25 May 2016

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A busy week this time around in the world of ICT. Developments of interest have filtered in from all corners of the globe and are explored in further detail in the monitor below.

In Europe, it was reported this week that the proposed new framework for facilitating the transfer of personal data between the EU and US, the so named ‘Privacy Shield’ has still to be endorsed by a data protection committee containing representatives from the national governments of EU countries. The Article 31 Committee met with officials from the European Commission earlier this week and was due to be updated by the Commission on "the state of play on the EU-US Privacy Shield". However, technology news site Ars Technica reported that the meeting was concluded without agreement being reached on whether the Privacy Shield should be deemed as providing for adequate data protection when personal data is transferred to the US from the EU in line with framework, as is required by EU law.

Also of interest on the theme of governance, ministers from 14 EU countries have this week called for the removal of "unjustified barriers" to the movement of data across borders. The ministers from Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK outlined their views in a letter to Henk Kamp (6-page / 532KB PDF), Dutch minister for economic affairs. The Netherlands currently holds the presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers. The Council, together with the European Parliament, is responsible for passing new EU legislation. The letter was also sent to European Commission officials, including the EU's digital commissioners Andrus Ansip.

On a cyber-security note, the European Council announced new cyber-security rules designed to make networks and information services across the European Union safer and more secure. The network and information security (NIS) directive will require providers of essential services – such as energy, transport, health and finance – and "digital service providers" – such as online marketplaces, search engines and cloud services – to take steps to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks and to report any major security incidents.

Regarding cyber-privacy, an issue of extensive contention at the moment, it was revealed during the week thatUdo Helmbrecht, the director of ENISA, the EU cybersecurity agency, and Rob Wainwright, director ofEuropol, the bloc’s law enforcement agency, have been in talks over the last two weeks to try to come up with an agreement on encryption. The two organisations have previously been publicly opposed to one another regarding the issue of encryption but the announcement this week suggested they have now agreed on limits to law enforcement agencies’ access to private data.

News from the US included the story detailing how US Senators have warned against the US plan to let China and Iran in on Internet governance as part of the US administration’s work towards handing authority over the body that controls Internet domain naming function, which interprets code into words, off to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers , an international agency based in California. The plan has met with delays in the face of congressional objections, but hopes within the administration are for the transfer to be completed prior to President Obama vacating office. Senators warned against that move in a letter addressed to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker on Thursday. "The proposal will significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the Internet, expand ICANN's historical core mission by creating a gateway to content regulation, and embolden [its] leadership to act without any real accountability," said the letter, which was signed by Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas, James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Mike Lee of Utah.

Also of interest was the news revealing the extent to which net neutrality complaints have flooded the US following the FCC rules regarding net neutrality took effect in June 2015. Internet service customers have filed 20,991 net neutrality complaints since the implementation of the new regulations according to new data released by the Federal Communications Commission. The data includes 86,114 Internet service complaints filed since October 31, 2014 against home Internet and cellular ISPs. Net neutrality has been the most common type of complaint since the rules went into effect and is near the top of the list even when counting the first seven months of the data set in which net neutrality complaints weren't yet being accepted.

Cyber-Security also received a good degree of coverage in the US this week. Of particular interest was the announcement that the ill-gotten gains of New York criminals will be used to fight cyber-attacks in London in a new initiative to protect the world’s two largest financial centres. TheManhattan District Attorney’s Office is giving $25m over five years from criminal forfeits to fund the Global Cyber Alliance with the City of London Police. The project aims to share intelligence on attacks across borders: past crackdowns have often been stymied because companies have kept such attacks secret due to fear of reputational damage.

A busy week in the Asian ICT sphere this time around too. Of particular interest was the announcement that the Indian Government’s Department of Electronics and Information Technology brought together industry and academia in a first move of its kind to ensure India has a greater say in setting standards on the internet by engaging with the Los Angeles headquartered non-profit organisation Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). It was reported that the department held daylong consultations with the IT services industry, ecommerce players, internet service providers and academia including IITs, to fill an important gap in the ongoing debate on internet governance — the lack of active participation from the private sector. Officials said the workshops aimed to identify the areas where the private sector and academia can work together to engage better with Icann.

On the topic of net neutrality, the Indian Telecom regulator TRAI has proposed exploring models to give consumers free Internet service within the Net neutrality framework, months after barring platforms like Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero under its differential pricing rule. The consultation paper (on free data) is being issued to explore model(s) that could achieve benefits of offering free data while avoiding the ingenuity that the differential tariff regulation is meant to prevent,” the regulator said in the consultation paper.

Also of interest were cyber-security related developments, with reports emanating that theAssociation of Banks in Singapore (ABS) has invited SWIFT for a meeting in June to discuss the latest cyber-attacks on banks in Bangladesh and Vietnam which involved SWIFT's financial messaging service. In addition to this Banks in Hong Kong are set to face stiffer cybersecurity obligations in light of measures being introduced by a financial regulator, an expert has said. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has introduced a new cybersecurity fortification initiative (CFI) in a bid to "raise the level of cybersecurity of the banks in Hong Kong".

Plenty of news from the remainder of the ICT world, with stories of interest including the announcements that Canada’s telecom regulator is set to take a sweeping look at a key Net neutrality issue at a public inquiry on “differential pricing” of home Internet and wireless data plans in the fall; the Group of Seven (G7), the leading advanced economies in the world, reportedly pushed the topic ofcybersecurity to the forefront of conversation at the G7's meetings in Japan last week and according to Google, there'll be half a billion internet users in Africa by 2020 following the organisation’s roll out of a new training scheme.

Of note emanating from Global Institutions this week, news that ITU’s governing Council opened its annual session under the chairmanship of Ms Julie Zoller, Senior Deputy Coordinator for International Information Communications and Information Policy at the U.S. State Department. Noting that leaders from around the world have committed to achieving global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Ms Zoller said, “At this Council, we will ensure ITU’s contribution toward achieving the SDGs, setting us on a path to a more prosperous, equitable and sustainable world.” She added, “TheUnited States joins ITU in heeding the SDG call to action by harnessing the power of ICTs through our Global Connect Initiative, which aims to catalyse the efforts of all stakeholders to bring 1.5 billion additional people online by 2020, underscoring the idea that Internet connectivity is as important to development as other forms of infrastructure.”