UK Information Commissioner launches new tech strategy

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

As the Internet of Things rises, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its first technology strategy. The document outlines an eight-point, four-year programme for handling both the opportunities and risks of digitisation.

Read more: Digital transformation impossible without IoT says Vodafone IoT chief

The UK government has placed new technology at the heart of its new industrial strategy, with digital now the fastest-growing area of the economy, according to Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

For example, this week, the government launched the Office for AI, the new Sector Deal for AI, and recently announced the establishment of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

Changes in technology were one of the key drivers in reforming European data protection laws, leading to the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, says Denham.

“The GDPR contains new provisions to better regulate the risks arising from technology, including data protection by design and data protection impact assessments. These advances need not come at the expense of data protection and privacy rights,” she explains.

The ICO’s approach to technology will be underpinned by the concept that privacy and innovation are not mutually exclusive.

“When they both work together, this creates true trust and data confidence. Technology is therefore viewed by the ICO as both a risk and an opportunity.”

This is why the ICO has published its Technology Strategy 2018-2021. The document sets out eight goals for the organisation, which upholds information rights in the public interest.

The new goals cover not only the organisation’s internal policies, but also how it plans to use its place at the heart of the UK’s data landscape to help organisations succeed – and to inform the public.

The ICO’s eight technology goals are:-

To ensure effective education and awareness for ICO staff on technology issues

“We will develop training programmes for ICO staff to develop their technical knowledge and understanding at a level appropriate to their role,” says the ICO. “This training will aim to develop core knowledge of how essential technologies work, and further learning on new and emerging technologies.”

To provide effective guidance to organisations about how to address data protection risks arising from technology

“As well as developing guidance to support the technology priority areas we have identified, we will update our existing technology guidance to reflect the requirements of the new provisions in the GDPR, the Directive on security of Networks and Information Systems (NIS), and ePrivacy regulation,” says the ICO.

Read more: Infrastructure security: Five vital steps to NIS compliance

“We will promote the use of data protection design by default, and demonstrate how these contribute to the UK economy and growth. We will also write new guidance about these provisions in the GDPR. Guidance and compliance advice provided by the ICO will be technically feasible and proportionate.”

The ICO says it plans to publish an annual report on the “lessons learned” from the cyber breaches reported to the ICO, and on the technology issues emerging from Data Protection Impact Assessments.

“We will keep organisations informed about emerging risks and opportunities arising from technology in an appropriate and timely manner,” it adds.

To ensure the public receives effective information about data protection risks arising from technology

“We will write new content for the ICO website to ensure that we keep individuals informed about emerging risks and opportunities arising from technology in an appropriate and timely manner,” promises the ICO.

In addition, the ICO says it will develop new partnerships to broaden its messages to the public, about both the data protection risks and the opportunities arising from new technology. “We will seek to amplify messages and key information from trusted partners, such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC),” it adds.

“We will ensure that the outputs from our GDPR Consumer Messages Project can be tailored and used to provide information about how GDPR rights interact with mainstream and new technologies.”

To facilitate new research into data protection risks and data protection by design

“We will draw on high-quality internal and independent external research and expertise that is relevant to our technology priority areas to develop a comprehensive understanding of these technologies,” says the ICO.

The ICO adds that it will deploy business intelligence (BI) to understand new areas of public concern and address frequently asked questions. It will also “carry out research and investigations into new and emerging technologies in order to inform our future priority areas” it says.

To recruit and retain staff with technology expertise to support delivery of the strategy

“In line with the ICO’s strategic approach, we will use secondees from external organisations to complement and support our established technology team,” says the organisation. “We will also explore the possibility of establishing technology apprenticeships at the ICO, working with relevant universities and other education partners.”

The ICO adds that it will establish a panel of forensic investigators to support its regulatory work.

To establish new partnerships to support knowledge exchange with external experts

“We will develop a new stakeholder engagement map focused on technology,” says the ICO.

It continues: “The ICO will seek to engage with the following communities to develop stronger or new partnerships: Professional bodies focused on technology; academic technology networks and university departments focused on technology; public sector technology networks; and industry bodies focused on technology.

“We will work with cross-sector bodies to embed data protection by design in emerging standards. And we will establish Technology Fellowships for post-doctoral experts to enable us to increase our in-house advice and expertise on technology priority areas.”

The ICO says that its first appointment will be in a two-year post-doctoral role to investigate and research the impact of AI on data privacy, encompassing big data and machine learning.

“We will revise and reconstitute our technology reference panel with new terms of reference to ensure we receive expert advice and strategic insight into emerging technologies,” it continues.

We will develop a new ‘call for evidence’ process to enable us to receive insight into the data protection risks and opportunities posed by different technologies. We will also hold expert roundtables on each of the priority areas.

Also on the agenda will be a new annual conference on Data Protection and Technology.

To engage with other regulators, international networks and standards bodies

“The ICO’s international strategy sets out the goals for international activity,” says the report. “It makes clear that the ICO will prioritise international engagement on issues related to global privacy risks arising from the application of new technologies.”

The ICO adds that it will also explore new links with international bodies, and with regulatory networks that don’t focus on data protection themselves, but have an important influence on developing global technology standards that affect data protection.

To engage with organisations in a safe and controlled environment to understand and explore innovative technology

“We will establish a ‘regulatory sandbox’, drawing on the successful sandbox process that the Financial Conduct Authority has developed,” says the ICO.

The ICO sandbox will “enable organisations to develop innovative digital products and services, while engaging with the regulator, ensuring that appropriate protections and safeguards are in place,” it says.

As part of the sandbox process, the ICO will provide advice on mitigating risks and data protection by design.

Internet of Business says

Data protection by design is the strong theme in the ICO’s new technology strategy, and it is one that lies at the core of GDPR, too.

For IoT specialists in particular, this is an important message: data protection, privacy, and cybersecurity should not be afterthoughts in smart, connected, data-gathering systems. As Denham says, innovation and privacy are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Read more: UK government proposes IoT security and device labelling scheme

Read more: Privacy: Radar sensors build 3D pictures without cameras

Read more: Vendors, users ignoring IoT security in rush to market – report

Read more: IoT ramps up cyber security risk, says in-depth report

The post UK Information Commissioner launches new tech strategy appeared first on Internet of Business.

Internet of Business

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app

Full transcript: FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel answers net neutrality questions on Too Embarrassed to Ask

What is net neutrality’s history and why does it matter? These questions and more get answered.

On this episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Recode’s Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode welcome Jessica Rosenworcel to the studio to discuss net neutrality. Rosenworcel is a Democrat who has served on the five-person Federal Communications Commission under both Obama and Trump, which means she voted in the 2105 net neutrality rules and against their 2017 repeal. She explains her thinking and takes questions from the audience.

You can read some of the highlights from the discussion here, or listen to it in the audio player above. Below, we’ve posted a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Too Embarrassed to Ask on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode.

Lauren Goode: And I’m Lauren Goode, senior technology editor at The Verge.

KS: And you’re listening to Too Embarrassed To Ask, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. This is a show where we answer all of your embarrassing questions about consumer tech.

LG: It could be anything at all, like whether Kara’s ever going to launch her own internet service provider named Swisher Net.

KS: No.

LG: Swisher Cast?

KS: No.

LG: KT&T?

