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Digital economy

Privacy and data protection 'can restore consumer confidence in Digital Society'

EU Reporter Correspondent

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article_linking_lgThe European Commission's proposal on harmonising electronic communications services across the EU will unduly limit internet freedom, says the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS). In his Opinion, the EDPS welcomes the inclusion of the principle of net neutrality - the impartial transmission of information on the internet – in the text, but also said that it is devoid of substance because of the almost unlimited right of providers to manage internet traffic.

Peter Hustinx, EDPS, said: "Any monitoring and restriction of the internet activity of users should be done solely to achieve a targeted, specific and legitimate aim. The large-scale monitoring and restriction of users’ internet communications in this proposal is contrary to EU data protection legislation as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Such interference with the rights to personal data protection, confidentiality of communications and privacy will do little to restore consumer confidence in the electronic communications market in Europe.”

The proposal promotes traffic management measures which allow the monitoring of users’ internet communications, including emails sent or received, websites visited and files downloaded in order to filter, slow down or restrict access to illegal services or content.

The EDPS cautioned against the use of these highly privacy intrusive measures under the broad umbrella of crime prevention or to filter content illegal under national or EU law as it is not compatible with the principle of an open internet.

Confidence in our digital environment in the years ahead depends on our capacity to provide legal and technical infrastructures that can generate and preserve trust in the Digital Society. This confidence has already been seriously undermined by various surveillance scandals recently.

To re-build consumer confidence in the electronic communications market in the EU, users need to be certain that their rights to privacy, confidentiality of their communications and protection of their personal information are respected. The EDPS urges the Commission to outline more precise reasons for which traffic management measures can be applied. Any interference with their rights must be clearly communicated to users, allowing them to switch to those providers that apply less privacy-invasive traffic management techniques in their services.

Furthermore, the EDPS says that the supervision of any application of traffic management measures by providers should include a greater role for national data protection authorities to ensure that the privacy and data protection rights of users are fully respected.

Background information

On 11 September 2013, the European Commission adopted a Proposal for a Regulation laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent. Among other measures, the Proposal eases the requirements for communications providers to offer services across the EU, standardises the features of products allowing virtual access to fixed networks and harmonises the rights of end-users, such as those relating to the open Internet, as well as contractual and pre-contractual information. The EDPS Opinion focuses mainly on the effect that the Proposal may have on end-users' rights from a privacy and data protection perspective.

Privacy and data protection are fundamental rights in the EU. Data protection is a fundamental right, protected by European law and enshrined in Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

More specifically, the rules for data protection in the EU - as well as the duties of the EDPS - are set out in Regulation (EC) No 45/2001. One of the duties of the EDPS is to advise the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council on proposals for new legislation and a wide range of other issues that have an impact on data protection. Furthermore, EU institutions and bodies processing personal data presenting specific risks to the rights and freedoms of individuals ('data subjects') are subject to prior-checking by the EDPS.

Personal information or data: Any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural (living) person. Examples include names, dates of birth, photographs, video footage, email addresses and telephone numbers. Other details such as IP addresses and communications content - related to or provided by end-users of communications services - are also considered as personal data.

Privacy: the right of an individual to be left alone and in control of information about his or herself. The right to privacy or private life is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12), the European Convention of Human Rights (Article 8) and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights (Article 7). The Charter also contains an explicit right to the protection of personal data (Article 8).

Net neutrality: Net neutrality refers to the principle that internet service providers or governments should not restrict or interfere with users' access to the internet. Instead they should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment and modes of communication.

Internet/online traffic: Internet traffic is the flow of data across the internet, in other words the usage of the internet at any given time, such as accessing a web page.

Internet traffic management: Traffic may be blocked or filtered by internet service providers, for example, to restrict employees from accessing content that is not deemed to be work appropriate, to restrict access to objectionable content or services, to downgrade access in case of congestion, and to prevent or to respond to security attacks.

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is an independent supervisory authority devoted to protecting personal data and privacy and promoting good practice in the EU institutions and bodies. He does so by:

  • Monitoring the EU administration's processing of personal data;
  • advising on policies and legislation that affect privacy, and;
  • co-operating with similar authorities to ensure consistent data protection.

The EDPS Opinion.

Digital economy

Digital transformation: Importance, benefits and EU policy

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Learn how the EU is helping to shape a digital transformation in Europe to benefit people, companies and the environment. The digital transformation is one of the EU's priorities. The European Parliament is helping to shape the policies that will strengthen Europe's capacities in new digital technologies, open new opportunities for businesses and consumers, support the EU's green transition and help it to reach climate neutrality by 2050, support people's digital skills and training for workers, and help digitalize public services, while ensuring the respect of basic rights and values, Society .

