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Mark Zuckerberg is Worried About China’s Influence on The Internet; Many Would Agree With Him

Mark Zuckerberg is Worried About China’s Influence on The Internet; Many Would Agree With Him

Zuckerberg said that the 2018 overhaul of the privacy policy in the EU also meant Facebook had to reform its approach to data privacy around the world.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 9:24 AM IST

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he is worried about the influence China is having in terms of regulating the internet and fears other countries might follow a similar example. In fact, he has urged western countries to counter China’s model with a democratic approach. He says the Chinese approach is “really dangerous”. China’s censorship of content on the internet and the fact that many global tech platforms are banned in the country, including Facebook, is often referred to as ‘The Great Firewall’.

“What I worry about is, right now I think there are emerging two very different frameworks underpinned by very different sets of values,” Zuckerberg said in a livestreamed discussion with EU official Thierry Breton. This is not the first time Zuckerberg has warned about the Chinese influence and the Chinese way of regulating the internet. He said it is the responsibility of the western countries to have a clear data privacy framework in place.

Zuckerberg in fact praised the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which implemented changes for how tech companies and social media platforms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter collect and handle user data in the EU region. He also said that the 2018 overhaul of the privacy policy in the EU also meant Facebook had to reform its approach to data privacy around the world.

In October last year, Zuckerberg had not held back in criticizing TikTok, owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance. While speaking at the Georgetown University on free speech, he had criticized TikTok for what he called “mentions of these protests are censored, even in the U.S.” referring to the censorship around the anti-China or pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “Just to be blunt about it, I think there is a model coming out of countries like China that tend to have very different values than Western countries that are more democratic,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook only recently got a 20-member oversight board which has the power to correct or overrule the social media platform’s content moderation policies, including instances of hate speech and misinformation, if it feels the need to do so. The board will start hearing cases later this summer.




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Google Having Access to Fitbit Users' Health Data Major Privacy Risk: EU Watchdog

A Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo.
(Image for Representation: Reuters)

A Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo.
(Image for Representation: Reuters)

EU’s Data Protection Board warned that Google’s bid for Fitbit to compete with Samsung and Apple in the fitness trackers-market will give it access to user data.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: February 21, 2020, 1:31 PM IST
  • Edited by: Chhavianshika Singh

Alphabet Inc-owned Google’s $2.1 billion bid for fitness trackers company Fitbit could pose privacy risks, the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) warned on Thursday, adding its voice to other critics of the deal. Google announced the deal in November last year, as it seeks to compete with Apple and Samsung in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smartwatches. Fitbit, whose fitness trackers and other devices monitor users’ daily steps, calories burned and distance travelled, would give the US tech giant access to a trove of health data gathered from Fitbit devices.

Such access is worrying, the EU privacy watchdog said. “The possible further combination and accumulation of sensitive personal data regarding people in Europe by a major tech company could entail a high level of risk to privacy and data protection,” it said. It urged the companies to assess their data privacy requirements and privacy implications in a transparent way and mitigate possible privacy and data protection risks before seeking EU antitrust approval for the deal.

Google said it would never sell personal information to anyone and that Fitbit health and wellness data would not be used for its ads while Fitbit users would have the option to review or delete their data. “Protecting peoples’ information is core to what we do, and we will continue to work constructively with regulators to answer their questions,” the company said in a statement.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who will vet the deal, in November voiced her concerns about big companies targeting data-heavy rivals. The European Commission on Thursday in an emailed comment said it had yet to be formally notified. “It is always up to the companies to notify transactions with an EU dimension to the European Commission,” it said.

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Huawei Set to Face 'Strict' 5G Rules in Europe, States EU Official

Huawei has been facing stiff opposition from USA, which is urging its allies to not conduct business with the Chinese electronics and technology behemoth

Representative image of Huawei's logo, in front of one of its facilities. (Photo: Reuters)
Representative image of Huawei’s logo, in front of one of its facilities. (Photo: Reuters)
The EU will not ban Chinese telecom giant Huawei or any other company in Europe, a top official said on Tuesday, despite intense pressure from Washington to shun the firm over spying fears. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will officially unveil recommendations to member states on Wednesday, but commissioner Thierry Breton told MEPs that Brussels will choose tight scrutiny over any blanket ban.