KS: That’s so bad.

LG: Ba-dum bum. Swisher Wireless, so that you will have better internet options.

KS: No, Lauren. I’m not gonna do that.

LG: Oh, come on.

KS: In any case, send us your questions. Find us on the Twitter, or tweet them to us @recode, or to myself, or to Lauren with the hashtag #tooembarrassed.

LG: We also have an email address. It’s tooembarrassed@recode.net. And a friendly reminder, there are two Rs and two Ss in embarrassed.

So Kara, the internet is kind of important to our jobs.

KS: Yeah, it is. You know, I was around when it was born. I wrote some of the early articles when it was commercialized. Al Gore was involved.

LG: That’s right. You were at the Washington Post.

KS: I was. In the early ’90s when it became …

LG: You were covering CB radio.

KS: I was indeed, and I would cover the original stories when it went to commercial.

LG: What was that like when you first got assigned a story? When someone said, “Go talk to this company, AOL”?

KS: Yeah. No, it wasn’t … Before that it was others. There were PSI Net. There were all kinds of internet service providers, but they … You know, it was weird because nobody was using it. Everyone thought it was unusual and strange, and that’s when I met Al Gore way back when, when he in fact did help invent the internet. He did indeed. He certainly was critical to its commercialization, for sure.

Nobody was paying attention to it at all. And I met Vince Cerf and all the others that were involved, the Defense Department efforts and things like that. It was an interesting time. It was hard to know what was gonna happen, but I always felt it was an important moment.

LG: It was indeed, and I don’t think anyone really …

KS: Yes, and critical. Changed our lives.

LG: I mean, certain people certainly saw how big it was going to grow, but a lot of people didn’t. That brings us to today, because there’s a big fight going on in Washington right now about how the government will regulate the internet.

KS: Yeah, what’s become of it. What’s interesting is actually one of the big hubs of the internet is right there in Washington. That’s why AOL started there. That’s why a lot of those internet service providers are there. It was called, I think, Mae East. There was Mae West, get it? And Mae East. And that’s one of the reasons it was begun there, really, essentially. So it’s really interesting that the government is now arguing over this very critical medium for all of us.

LG: That’s right. We’re talking about net neutrality, which the FCC is planning to vote on next week. And in full transparency, we are recording this episode on Tuesday, December 5. So what happens in the next few days could always change before you hear this podcast on Friday, but that is what we’re hearing right now.

KS: So we’re delighted to be joined on the show today by one of the members of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel. She’s been onstage at our conferences, but not on our podcast, so we’re thrilled to have her here on Too Embarrassed To Ask.

Jessica Rosenworcel: Thank you for having me.

KS: It’s an exciting time for you. Everything’s going on, and this has been going on for years actually, these arguments. So we’re back to the other side essentially. Let’s quickly give our listeners some background information to explain this in the plainest terms possible because there’s no more complicated word than net neutrality, and one that just deadens the space. So why don’t you talk about that for us.

Sure. I think the United States internet economy is the envy of the world, and that’s true because it was built on a foundation of openness. For decades in this country, communications policy was built on this notion that the treatment of traffic should be nondiscriminatory. For the internet that has meant that you can go where you want and do what you want without your broadband provider getting in the way.

But if you take away those policies that preserve openness — and that’s what net neutrality is all about — what you get is broadband providers with the power to block websites, throttle services, and censor and restrict your access to online content.

KS: All right, so this week …

LG: The week of Thanksgiving, the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai …

KS: The new chairman.

LG: The new chairman revealed a proposal that would very much change that. In a statement, Pai said that under his proposal the federal government would stop micromanaging the internet and instead the FCC would simply require ISPs, these are his words, to be transparent about their practices, so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them, and entrepreneurs know their small businesses can have the technical information that they need to innovate.

But there has been a lot of backlash. Some senators have called on Pai to reschedule the vote that’s coming next week, December 14. It looks like we may forge ahead anyway. I have a question I’m a little embarrassed to ask about your role in the commission, and how you as a commissioner of the FCC sort of work with someone like Ajit Pai, and where you kind of stand on these issues.

Well, that’s a great question. Fundamentally, how does the FCC work? I mean, we are tasked with overseeing so many important aspects of the digital economy, and there are five of us who do so. By statute, by law, three of us can come from the party from the president. I’m one of the two on the other side, so what happens is we make decisions about big policy matters that are before the agency, and sometimes we agree. And sometimes we disagree, like in this case where I’m a fan …

KS: Yeah, I have this idea of the two of you sitting within a couple of feet of each other in the office, like eating your turkey sandwiches silently, while you kind of both steam over your differing opinions on net neutrality.

We both drink a lot of coffee. I’ll give you that. We’ve got something in common.

KS: That’s what you agree on. But before, Obama was president, and there were three on the Democratic side that were sort of making these rules.

That’s correct. That’s right.

KS: So explain the shift that’s happening, exactly what the difference is. Once Trump became president, everything shifted back, and obviously the companies that are providing broadband access moved quickly to take advantage of that.

Well, the chairman in any administration is kind of like the first among equals. We have five votes, but the chairman gets to dictate what the commissioner vote on. And my colleague, Chairman Pai, decided soon into his tenure that he wanted to revisit these issues and roll back the most recent net neutrality rules that were put in place.

KS: Explain those. What were put in place under Obama that are being rolled back? From your perspective.

Well, you know what? Actually, I think I want to take you back just a little bit further and point out that the first net neutrality policies in this country were put in place in 2005-2006. I think it’s important to remember that. I think it’s important to remember that President George W. Bush was in the White House at that point.

In other words, these were not policies that had a Democratic or Republican tint to them. They were just based on this idea that the internet should be open, and you can go where you want and do what you want. So in 2005-2006, the FCC came out with a policy statement on internet openness. It was its first statement on net neutrality.

Then over the course of the next decade or so, the agency kept on revisiting those policies largely because every time it put those policies on paper, a court would overturn them. So over 10 years, the agency worked to try to find a legal home for those policies that would pass court muster. And the agency was finally able to do so with the rules that passed in 2015, which were upheld by courts in 2016.

And those rules say that your broadband provider cannot block websites, can’t throttle content, and it also cannot engage in paid prioritization whereby they set up deals with certain providers of web services to make sure that you have faster access to them.

LG: So there were rules put in place … And people talk a lot about the difference between Title I and Title II classifications. But there are rules put in place that treated the internet more like telecommunication services rather than information services.

Yeah, Title I, Title II, we are getting nerdy now. Okay. I’m gonna try to keep it …

LG: Try to keep it clean.

Keep it clean. I know, I know. You know, Washington’s not good at that, but I’m gonna try it though. Title I is the section of the Communications Act that doesn’t really have a lot of rules. Title II is the section that has a lot of rules, and the FCC’s network neutrality policies bounced back and forth between Title I and eventually found a home in Title II because the courts would not let the agency keep them in Title I. That’s why we have the 2015 rules. Those are the rules that the current chairman wants to wipe off the map. He is only interested in having a transparency policy for network neutrality, which you described before.

KS: Of the ones that were there.

LG: Yeah.

KS: And transparency, what would that require?

Well, we all like transparency, so let’s be clear. I think transparency’s a good thing. Transparency in this case means that your broadband provider tells you about their traffic management practices.

KS: And who do they tell?

