Digitrade Digest #5

BEUC files complaint against TikTok for multiple EU consumer law breaches, EU civil rights groups want ban on biometric surveillance, Tech lobbyists sue to overturn Maryland digital tax

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Digitrade Headlines

BEUC files complaint against TikTok for multiple EU consumer law breaches

BEUC: “The European Consumer Organisation BEUC has today filed a complaint with the European Commission and the network of consumer protection authorities against TikTok, a video sharing platform extremely popular with children and teenagers. In addition to BEUC’s complaint, consumer organisations in 15 countries have alerted their authorities and urged them to investigate the social media giant’s conduct.

Based on the findings of new research, BEUC contends that TikTok falls foul of multiple breaches of EU consumer rights and fails to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.”

EU civil rights groups want ban on biometric surveillance ahead of new laws

Reuters: “The group called Reclaim Your Face is made up of the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, European Digital Rights, Privacy International and nearly 30 other organisations, warned of the dangers of biometric data captured via CCTV cameras and facial recognition technology.

The coalition, which aims to gather one million signatures so it can take part directly in the legislative process, said it has already collected evidence of vast and systemic abuses of people’s biometric data across Europe.

“This is about everyone’s control over their own future,” Orsolya Reich, senior advocacy officer at the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, said in a statement.

“We can already see this happening with the way AI is used to make decisions about us. Biometric mass surveillance will just feed more data from more people into these systems and make these practices even more widespread and harmful,” she said.”

Big Tech’s Bullying Campaigns

The American Prospect: “Facebook banning an individual for violating terms of service is one thing. Banning an entire array of organizations, not just news sites but trade unions, legal aid, charities, domestic-violence hotlines, police departments, and even health services, from essential communications infrastructure is outright dangerous. It’s almost as if Google and Facebook are playing a good cop/bad cop routine to try and blunt the law. More important, it signals a warning to stop other countries from even thinking about going through with such a hassle to get news publishers paid.

This has become the modus operandi for Big Tech: pick fights, escalate disputes, and operate as if they exist outside the law. It’s what has led Facebook and others to declare Mexico’s effort to reform social media as a violation of the recent North American trade pact. (This was completely predictable, after the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement included a digital-trade chapter that protected tech firms from liability for pirated or illegal content.) It’s what has led Amazon, Google, and Facebook’s lead U.S. trade group, the Internet Association, to sue to block a new law passed in Maryland that would for the first time tax online ad revenue.”

The EU says it’s going to get tough on trade — and that could have ramifications for U.S., China

CNBC: “The European Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 27 member states, proposed on Thursday new tools to become a more “assertive” player in global trade. The region is a top trading partner for 74 nations around the world and two-way trade accounts for about 43% of its total GDP growth, according to data from the commission.

“The challenges we face require a new strategy for EU trade policy,” the EU’s trade chief, Valdis Dombrovskis, said Thursday.

“It should also give us the tools to defend ourselves when we face unfair trade practices. We are pursuing a course that is open, strategic and assertive, emphasizing the EU’s ability to make its own choices and shape the world around it,” he added.”

Lobbies for tech sue to overturn Maryland digital tax

Axios: “Driving the news: Last week, the Maryland legislature voted to overturn Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of the state's first-in-the-nation digital tax law, which aims to raise money for education initiatives in the state by taxing digital advertising from the biggest companies.

What's happening: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Internet Association, NetChoice, the Computer & Communications Industry Association, and TechNet joined in the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern Division of Maryland.

  • Their lawsuit asserts that Maryland's tax violates the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act and also the Constitution's due process clause “by burdening and penalizing purely out-of-state conduct.”

Developing countries and trade negotiations on e-commerce

UNCTAD: “Like in previous technological revolutions, the benefits from digital transformations will be immense, but they will not materialize automatically. The outcome will depend on policies, regulations and measures undertaken at both national and international levels to build the capabilities needed for countries to deal with technological disruptions. Development-friendly e-commerce regulation therefore matters.

Against this background, UNCTAD provides more evidence and analysis that can help developing countries to acquire a better understanding on the development implications of various issues under discussion in the JSI negotiations. In a new report entitled, What is at stake for developing countries in trade negotiations on e-commerce? The case of the Joint Statement Initiativewe assess various options for harnessing e-commerce for sustainable development. Our hope is that the insights gained would serve to assist developing countries in positioning themselves vis-à-vis the JSI negotiations as well as e-commerce negotiations in other trade forums, including at regional level, as well as in developing their national e-commerce policies and regulations.”

The Digitrade Digest is a weekly publication of the Digital Rights group at Public Citizen.