I wrote a piece for the Irish Times this week about the fracturing of the global internet. In the last few weeks we’ve seen TikTok be split up because the US worries that they will be used as a vehicle for Chinese foreign policy. The EU is worried that companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and hundreds more will be a vehicle for US security policy, giving the US intelligence agencies unfettered access to European citizen’s private data.
These are big skirmishes in the battle to shape the future of the internet. We’ll see many more of them in the next decade. It’s happening all over the world too – India recently banned Chinese apps, Russia has banned some services for not storing their data in Russia, and Turkey is bringing in a new law with data localisation provisions.
Many of the EU battles are going to play out in Ireland. They’re high stakes, but I think they’re fights worth having. Read More.
eAuth. EC President Ursula Van der Leyen, in her recent state of the Union address, announced a plan for a European digital identity. The idea centres around a “European single-sign-on”. If you’ve ever used “Sign In With Facebook” on Netflix or Spoitfy, or used the Google, Linkedin, Twitter or Microsoft equivalents, you’ll get the rough idea. But this would be an EU service that would let you log in to all your public services “to do anything from paying your taxes to renting a bicycle.” I think Ireland should continue developing our own version of this, but there’s also merit to it being done at a European level. Not just for technical competency, but also because national ids often become local political football, and something coming in from a European level could help remove many of those difficulties. Link.
European Startups. Daniel Ek, the founder of Spotify, has committed to investing €1bn of his fortune in European deeptech ”moonshot projects”. Tech ecosystems tend to grow in generations, with one big success generating many others. Nokia spawned many mobile app companies in Finland (including Angry Birds!) and the Skype team in Estonia did similar, so it’s great to see another big European success story looking to do the same. I’m looking forward to the future generation of startups created by the alumni of Intercom, Stripe and others here. Link.
eGovernment. The EU released their eGovernment Benchmark, measuring how it easy it is to do several key life stage events online, like opening a business, getting a passport or registering a marriage. Ireland ranks really high for businesses, but not so great for people, landing us somewhere in the middle of the pack. Link. PDF.
Hate Speech. Following on from the ads boycott earlier this year, the tech platforms, marketing agencies and big advertisers are coming together to define hate speech and how to stop it. I get that the platforms should be involved (they have to implement the new rules after all), but it seems strange that it’s driven by advertisers and not even involving Governments or relevant NGOs. Link
Revolut. If you have a Revolut account, your money is in a bank account in the UK. From January the UK won’t be in the EU any more, so Revolut are going to move your money to a bank in Lithuania and you’ll get a new IBAN. Link
💡 Interesting Links
Portland passed a ban on all forms of automated face recognition, including in private businesses. A lone outlier in US cities. Link.
Gendered Language. When translating between two gender-inflected languages, Google Translate almost always changes the gender of occupations to fit stereotypes. Female “die Präsidentin” in German becomes male “le président” in French. Google says it’s because it pivots all translations through English, which is mostly gender-neutral. This is as much an Anglo-centric story as it is a gender one. Link.
“Poverty Lawgorithms” takes a look at the negative effects of automated decision making on low income communities. For example, automated timekeeping software allows employers to automatically round down work hours and deduct break time even if employees did not take one. In one instance, casino workers were cheated an average of €380 each in unpaid wages. Link.
On our behalf. When NGOs decide to advocate to change public policy, do they hire people who look like the powerful, or those who they’re advocating for? Link.
How the Australian PM got hacked from an Instagram pic. A funny, cautionary tale about posting pics of your boarding pass online. Link