They tell you as a consumer. So theoretically, that’s a good thing, right? First, it assumes you read the small print in every contract, and you and I both know that that’s hard. But you put that out there, and you’re told how your traffic is being treated.

The challenge comes, if you don’t like what’s going on, if they’re favoring some websites over others or blocking or censoring content, what do you do? Ideally, in a competitive market, you pick up your service and you go elsewhere. But the great challenge for net neutrality right now is that according to FCC data, more than half the households in this country don’t have a choice of broadband provider.

So transparency only serves you well if your market is fully competitive. And if it’s not, you’re more or less stuck with your current provider, and you’re gonna have to deal with their traffic management policies.

LG: So that means, your ISP is Swisher Net, as I’ve just developed here. I’ve pitched a new internet service by Kara Swisher.

Well, we could use more competition, so that could be a good thing.

LG: Okay, so let’s say you’re using Swisher Net. Swisher Net is the only ISP you have an option for in your neighborhood, and you read the fine print, and there’s transparency because there are all these new rules in place. The transparent fine print says, you know what, Swisher Net has been prioritizing its own Recode videos over all the other videos that are on the internet. By the way, when we need to, we throttle you.

And you say, “Well I don’t like that option.” You really don’t have that many other options. I mean, a lot of people, like you were saying, in America don’t … They have maybe one or two internet service provider options when they go to sign up in their neighborhood.

Yeah, exactly.

LG: So you’re saying the transparency, you agree with that aspect of Pai’s proposal.

I agree that transparency’s important, and I think it’s a good thing to have your broadband provider disclose how they manage your traffic. I think the challenge comes in making sure that we all have recourse. If you don’t like most goods or services in a competitive market, you can move on and find someone else. But that’s not true for the majority of American households, including myself. I live right now in the District of Columbia. I’ve only got one provider that will serve my house at what I feel I need, which is 25 megabytes.

KS: So they could say, “Well here’s the transparency, and if you don’t like, you can’t do anything about it.” It doesn’t matter. They’re like, “Here, we’re giving you crappy meat or crappy whatever, but we told you.” So kind of whatever.

Yeah, to some extent they’ve suggested, well you should take your complaint to my colleagues at the Federal Trade Commission. But again, I would say that the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t have any real network engineering expertise or even authority in this instance.

And separately, to get the attention of the Federal Trade Commission will take an awfully long time. They do not have the capacity to set up rules on these issues. They can only take a bad actor to court down the road, and for most households, startups and small businesses, you just can’t wait that long.

KS: You can’t wait that long.

LG: Yeah. You have to wait till after something happens.

KS: Let’s talk about the public comment period. Now what happened here? And you have talked about this.

Yeah, well, first let’s start with the idea that public comment is a good thing. We make lots of rules and policy changes in Washington, and there’s something fundamentally democratic about opening your rulemaking to the public and asking them what they think. Most of our rulemakings, we get some very expensive legal briefs that get filed. But then there’s a few of them that really strike a chord with the American public.

And what we find is they start sending us comments in droves. That’s democracy in action. It’s a good thing. Here I think at current count, we’re at 23 million comments. And in many ways, that’s really exciting. I don’t believe the FCC has ever had a proceeding with that many people filing in it.

But I spent some time just yesterday with the New York attorney general, and we’ve been combing through this record. And we’ve been finding a lot of things that look really funky. A lot of things that look irregular.

KS: Lots.

LG: Like what?

KS: The Russians, mostly.

Yeah, we got about half a million comments filed from Russian emails. We’ve got a million or possibly more comments that were filed with stolen identities. Real people, with their addresses who filed saying something about net neutrality, in many cases against it. And these individuals are like, “Hey, I never did this. Someone stole my identity,” which under state law in New York and many other states is identity theft.

KS: So these are fake comments.

Yeah, fake comments. We’ve also got lots of bots and bogus filings. And we’ve got 50,000 complaints that were filed with the FCC for net neutrality that are somehow not in our record. And when you stand back, it looks pretty tainted. It looks like our record’s been corrupted by a lot of these forces, and I think the agency needs to get to the bottom of it and figure that stuff out before proceeding with a vote.

KS: Because then they’d ignore public comment. There’s not real public comment.

Exactly, exactly. Listen, while I clearly support net neutrality, I think you’ve gotta figure out what happens with your process here in Washington. And if you don’t get to the bottom of that, we’ve got a problem that’s big, and it’s bigger than net neutrality. But so far, I haven’t gotten much of a positive response from the FCC chairman. He seems to want to proceed regardless of the problems in our record, which I think are really unprecedented. It’s a mess.

LG: It does sound like a mess. One of the arguments that Pai has made, and he wrote this in a WSJ editorial, that the Obama era of regulations regulate the internet like a 1930s utility. He called earlier light-touch regulations from back in the ’90s a free-market success story, and he generally seems to believe that if he rolls back these regulations that it would improve investment in broadband. And that investment in broadband has slowed. What’s your response to that?

Yeah, well, first that’s some buzzwordy kind of stuff, so let’s try to unpack it in English. Investment in broadband matters. Right? It’s essential infrastructure. But if you look at the facts, I think they’re different than the ones he describes. There’s data out there now suggesting that broadband investment for publicly traded companies was actually higher in the two years after passage of these rules than the two years beforehand.

Moreover, a lot of these CEOs both in front of their investors and in front of the Securities and Exchange Commission have said that yeah, these rules actually didn’t impact our capital structure or our investment. So I’m doubtful that they’ve had that much significance, and I’m wary of how that’s being thrown around in a kind of buzzword-like way.

Moreover, I think …

KS: Well, it’s also part of an idea of less government intervention. Right? That’s the idea.

Yeah, sure. But I also think when we talk about investment, let’s take a holistic view. Let’s not just say it’s about broadband providers, a handful of them. Let’s also talk about the broader digital economy, because that’s about one-sixth of the whole economy right now.

We want to make sure that grows, and so many of the companies and so much of the entrepreneurial energy we have in our economy is dependent on an open internet. And I think we actually have to take notice of that too. I think, in fact, the law demands we do that, so I think his view’s a little too narrow.

LG: What does this also mean for infrastructure if this proposal is voted in? For example, will internet infrastructure or equipment regulations change in any way? And would that potentially impact the rollout of things like 5G?

I think the biggest thing for the rollout of 5G is making sure we have more fiber facilities in the ground and more micro-cells around the country, which are very small tower-like facilities. I think that’s totally independent of this proceeding. I don’t actually think that there’s great relationship between this proceeding and those issues.

LG: Okay, so this is entirely related to web traffic and not necessarily about the infrastructure that is sort of creating that web traffic, providing the background for that.

I think that the chairman might argue that rolling back these rules will free up capital and there’ll be more spent on infrastructure and we’ll all be better off. That’s a common refrain in these parts. But I just don’t think the data suggests that that’s true.

KS: All right, so this may seem obvious, but internet companies were very strongly for this when they were passing and pushing hard against Comcast and others. I’m thinking of Netflix versus Comcast, essentially.

LG: Back in 2015, yeah, they were for it.

KS: Back in 2015, so it was a big deal. It was a big deal in many internet companies — especially by Reed Hastings, who was sort of the point person from it. So their argument in Silicon Valley is that startups couldn’t compete without tough net neutrality safeguards. And they’ve been in fights with the telecom industry, with the cable industry, over this.