MEPs are preparing to vote on a report on shaping the digital future of Europe, calling on the Europea Commission to further tackle challenges posed by the digital transition, especially to take advantage of the opportunities of the digital single market and to improve the use of artificial intelligence. What is digital transformation? 

  • Digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies by companies and the impact of the technologies on society.  
  • Digital platforms, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and artificial intelligence are among the technologies affecting ... 
  • ... sectors from transport to energy, agri-food, telecommunications, financial services, factory production and health care, and transforming people's lives. 
  • Technologies could help to optimise production, reduce emissions and waste, boost companies' competitive advantages and bring new services and products to consumers. 

Funding of the EU's digital priorities

Digital plays an essential role in all EU policies. The Covid crisis accentuated the need for a response that will benefit society and competitiveness in the long run. Digital solutions present important opportunities and are essential to ensuring Europe's recovery and competitive position in the global economy.

The EU's plan for economic recovery demands that member states allocate at least 20% of the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility to digital transition. Investment programmes such as the research and innovation-centred Horizon Europe and infrastructure-centred Connecting Europe Facility allocate substantial amounts for digital advancements as well.

While the general EU policy is to endorse digital goals through all programmes, some investment programmes and new rules specifically aim to achieve them.

Digital Europe programme

In April 2021, Parliament adopted the Digital Europe programme, the EU’s first financial instrument focused specifically on bringing technology to businesses and people. It aims to invest in digital infrastructure so that strategic technologies can help boost Europe’s competitiveness and green transition, as well as ensure technological sovereignty. It will invest €7.6bn in five areas: supercomputing (€2.2bn), arfitifical intelligence (€2.1bn), cybersecurity (€1.6bn), advanced digital skills (€0.6bn), and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society (€1.1bn).

Online safety and platform economy

Online platforms are an important part of the economy and people's lives. They present significant opportunities as marketplaces and are important communication channels. However, there also pose significant challenges.

The EU is working on new digital services legislation, aiming to foster competitiveness, innovation and growth, while boosting online security, tackling illegal content, and ensuring the protection of free speech, press freedom and democracy.

Read more on why and how the EU wants to regulate the platform economy.

Among measures to ensure safety online, the Parliament adopted new rules to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online in April 2021. MEPs are also considering rules on a new European cybersecurity centre.

Artificial intelligence and data strategy

Artificial intelligence (AI) could benefit people by imroving health care, making cars safer and  enabling tailored services. It can improve production processes and bring a competitive advantage to European businesses, including in sectors where EU companies already enjoy strong positions, such as the green and circular economy, machinery, farming and tourism.

To ensure Europe makes the most of AI's potential, MEPs have accentuated the need for human-centric AI legislation, aimed at establishing a framework that will be trustworthy, can implement ethical standards, support jobs, help build competitive “AI made in Europe” and influence global standards. The Commission presented its proposal for AI regulation on 21 April 2021.

Read more on how MEPs want to regulate artificial intelligence.

The success of AI development in Europe ilargely depends on a successful European data strategy. Parliament has stressed the potential of industrial and public data for EU companies and researchers and called for European data spaces, big data infrastructure and legislation that will contribute to trustworthiness.

More on what Parliament wants for the European data strategy.

Digital skills and education

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important digital skills are for work and interactions, but has also accentuated the digital skills gap and the need to increase digital education. The Parliament wants the European skills agenda to ensure people and businesses can take full advantage of technological advancements.

42% of EU citizens lack basic digital skil

Fair taxation of the digital economy

Most tax rules were established well before the digital economy existed. To reduce tax avoidance and make taxes fairer, MEPs are calling for a global minimum tax rate and new taxation rights that would allow more taxes to be paid where value is created and not where tax rates are lowest.

Other interesting articles to check out

More on Europe's digital policies 

Continue Reading

Digital economy

Digital transformation: Importance, benefits and EU policy

EU Reporter Correspondent

Published

on

Learn how the EU is helping to shape a digital transformation in Europe to benefit people, companies and the environment.

The digital transformation is one of the EU's priorities. The European Parliament is helping to shape the policies that will strengthen Europe's capacities in new digital technologies, open new opportunities for businesses and consumers, support the EU's green transition and help it to reach climate neutrality by 2050, support people's digital skills and training for workers, and help digitalise public services, while ensuring the respect of basic rights and values.

MEPs are preparing to vote on a report on shaping the digital future of Europe, calling on the Europea Commission to further tackle challenges posed by the digital transition, especially to take advantage of the opportunities of the digital single market and to improve the use of artificial intelligence. What is digital transformation? 

  • Digital transformation is the integration of digital technologies by companies and the impact of the technologies on society.  
  • Digital platforms, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and artificial intelligence are among the technologies affecting ... 
  • ... sectors from transport to energy, agri-food, telecommunications, financial services, factory production and health care, and transforming people's lives. 
  • Technologies could help to optimise production, reduce emissions and waste, boost companies' competitive advantages and bring new services and products to consumers. 

