Displaying items by tag: Government

Germany to hold 5G frequency auction

Written on Tuesday, 19 March 2019 06:18

Germany’s attempt to catch up with the digital era starts this week when the auction for airwaves to build ultra fast 5G wireless networks will begin.

This technology is crucial at the moment since Europe’s biggest economy seeks to transition from old-school engineering to catch up with the new digital age.

The country seems to be behind in the race of mobile network speeds compared to Qatar, Albania and Moldova.

Rubin Ritter, co-chief executive officer of Europe’s biggest online fashion retailer Zalando said, “Updating Germany’s digital infrastructure is very important. There are moments when customers have difficulties accessing our app.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government have promised to create new and advanced digital infrastructure. It expects an income worth around 5 billion Euros however the actual amount of the bill is difficult to predict at this moment in time.

They aim to allow family-owned manufacturers and corporate behemoths to digitize production processes and create data services.

The bidders comprise of current network operators such as Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica.

The auction starts on Tuesday and it comes with legal issues over the terms and conditions as well as pressure on the country’s government to Huawei equipment due to growing global security concerns.

On Friday, Huawei’s Western European chief told Business Daily Handelsblatt that they “would never build back doors into our devices or pass on data illegally.” He continued, “We would also be ready to sign a no-spy-agreement with the German government.”

5G technology guarantees super fast internet speed which is said to be able to download a full-length film in a matter of seconds.

The telecommunications industry, after experiencing a steady decline in share prices over the past few years, is hoping that this new technology will bring up new opportunities of communication such as holographic chats and potentially some fresh revenue streams into the industry.

Deutsche Telekom plans to invest 20 billion Euros in Germany over the next few years aiming to introduce high speed internet and 5G services. This investment levels caused many bidders to file lawsuits against the government’s conditions for the auction some of which included providing download speeds of 100 megabits per second to 98% of German homes, all highways and federal roads by the end of 2022.

A court eliminated the lawsuits so the auction can now carry on as planned.

“Driving with a car through Germany you lose your cellular connection every 5km. The network infrastructure we have right now in Germany is a big weakness,” said Stefan Brandl, chief executive officer of EBM-Papst.

Published in Telecom Operators

Security researcher Victor Gevers has uncovered a database of 1.8 million women in China who have their names, addresses, marital status, education levels, and phone numbers listed however the most troubling part of this database is the fact that women of a certain age group were also categorized as “breed ready”.

Gevers has said that anyone with an IP address has access to this database. This comes after his discovery of the Chinese database that leaked 300 million private messages last week.

“We don’t know who is behind this database and what the intention was… that is the part that worries us the most,” said Gevers. Most of the women in the database were located in Beijing.

Gevers reported the database on Twitter and had it closed down by 4am ET on Monday. 

Some of the women are linked to their Facebook profiles and as Facebook is banned in China, they must have accessed it through the use of a VPN.

“In China, they have a shortage of women. So an organization started to build a database to start registering over 1.8 million women with all kinds of details like phone numbers, addresses, education, location, ID number, marital status, and a “BreedReady” status?” he tweeted.

Also, around 90 per cent of the women on that list were listed as single and were between the ages of 15 and 95. The “BreedReady” women were categorized,  the youngest status was given to 18 year olds and the oldest with the status was 39.

The purpose of this database still remains uncertain however, many internet users said that it may have been the Chinese government’s effort to track the fertility of Chinese women as China’s birth rate has hit an all-time low.

China’s National Statistics Bureau found that only 15 million children were born in 2018 which was 2 million less than the previous year.

Published in Government

House of Lords call for new centralized Digital Regulator

Written on Tuesday, 12 March 2019 08:16

The House of Lords has called for a new central digital super-regulator to be created in order to inspect the different bodies protecting the internet and to replace the ‘clearly failing’ system of self regulation in place.

The Lords’ communications committee report has recommended a new Digital Authority. The report warns that the contribution of several regulators for the digital realm can be more problematic than helpful as it creates overlaps and gaps.

The report also states that large tech companies have failed to tackle cybersecurity issues and Ofcom should, in the future, expand their services to involve implementing a duty of care on those companies.

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, Chair of the committee, stated: “The government should not just be responding to news headlines but looking ahead so that the services that constitute the digital world can be held accountable to an agreed set of principles.”

He continued: “Self-regulation by online platforms is clearly failing and the current regulatory framework is out of date. The evidence we heard made a compelling and urgent case for a new approach to regulation. Without intervention, the largest tech companies are likely to gain ever more control of technologies which extract personal data and make decisions affecting people’s lives.”