Now Reed has been relatively silent. Some people say because he got what he wanted from Comcast through a side deal and other … You know, the big companies aren’t being as loud this time. Is that the case? And how do you get them involved?

Well, we have a lot of small companies that are involved now, and I think that’s just as important. I mean, small businesses is where job growth is in this economy. So I think the fact that they’ve all said that having an open internet has changed their cost structure, changed their ability to develop things, find customers, sell their services, both around the corner and around the world, I think that matters, and I think that that is what it’s all about. It’s not about the biggest companies who can probably …

KS: But they were there. Have they dropped off? Have those big companies just gotten their …

Yeah. No, they’ve offered some support. There’s a lot going on in Washington, and they’re fighting on a lot of different fronts right now, but they’ve offered support. But I think it’s important to highlight just how powerful this has been for smaller business and startups as well, not just the largest companies in our digital economy.

KS: No, you’re not gonna … You’re not insulting Netflix here, are you? I mean, they just were such a big player in this and such a vocal player.

Well you know what? But what’s amazing right now is think about online video and just how much it’s grown. And recognize that online video and watching online video is really dependent on having an open internet where net neutrality policy is in place.

Because if you have a broadband provider who also offers you packages of linear channels through a cable subscription, you have to ask, don’t they have business incentives to throttle the content of online competitors? And if they have business incentives and the legal ability to do so, if you take back net neutrality, what will happen? I guess we’re about to see if my colleagues succeed.

KS: Well, do you want those internet companies to be stronger voices in this one, as they were before?

LG: Yeah, because it’s worth noting that Reed Hastings was at one point pretty vocal. I mean, he wrote a post on his Facebook page and he spoke about it at Code.

KS: Yeah, very. He was onstage at Code. He was …

LG: But then in March of this year I was down at Netflix for an event and asked him directly what his thoughts were on what was going on with the new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, and what would happen if he eliminated the Title II regulations that had guaranteed a neutral internet. And he said at the time, well, you know, I’m not that worried. The culture around net neutrality is very strong. Consumers have strong expectations.

So if the formal framework was weakened, he said we don’t see a big risk actualizing because consumers know they’re entitled to getting all the web services. So it was a relatively sort of blasé response to what he had initially been pretty vocal about.

But to Kara’s point, to follow-up on her question, are you in a position right now where you kind of wish people like that, especially in the internet sphere, were being more vocal or are being more vocal about what’s going on?

Well, I always think the more voices, the merrier. But I think the focus of what we have right now actually has to be on the future. It’s about that next video company that’s waiting to be born and making sure they have the same shot.

LG: So Netflix has a lot of power right now because it’s Netflix. But you’re saying for smaller companies, you want to make sure they have the same opportunity.

Right, the same opportunity to develop a service, develop a platform. Then grow and reach the same kind of scale. We want to make sure those next set of opportunities are available in the economy.

LG: Do you think that in some way the answer could be some type of classification that isn’t Title I or isn’t Title II?

That would take legislative action. In other words, that would take Congress getting involved. Right now I don’t have the authority to just write a new section into the law, so what you’re describing would take an act of Congress.

LG: But if something like that were to exist around the right way to sort of approach the internet in the United States, what do you envision that would look like?

Oh, if you serve at the Federal Communications Commission, you are keenly aware that you are a creature of Congress. And what the good men and women of Congress tell you to do in their new laws, you are responsible for implementing. So that’s not one of those things that I’m gonna voice thoughts on at the moment because it’s up to them to write the laws. We strictly implement them.

KS: All right, so what can … We’re gonna get to questions in a minute, but what can consumers do if you’re in a city, we talked about, you only have one or two ISP choices, usually one. What can consumers do when this passes, which is likely to pass, what Chairman Pai wants to happen. Or is that not enough foregone conclusion? I mean at this point, it’s just …

Well, we’re nine days out from a scheduled vote, and I have this fault where I’m kind of an optimist, and I feel like if people make a ruckus and make some noise and do some old-fashioned things like lighting up the phones with their elected representatives, we might, in fact, create some movement to change the course of history here. To get Congress paying attention to what’s happening at this regulatory agency.

I mean, doesn’t it seem a little funny that three unelected officials at the FCC get to change the future of the internet? There’s something about that that doesn’t sit right with me.

KS: All right, but what do you imagine’s gonna happen? Because they’re a little busy with a lot of other things. I mean, I understand they’re mostly stupid …

I know, but nothing’s more important than this.

KS: Of course not. No, I get that. Yes, yes, but …

There is no aspect of civil and commercial life that hasn’t been touched by this. So this is one of those things that even in a busy day where there is a lot of activity, gets attention. So I hope in the next week and a half or so, we can draw some more attention to these things and make a ruckus and make some noise. Then should this actually come to pass, I think that we will find ourselves soon looking at litigation.

KS: Litigation, and then it goes from there. And then after this happens, what is the next thing that the FCC is gonna take up if this net … Well, the next president will probably switch it back again, but what’s the next thing? This has sort of kept the FCC busy for a long time. It’s the only topic they seem to talk about.

Right. There are a lot of things that the agency’s working on to increase the amount of wireless spectrum that’s available. There’s a lot of auctions associated with that. But there’s also an ongoing effort under the existing FCC leadership to allow broadcast companies to really bulk themselves up.

A big transaction before us involving Sinclair and Tribune and together, they’ll be able to reach more than 70 percent of our nation’s households, which is unprecedented. And that’s a big deal too and could benefit from a little more public attention because the consequences are so big.

KS: Yep. That is another big … We’ll have you back for the next show on that one.

All right.

LG: I think what Kara’s wondering is whether or not there’s gonna be a 500-page proposal with handwritten notes in the corners pushed through at the last minute.

KS: That’s right. At the last minute.

Yeah, I don’t understand what you’re referring to. Are laws made that way? Yeah, I can’t really … I don’t have a crystal ball on the …

KS: Do you know they do it better on … What was the show that did when a bill becomes a law? That was, um … Not Sesame Street, Conjunction Junction.

Conjunction Junction. Right?

KS: Remember when a bill becomes a law?

I’m a bill sitting on Capitol Hill.

KS: I’m sitting on Capitol Hill. They did it better in the cartoons than they do it today.

I know. But I think we’re dating ourselves by referencing that.

KS: That’s true. That’s true. No, it’s still around. I showed it to my kids.

Schoolhouse Rock. It was Schoolhouse Rock. That’s right. Rock.

KS: Anyway …

LG: Is that on the internet?

KS: Schoolhouse Rock does a better job at legislating than our legislators. Let’s just make that clear. All right, you can’t say anything Jessica. It’s okay. We can insult them.

No, I can’t.

KS: No. Yes. Well, they suck, just so you know.

All right, we have more questions for your Jessica. All of them do, actually. Every one of them. We have more questions for you, Jessica, but first we’re gonna take a quick break with a word from our sponsors. We’ll be back in a minute with Jessica Rosenworcel. She’s a member of the FCC, and we’re talking about net neutrality.

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And we’re back with Jessica Rosenworcel from the FCC. There’s about to be another historic vote on net neutrality shifting things back to the way they were before the last historic vote on net neutrality. And we have some questions from our listeners. Why don’t you start, Lauren.

