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Tag Archives: europe

GDPR, China, and data sovereignty are ultimately wins for Amazon and Google

The Great Privacy Policy Email Deluge of 2018 may have finally petered out, but we are just starting to build an understanding of who the winners and losers will be in this newly regulated data economy. Most of the attention so far has been focused on the losers post-GDPR, which can be broadly summarized as “advertising networks.” Indeed, as Jessica Davies at Digiday reported over the weekend , programmatic advertising in Europe plummeted post-GDPR this weekend, potentially threatening profits at product lines like Google’s DoubleClick network (at least temporarily until they figure out all the compliance issues). However, the more interesting analysis is around who the winners of these laws will be (besides the lawyers of course). To me, it’s clear that the complexity around these data sovereignty laws ultimately benefits highly-scaled service providers who can manage the nuanced regulations around these laws in an automated fashion. That means, ironically, that Google will likely win long-term on its cloud side, along with other major cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft Azure. Data used to be much simpler. Gone are my experimental teenage years of collecting user information on a school website and storing it on a MySQL database hosted on my personal computer in my home office with nary a privacy policy in sight (site uptime was about 80%, since I turned the computer off at night). Hosting your own data was easy, fast, and pretty much the Wild West when it came to any kind of legal or policy enforcement, as any startup in its early days can attest. That free market in data is rapidly disintegrating as governments increasingly take an interest in data, not just for privacy reasons, but also for population thought control and economic growth purposes. For software developers writing applications, that portends a complicated world for managing global and even potentially national data laws — a context that is going to be deeply enriching for service providers who can successfully help clients navigate this new world. These new laws can be broadly grouped under the term “data sovereignty,” which is one of those terms you say at the World Economic Forum to sound like you are in the know

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Papua New Guinea threatens to close Facebook for a month to investigate its harmful impact

Facebook is proving problematic for many governments worldwide, but few would think to shut it down entirely. That’s exactly the approach that Papua New Guinea, the Pacific sea island nation located near Australia, is proposing to take with a new measure that could see the social network closed off for a month. During that period, the government plans to investigate the impact of fake accounts, pornography and false news and information which it said are rife on the social network in the country. The prospect of a month-long ban was announced by Papua New Guinea’s communications minister Sam Basil who told Post Courier that the government “cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country.” Internet penetration in the country is thought to be less than 15 percent, which suggests at face value that Facebook isn’t particularly mainstream. However, that may not be an accurate measure of how many of the country’s eight million population use the social network since mobile is the primary access point in many parts of Asia Pacific. Still, the ban is unlikely to be welcomed by the population. Post Courier reported that Basil even floated the idea of a dedicated social network to replace Facebook in the country. At this point, the Facebook ban — however delicious it may sound given recent events — is not confirmed for Papua New Guinea. It remains a possibility once Basil has liaised with police, according to the media report. Our attempts to reach Basil via phone and email to confirm the plan were not successful. Facebook has been under fierce pressure around the way it handles data for its 1.5 billion users after it emerged that Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm that worked on the successful Trump election campaign, hijacked data on nearly 90 million users of the social network . The aftermath of the scandal has seen Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify on data security and processes in front of Congress and the House in the U.S. , as well as the EU parliament in Europe

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Comet grabs $12.8 million for its engineering freelancer platform

French startup Comet (not to be confused with Zyl , which was formerly named Comet) is building a marketplace of talented tech and data freelancers as well as companies that are looking for engineers and teams for a specific project. The company just raised a $12.8 million funding round (€11 million) with Otium Venture and Daphni. While Comet got tens of thousands of applications, Comet is working with 1,700 freelancers right now. This is a different approach from Upwork , Malt and other existing marketplaces. With Comet, companies can get freelancers on demand, without having to scan through hundreds of profiles. 100 clients are using the platform to connect and hire freelancers . Companies upload their assignments and the Comet team matches freelancers with the right job within 48 hours. Comet currently generates around $1.16 million in transaction volume per month (€1 million). “100 percent of our freelancers are doing this full time,” co-founder and CEO Charles Thomas told me. “On average, they earn 60 percent more than when they were employees.