“It is not a question of discrimination, it is a question of laying down rules. They will be strict, they will be demanding and of course we will welcome in Europe all operators who are willing to apply them,” he said. The EU, while never explicitly naming the Chinese giant, is struggling to find a middle way to balance Huawei’s huge dominance in the 5G sector with security concerns pressed by Washington.

The proposal is part of a so-called “toolbox” of recommendations that will guide the EU’s 27 post-Brexit member states as they build crucial 5G networks. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also expected on Tuesday to risk Washington’s anger with a similar decision to trust strict rules instead of a ban on Huawei. A ban on Huawei would ultimately be up to an individual member state, but the commission’s middle road recommendation gives cover to European capitals to resist pleas from Washington.

Huawei is one of the world’s leading network technology suppliers, and one of the few — along with European telecom companies Nokia and Ericsson — capable of building 5G networks. The United States sees the company as a potential threat to cybersecurity and fears it would facilitate cyber espionage by the Chinese government, to which it is said to have close links.

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EU Wants a Common Charger For All Smartphones But Apple is Not Impressed

iPhone maker Apple on Thursday pushed back against EU lawmakers’ call for a common charger, warning the move could hamper innovation, create a mountain of electronic waste and irk consumers. Apple’s comments came a week after lawmakers at the European Parliament called for a common charger for all mobile phones and amended a draft law to say the ability to work with common chargers would be an essential requirement for radio equipment in the bloc.

A move to a common charger would affect Apple more than any other companies as its iPhones and most of its products are powered by its Lightning cable, whereas Android devices are powered by USB-C connectors.

“We believe regulation that forces conformity across the type of connector built into all smartphones stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, and would harm consumers in Europe and the economy as a whole,” Apple said in a statement.

It said regulation was not needed as the industry is already moving to USB-C through a connector or cable assembly. “We hope the (European) Commission will continue to seek a solution that does not restrict the industry’s ability to innovate,” Apple said.

A study by Copenhagen Economics commissioned by Apple showed that consumer harm from a regulatory-mandated move to a common charger would cost at least 1.5 billion euros, outweighing the 13 million euros in associated environmental benefits.

The European Commission, which acts as the executive for the EU, has been pushing for a common charger for more than a decade.

In 2009 it got four companies including Apple, Samsung, Huawei and Nokia to sign a voluntary memorandum of understanding to harmonize chargers for new models of smartphones coming into the market in 2011. The voluntary approach is not working and it is time to look into legislation, Commission officials said.

“A delegated act based on the Radio Equipment Directive (RED) is one of the options to be considered since it empowers the Commission to take a certain type of regulatory measures in this field,” one of the officials said. Another option was to pass legislation on the issue.

“…given the limitation in the scope of RED and of its empowerment, any action through the ordinary legislative procedure and/or through other instruments, such as implementing measures under the Eco-design Directive should be further explored and thoroughly assessed,” the official said. The Commission will publish a study around the end of the month or early February on the impact of a common charger.

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Microsoft Disagrees With EU And Sundar Pichai on Temporary Ban of Face Recognition Tech

The EU’s proposal for a temporary ban on facial-recognition technology won backing from Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai but got a cool response from Microsoft President Brad Smith. While Pichai cited the possibility that the technology could be used for nefarious purposes as a reason for a moratorium, Smith said a ban was akin to using a meat cleaver instead of a scalpel to solve potential problems.

“I think it is important that governments and regulations tackle it sooner rather than later and give a framework for it,” Pichai told a conference in Brussels organised by think-tank Bruegel. “It can be immediate but maybe there’s a waiting period before we really think about how it’s being used,” he said. “It’s up to governments to chart the course” for the use of such technology. Smith, who is also Microsoft’s chief legal officer, however cited the benefits of facial recognition technology in some instances such as NGOs using it to find missing children. “I’m really reluctant to say let’s stop people from using technology in a way that will reunite families when it can help them do it,” Smith said. “The second thing I would say is you don’t ban it if you actually believe there is a reasonable alternative that will enable us to, say, address this problem with a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver,” he said.

Smith said it was important to first identify problems and then craft rules to ensure that the technology would not be used for mass surveillance. “There is only one way at the end of the day to make technology better and that is to use it,” he said. The European Commission is taking a tougher line on artificial intelligence (AI) than the United States that would strengthen existing regulations on privacy and data rights, according to a proposal paper seen by Reuters. Part of this includes a moratorium of up to five years on using facial recognition technology in public areas, to give the EU time to work out how to prevent abuses, the paper said.