LG: Sure, first question is from @makersphereHQ on Twitter. “What would an appeal of net neutrality in the United States mean for Europe and the rest of the world? And some United States based ISPs are also IP transit providers, so could international transit traffic also be affected?” Good questions.

Yeah, these are good questions. I think my primary concern right now is big picture. And that the United States has led the world with its internet economy and has been … We’ve made a real clear demonstration to lots of world economies that keeping your internet open is important politically, and it’s important for economic growth.

I’m worried that some of these changes could be read in unhelpful ways by foreign economies. I’m also worried that there’ll be others that will claim the mantle of internet openness and wind up being leaders on the world stage. I mean, we’ve seen some interesting actions in favor of net neutrality in Canada and India. And we’ve seen some other European economies take different approaches.

Going forward, I’d like it if the United States would lead with internet openness, and I’m worried about this proceeding and this change taking us out of being a driving force.

KS: All right, next question. This is Eric Palonsky @palonskE. “Thank you for picking this topic. I’m so confused when it comes to public comments. How are the bot comments affecting public comment? Why are some comments being ignored? What does a good comment look like?”

Well, first of all, Eric, this has been a problem on lots of issues. But Jessica, I want you to talk about this. How do you sort them, and how much attention do you all pay to these comments? Given if there’s 23 million, how can you even pay even a slight amount of attention to any of them?

Well, the comment process actually dates back over 70 years with the Administrative Procedures Act. It’s based on this principle that if you’re gonna change rules and policies that affect the American public, they have a right to offer their thoughts and the agency has a duty to take them into consideration. That might be decades old, but I like that principle, and I think it should still matter.

So when lots of people write us, I think we have to take note of individual citizens taking their time to tell us what they think. And it can’t be that we only rely on these dense legal briefs filed by really expensive lawyers and lobbyists. So it’s a combination of looking at the volume that came in, what they say, and who said it.

But I would never discourage anyone in the American public from trying to write in and plead their case to the federal government. I think that they need to do so. We need to hear voices in Washington that are not just from the usual crowd who shows up for these kind of proceedings. So for my part, I think the volume of public comments and the individually written comments are really important, and the agency should take notice of them.

KS: And what do you do to take notice? I mean really, from a real perspective, you don’t have 9,000 hours a week to look at all the comments. How do you process them as a commissioner, for example?

Well, going forward, if it was up to me, I think we should have better automated sorting functions where we have information about which comments were individually written. And we gotta come up with some common tagging schemes so we can know the number of small businesses that wrote us, for instance, or the number of individuals or people with disabilities who wrote us and explained how they’re using this service for health care or something like that.

I think that the agency would do well if it actually invested in that kind of software processing because I think we need to make sure that we do in fact use all these comments when the public is writing us in droves as we’ve seen here.

LG: So right now, when you’re identifying millions of comments that appear to be fake, duplicates coming from Russia, generated by bots, however you want to classify them, you know that because of third-party data analysis?

That’s right.

LG: I mean, outside firms are looking at them for the FCC.

Exactly. And it’s terrific that we can have outside firms do that, but how about the FCC invest in some resources to do that itself? How about we decide that the integrity of our record matters and come up with ways to deal with that? This is bigger than just net neutrality. It’s about public participation and democracy, and in the digital age, we’re gonna need to come up with new ways to manage this process.

KS: And to keep out bad actors, which we think is almost impossible.

Yeah, and we have a problem with that clearly here with all of these stolen identities and Russian emails.

KS: Well, Facebook and Google can’t fix it for themselves, that’s how difficult a problem it is.

It is.

KS: I’m guessing the FCC’s not gonna be able to, I’m sorry to say that to you, but I think it’s …

Well, I think you gotta make a try, though. I don’t think you throw your hands up. I think you’re gonna say, if we’re gonna invite public participation, what can we do to increase the integrity of this process? I mean, for starters, we can say we’re gonna investigate it before we vote. Then on a going-forward basis, we should come up with better processes, and it’ll be iterative. I don’t think we’ll get it right on the first draw, but it seems worth it.

KS: I think we go back to letters.

Right?

KS: Letters. Letters.

Letters.

KS: Letters, Jessica.

LG: Yeah, but think of how many people aren’t going to bother to write letters.

KS: No, I know. I’m teasing you. I don’t know if there’s a way.

LG: I don’t think there is.

You know, I get an enormous amount of email, and I read much more of it than people would understand. I just think seeing that someone spent some time to write me a few paragraphs about why this matters to them, it merits a read. So I set aside time every day to comb through that. I hope my colleagues would do the same kind of thing.

KS: Yeah, we could consult Santa. I don’t know. I’m trying to think of something.

LG: Sure.

Yelp. Yelp is better.

KS: They’re all full of dirty comments. Every single proposal there’s something.

LG: Yelp for proposed legislation. Yeah, three stars.

KS: Three stars.

LG: Two-and-a-half.

KS: All right, next question is from Noel Walling. “Why won’t Ajit Pai answer opposing questions? Is he afraid he’ll be unable to defend his position?”

LG: Well, in fairness, he’s not here to answer for himself.

I know, I was about to say, I don’t think that’s one that I can answer for you.

KS: Well, everyone’s doing it. Look, look at the mayor of New York is now not taking questions. I mean this is … It’s worked for Donald Trump is what’s happening, unfortunately, which is not what public servants are supposed to be doing, but here they are.

LG: Here, they are. Not responding to the public.

Yeah but I’m here. I’m here today.

KS: Okay, here’s … Yes.

LG: Hello. Thank you for chatting with us.

KS: Thank you. All right.

LG: The next question is from Akshay Patil, Twitter handle @foodjunkieguy. “Are there any positives if the world walks away from net neutrality? If not, then what are the reasons these people give to mess with the current scenario?” They also wrote, “P.S. whatever USA chooses, the world ought to follow.” Unless it’s the Paris agreement. I mean really, I don’t know about that, but are there any positives if the world walks away from these net neutrality protections?

I don’t see them. I think you’d have to bet on the idea that if you remove these rules, there’ll be a lot more investment, and that somehow we’ll see more broadband in more places in this country that presently don’t have it. And that somehow new competitors will emerge out of the shadows like Swisher Net to provide service.

KS: I’m working on it.

I don’t see those things as being likely or plausible, so I’m probably not the person to make this case, but I suspect that that would be the one that would be made.

KS: The one that they would make. Okay. We’re going to take another quick break for a word from our sponsors.

LG: I’m not gonna say ka-ching because I’m working on that new phrase. You told me 2018, pin it.

KS: I’m gonna litigate that in a second.

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And we’re back with Jessica Rosenworcel. She’s a member of the Federal Communications Commission — called the FCC in case you don’t talk about it in a longer word. We’re talking about net neutrality, the future of which the FCC is expected to vote on next week.

All right, next question. Ivan Rodriguez: “How do you prevent net neutrality rules from changing with every new administration?” That’s what I sort of was asking. “Should the government block any future big media merger to avoid biased providers from blocking uncomfortable content? And why would the current rules make a corporation invest less in innovation?” Which I think you were making that point already.

But how do you get it from changing with that, because you can see a sweeping Democratic … At some point that’s gonna happen. And then they just change them again.

