This week saw the publication of the report on ‘Online platforms and the Digital Single Market’ by the House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee. This reports presents the findings of the inquiry that was held from October 2015 till spring 2016, receiving 85 written responses and 20 oral evidence sessions. Included in the written responses were two from Horizon Digital Economy Research, one by Prof. Rodden and one by myself which we partially posted on this blog about in October 2015. The main driver for this inquiry was the publication in May 2015 by the European Commission (EC) of its ‘Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe’ (DSM), which drew attention to the growing role of online platforms as key players in social and economic interactions on the internet, and was followed on 24 September by the launch of an EC consultation ‘A fit for purpose regulatory environment for platforms and intermediaries’. For the purposes of both the EC consultation and the Lords’ inquiry online platforms were considered to ‘represent a broad category of digital businesses that provide a meeting place for two or more different groups of users over the Internet, examples of which include search engines, online marketplaces, the collaborative or sharing economy, and social networks’. What follows is an incomplete summary of the findings in the report, with a focus on the issues related to fundamental rights of platform users (e.g. privacy), the role of algorithms and user consent, which are most closely related to our work at CaSMa.
The second items, is a recently published set of guidelines for Networked Systems Ethics that was published online by Ben Zevenbergen with input from host of people who participated at various ethics workshops organized by Ben.
The European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology, a.k.a DG Connect recently launched a survey (deadline April 10th 2016) on the ‘future of the internet’ as part of its Net Futures agenda, which was established to “pioneer and coordinate research, innovation, and policy initiatives on what lies beyond the current internet architecture, software and services.” Below is a copy of my submission to the survey.
While exploring the Internet And Human Rights Resources Center at the Internet Society, I encountered a highly informative report from the Global Commission on Internet Governance (CIGI), which was published in January 2016, on the extent to which the management of individuals’ fundamental rights, e.g. privacy and free speech, is in the hands corporations.
The report presents an excellent overview of the various ways in which the dominance of a small set of companies that control the web platforms where most people spend the majority of their time online has produced a situation where these companies have become major actors in determining the state of human rights online.
On March 1st I participated in a debate on Digital Ethics organized by the Digital Enlightenment Forum (DEF). The debate was a follow-up of previous discussions at the DEF in 2015 and brought together lawyers, engineers, economists, social scientists and philosophers to discuss challenges and possible framework for digital ethics that might help people, organizations, businesses and societies deal with the fast and complex ways in which digital technologies are impacting human lives. What follows is an abbreviated summary of the event. A more complete version is available from the DEF website.
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Or would it? In his novel 1984, George Orwell introduces the idea of Newspeak whereby the Ministry of Truth reshapes language in order to make it impossible people to express, and hence think, concepts that go against the Party.
On 25th February 2016, the Digital4EU Stakeholder Forum, organized by the European Commission, took place in Brussels. This one day conference was centred on the progress made in creating a Digital Single Market in Europe. The agenda of the day started with a pre-conference breakfast session about the European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI)’s financing opportunities for digital projects, especially for extending the roll-out of Broadband internet connections in rural areas that have not yet achieved full internet penetration.
On February 17th and 18th the Alan Turing Institute held a two day ‘scientific scoping workshop’ on Algorithm Society with the tag-line: “If data is the oil of the 21st century then algorithms are the engines that animate modern economies and societies by providing reflection, analysis and action on our activities. This workshop will look at how algorithms embed in and transform economies and societies and how social and economic forces shape the creation of algorithms.”
The workshop started with three talks covering FinTech (by Prof. Donald MacKenzie), human attitudes/expectations and willingness to use/trust algorithmic decisions (by Berkeley Dietvorst) and a proposal for a “Machine Intelligence Commission” to investigate and interrogate algorithm bias and compliance with regulations (by Geoff Mulgan).
In celebration of Data Protection Day (also known as Data Privacy Day), please join us for the launch of our #AnalyzeMyData campaign on Twitter. Through this campaign we hope to increase public awareness of the ways in which data is used/misused and establish an evidence base of public opinion on these issues that can be used to support future policy discussions around improved guidelines and regulations for data access consent.
As this is the first of our blog post for 2016 I thought I’d start off by wishing everyone a happy and prosperous 2016. Looking back, 2015 was a busy year for CaSMa. Judging from our timeline we had about 29 (probably more) events last year ranging from academic conferences and workshops, to public events like the Web We Want festival, youth focused events in collaboration with iRights, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) workshops for SMEs, and even a stand-up comedy routine as part of the Nesta Future Fest fringe. In between these events we were busy collecting data through interviews, questionnaires, surveys and the study of policy documents. So what is in store for 2016?