Pichai urged regulators to take a “proportionate approach” when drafting rules, days before the Commission is due to publish proposals on the issue. Regulators are grappling with ways to govern AI, encouraging innovation while trying to curb potential misuse, as companies and law enforcement agencies increasingly adopt the technology. There was no question AI needs to be regulated, Pichai said, but rulemakers should tread carefully. “Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities. This is especially true in areas that are high risk and high value,” he said.

Regulators should tailor rules according to different sectors, Pichai said, citing medical devices and self-driving cars as examples that require different rules. He said governments should align their rules and agree on core values. Earlier this month, the U.S. government published regulatory guidelines on AI aimed at limiting authorities’ overreach, and urged Europe to avoid an aggressive approach. Pichai said it was important to be clear-eyed about what could go wrong with AI, and while it promised huge benefits there were real concerns about potential negative consequences.

One area of concern is so-called “deepfakes” – video or audio clips that have been manipulated using AI. Pichai said Google had released open datasets to help the research community build better tools to detect such fakes. The world’s most popular internet search engine said last month that Google Cloud was not offering general-purpose facial-recognition application programming interfaces (APIs) while it establishes policy and technical safeguards.

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Tech Companies Have Paid 114 Million Euros in Fines in Europe for Data Breaches

France has imposed the biggest single fine of 50 million euros against Google.

Tech Companies Have Paid 114 Million Euros in Fines in Europe for Data Breaches
France has imposed the biggest single fine of 50 million euros against Google.

European regulators have imposed 114 million euros ($126 million) in fines for data breaches since tougher privacy rules came into force in mid-2018, with approaches varying widely from country to country. A report by law firm DLA Piper said France has imposed the biggest single fine – of 50 million euros against Google – while the Netherlands, Britain and Germany led in terms of the number of data breach notifications. The General Data Protection Regulation was introduced in an effort to safeguard sensitive personal information and prescribes stiff penalties if companies lose control of data or process it without proper consent.

It is enforced by a patchwork of national data protection offices across the 28-member European Union, with responsibility falling disproportionately on Ireland – the ‘lead’ regulator for Silicon Valley giants that have based their European operations there, such as Facebook. The fines to date pale in comparison to multibillion-euro penalties imposed in EU anti-trust cases, but they are likely to rise over time as appeals and litigation subject the sanctions to scrutiny and create legal precedents.

In principle, regulators can impose fines of 2% or, in some cases 4%, of global turnover. In practice, they will have to judge whether such a heavy penalty would stand up in court, said DLA Piper partner Ross McKean. “It’s going to take time – the regulators are going to be wary about going to 4% because they are going to get appealed,” McKean told Reuters. “And you lose credibility as a regulator if you’re blown up on appeal.”

The largest single penalty threatened so far has been in Britain, where the regulator has proposed a fine of 183 million pounds ($239 million) against British Airways owner IAG over the theft of data of half a million customers.

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EU is Considering Banning Facial Recognition in Public Places And Bolster Data Rights

This comes amid a global debate about the systems driven by artificial intelligence and widely used by law enforcement agencies.

EU is Considering Banning Facial Recognition in Public Places And Bolster Data Rights
Representative image.

The European Union is considering banning facial recognition technology in public areas for up to five years, to give it time to work out how to prevent abuses. The plan by the EU’s executive – set out in an 18-page white paper – comes amid a global debate about the systems driven by artificial intelligence and widely used by law enforcement agencies. The EU Commission said new tough rules may have to be introduced to bolster existing regulations protecting Europeans’ privacy and data rights.

“Building on these existing provisions, the future regulatory framework could go further and include a time-limited ban on the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces,” the EU document said. During that ban, of between three to five years, “a sound methodology for assessing the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures could be identified and developed.” Exceptions to the ban could be made for security projects as well as research and development, the paper said.

The document also suggested imposing obligations on both developers and users of artificial intelligence and that EU countries should appoint authorities to monitor the new rules. The Commission will seek feedback on its white paper before making a final decision, officials said. EU digital and antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager is expected to present her proposals next month. The U.S. government earlier this month announced regulatory guidelines on artificial intelligence technology aimed at limiting authorities’ overreach and urged Europe to avoid aggressive approaches.