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Brexit blow for UK’s hopes of helping set AI rules in Europe

The UK’s hopes of retaining an influential role for its data protection agency in shaping European Union regulations post-Brexit — including helping to set any new Europe-wide rules around artificial intelligence — look well and truly dashed. In a speech at the weekend in front of the International Federation for European Law, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, shot down the notion of anything other than a so-called ‘adequacy decision’ being on the table for the UK after it exits the bloc. If granted, an adequacy decision is an EU mechanism for enabling citizens’ personal data to more easily flow from the bloc to third countries — as the UK will be after Brexit. Such decisions are only granted by the European Commission after a review of a third country’s privacy standards that’s intended to determine that they offer essentially equivalent protections as EU rules. But the mechanism does not allow for the third country to be involved, in any shape or form, in discussions around forming and shaping the EU’s rules themselves. So, in the UK’s case, the country would be going from having a seat at the rule-making table to being shut out of the process entirely — at time when the EU is really setting the global agenda on digital regulations. “The United Kingdom decided to leave our harmonised system of decision-making and enforcement. It must respect the fact that the European Union will continue to work on the basis of this system, which has allowed us to build a single market, and which allows us to deepen our single market in response to new challenges,” said Barnier in Lisbon on Saturday. “And, as indicated in the European Council guidelines, the UK must understand that the only possibility for the EU to protect personal data is through an adequacy decision. It is one thing to be inside the Union, and another to be outside.” “Brexit is not, and never will be, in the interest of EU businesses,” he added. “And it will especially run counter to the interests of our businesses if we abandon our decision-making autonomy. This autonomy allows us to set standards for the whole of the EU, but also to see these standards being replicated around the world. This is the normative power of the Union, or what is often called ‘the Brussels effect’. “And we cannot, and will not, share this decision-making autonomy with a third country, including a former Member State who does not want to be part of the same legal ecosystem as us.” Earlier this month  the UK’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, told MPs on the UK parliament’s committee for exiting the European Union that a bespoke data agreement that gave the ICO a continued role after Brexit would be a far superior option to an adequacy agreement — pointing out that the UK stands to lose influence at a time when the EU is setting global privacy standards via the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into full force last Friday

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Russia’s Yandex unveils Plus, a Prime-style service for $2.75/month, ‘Station’ smart speaker and Alice skills

Russian search giant Yandex is sometimes described as the “Google of Russia”, but maybe it should be described as the Amazon of Russia, too. The company today took the wraps off Yandex.Plus, a service modelled on Amazon Prime that gives users a number of perks for a monthly fee — 169 roubles/month, or about $2.75. On top of that, the company is making its first foray into hardware with a new, $160 smart speaker, Yandex.Station , and a new skills platform, called Yandex.Dialogues , for the Russian-speaking intelligent assistant it unveiled last year , called Alice. The Station speaker and Plus will be available only in Russia, and the three were all unveiled in Moscow at the company’s annual what’s-new event, which it calls Yet Another Conference. Plus, which is available now, features include access to streaming service Yandex.Music ; storage service Yandex.Disc ; discounts for Yandex.Taxi (its Uber-like transportation service, which has partly acquired Uber’s Russian assets and now runs it in a JV); free deliveries and early access to Yandex.Market (an e-commerce marketplace that is in beta); film and TV streaming through its video service KinoPoisk ; and expedited services and discounts for Yandex.Drive , its car-sharing service. (Yandex.Drive’s landing page underscores just how Anglicised the Russian language has become in all things tech, and tech-related: Its big lettering proclaims “Каршеринг” — the Russian transliteration for “Car sharing.”) The Station speaker, which will go on sale later this summer. was a much-rumored work in progress for the company after it first announced Alice last year. The new product comes at an important time for Yandex on two fronts: competition from other tech companies across all its services, and specifically competition in its core business of search. While Amazon with its Echo, Google with its Home device and Apple with its own HomePod all have ambitions to make their own smart speaker plays as international as possible, none of them have to date entered the Russian market, meaning that Yandex has a window of opportunity to build up its own customer base and ecosystem in this area ahead of any of them moving in. Indeed, that has partly been the company’s strategy from day one. Yandex Search, the company’s first and original (and still core) product launched and gained market share at a time when search engines outside the country either didn’t search in Russian or simply did it poorly. But with the progress of time, other search engines have started to work much better in the country, and so while Yandex is currently number-one, its market share has slowly eroded to Google — today Yandex has around a 53 percent share to Google’s 43 percent, after a much wider gap years ago. This means also an erosion of the company’s revenues from search, and this, too, is partly also why Yandex has expanded into other market segments, including the ones being announced today: in order to diversify. Yandex is quick to point out that Station is not just another “me too” product, though. Station, it says, “is the first smart speaker to incorporate a full video streaming experience” by way of an HDMI output that users can link up to a screen, and then ask Alice to search for and playback videos, movies and television shows Yandex’s own KinoPoisk, ivi and Amediateka (which streams HBO in Russia) and others.