Right, but I really contest the idea that this stuff really started off partisan, and that the first time the FCC put net neutrality rules on paper in a policy statement was during the Presidency of George W. Bush. This was not, in fact, an especially partisan issue for a decade. And the choice in 2015 to put these rules in this new title in the statute called Title II was just based on a bunch of court opinions telling us that was the only logical home for them.

So the attack that we’re seeing right now, it’s unfortunate to me that it’s partisan, and that somehow we’re viewing this now through a prism whereby one type of administration says yes, the next says no. I don’t think that kind of back and forth is good for the economy. I think that we could use some stability on these issues, but that stability should include some fundamental commitment to internet openness.

KS: All right. Next question.

LG: Next question is from Matt Cotter. There are a few questions here. “As a web developer, I believe a lot of advocates for net neutrality wrongly portray it as being similar to buying HBO, as in if you don’t have the package, you can’t get it. You’d still be able to access the internet, but without a package, the consumed data counts toward a data cap. It gives the illusion of choice, when you’re really locked into a partner of the ISPs. It’s very subtle, and I worry that people won’t see zero rating as anti-net neutrality because companies are already doing it. Can you provide good examples of how net neutrality is portrayed and examples of bad ones that are maybe pro-net neutrality but are vaguer and correct?”

It’s probably worth stepping back a little bit and just quickly covering this idea of zero rating because zero rating is a big thing here. And in my understanding of it — and Jessica, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it — is that basically, content providers start to make deals with some of the service providers.

Where I as a consumer would be able to maybe watch a video that wouldn’t go against my T-Mobile data cap or whatever service provider I might have because of the deal that’s been made between the content provider and the internet service or the wireless service provider. It seems great initially for consumers but also seems like a slippery slope. Can you talk a little bit about that, and then provide some examples of how people are maybe portraying both side of this argument here that could be detrimental to the bigger picture?

Well, first of all, I thought you actually just gave a really good explanation of it.

LG: Oh, well thank you.

A lot about zero net rating is about data caps. If there’s some constraints on how you use your online service because you can only access so much content a month, your broadband provider, without net neutrality, could go ahead and set up some sweetheart deals with certain content providers. They’ll get paid for them, and will make sure your traffic doesn’t count towards that data cap.

So it’s a way that they have of setting up revenue from two sides, both from you as the consumer and also from some content company that has online service. It’s good for the broadband provider, and for some consumers it might feel good too in that they’ll be able to access some content they like, and it doesn’t count towards their data cap.

But over the long haul, what that does is it constrains where you can go and what you can do online. Because you’ll get a fast lane to go to all of those sites that your broadband provider has set up a deal with, and you’ll get consigned to a bumpy road if you want to see anything else. And that erodes net neutrality over time.

Now to be clear, what we’re dealing with at the FCC right now gets rid of all of our net neutrality rules. So these distinctions going forward may not be as significant, but it is an important issue in thinking about net neutrality to date. I just think going forward, if you wipe away all of our rules, we’re gonna see a lot more of those sweetheart deals, those pay-for-access kind of situations, because if you take away these rules, they’ll be wholly lawful.

KS: We have no more questions now, but I have one final one that I want to ask you. The way that it was put into place before in the Obama administration was quite contentious. Do you think the way it was done perhaps has led to this absolute backlash in the other direction?

Because I think a lot of the fighting that went on was quite aggressive. The Obama administration was aggressive, and it sort of created a situation that would lead to something like this. Or not, or just they didn’t like them in the first place. There could have been a slower way to do it that was less dramatic on either side.

That’s a good question. I don’t actually think it was about how it was done before. I think what happens is you bring this issue up, you get people riled up. I mean, all of us use the internet every day in countless ways. It’s where we create. It’s where we connect. And it is fundamental to our work and personal lives. And finding out that there’s some agency in Washington that most people have never heard of who are gonna muck around with that, well guess what, a lot of people don’t like that.

They think it’s strange that some unelected folks have this much power and authority, and I think whether it was the Obama administration or the new Trump administration, what happens is people speak up. And that’s what we saw last time. It’s what we’re seeing this time. And I think that that’s why it was so noisy before, and that’s why it’s noisy now.

That’s ultimately a very democratic thing, small D democratic, in that people want to get engaged on these things, and they want to get active. I don’t actually see it as a function of how it was done before. It’s more that people care deeply about this, and they speak up about it.

KS: Meanwhile, the rest of the world surpasses us in internet ability for people to access the internet. That’s the part that really is most disturbing is that the rest of the world has increasingly better internet access, and we get …

LG: And open internet.

KS: And open internet, and we get left behind.

United States leadership on these issues is at stake, and that matters for the economy. It matters for diplomacy. It matters for human rights, and these issues are big. That’s why so many people are getting so noisy about it, and they have real consequences.

LG: So let’s say on the 14th, let’s say this vote passes, and Title II regulations are stripped away. We revert back to earlier rules around how the internet works in the United States. You mentioned earlier, you thought that there could be litigation.

Litigation.

LG: What kind of litigation? What does that involve? Do you think that there could be some type of action taken because of the lack of acknowledgement of public comments? Do you think that the litigation is going to occur on the part of companies that are coming after it? How does that actually work if we get to that point?

I’m going to leave it to the really good appellate lawyers to tell you what their best theories of the case are, but I suspect that we’ll have lawyers around this country running to federal courts, federal appellate courts to try to see if they can overturn these policies and even get a temporary injunction or stay them before they go into effect. It’s hard to predict with any kind of certainty what will happen. But I am convinced that there will be litigation should this go forward.

KS: You know we never run out of lawyers.

We never do. Somehow these things …

KS: We never have lawyer neutrality.

These things always wind up being good for the lawyers and litigators. Bad for the public and bad for democracy, but I think the lawyers are gonna win out.

KS: This has been another great episode of Too Embarrassed To Ask. Jessica, thank you for joining us.

Thank you for having me.


Recode – All

Full transcript: European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Recode Decode

“We know the paradox of a free market is that sometimes you have to intervene. You have to make sure that it’s not the law of the jungle but the laws of democracy that works.”

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, the show goes to Lisbon, Portugal, for a live taping with European Union competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. The two discuss Vestager’s stand on American companies in Europe — especially Google and Facebook — and how U.S. and European regulations differ.

You can read some of the highlights here, or listen to the entire interview in the audio player below. We’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network.

Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as a supporter of the right to be forgotten, although personally I know I am unforgettable, but in my spare time I talk tech and you’re listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas, and how they’re changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, or just visit Recode.net/podcasts.

Today we’re going to play an interview I conducted at the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. I talked to European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, who you may have heard of on a previous episode of Recode Decode, but the last time we talked was before the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a lot has changed since then. Let’s take a listen.

All right, let’s get started because we have a very short time. So Margrethe, how fucked is Silicon Valley?

Margrethe Vestager: Well, I don’t like to generalize because everyone should have a fair chance of making it, also in Silicon Valley, but at least serious enough so that we found that a fine of 2.4 billion euros was the fine in the Google case that we just decided.

So talk about where it is now, because, you know, you’ve been out in the forefront talking to these companies about their power, about their influence. And right now in the United States, finally, in Congress, which has acted not at all and our government has not acted very much against these companies, they’re under a lot of, they’re under siege, they’re under pressure, especially about Russia investigations. Can you talk a little bit about why you first went for them? Because I think they don’t have a sense of their power, and now people are recognizing the potential impact of what they’ve done.

