3 February 2016

Rather predictably, issues pertaining to Safe Harbour and the negotiations between the EU and the USA over a key data transfer pact dominated the headlines this week. 

In the midst of the deadline for an agreement being missed, all other Global ICT developments were somewhat overshadowed. Data protection authorities had given the European Commission until the end of January to fix a new arrangement to replace the Safe Harbour deal knocked down in October 2015 by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), however with complications arising an agreement remained elusive earlier this week. Emphasising this, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova declared during a meeting of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee earlier this week that there was a need for an “arrangement that is fundamentally different from the old Safe Harbour,”. 

Despite these difficulties, the European Commission did eventually reach a deal with the US yesterday (2nd February 2016), replacing the old Safe Harbour agreement with a rebranded ‘EU-US privacy shield’. The new agreement arrives following months of hurried negotiations and will come into effect after the deal is formally drafted, which EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova estimated could take roughly three months. 

Other news of interest from Europe this week included the announcement that the European Commission will issue ‘sharing economy guidelines’ to member states in early March on how to regulate emerging companies like Uber and Airbnb, which have shaken up the taxi and hotel sector. This in addition to the revelation that the European Commission also plan to shake up regulation of the European  radio spectrum, with EU member states National governments being asked to announce their plans to move TV broadcasters below the 700 MHz band by 2017, which will be assigned exclusively to wireless broadband by 2020.

Also of note, a European industry group has this week proposed cyber-security policy recommendations for the European Union during the International Cyber-Security Forum. The European Cybersecurity Industry Leaders, or ECIL, is comprised of a number of cybersecurity and defense contractors, including Thales Group, Atos, Airbus Group, Deutsche Tekekom, Ericcson, Infineon and others. The group was created to draft a report to the European Commission recommending increased consolidation and integration of the union's cybersecurity assets.

In the US, there was also wide ranging coverage of the EU-US data pact negotiations, but amongst these developments, other news of interest included the announcement that a US delegation has visited Cuba in recent days in order to urge the Government there to more rapidly build out its Internet infrastructure and make it more widely available. Officials said they had recommended that Cuba  “leapfrog” current buildout of aging technology, such as DSL and 3G mobile service, for faster technology such as fiber and high-speed mobile. Officials also urged the country to relax regulations that are preventing many in Cuba from getting Internet in their homes, along with other censorship or blocking policies.

Net neutrality issues also reared their head again this week in the US, with a leading Stanford Law professor claiming that the ‘Binge On’ video streaming service set up by T-Mobile stifles competition, free speech and customer choice and as a result violates basic principles of Net Neutrality. This will doubtless be an issue to watch moving forwards, with Professor Barbara van Schewick warning in her report on the issue that it may represent the dawn of the end of the “innovation without permission” era.

Cyber-skills received attention this week too, with the announcement that US President, Barack Obama, has included a provision in his budget proposal for the new fiscal year that $4 billion is to be provided to states to develop computer science programs, along with $100 million in grants available directly to school districts to advance computer learning. The funds will be used to encourage states and districts to not only create computer science programs, but also build programs that draw in students who are typically left out of that education right now. However it remains unclear whether the plan will come to fruition, as despite the recent bipartisan support for computer science education, the budget in full will require approval from the U.S. Congress before coming into effect and so as ever, there is a risk that the plan may change or be scrapped entirely.

A relatively quiet week from a Pan-Asian ICT perspective, perhaps not altogether surprising considering the aforementioned attention lavished on the transatlantic negotiations saga between the EU and the US. However, news of note included the announcement that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said it might soon take a decision on the differential pricing for data services. TRAI recently held an open-house discussion on the issue, which saw huge participation from telecom operators, consumer rights groups, industry bodies and individuals. TRAI Chairman R S Sharma claimed it was a very ‘lively consultation’ and that the body hopes to come out with their position on the issue of net neutrality ‘by the end of the month’. 

From a cyber-security angle, it was revealed this week that the NEC Corporation has launched a Cyber Security Factory in Singapore, the latest addition to the company’s global portfolio of security operation centres. The newly opened Cyber Security Factory in Singapore will collaborate with NEC’s Security Operations Centres located in strategic parts of the world including Japan, with an aim to provide an inter-connected network to share intelligence on cyber threats and deliver 24/7 security to customers. This news follows the continually emerging recognition of and focus on the merits of effective Cyber-Security and the need for robust ICT systems to counter and overcome potential cyber-threats which is taking place across the Pan-Asian region.

Plenty of developments of interest from elsewhere around the World this week too. Of particular note, Australian ICT issues featured heavily, with it being reported that the need for cyber-security skills in the nation has ballooned in light of the fact the country’s ICT systems are not sufficiently robust to withstand targeted cyber-attack. Worsening this issue, it was reported that Australian businesses are far too willing to pay when hit by ransomware, serving to only encourage further attacks, according to security experts at Deloitte.

Finally, announcements of interest from Global Institutions this week included the call from ENISA for enhanced cooperation among private and public sector stakeholders in light of the recent significant increase in cyber threats to critical services and infrastructures. Following its study of Critical Information Infrastructures (CIIs) across the European continent, ENISA declared that EU Member States and the private sector alike need to further co-operate with each other if they are to effectively address these threats today. Yet, it was found that only half of the examined countries have established such cooperation models as public–private partnerships, working groups and contact forums. 

Lastly, with data protection stealing the show for this week at least, it seems only right to end with the news that Europol this week celebrated the 10th Anniversary of it’s established European Data Protection Day. The 28th January 2016 marked the ten year anniversary of the first legally binding international law in the field of data protection. 10 years later, as this week shows, progress is still being strived for, and made.