Customer” requirements for online platforms. In the impact assessment published by the European Commission, such a requirement is highlighted. However, that ‘online’ applies to online marketplaces only. This is a missed opportunity and should be broadened, the letter notes. Online Intermediaries Should Properly Identify Business Customers According to European law, online businesses are already required to identify themselves based on Article 5 of the e-Commerce Directive. However, this is often ignored by bad actors. This is where the new requirements could prove helpful. “The DSA represents a real opportunity to rectify the situation that allows bad actors to ignore Article 5 of the ECD with impunity,” the letter explains. “A business cannot go online without a domain name, without being hosted, or without advertisement or payment services. These intermediary services, having a direct relationship with the business, are therefore best placed to make sure that only businesses that are willing to comply with the law have access to their services.” A selection of the undersigned organizations The copyright holders and anti-piracy groups state that these checks won’t involve any active monitoring. Some simple due diligence checks based on information that’s publicly verifiable is already sufficient. Identification Helps to Tackle Online Piracy At the moment, scammers, counterfeiters, plus pirate sites and services can operate relatively easily in the dark. They often provide false information, when registering a domain name for example. More detailed checks could make this harder. Knowing who’s behind a pirate site or service obviously makes enforcement efforts much easier. And when the provided information turns out to be false, the customers should be disconnected. “Should the information provided prove to be manifestly wrong, or the intermediary be notified that the business customer isn’t who it claims to be, the intermediary should stop providing services until the business customer remedies the situation.” Bad actors have been flaunting the law for years and the Digital Service Act provides an opportunity to fix this, the letter notes. Implementing stricter checks facilitates a “safe and trustworthy online environment” and will make it harder to “distribute illegal content,” the senders add. Intermediaries Should (be forced) to Take Responsibility TorrentFreak spoke to Tim Kuik, director of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, which is one of the letter’s signatories. He says that it’s no surprise that criminals use fake identities online. However, that intermediaries are not properly verifying the identities of customers is surprising. “On the one hand, we see upstream providers that are reluctant to disclose customer identity to injured parties who then can not hold the perpetrators liable. On the other hand, we see that when customer identity is disclosed – ultimately providers have to in case of illegal activity – it is fake, either completely made up or of unsuspecting people and their addresses.” “This frustrates enforcement against all kinds of illegal activity while intermediaries – unknowingly or not – indirectly earn income from it,” Kuik adds. BREIN has repeatedly emphasized the importance of proper customer identification. Earlier this year it sued several hosting providers that worked with the pirate streaming CDN Moonwalk, to require these companies to verify the identity of customers and require resellers to do the same. “The latter is necessary because we see a tendency of upstream providers using foreign parties either offshore or to sell in their respective countries, who then do not have true identity information and refuse to provide other identifying information,” Kuik tells us. The idea to use stricter ‘know your customer’ regulations as a tool to thwart piracy is a hot topic. Just a few weeks ago, a group of prominent anti-piracy groups discussed the same matter in a webinar, which also involved Europol and the Italian Financial Police. — A copy of the letter sent to Brussels earlier this week is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
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