Funding of the EU's digital priorities

Digital plays an essential role in all EU policies. The Covid crisis accentuated the need for a response that will benefit society and competitiveness in the long run. Digital solutions present important opportunities and are essential to ensuring Europe's recovery and competitive position in the global economy.

The EU's plan for economic recovery demands that member states allocate at least 20% of the €672.5 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility to digital transition. Investment programmes such as the research and innovation-centred Horizon Europe and infrastructure-centred Connecting Europe Facility allocate substantial amounts for digital advancements as well.

While the general EU policy is to endorse digital goals through all programmes, some investment programmes and new rules specifically aim to achieve them.

Digital Europe programme

MEPs are set to vote in April on the Digital Europe programme, the EU’s first financial instrument focused specifically on bringing technology to businesses and people. It aims to invest in digital infrastructure so that strategic technologies can help boost Europe’s competitiveness and green transition, as well as ensure technological sovereignty. It will invest €7.5 billion in five areas: supercomputing (€2.2 billion), artificial intelligence (€2 billion), cybersecurity (€1.6 billion), advanced digital skills (€577 million), and ensuring a wide use of digital technologies across the economy and society (€1 billion).

Online safety and platform economy

Online platforms are an important part of the economy and people's lives. They present significant opportunities as marketplaces and are important communication channels. However, there also pose significant challenges.

The EU is working on new digital services legislation, aiming to foster competitiveness, innovation and growth, while boosting online security, tackling illegal content, and ensuring the protection of free speech, press freedom and democracy.

Read more on why and how the EU wants to regulate the platform economy.

Among measures to ensure safety online, the Parliament is voting on new rules to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online in April. MEPs are also considering rules on a new European cybersecurity centre.

Artificial intelligence and data strategy

Artificial intelligence (AI) could benefit people by imroving health care, making cars safer and  enabling tailored services. It can improve production processes and bring a competitive advantage to European businesses, including in sectors where EU companies already enjoy strong positions, such as the green and circular economy, machinery, farming and tourism.

To ensure Europe makes the most of AI's potential, MEPs have accentuated the need for human-centric AI legislation, aimed at establishing a framework that will be trustworthy, can implement ethical standards, support jobs, help build competitive “AI made in Europe” and influence global standards. The Commission presented its proposal for AI regulation on 21 April 2021.

Read more on how MEPs want to regulate artificial intelligence.

The success of AI development in Europe ilargely depends on a successful European data strategy. Parliament has stressed the potential of industrial and public data for EU companies and researchers and called for European data spaces, big data infrastructure and legislation that will contribute to trustworthiness.

More on what Parliament wants for the European data strategy.

Digital skills and education

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how important digital skills are for work and interactions, but has also accentuated the digital skills gap and the need to increase digital education. The Parliament wants the European skills agenda to ensure people and businesses can take full advantage of technological advancements.

42% of EU citizens lack basic digital skill

Other interesting articles to check out

More on Europe's digital policies 

Continue Reading

Computer technology

Vega: Launch of the first world-class supercomputer in the EU

EU Reporter Correspondent

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The European Commission, together with the European High-Performance Computing Joint Undertaking and the government of Slovenia has inaugurated the operation of the Vega Supercomputer at a high-level ceremony in Maribor, Slovenia. This marks the launch of a first EU supercomputer procured jointly with EU and member state funds, with a joint investment of €17.2 million.

A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said:“We are celebrating today the launch of the Vega supercomputer – the first of several. Supercomputing will open new doors for European SMEs to compete in tomorrow's high tech economy. Even more importantly, by supporting artificial intelligence to identify the molecules for breakthrough drug treatments, by tracking infections for COVID and other diseases, European supercomputing can help save lives.”

Executive Vice President Vestager participated in the launch ceremony on 20 April together with the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Janez Janša. The new Vega supercomputer is capable of 6.9 Petaflops of computer power and will support the development of applications in many domains, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and high-performance data analytics. It will help European researchers and industry to make significant advances in bio-engineering, weather forecasting, the fight against climate change, personalised medicine, as well as in the discovery of new materials and drugs that will benefit EU citizens. The EuroHPC Joint Undertaking pools European and national resources to procure and deploy world-class supercomputers and technologies.

In addition to Vega in Slovenia, EuroHPC supercomputers have been acquired and are being installed in the following centres: Sofia Tech Park in Bulgaria, IT4Innovations National Supercomputing Center in Czechia, CINECA in Italy, LuxProvide in Luxembourg, Minho Advanced Computing Center in Portugal, and CSC – IT Center for Science in Finland. Moreover, a Commission proposal for a new Regulation for the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, presented in September 2020, aims to enable a further investment of €8 billion in the next generation of supercomputers, including emerging technologies such as quantum computers. More information will be available in this press release by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking.

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