Displaying items by tag: Law

France's data watchdog (CNIL) announced a fine of 50 million euros ($57 million) for US search giant Google, using the EU's strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the first time.

Google was handed the record fine from the CNIL regulator for failing to provide transparent and easily accessible information on its data consent policies, a statement said. The CNIL said Google made it too difficult for users to understand and manage preferences on how their personal information is used, in particular with regards to targeted advertising.

“People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement. “We're studying the decision to determine our next steps.”

The ruling follows complaints lodged by two advocacy groups last May, shortly after the landmark GDPR directive came into effect. One was filed on behalf of some 10,000 signatories by France's Quadrature du Net group, while the other was by None Of Your Business, created by the Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems.

Schrems had accused Google of securing “forced consent” through the use of pop-up boxes online or on its apps which imply that its services will not be available unless people accept its conditions of use.

“Also, the information provided is not sufficiently clear for the user to understand the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google's legitimate business interests,” the CNIL said.

Published in Government

China’s internet regulator has issued a report in which it has outlined plans to formalize a new cybersecurity review which would represent a new challenge for foreign tech firms in what has become an increasingly volatile market for the tech sector. It has been an exceptionally difficult year for US technology companies in China - Uber sold off its operations, Apple services were discontinued in some parts - while Microsoft faced a new inquiry.

However, the latest proposal by the Cyberspace Administration of China looks set to create a new standoff - and further increase tensions between the US and China over internet policy. In the report submitted by the Cyberspace Administration it didn’t elaborate on what the government checks would entail, but it has been speculated that it is likely to consist of security checks targeting encryption and data storage.

Over the last number of years, a number of US and other foreign tech firms were subject to a series of secretive Chinese security reviews. The reviews involved employees of tech companies being asked to disclose specific information about certain products in person. This naturally set alarms bells ringing off among many US tech companies – and now the latest news regarding the proposed cybersecurity reviews being formalized by China has increased fears.

US companies fear that once subject to secretive reviews, Chinese authorities may use the checks to extract trade secrets, or find weaknesses in the products for state hackers. The reviews are run by a committee of engineers and experts with ties to China’s military and security agencies. It’s a further indication of China’s efforts to enhance the already unprecedented internet controls it has in place in the country.

China broadened their efforts to streamline cybersecurity management in the country – and seem intent on continuing this trend with the latest review. Only last month, it passed a new cybersecurity law which drew criticism from human rights groups and foreign companies. However, authorities seem undeterred by the scrutiny its policies in relation to cybersecurity have come under.

Beijing has struggled to balance its goal of fostering innovation with its desire to keep control over a communication medium it believes could be destabilizing. While it includes boilerplate references to opening up, the report makes clear that the government will continue to err on the side of control for now.

In a section subtitled “Peace,” the report said that Beijing would work to get ahead of a global cybersecurity arms race threatening international peace. In another part, the regulator said that China would use military means if necessary to protect its internet sovereignty. China has said in the past that the internet represents a new realm, akin to space, in which it must assert its rulership rights.

The new report is the clearest signal yet of the government’s intent to crystallize those checks into a formal policy.

Still, if China were to be more public about the checks, it could lead to copycat policies from other countries, analysts have said.

Drafts of proposed Chinese laws are typically released to domestic and foreign companies for comment. In this case, the reviews were carried out without formal legislative process, meaning that companies had little room to push back.

Published in Government

Germany are proposing to adopt new legislation that would hold major social media companies liable for provocative and inflammatory content that breaks German law. The government plan to impose heavy fines on companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter and others which fail to police, control and delete hate speech from its platforms. 

Angela Merkel’s coalition government devised the idea in an attempt to alleviate the growing problem of hate speech and fake news stories polluting social media channel in the country. Her cabinet believes companies should set-up clear channels for registering complaints -make the details of those complaints public, and hire legally qualified ombudsmen to carry out deletions.

Online platforms that fail to meet such legal requirements could be hit with fines calculated on the basis of their global annual turnover, or face on-the-spot fines of up to €500,000 if they neglect to remove posts in breach of German hate speech law within 24 hours.

Social media and the power of it is under the microscope following the seismic political shift that occurred in both the US and UK this year. Populist narratives, conspiracy theories and xenophobic rhetoric were at the forefront of the Brexit campaign in the UK, and then the shock election of Donald Trump in the USA. Social media was a powerful tool used during both campaigns. Those results have now left many people feeling nervous ahead of elections in Germany and France next year.

Germany already has in place some of the toughest laws in Europe in relation to hate speech, which includes prison sentences for Holocaust denial. A taskforce regarding hate speech was set-up by German Justice Minister Heiko Maas last year.

He met representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter, and the meeting was ultimately aimed at deleting illegal postings within 24 hours. However, a government report into the deletion of illegal postings have unearthed some unsatisfactory results.

It signalled clearly that tech companies are struggling to adapt adequately to the breaches of law on their platforms. Facebook only deleted 46%, YouTube just 10% and incredibly Twitter only deleted 1% of illegal content which was flagged by users.

Mass said: “We are already looking in detail at how we can make providers of online platforms criminally liable for undeleted content that breaks German law. Of course, if other measures don’t work we also need to think about fines. That would be a strong incentive for quick action. We urgently need more transparency.  Companies that make money with their social networks have social obligations – it cannot be in any company’s interest that their platform is used to commit crimes.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook and other leading tech firms react to the proposed legislation and new laws if passed, and the legality of collecting fines. Facebook is a US based company and it’s not clear whether or not Germany would have any recourse in collecting fines. The murky world of social media has just got murkier.

Published in Government

US satellite radio station Sirius XM  have agreed to pay $100 million in order to settle a dispute over playing music prior to 1972 – which is when US copyright laws came into force. Just last year, Sirius XM, which has its headquarters in New York, was forced to pay out a whopping $210 million over pre-1972 songs which were owned by major record labels.

Sirius XM – whose audience would be of the more mature variety, generally plays rock classics from the 60’s and 70’s, but this week a judge in LA ruled in favour of a series of class-action lawsuits against Sirius XM which were championed by 60’s group The Turtles – better known for their 1967 hit –‘Happy Together’.

The group also campaigned on behalf of smaller label and independent artists, and they argued that their music had still been protected by US states even though federal copyright law only applies to recordings starting on February 15, 1972. On the eve of a federal trial, lawyers The Turtles this week filed a proposed settlement with Sirius XM to resolve the suits in a federal court in Los Angeles.

If approved by federal judge Philip Gutierrez, Sirius XM will pay up to $100 million for past and future airing of pre-1972 songs, with the exact amount contingent on the network's revenue. The Turtles have a similar case pending against Pandora, the leading US internet radio network.

The United States has a complicated system of royalty payments that has long frustrated record labels and artists, with traditional radio stations paying only songwriters and not performers. The rise of internet and satellite music sites has muddled the waters further, with companies negotiating conditions with labels and publishers.

Published in Satellite Industry