The Lords said that the new Digital Authority should be guided by 10 guiding principles pertaining to online regulation. Some of these basic principles include: transparency, parity, recognition of childhood, accountability, privacy and human rights.

Last month, a Digital Culture, Media and Sport committee held Facebook responsible for being run by “digital gangsters” and as a result, recommending that tech and social media companies could regulate themselves independently under a ‘code of ethics’ which could be overseen by Ofcom.

The report by the Lords echoed this sentiment. It stated that self-regulation from internet behemoths from the likes of Google and Facebook were “clearly failing”.

Lord Panteg wrote: “Policy makers across different sectors have not responded adequately to changes in the digital world.”
He added: "The Digital Authority should be empowered to instruct regulators to address specific problems or areas. In cases where this is not possible because problems are not within the remit of any regulator, the Digital Authority should advise the Government and Parliament that new or strengthened legal powers are needed.”

The report recommends many changes to already existing regulations whether the Digital Authority is created or not. An example of these proposed changes is the public interest test for mergers and acquisitions which would protect peoples’ data from being bought and sold with no prior consent from the individual.

Additionally, the report recognizes the power which this new Digital Authority would hold and justified it by stating: “This is necessary because of the magnitude of urgent social and political problems caused by regulatory fragmentation in the digital world. These problems are less likely to become more complex as technology develops.”

Internet giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook were not held in high regard amongst the Lords, especially in the report.

It concluded, “Major platforms have failed to invest in their moderation systems, leaving moderators overstretched and inadequately trained. Online platforms should make community standards clearer through a new classification framework akin to that of the British Board of Film Classification.”

Published in Government

France to increase taxes on internet giants

Written on Thursday, 07 March 2019 08:35

French President Emmanuel Macron has planned to implement an increase in taxes on internet giants such as Google and Facebook.

After failing to convince his European counterparts to introduce it as an EU-wide tax, he decided to implement it in his own country. Many EU officials were against the idea such as Ireland which is well-known for its low-tax jurisdictions.

The matter will be discussed by cabinet ministers and then submitted to Parliament. The proposal put forward regarding the new tax mechanism suggests that lare companies operating within France are subject to a tax of three per cent on their digital sales made within the territory.

This weekend, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Parisien, “The amount obtained from this three per cent tax on digital gross sales in France from January1, 2019 should soon reach 500 million Euros.”

This new tax is called “GAFA tax” which stands for Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

Indeed, the European Commission found that Apple paid just 0.005 per cent of corporate tax on its European profits in 2014 which equates to approximately 50 Euros per million. As a result, in 2016 Apple was ordered by the European Commission to make a payment of 13 billion Euros in taxes to Ireland.

Under EU law, internet giants are expected to report their income which has prompted them to opt for low-tax nations for business such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Under the legislation which will be presented by French politician Bruno Le Maire on Wednesday, digital companies with sales of more than 750 million euros per year globally and more than 25 million n France will be taxed.

Le Maire stated, “If these two critera are not met, the taxes will not be imposed.”

He also said that around 30 companies in China, Germany, the US, Spain and the UK will be affected by this tax.

According to Le Maire, taxing such companies “is a question of fiscal justice” because “digital giants pay 14 per cent less tax than small- and medium-sized European companies.”

Ireland, Sweden and Denmark have refused the EU’s efforts to implement a new tax due to fear of decreased investment. Germany had a somewhat neutral stance on the matter as it feared an adverse response from the S against its car industry.

While the prospect of enforcing this tax within Europe has failed, France is hoping for a global agreement by 2020.

France is trying to pursue “common ground” on the issue with members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which is comprised of representatives from the most advanced economies in the world.

 Britain, Italy and Spain have also been working on a new digital tax while Singapore, Japan and India are in the process of planning their own schemes.

Recently, aggressive legal action by tax authorities has been taken against these companies.

Just last month, Apple reached an agreement to pay 10 years’ worth of backtracked taxes which amounted to nearly 500 million Euros.

However in 2017, France tax collection drive experienced a setback when their court action against Google resulted in the internet giant not being liable to pay 101 billion Euros in taxes from revenues which were reportedly transferred from France to Ireland.

French tax is “symbolic and does not solve the problem of massive fiscal evastion,” said Raphael Pradeau from the anti-globalisation lobby group Attac. “It’s as if we accept that such firms can practice tax evasion in return for a few crumbs.”

