Current debates: privacy, big data, net neutrality and copyright issues

From October 22nd to 25th, 2013, the 8th annual meeting of the Internet Governance Forum took place in Bali. These are the three big topics – from my perspective – for the next year.

This article was written for NO LABEL PROJECT.

Privacy and big data 

The adoption of the new EU data protection regulation by the LIBE committee showed that the discussions about privacy are not dead yet. It seems only that the discussion is different than many civil rights organisation expected. The past weeks have revealed that even a world wide scandal about enormous data misuse by governmental organizations do not concern enough people to become relevant. They are outraged, but this result not in any action – known as the privacy paradox. In the contrary, studies show that privacy is nothing people would pay for nor care much. If they have the choice between cheaper prices and handing in less private data in online shops, there is a preference towards the cheaper prices.

We can all agree on, that a new narrative is necessary to explain why data collections of personal data is a treat. The term of private sphere seems not strong nor important enough to mobilize proper amount of people. Fights against the transparent citizen are long over. As Edward Snowden revealed, most of us are already fully transparent. I am favoring the term of the mindless citizen, since that is what these databases of our personal information do with us together with advanced computing. Big Data are the technologies to predict our actions before we know it ourselves. We are getting personalized offers which we can’t resist since they fit so perfectly to our needs.

Having this in mind, a political solution seems urgent and needed at once. The data protection legislation – not only in Europe – is lagging very much behind the technical progress.


Infrastructure: net neutrality and nationalization

Last month the European Commission proposed a new draft for a Digital Single Market regulationincluding regulation for telecommunication infrastructure. In mid October was a decision that the ITRE committee (Industry and Trade) will responsible and who are the rapporteurs. It is more or less official that this initiative won’t be finished during this term. The rapporteur Castillio Vera and the shadow rapporteur Trautman estimate an opinion-forming in the next 7 months. So this might be one of the topics of the elections to the European Parliament. What ever will be the result will be on e of the starting points of the European Commission after the elections.

It is not a new topic. The struggle around net neutrality was ongoing during the whole term of Neele Kroes. EDRi made a good overview on the debate by creating a timeline.

Another infrastructure topic is the growing nationalization of the Internet. This is not just a phenomena of closed autocracies like Iran or North Korea. The trend of national nets also gather speed in Europe. National restrictions on services are well known already like in Youtube or other media, where the copyright legislation is lacking behind the habits of consumers and users. In Germany now discussions started to route special services only in “Ferman” nets for example e-mail.


Copyright vs freedom of expression

In the beginning of this year the ECHR took a decision in the on going debate on copyright vs freedom of expression and denying The Piratebay the status of communication infrastructure worth to protect. It is in particular for interest, since the well known website is nothing else than a simple search engine for links. Only some days ago the next torrent search engine isohunt got shutdown. On the other hand, the largest torrent search engine Google got untouched.

The media industry realised that going against individual copyright infringement is not working out. Public cases like charging teenagers or grandma’s with ridiculous claims of often wrong accusations will be hopefully over soon.

At the Internet Governance Forum 2012 in Baku the swedish member of European Parliament (MEP) Amelia Andersdotter explained with the direct words “Fuck you, this is my culture” that the gap between the reality of young people and restrictive copyright regulation is as big as never before.

This shows the importance of the current copyright debate for the Internet infrastructure. The general direction of more and more centralisation – which is ongoing for years – gets support by such developments. Creating monopols and power concentrations which are bad for general public and only benefiting a small minority. The next year will show in which direction it will go. Hopefully again towards more Internet freedom.