Mon, Oct 26, 2015 - Page 14 News List

Fears over ‘digital protectionism’ grow

‘THE RIGHT PATH’:Brussels is eyeing a digital single market by simplifying rules for cross-border operations, which could include new legislation for online platforms

AFP, WASHINGTON

Rather than throw up new barriers, Europe should be tearing them down if it wishes to foster a digital economy — notably to enable better access to venture capital, she said.

EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Guenther Oettinger last month brushed aside suggestions of protectionism.

“Our rules on a European level are relevant for everybody, for European producers and players, for Asian players, and for American players as well,” he said during a visit to San Francisco.

While Google has been the target of a contentious EU antitrust probe, among other issues, Facebook has been especially impacted by privacy rules, with Ireland becoming the latest to examine the legality of its transfer of user data across the Atlantic.

Belgian officials have also sought to prevent Facebook from using a data “cookie” that gathers information about users. The social media giant said the tool helps verify legitimate accounts and combat spam.

A key element in the US-EU row over privacy has been the fear that US Internet firms are handing over data to the US National Security Agency, in light of revelations from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

To address those concerns, US lawmakers have moved to pass a bill allowing non-citizens to enforce their data protection rights in US courts under the Privacy Act.

Berin Szoka, president of the Washington-based activist think tank TechFreedom, said the bill was a step toward “repairing America’s tarnished image on data privacy.”

He said that the failure until now to address the issue in Washington “has provoked an international crisis — one that could lead to a European blockade of American Internet companies.”

Suominen said that the US and EU have an chance to foster a flourishing digital economy — with appropriate rules — as part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently being negotiated.

However, she said policymakers need to bring their thinking up to date.

“Policymakers are struggling to understand what these technologies are and what they can do, and we have archaic policies from the 20th century,” she said. “I worry that we are not on the right path for the 21st century.”

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