Well, our values are very simple. If you’re successful in the market, it should be because you have the best products. Then your customers like you, not because then you cut corners, or you get a tax break, or you don’t inform authorities about how things actually are. And this is the case of the Apple case of unpaid taxes, and the Google case of misusing a dominant position, or the Facebook fine of not giving sufficient information to authorities when assessing a case.

On top of sort of my day job as a commissioner of competition, I have this worry about what happens with our democracy. What happens with our way of being together?

Right.

Being social. And I think maybe sometimes the platform businesses, they underestimate the powers that they hold.

All right, let’s talk about that. Because right now these investigations, it’s pretty clear these platforms were used and abused by others, in this case Russia, and a lot of the indications point that it had an impact on the election. And of course it’s not just a U.S. issue, it’s a global issue, that these platforms have enormous influence over politics, society, culture, all kinds of things, including the coarsening of society.

One of the things I’ve always talked about is the fact that they’re not benign platforms, and they see themselves that way. They often do. Can you talk about the challenge of dealing with these big companies? Because largely they’ve been protected by the government in the U.S.

Well, for us the challenge is to develop the right tools, because I find that sort of the founders of the European Union, they saw rightly that we need fair competition to have a fair market.

Right.

And I think the motives are breaching competition, or they are as old as Adam and Eve. It’s about greed and fear, and when you combine that with power you have a very, very poisoned cocktail.

The motives, well, they go way back. But our challenge is to stay fast enough and to have the right tools, because this is a fast-moving area in our economy and we really need to make sure that all the businesses, all the coming-ups, all the entrepreneurs have a fair chance of making it in this market, to serve citizens in the role of customers.

Do you imagine, though, that the damage is done? Because so many of these companies right now, there’s consolidation in the United States, there’s … these companies are getting more powerful. One of the things that you’ve been accused of by these companies is you’re trying to stifle innovation when in fact they’re getting more powerful than ever. So can you talk about that, that accusation that you’re trying to do protectionist, stifle innovation, not let them do what they do best?

But on the contrary, because I think everyone here would like to be the next Google. Who doesn’t want to build a success? But to think …

Well, I don’t, but go ahead.

Well, you are a success already, so no need.

Yeah.

No, but the thing is, one thing is that when you grow, you shouldn’t deny others the chance to challenge you and you should never yourself say, “No one will challenge me so I don’t need to innovate anymore.” Competition is one of the most important drivers of innovation, because you have to stay in the race. You have to think of something new and if you don’t, well, of course you should leave the market.

And this is again where competitional enforcement comes in, to make sure that it actually happens.

So let’s talk about the state of play with these fines that you’ve put in. You’ve levied these fines, the one right now in the United States, there’s tax reform going on to bring back some of these … such as the Apple taxes and the billions that are here. Can you talk about where they are at this point, what happens now?

Well, the thing is that even if you appeal a case after a Commission decision, you still have to pay the fine. Of course, if you win, then you get your money back. If you don’t, well, we redistribute the fine to member states of the European Union. So, the fines of the Google case, the guarantee has been paid. The fines of the Facebook case has been paid, and now we’re in the process of trying to recover the unpaid taxes of Apple.

But the Commission as such is also working on digitalized taxation as a matter of principle, because corporate taxation was maybe invented in a time where you had a physical footprint, you were present in the country. Now it can be present in the country by buying more server space back home, so we need to reinvent corporate taxation to make sure that every company pay their fair share of taxes.

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Well, talk a little about today’s news, about the International Committee of Investigative Journalists uncovered the Paradise papers. Which was essentially a scheme … seems like a scheme, I’m trying to bring it down to a very simple level, it’s rich people trying to hide their wealth, essentially. Ultra rich people. Can you talk a little bit about how you look at something like these? Because there are several tech companies involved, there were investments that were hidden in shell companies, all kinds of things. So what were your thoughts today, because it’s a very complex and robust system to protect these companies and the people involved.

But that has to change.

So how does that happen?

You really have to change.

Talk about what you thought today when you saw those.

Well, I think, thanks to citizens, there’s been an enormous pressure because of the Lux leaks first and the Panama papers, and now with the Paradise papers, for legislation to change. For transparency, we would also like to have public country-by-country reporting, just report simple things. Do you have activity? Do you have employees? Do you make a profit? Do you pay your taxes? So that we know.

And second we would like also all the tax intermediaries, those who make this happen, to feel responsibility of enabling some businesses not to pay their taxes whether many, many, many, many businesses, they do pay their taxes.

Well, how do you do that? Because the scope of what’s going on here, this is a … I’m assuming this is just the tip of an iceberg here of how they do protect their monies going forward. And one of the things, for example, with Facebook, I think all of us understood that there was Russian government money invested in Twitter and Facebook and other places. But now it’s very clearly outlined on how that works. How do you, with your powers, begin to change that?

I mean, you’re a very hopeful person but I’m not, and I’m assuming they’ll figure out ways to subvert all these things.

Oh yes, but people like me never get unemployed, unfortunately, but I think we can take steps forward to improve things.

Right.

I have a very strong tool in competitional enforcement: To do merger control, to look into cartels, misuse of dominant position, when member states hand out favors, for instance in terms of tax breaks. But even though that’s a strong tool, it cannot solve everything. We need regulation as well to say, “Well, these are sort of the basic rules of how the market should work,” and that’s in particular within taxation to make sure that our tax authorities have the right tools and they know the full history of a company. And that has actually been passed as legislation in the European Union within the last couple of years.

Right. That is counter to what’s going on in the United States, which obviously has an impact. We have tax reform going on that essentially gives backs to wealthy people, that’s what seems to be going on. We’ve got a president who, I’m not gonna go on about other things but wants to … and by the way, I’m still sorry, Europe, I apologize for the United States of America.

But here’s the … He wants to remove the regulation, that’s one of his most popular stances is the idea of removing regulation, removing oversight, removing any kind of strictures against these companies and their growth. How do you battle that when these companies are in the United States, they’re not being pulled back by the authorities in the United States?

But the thing is, I never feel more European than when I’m in the States. Because we’re different.

Right.

We have built up a market, a single market where you have a potential of 500 million customers, but it’s a market where you care. You care about environment, working conditions, human rights, taxes being paid, because we want a free market. But we know the paradox of a free market is that sometimes you have to intervene. You have to make sure that it’s not the law of the jungle but the laws of democracy that works.

Right.

Talk a little bit about where it’s going to, because one of the issues I’ve been writing about a lot or talking about a lot in podcasts and various things are what’s coming next. In a lot of ways, a lot of the things you’re talking about are technologies not of the past but of previous behaviors coming up — AI, robotics, automation, self-transportation, self-driving cars, the whole change of the transportation system. Infrastructure, new cities. Is that an area that you think you have to begin to look at strongly, because I literally was just in an Amazon warehouse in Kent, Washington, where there are people there and they’re working there but the robotics is both breathtaking and disturbing to see at the same time.

How do you look at those, and do you think, because they’re real advantages when you have a robot to boss around versus a person. So how do you look at that?