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Flock raises £2.25M for its on-demand drone insurance

Flock , a London-based startup that has created a data-driven insurance product for drones, has picked up £2.25 million in seed funding. Leading the round is fintech and insurtech VC fund Anthemis, with participation from Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play, Seed and Speed, and previous backer Downing Ventures. A number of unnamed angel investors also took part. Describing itself as “pioneering the use of real-time data in insurance,” Flock’s drone insurance has its roots in the academic studies of founder Antton Pena. He wrote his thesis on the use of real-time data to quantify drone flight risks, and began building the first version of the Flock platform at the Data Science Institute at Imperial College London with help from a post-doctoral researcher in artificial intelligence. Likewise, while studying at Cambridge University, Flock CEO Ed Leon Klinger focused on the future of the autonomous world, writing and publishing papers on driverless vehicles, AI safety, and autonomous drones. This included a paper on the future of the drone industry in which he identified the same solution that Antton had already begun building: the idea that real-time data could be leveraged to identify and quantify the risks of drone flights. To that end, Flock’s first product, dubbed “Flock Cover”, is a ‘pay-as-you-fly’ insurance app that allows drone pilots to insure flights for a minimum of one hour. It aggregates real-time data, including hyperlocal weather conditions, population density, proximity to high-risk areas (such as airports), and more. Flock’s algorithms then analyse this data, coupled with other data points, such as the weight of the drone, to quantify the risk of any given drone flight.

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To truly protect citizens, lawmakers need to restructure their regulatory oversight of big tech

Gillian Hadfield Contributor Gillian Hadfield is the author of Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans Invented Law and How to Reinvent It for a Complex Global Economy and a professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California . More posts by this contributor Saudi Arabia’s TechUtopia Neom will have to reinvent the rules to succeed To control AI, we need to understand more about humans If members of the European Parliament thought they could bring Mark Zuckerberg to heel with his recent appearance, they underestimated the enormous gulf between 21 st century companies and their last-century regulators. Zuckerberg himself reiterated that regulation is necessary, provided it is the “ right regulation .” But anyone who thinks that our existing regulatory tools can reign in our digital behemoths is engaging in magical thinking. Getting to “right regulation” will require us to think very differently. The challenge goes far beyond Facebook and other social media: the use and abuse of data is going to be the defining feature of just about every company on the planet as we enter the age of machine learning and autonomous systems. So far, Europe has taken a much more aggressive regulatory approach than anything the US was contemplating before or since Zuckerberg’s testimony. The European Parliament’s Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now in force, which extends data privacy rights to all European citizens regardless of whether their data is processed by companies within the EU or beyond. But I’m not holding my breath that the GDPR will get us very far on the massive regulatory challenge we face. It is just more of the same when it comes to regulation in the modern economy: a lot of ambiguous costly-to-interpret words and procedures on paper that are outmatched by rapidly evolving digital global technologies. Crucially, the GDPR still relies heavily on the outmoded technology of user choice and consent, the main result of which has seen almost everyone in Europe (and beyond) inundated with emails asking them to reconfirm permission to keep their data. But this is an illusion of choice, just as it is when we are ostensibly given the option to decide whether to agree to terms set by large corporations in standardized take-it-or-leave-it click-to-agree documents

