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Cybersecurity & Standards, European Policy, Free Expression, Government Surveillance, Open Internet, Privacy & Data

EU Tech Policy Brief: May 2017

This is the May issue of CDT’s monthly EU Tech Policy Brief. It highlights some of the most pressing technology and internet policy issues under debate in Europe, the US, and internationally, and gives CDT’s perspective on them.

CULT Committee Rejects Upload Filtering in AVMS Directive

On 25 April 2017, the Culture & Education (CULT) committee of the European Parliament voted on the proposal to review the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). The CULT committee included in its draft Report obligations to monitor user-generated content on video-sharing sites, in addition to those already imposed by the Commission’s proposal. In a welcome move, however, the CULT committee adopted a compromise amendment rejecting filtering of uploads by video-sharing platforms. We hope to see the same line of reasoning in the copyright reform debate in this respect, where we continue to advocate to maintain, strengthen, and reinforce the intermediary liability protections in the E-Commerce Directive in the fight to upkeep freedom of expression online. The overall text and discussions in Council nonetheless remain unsatisfactory with many areas open for improvement, particularly on the extension in scope to cover more types of services, including the audiovisual content on “social media” services that “livestream” content.

EU Data Protection Authorities Demand Stricter ePrivacy Legislation

Early this year the European Commission published new draft legislation on electronic communications privacy, known as the e-Privacy Regulation (EPR). The proposal is intended to replace the current EU ePrivacy Directive, which was updated with “cookie” provisions in 2009. Discussions have begun in the European Parliament and amongst stakeholders, and in April both the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (WP29) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) published their opinions (respectively here and here) on the Commission’s proposal. They both highlight several positive aspects, but also point to elements that need modification in their view. Amongst other issues, both the WP29 and EDPS stand against the principle of “privacy by option” (as opposed to privacy by default and privacy by design in the GDPR); the use of “tracking walls”; non-targeted retention measures; and offline tracking without consent of the individual concerned. Overall, we believe the draft EPR is broad in scope and very complex. It sets out quite prescriptive provisions for obtaining user content that may be too detailed to be workable, effective, and technology-neutral.

Renowned Academic Joins Critics to Draft German Social Media Law

In response to Germany’s new draft law aimed at limiting the spread of hate speech and “fake news” on social media sites (the “Social Network Enforcement Bill”, or “NetzDG”), renowned European legal expert Professor Wolfgang Schulz recently expressed in a short commentary. While he recognises that addressing the issues of “fake news” and “hate speech” are critical for society, he voices concerns over the potential restrictions on freedom of expression given that “the act combines offences of various intensity”. Prof. Schulz also warns that by obliging platform providers to report on their takedown performance, an incentive is created for the provider to perform a takedown on request to avoid being called out. This is at the expense of legal content taken down, thus impinging upon freedom of expression. We strongly concur with Prof. Schulz’s views on the many fundamental rights concerns with the draft law on lack of transparency, lack of judicial oversight, access to remedies, and skewed incentives. Courtney Radsch from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also discusses the potential negative impact on freedom of expression surrounding the fake news debate in one of our latest Tech Talk episodes.

Security & Privacy Issues to Consider in the Connected Cars Debate

Advancements towards connected and autonomous vehicles and the regulatory framework in this field is receiving much attention both in the US and the EU. The EU is placing particular emphasis on the potential benefits in safety and improved traffic flow, and the European Commission has been very keen to start the development of this framework to ensure swift deployment of connected car systems. In this regard, it has 1) set up the “Cooperative Intelligent Transport System” (C-ITS) platform to allow increased coordination between road users and traffic managers; 2) brought together telecoms and automotive industries for round-table discussions; and 3) set up the “GEAR 2030” High Level Group consisting of Member States, the Commission, and industry stakeholders to deliver recommendations to the sector. A key condition for these solutions to be deployed will be addressing the associated privacy and security challenges, which CDT has commented on. Concretely, we address the need for secure software, the increasing dependence on critical information infrastructures, and the need for transparency around data privacy.

Strong Remarks by French President Macron on Encryption During Candidacy

Several EU Member States have stressed the importance of encryption in enabling secure commerce and communications, as have Europol and ENISA in a joint statement. Yet French and German Ministers have recently requested for EU legislation to be enacted in this area by October 2017. Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron was publicly tough during his campaign in his remarks about the use of encryption by technology firms and their role in enabling the spread of terrorist propaganda online. He referred to the internet as as having become “an essential part of terrorism” and therefore sees the need “to have an open discussion with big internet companies”. During his candidacy he pledged that if elected, he would press for big internet companies to “accept a legal requisition system of their encrypted services similar to the existing one for telecom companies”. We’ll have to wait and see whether now, as elected President, he’ll follow through this stance in his five-year mandate. EU Member State justice ministers will meet in June 2017 to discuss encryption.

CDT 2016 Annual Report: Advocating for Your Digital Rights

Our 2016 Annual Report was recently published, highlighting the various tech and internet policy debates and advancements in 2016, which CDT engaged in from both sides of the Atlantic. From the EU side, we highlight our work with our Washington, DC colleagues on the Privacy Shield; the Code of Conduct on hate speech; the proposed directive on copyright in the digital single market; and the support in a filing in the French State Council challenging an order from the French DPA for search engines to implement the “Right To Be Forgotten” delisting on a global basis.

CDT’s Annual Dinner: Tech Prom 2017

We were delighted to join our DC colleagues this year on April 20th for CDT’s Annual Dinner, fondly known as “Tech Prom”. Thank you to our attendees, sponsors, and honorees for making the evening a special one! To learn more about our Digital Visionary Award recipients at Teen Vogue, listen to our recent Tech Talk episode, where we discuss how Teen Vogue is using the internet to energize a new generation of globally focused, human-rights minded leaders. Subscribe to the podcast today via SoundCloud, iTunes, or Google Play.


CDT Staff at Tech Prom 2017