Published in Government

The profiles and personal messages of 364 million users of Chinese social media sites were leaked online, exposing private records such as photos and identity card numbers which were being gathered by the Chinese government through a surveillance program.

Cybersecurity researcher for the NGO GDI Foundation, Victor Gevers, revealed in a series of tweets that the Chinese government was using a social media surveillance program which was “retrieving messages per province from 6 social platforms and extracts named, ID numbers, ID photos, GPS locations, network information, and all the conversations an file transfers get imported into a large online database.”

He continued “Around 364 million online profiles and their chats & file transfers get processed daily. Then these accounts get linked to a real ID/person. The date is then distributed over police stations per city/province to separate operators’ databases with the same surveillance network name.”

Gevers went on to say that the program used to retrieve all the private and sensitive information looked “like a jerry-rigged PRISM clone of the NSA.” NSA was the US government’s surveillance system that Edward Snowden revealed back in 2013.

In a direct message on Twitter, Gevers voiced some of his concerns regarding the situation.

“These surveillance systems are dangerous when they are open and fully accessible to anyone, which increases the risk of remote data manipulation. We have seen databases get ‘ransomed’ in the past.”

A great deal of the leaked data included information about cybercafés, which Gevers pointed out in a screenshot and said that those cafes may have been used as a potential tool to gather data on users.

QQ and WeChat were among the six Chinese messaging services which are both operated by Tencent.

In the past, WeChat denied their monitoring of user chat logs for government surveillance, however according to the Chinese legal system, all internet companies operating in China are expected to collect and store user data locally in case of an official inspection.

Security researcher Jane Manchun Wong said: “If sensitive information was exchanged in some of those conversations, it could have been sold to black markets, the same way how stolen credit card info from compromised databases work.”

She continued, “Except this one, it’s effortless to hackers. They could essentially just walk in and everything seems to be in plain text and accessible without any login information.”

The database was allegedly secured after Gevers exposed the issue.

There have been a few major leaks in China over the past few years.

Just last month Gevers reported a case regarding a Chinese tech company, SenseNets, which stored the data of 2.6 million people in the region of Xinjiang which is of Muslim majority and is under heavy police surveillance.  The data included the ID numbers and addresses of the residents.

Published in Government

Trump reconsiders 5G nationalization plan

Written on Thursday, 07 March 2019 08:04

US president Donald Trump revisited a previous plan to nationalize 5G in the US after it had been previously scrapped in 2018 due to industry backlash.

President Donald Trump’s 2020  re-election campaign backtracked on the prospect of 5G wireless technology after it seemed to contradict the White House’s administration policy.

Trump’s admin began to discuss this prospect in January 2018 in an attempt to one-up their main competitor, China.

Politico reported that this plan would ensure the government have full control over the 5G spectrum to create a wholesale market where operators could buy capacity.

“A 5G wholesale market would drive down costs and provide access to millions of Americans who are currently underseved,” said Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign to Politico on Friday. She added “this is in line with President Trump’s agenda to benefit all Americans, regardless of geography.”

The resurgence of the campaign put it in an unfavorable position with White House administration officials who have been adamant on dropping the original plan of a free market approach after the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC), Ajit Pai’s,  criticism against the matter.

5G technology is not yet readily available for the public.

Axios reported that Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, believes that promoting a nationalized system could potentially general more votes from citizens in rural areas who want faster internet.

According to Business Insider, 5G is “next generation, super-fast wireless technology [which] has become a real, tangible thing that people can actually use.. Right now, only a tiny number of eople across a very limited spread of locations have access to 5G. For most of us, 5G is still a mystery, full of tantalizing promise but few details.”

Some members of the Trump administration such as Larry Kuldow, are wary of the nationalization of 5G as it would mean that private companies like Verizon and AT&T would be able to build it out.

Last month, trump expressed his concerns about 5G and its dominance by telling US operators to “step up their efforts” and criticized them for “lagging behind on something that is so obviously the future.”

As an attempt to reiterate his opposition to the prospect of network nationalization, Pai reposted a tweet from January 2018 which stated “The market, not the government, is best-positioned to drive innovation and investment.”

Similarly, some FCC commissioners such as Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr both expressed their opposition to the idea on social media while others even went as far as comparing it as a “China-like nationalization” of 5G networks.

In early February, Trump tweeted:

“I want 5G, and even 6G, technology in the United States as soon as possible. It is far more powerful, faster, and smarter than the current standard. American companies must step up their efforts, or get left behind.”

“I want the United States to win through competition, not by blocking out currently more advanced technologies.

