miércoles, 21 de septiembre de 2016

Human Rights on the Internet

Without any doubts, both the traditional and online media pay more attention to the economist side of the Internet than to its humanistic side. it is not difficult to read all the days pieces of news and reports regarding the new services brought by the digital disruption and its impact on growth, also we receive through different media the news of the latest online consumer services and new manners to  take advantage of our leisure time. Unfortunately, less information and news are available about the impact of the new and shining world of online services on our rights as human beings.

There is a rationale behind this lack of news regarding human rights on the online world: there are more national an international organisations devoted to understand the consequences of the technology in the economic activity and promote the appropiate measures to adapt the production activity to the new paradigm. One of the few points of activity regarding human rights online is the United Nations, nearly all the papers and resolutions regarding the information society produced by UN institutions have some kind of reference to privacy, freedom of information or inequality on the Internet. Unfortunately, less and less attention is paid to UN resolutions in old Europe.

Last June, the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) approved a resolution regarding "The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet". Although not all the country delegations have voted in favour of the resolution, the document is an excellent base for the developing of a much needed common understanding on the issue. There is a strong connection between privacy online and freedom of expression on the network, as well as we can appreciate new forms of discrimination on the online world that bring us memories of overcomed prejudices.

The commitments of the resolution started with a strong affirmation that we should enjoy the same rights online as offline, particularly the freedom of expression and highlighting the connection of rights on the Internet and the role of the network on economic progress. The Council also recalled the need of spreading digital literacy to overcome any type of digital divide, particularly the gender digital divide, and encourage the development of services that are accesible to all in order to allow anyone to reap the benefits of the digital era. Finally, the Council enshrined collaboration based onn the multistakeholder model, especially in cybersecurity, to combat the new digital faces of human right violations, advocacy of hatred and other kind of abuses.

To sum up, a reference document for the future. I certainly expect the report on ways to bridge the digital divide on human rights promised in the document. Human rights by default should be one of design principles of digital services.

miércoles, 14 de septiembre de 2016

The year that Europe takes #cybersecurity seriously

It is nothing new saying that the lack of security perception is hindering the adoption of online services. Repeatedly, surveys has shown that the issues related with cybersecurity are the main concern that Internet users have about using the Internet for things like online banking or buying things online. According with the 2015 Eurobarometer on cybersecurity, when citizens buy online they are overwhelmingly more worried about the misuse of personal data (mentioned by 43%) or the security of online payments (42%) than  about not receiving goods or services that they buy online (22%). 

In spite of this background, Europe has repeatedly failed until now in the efforts to build a common cybersecurity strategy. The European Commission has put forward several EU security strategies 
  • In 2001, the Commission adopted a Communication on "Network and Information Security: Proposal for A European Policy Approach" (COM(2001)298)
  • In 2006, it adopted a Strategy for a Secure Information Society (COM(2006)251)
  • In 2013, it was adopted Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union: An Open, Safe and Secure Cyberspace  (JOIN(2013) 1)

However, as the Eurobarometer mentioned above shows, the concerns on cibersecurity issues grows as times goes by. Fortunately, it looks that the last of these strategies is giving its fruits in 2016. Last july was finally approved the first shared EU security legal framework, the NIS directive.

The approval of the NIS Directive is an event that radically changed the European cybersecurity environment. The long period of three years of negotiation has been valuable and the new regulation really has the seeds to achieve high level of cybersecurity in Europe. The Directive will provide Europe with:
  • A higher Member States preparedness level, by requiring them to establish Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) and a competent national NIS authority
  • A framework for cooperation among all the Member States, both at the strategic as for the operational level of cyber security (although the later is voluntary)
  • A set of obligations for operators of essential services for the society (energy, transport, water, banking, financial market infrastructures, healthcare and digital infrastructure), which will be obliged to take appropriate security measures and to notify serious incidents to the relevant national authority

The NIS Directive is a changing-game event that paves the way to new ambitions. Taking advantage of the new scenario is the main objective of the new EU cybersecurity strategy.

The new cyber security plan for Europe has a two-fold objective. On one side, it aims to increase Europe cyber resilience. On the other hand, it aims to boost European sovereignty in cyber security area through the promotion of its cyber security industry. The first goal will be reached by using the cooperation instruments laid in the NIS Directive and through the renewal of ENISA. The second goal will have a contractual public-private partnership (PPP) between the EC and the industry under the umbrella of H2020 as its main tool.