Two points. First of all, we take an interest in data because sometimes it’s nothing but sometimes it’s a real barrier to entry, which makes it very very difficult for others to come into this market. So we take care and look into mergers, if the amount of data will disable competition.

The second point is that I think some of these algorithms, they all have to go to law school before they are let out.

Okay, all right, meaning? What does that mean?

The thing is that …

Because I don’t recommend anybody go to law school, but go ahead.

Well, I have a thing with lawyers as well.

Yeah, I get that, I get that.

Yes. But that being said, you cannot just say, “What happens in the black box stays in the black box.”

Well, they like it that way.

I know, but that’s not how things are.

They don’t know what’s going on in the black box, as it turns out, but.

And this is why you have to teach your algorithm what it can do and what it cannot do, because otherwise there is a risk that the algorithms will learn the tricks of, like, the old cartels. We just had a really old-school truck cartel of six companies colluding on prices and on environmental benefits in trucks and we had to fine them almost four billion euros for their behavior.

We don’t want algorithms to learn the tricks of the old cartels. We want them to play by the book, also, when they start playing by themselves.

So last thing, I wanna finish up very quickly and talk about where it goes from here and what are your biggest concerns. We were talking backstage, we both have teenagers. You’re not very … surprisingly, I’m like a European regulator with strictness on my kids and you’re not. You like to let them do what they want, or what …

Well, I don’t think that parents should be friends with their children on Facebook or Snapchat or whatever.

Really? How can you make them miserable then, how does that work?

Well, that’s a real-life competence and I’ll tell you, I muster it.

Yeah. So you, when you’re thinking about your kids and the impact on what they’re having, one of the things that’s being discussed in Silicon Valley, in Hollywood and everywhere else is around sexual harassment, around all kinds of issues, but it really boils down to an idea of diversity. And that’s another … Do you feel like that’s your purview?

We were talking about this, that when you’re thinking about AI and various things, it seems like crap in, crap out, and if you have the same people designing these systems all the time, the same kind of people, do you think that’s something you, that’s part of your purview as a regulator?

Two things. First of all, I’ve seen my oldest daughter, she puts down her phone and she uses it less and less because she has a real life, in real life, and that I think is a very good thing. The new generation is doing all kinds of things, also, when it comes to the sustainability goals. They engage differently in their society. They are not just all on their screen, and I think that is a very, very good thing.

But we have to take our democracy back. We cannot leave it, neither to Facebook or Snapchat or anyone else, we have to take democracy back and renew it. Because society is about people and not about technology.

And going forward, what do you think your biggest focus is gonna … The last question, what do you think your biggest focus for the next year is gonna be on, in a very short …

Well, the next focus is going to be on whether we think that we can trust technology or not.

No, but go ahead.

Because this is the biggest wake-up call we have ever had. We’ve seen the potential, now we get the fear of what it will bring us. If we don’t relearn to trust technology, then we’ll never make any good of the potential.

Margrethe Vestager, everybody.

Thank you.


Recode – All

Guardians of the Future: The FCC Commissioner is Working to Delay the Net Neutrality Vote

Net Neutrality

On December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to vote on whether or not to repeal net neutrality. Now, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, and 28 senators are lobbying for the FCC to delay its net neutrality vote. The group hopes that such a deferment would allow enough time for a proper investigation to be launched into the recent scandal involving a surge of fake comments in favor of the repeal, which were submitted to the FCC under the names of real people.

As reported by Schneiderman, a Broadband for the America-funded study found that nearly 8 million comments on the repeal were submitted using either temporary or disposable email addresses, and roughly 10 million used duplicate email and home addresses. These were taken as obvious signs of foul play, which ultimately led Schneiderman to conclude that over 1 million Americans’ identities were used to submit false comments in favor of the repeal. Rachel Shippee, Schneiderman’s office’s assistant press secretary, was among the identities taken.

The source of these comments remains unknown. “We received over 400,000 pro-internet regulation comments from the same mailing address in Russia,” FCC representative Brian Hart previously confirmed to Futurism via email. However, it’s not clear whether the culprit was based in the country, or just attempting to conceal their location.

To this end, Schneiderman asserts that it is especially important to launch a formal investigation “in an era when foreign governments, and those seeking an unfair advantage here at home, have tried to undermine our democratic institutions.” He went on to call the FCC’s comment process  “deeply corrupted,” — a sentiment shared by others within the group of experts who are pressing the FCC to uncover the truth before the vote, so that those voting would not be doing so backed by false information.

A World, Changed

Schneiderman and his fellow advocates are pressing the FCC and the government not just because they want to assure due process, but perhaps even more so because the stakes of repealing net neutrality are very high not just for U.S. citizens, but globally.

Imagine, if you will, an example of a world without net neutrality:

You’re at work and want to check Facebook on your lunch break to see how your sister is doing. This is not exactly a straightforward task, as your company uses Verizon. You’re not about to ask your boss if they’d consider putting up the extra cash every month so that you can access social media in the office, so you’ll have to wait until you get home.

That evening, you log in to pay your monthly internet bill — or rather, bills.

See, there’s the baseline internet cost, but without net neutrality, you also have to pay a separate monthly fee for social media, another for “leisure” pages like Reddit and Imgur, and another still for liberal-leaning news sites — because your provider’s CEO is politically conservative. Not only is your bill confusing, you’re not sure you can really afford to access all these websites that, at one point in time, you took for granted.

In addition to the sites you can access if you pay for them, there are also websites that have just become lost to you. Websites that you once frequented, but that now, you aren’t even sure how to access anymore. You can’t even pay to access them. You used to like reading strange Wikipedia articles late at night and cruising for odd documentaries — but now, all those interests that once entertained and educated you in your precious and minimal free time are either behind yet another separately provided paywall or blocked entirely. You’ve started to ask around, see if your friends or coworkers with other providers have better access. . . but the story is pretty much always the same.

This anecdote represents a fairly simple prediction of what life would be like if the repeal were to move forward. Sound fanciful? Some countries are already living this reality. In New Zealand, Vodafone offers mobile internet packages that are comprised of different types of services. You might have to pay a certain amount to access social apps like Snapchat and Instagram, and a separate fee to chat with friends via Facebook Messenger and iMessage. A similar framework is used by Portugal’s MEO, where messaging, social media, music streaming, video streaming, and email are also split into separate packages.

Schneiderman and the experts who are pushing the FCC have, no doubt, considered the extreme end of the spectrum of possibilities as well. Not long ago, the U.N. declared access to the internet a human right, and these advocates are working tirelessly to ensure that corrupt forces do not compromise, or deny that right.

The post Guardians of the Future: The FCC Commissioner is Working to Delay the Net Neutrality Vote appeared first on Futurism.

Futurism

FEC commissioner calls for more disclosure after Russia bought political ads on Facebook

Ellen L. Weintraub, a member of the Federal Elections Commission, has submitted a vote on revamping disclaimer rules around political ads on the internet following Facebook’s admission yesterday that Russia bought $ 100,000 worth of ads on the social network to influence the US presidential election last year. Weintraub, who posted her letter to the FEC on Twitter, says the goal is to decide whether the “American people deserve to know who’s paying for the political info they see on the internet?”

“It is imperative that we updated the Federal Elections Commission’s regulations to ensure that the American people know who is paying for the internet political communications they see,” Weintraub writes. “Given the revelations of the past few…

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