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CommerceDNA wins the TechCrunch Hackathon at VivaTech

It’s been a long night at VivaTech. The building hosted a very special competition — the very first TechCrunch Hackathon in Paris. Hundreds of engineers and designers got together to come up with something cool, something neat, something awesome. The only condition was that they only had 24 hours to work on their projects. Some of them were participating in our event for the first time, while others were regulars. Some of them slept on the floor in a corner, while others drank too much Red Bull. We could all feel the excitement in the air when the 64 teams took the stage to present a one-minute demo to impress fellow coders and our judges. But only one team could take home the grand prize and €5,000. So, without further ado, meet the TechCrunch Hackathon winner. Winner: CommerceDNA Runner-Up #1: AID Runner-Up #2: EV Range Meter Judges Nicolas Bacca, CTO, Ledger Nicolas worked on card systems for 5 years at Oberthur, a leader in embedded digital security, ultimately as R&D Solution Architect. He left Oberthur to launch his company, Ubinity, which was developing smartcard operating systems. He finally co-founded BT Chip to develop an open standard, secure element based hardware wallet which eventually became the first version of the Ledger wallet. Charles Gorintin, co-founder & CTO, Alan Charles Gorintin is a French data science and engineering leader.

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US news sites are ghosting European readers on GDPR deadline

A cluster of U.S. news websites has gone dark for readers in Europe as the EU’s new privacy laws went into effect on Friday. The ruleset, known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) , outlines a robust set of requirements that internet companies collecting any personal data on consumers must follow. The consequences are considerable enough that the American media company Tronc decided to block all European readers from its sites rather than risk the ramifications of its apparent noncompliance. Tronc -owned sites affected by the EU blackout include the Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, The Orlando Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun. Some newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises also blocked European readers , including The St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Arizona Daily Star. It looks like all Tronc newspapers like the LA Times and Chicago Tribune are GDPR non-compliant, so all traffic from Europe is hitting this wall pic.twitter.com/vTuy902DZv — Jon Passantino (@passantino) May 25, 2018 While Tronc deemed its European readership disposable, at least in the short-term, most major national U.S. outlets took a different approach, serving a cleaned-up version of their website or asking users for opt-in consent to use their data. NPR even pointed delighted users toward a plaintext version of their site .

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Dot lets you invest in property without the hassle of a traditional mortgage

Dot , a new U.K. startup de-cloaking today, aims to make it easy to invest in property without the hassle of taking out a traditional ‘buy to let’ mortgage. The company is founded by Gray Stern, who previously co-founded London-based Buy to Let mortgage lender Landbay, and so knows at least a thing or two about investing in property. Namely, that it doesn’t need to be as arduous as it currently is. In fact, Dot’s headline draw is that it makes property ownership a one-click affair via the “Dot Button” it wants to embed on property listings sites, including estate agents and property developers. Under the hood of the offering is what the startup describes as a “point-of-sale finance and management solution” that can be wrapped around any property that meets Dot’s lending criteria. If you want to purchase the property as an investment, you simply click the button, pay the required deposit, and Dot will acquire and manage the property on your behalf, advancing 70 percent of the purchase price in the form of its pre-approved or “instant mortgage”. In addition, the property is furnished and Dot takes out buildings, contents and rent guarantee insurance. After those expenses, you receive monthly rent from the property, minus management fees and interest paid on your Dot mortgage. Technically, once the property is purchased it is moved into a passive investment structure: an SPV known as a “Dot Container”. This structure holds the asset on your behalf (you effectively become the SPV’s beneficial owner/shareholder).

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