It looks that Europe has taken seriously cyber security in 2016. The completion of the Digital Single Market heavily depends on creating a secure online environment. It would be better if it works this new approach.

miércoles, 7 de septiembre de 2016

The end of the "mere conduit" principle (II)

Some months ago, I wrote about the foreseeable review of the "mere conduit" principle that we were bound to attend in 2016. To cut a history short, since the origin of the commercial Internet around 2000 hosting providers have not been liable of the storage of an illegal content as long as they do not have knowledge of its illegality. In Europe, the principle is enshrined in the E-Commerce directive. The time for the legal review of this principle has effectively come.

On one hand, the recent wave of terrorism in Europe has provoked an analysis of the role of social media as a tool for spreading the extremism and hate. Since the beginning of the year, both governments from America and Europe have required the help from Silicon Valley to fight against online terrorism propaganda. Although, the social media companies have disseminated their efforts, some policy-makers are not fully happy with the state of things. The measures taken by the social media companies are based in voluntary collaboration and in UK some voices in the Parliament are calling for the strenghtening of the obligation to collaborate. This could imply more legal liabilities for digital platforms regarding the terrorism apology and extremist contents.

On the other hand, there are also voices calling for a different distribution of Internet content revenues. Due to the "mere conduit" principle, the digital platforms have obtained revenues for the publication of links and contents with few responsibility on the legality of them from a copyright perspective. However, again in a voluntary basis, digital platforms introduce measures to to ensure the functioning” of the agreements with rightsholders, like the ContentID in youtube. This relationship model looks it will be reviewed in the forthcoming overhauling of copyright rules in Europe. Again it seems that the voluntary agreements between digital platforms and rightholders would end to pave the way to obligatory agreements.

Of course, the GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are against these movements calling for maintaining the voluntary scheme for the sake of innovation. But this time, even in the USA , are some movements against maintaining the "mere conduit" principle interpretation as it is interpreted today. The US courts have found that an Internet provider was liable for the alleged copyright infringement carried out by its customers. This could be a precedent to be extended to the digital platforms.

So it looks that we are really walking towards a reinterpretation of the "mere conduit" principle. This would create a new balance of the economic power within the internet value chain and surely the end of the Internet as we know.

martes, 30 de agosto de 2016

Augmented reality: selling thin air

Draft material for the post "Pikachu, guardian del mundo hibrido" (Spanish), 

The fever goes on. This last summer we have seen in many corners in every street unexpected crowds, with each person of the group focused in the screen of his smartphone. The first augmented reality game for the great public arrived out of the blue, not even the Simpson predicted PokemonGo in spite of the rumours

PokemonGo is showing how augmented reality opens venues for new business opportunities. We are seeing nothing more than proofs of concept, but a hint  of the future to come. For instance, there is a clear link of the case of someone that becomes a full-time PokemonGo hunter and the appearance in eBay of PokemonGo accounts for sale. Your profile as a PokemonGo hunter is becoming an status symbol and, therefore, valuable. Augmented reality bring us the possibility of creating consumer items from thin air and a new class of manufacturers of virtuality.

Enabling the manufacturing of virtuality within augmented reality poses also new challenges regarding several rights connected with the usage of physical spaces that are used as scenarios. On one hand, we should remember the controversial debate around the freedom of panorama. Could be the the usage of an art work in a physical scenario considered a violation of copyright?. On the other hand, personal data protection frameworks also impose obligations of signalling the passers-by a possible capture of its image. Finally, it is not obvious that the usage  of the interior of buildings as scenarios of augmented reality games could be done without the consent of the owner. Whatever the final way to deal with these concerns, are enabling another new possible source of incomes for the owners of property or even taxes as a kind of "rights of pass" in the virtual world. 

Last but not least, an old business of the digital world that is leaping ahead with the augmented reality games: the virtual game coins in apps. Probably, this kind of item was the first type of virtual item that has been sold. But the revenues in augmented reality games are the triple than in legacy apps (3$bn a year in PokemonGo vs 1$bn a year in CandyCrush). Would in the future even virtual game coins from augmented reality games being accepted in the real world?

New products from nothing. Welcome to the era of selling thin air.

domingo, 14 de agosto de 2016

"La cocina de la escritura" - Daniel Cassany

La cocina de la escrituraLa cocina de la escritura by Daniel Cassany
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nuestra vida se desarrolla entre juegos con la palabra escrita. A veces, nos lanzamos con frenesí sobre las cuartillas; otras, nos escondemos de los útiles de escritura amilanados por la tarea. Cuanto más consciente hayas sido de haber vivido alguna vez en ambos escenarios, más disfrutarás de este libro.