“We must always be the leader in everything we do, especially when it comes to the very exciting world of technology!”

Published in Government

Canada begins extradition of Huawei executive to the US

Written on Tuesday, 05 March 2019 11:15

Canada’s decision to begin extradition proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has sparked an angry backlash in Beijing.

The prominent Huawei executive who is also the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei was arrested and detained in Vancouver in December for allegedly violating US trade sanctions with Iran.

Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China has deteriorated following the arrest of Wanzhou - and a number of Canadian diplomats were subsequently arrested in Beijing in what was seen as a retaliatory tactic in response to her arrest.

However, tensions have now escalated following the announcement by Canadian officials that it will begin extradition proceedings of Wanzhou to the United States. Beijing said Ottawa’s decision was tantamount to a ‘severe political incident’.

The Canadian government released a statement in which it stressed that after engaging in a thorough review decided to formally commence with the extradition process.

The statement read, “Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou. The decision was made after we had conducted a thorough and diligent review which found sufficient evidence to warrant putting the matter before a judge.”

At the conclusion of the process -- which could last months, or even years -- Canada's attorney general will have the final say on whether or not to hand Meng over.

Beijing on Saturday voiced its "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to Canada, which obstinately moves forward the so-called judicial extradition process."

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement the US and Canada were "abusing their bilateral extradition treaty to apply arbitrary coercive measures against Chinese citizens, in violation of their rights and legitimate interests".

Kang described the decision by the Canadian government as a severe political incident and said the arrest was part of a politically motivated campaign being led by the US to discredit Chinese technology leaders such as Huawei and ZTE in an effort to gain control in the ongoing trade dispute between the United States and Chinese officials.

Published in Telecom Vendors

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has vowed to work closely with Polish authorities in order to ensure it plays a key role in the buildout of its 5G networks.

Reports are claiming that Huawei executives will meet with officials from the Polish government in a bid to iron out any major security concerns that the country may have following the ongoing allegations that the Chinese vendor is a risk to national security.

Huawei also became embroiled in controversy last month, when one of its executives was arrested on suspicion of espionage.

Huawei’s senior standards manager in Europe, Georg Mayer, insisted that there has been no slowdown of sales of end-user equipment in Poland despite the negative press.

However, he acknowledged that if the negative press and scaremongering regarding Huawei’s security continues then it will eventually negatively impact business.

Huawei has reportedly offered to build a cybersecurity centre in Poland in another effort to show its commitment to addressing the security issues that have come to the fore in recent months.

In addition to this, Huawei’s head fiure in Poland, Tonny Bao, said the company was ready to establish a cyber security focused operation in the country “if authorities accept this as a trusted solution”.

The company has set up information security labs in Germany and the UK, designed to assure authorities its equipment is safe.

Published in Telecom Vendors

The US government has confirmed that the proposed merger deal between telecommunication operators T-Mobile US and Sprint will undergo a forensic examination in an effort to determine whether or not the deal represents the best interests of consumers.

Published in Telecom Operators

The French government has announced that it will be instructing operators to allow them more oversight and control in relation to the rollout of 5G networks due to increased security concerns.

The decision by the French government comes on the back of speculation that a number of Western nations are considering banning Chinese telecommunications vendor Huawei from bidding on contracts for 5G deployment, amidst fears that Beijing would be able to gain access to sensitive communications and infrastructure.

Huawei should be the go-to vendor for operators globally, as it is well-ahead of its European rivals Nokia and Ericsson in relation to 5G equipment. However, Washington are lobbying its allies to prevent the Chinese telecommunications behemoth from being involved in their 5G networks as US intelligence agencies have deemed them a serious threat to domestic security.

Guillaume Poupard, head of France's national cybersecurity agency ANSSI, said a new law could be drafted in the forthcoming number of months in an effort to ‘toughen and extend’ authorization requirements in order to be sure we control the entire 5G network.

However, he insisted that approvals would not be refused "because of a company's image, or its country of origin".

Poupard told AFP, "There aren't good equipment makers on the one hand and bad equipment makers on the other -- unfortunately the situation is much more complex. The need for oversight is all the more critical since the base stations and other infrastructure for ultrafast 5G networks are much less centralized than current 4G systems.”

Huawei’s chairman Liang Hua told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that it would pull out of partnerships in hostile countries.

Liang said, “We do not pose a threat to a future digital society. The United States has not yet put forward any evidence to justify its claim that Huawei’s equipment could serve as a Trojan horse for Beijing's security apparatus.”

Published in Telecom Operators
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