Aprender a escribir no lo hacemos en la escuela; como mucho, nos preparan para emborronar páginas dentro de unos mínimos de corrección gramatical. Lejos queda que nos ilustren sobre el objetivo real de la escritura: comunicar mediante un texto. Sólo libros como "La cocina de la escritura" nos enseñan las rutinas y fórmulas de una escritura eficaz.

Las páginas del libro nos conducen por las sendas metodológicas y los caminos del correcto diseño de un texto. Las técnicas de maduración de ideas y planificación de un pasaje escrito, las longitudes adecuadas de frases y párrafos, la selección de marcadores de texto, el filtrado crítico de las palabras elegidas, el auto maquetado de nuestras páginas ... Podemos encontrar referencias teóricas y prácticas del buen y mal uso de los utensilios que han de colgar alrededor de nuestros particulares fogones de escritores, sean de uso profesional o en tiempo libre.

El autor repite frecuentemente que "Escribir es reescribir". Aprender a escribir, cómo el texto perfecto, nunca se alcanza. Lee el libro si escribes, y si escribes lo volverás a leer una y mil veces.

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lunes, 8 de agosto de 2016

"The power of habit" - Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many times, we ask ourselves for the reason of our acts and behaviours, particularly those we repeat frequently or those we would like to stop doing. This book helps us on the quest for answers. It starts by building up a framework to explain how the habits work and accross its pages gives us clues for changing them (If we like).

Habits aré the answer to an stimulus or a cue. When the cue is part of our daily life, the need to react will not dissapear whatever the efforts we will do. It is easier to change the reaction. And the reaction is the path towards a compensation. We need to study seriously the 3-chain model described above (cue-reaction-compensation) to change a habit.

But the book also gives us another valuable lessons. Firstly, that habits exist not only in individuals, companies and communities have also their routines. Secondly, the influence on the individuals' reactions of the behaviour of their closer relationship environment. Last but not least, how the stronger incentive to change our habits is ourselves, willpower is the main driver for change our routines.

To sum up, you are the main responsible of your behaviour. The assumption of this responsibility  is the rational path to success. You only need to develop the right habits.

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miércoles, 27 de julio de 2016

Brief introduction to surveillance capitalism

Some weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend a keynote speech given by Shoshana Zuboff. Many people study the digital transformation we are living and makes easier to others to understand it, but it is difficult to find someone who is more brilliant explaining the excesses and rationale of the greed for information of Internet giants.

Her speech was around the concept of "surveillance capitalism", which she defines in one of her papers as "a new form of information capitalism that  aims to predict and modify human behavior as a means to produce revenue and market control".  Silently, we are attending a mutation of capitalism based on the accumulation of data assets. As she warns, we have lived previous technology revolutions that have brings new levels of automatisation "But when it comes to information technology, automation simultaneously generates information that provides a deeper level of transparency to activities that had been either partially or completely opaque". This new source of knowledge becomes in a source of unlimited power to those who are in control of it. The data originated from automatisation and mediation of activities starts up a virtuous circle of creation of services based on behaviour that generates new information and, therefore, new services. 

Until the present century, capitalism was based on the division of labour. After many generations, we reached a balance (probably not fair enough) between firms and workers based on the awareness of the unity of worker-customers. The companies saw the human beings as the source of customers and employers, and therefore there was an interdependence between the progress of companies and workers-customers. This is not the case of the Internet giants, the so called GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon). On one hand. although they are heading the list of more valued companies the number of employees are a few ten of thousands ( As contrast: at the height of its power in 1953, General Motors was the world’s largest private employer). On the other hand, they break the unity worker-customers through mediation. GAFA customers are not the consumers but the private companies who hire the ads and other services.  So in "surveillance capitalism" the value of human beings for companies are not as worker-customer but merely as a source of information and the new power is not based in the division of labour but in the division of learning.  The more the companies are able to learn the more powerful they are, so it is needed a new equilibrium around data: Who participates and how? Who decides who participates? What happens when authority fails?

The rationale described above is behind the interest of GAFA in avoiding regulation related with the management digital information, not the risk of stifling the innovation. As Shosana Zubof says, the strategy to capture data is "incursions into legally and socially undefended territory until resistance is encountered". Therefore, the bigger the lack of regulation regarding the handling of information, the less the resistance and the better for increasing their resources of data. And therefore, their power.  

This is only an introduction on surveillance capitalism. In this summer, read a paper or essay written by Shoshana Zubof. You will feel like Neo in his first minutes out of the Matrix.
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