Europe Needs A Digital Regulator

1st May, 2015 — Laura Kalbag

Man in supermarket sees billboard: “John Anderton: how are your hemorrhoids? 100% off Preparation H”

In this week’s roundup we’ve got a new episode of Do Not Track and lots of follow-up on previous topics.

Like Mining

Hooray! This week another episode of our favourite interactive documentary series was released: Episode 3: ‘Like Mining’. Log in with your Facebook account during this ~10 minute easy-to-understand interactive video, and it’ll give you an idea of the information that can be derived from your Likes. Do Not Track have also got a handy list of links to related articles on the same page as their videos, so you can delve a little further into each topic.

Google wants to win friends and influence people

Google is spreading money around news platforms, including The Guardian, with its €150 million Digital News Initiative fund. Google are looking to make friends and develop more products around news. Jane Martinson in the Guardian speculates that “The Digital News Initiative is likely to be seen as an attempt for Google to improve its image after recently being accused of anti-competitive behaviour.”

However, we’re concerned about the influence that this money buys, both consciously and unconsciously. It’s human nature to not want to bite the hand that feeds you. The Guardian has been a fantastic source of analytical and critical journalism in the tech industry, and has focused on privacy and corporate surveillance where few others have bothered. We’ve included a Guardian article every week since the roundups began. We know the majority of the writers are independent, so we hope the involvement with Google won’t affect the publishing decisions of the newspaper.


Europe needs a digital regulator

We’ve looked at the Google antitrust battle lately, and the goings-on with regulation in Europe. Frank Pasquale looks to the future, and why Europe needs a digital regulator. Corporations with investors will grow huge and monopolistic in their nature, and so we need long-term thinking from well-informed individuals to help keep ahead of the enormous Silicon Valley legal teams.

“This is far-sighted, important planning. The new economy demands a new regulatory body, with the ability to continually monitor the law-like power now assumed by major digital platforms to themselves.”

The poor will pay by surrendering their data

Evgeny Morozov looks at Hal Varian’s rule for predicting the future: “we just have to look at what rich people already have and assume that the middle classes will have it in five years and poor people will have it in 10.” Evgeny explains how the rule is flawed, and how rich and poor alike pay for many of these services: with their data.

He also points out that poorer people are particularly shortchanged in these exchanges because they are drawn into these services with a choice of paying with their data, or being excluded. There’s no affordable alternative. We’ve looked at digital feudalism in recent weeks, Aral has written about it, and Evgeny also draws this conclusion of the poor paying by surrendering their data with Facebook’s

On venture capital

A few weeks ago, we looked at the problems with venture capital. Unfortunately, for Get Satisfaction co-founder Lane Becker, their acquisition by Sprinklr left the venture capitalists with all the money, washing out its founders. This speaks to the dangers of getting into the venture capital game, where as Shri Bhashyam of EquityZen puts it:

“We likened this aspect of venture capital to a game of musical chairs, where the chairs are the money, and the VC always gets a chair.”

What are those cheeky corporations up to this week?


Facebook has warned regulators that investigations into their platform will delay features for European users. If the delay of these features is down to more thorough adherence to regulation, and fewer compromises on the privacy of Facebook users, then maybe this isn’t such a bad thing?


Google is now moving into the WiFi and mobile/cellular network space with Project Fi. At risk of sounding like I’m repeating myself, it’s the same deal as we see in many of these Google moves. Brian Haven, a data analyst with International Data Corporation (IDC) data repeats it instead:

“I’m not sure they're trying to become a big-time wireless player, but by becoming a wireless service, it allows Google to gain a lot more data from new end points with users. Data is what drives them. Regardless of whether or not they can generate a nice revenue stream, the data will still feed into the other things they do.”

Homeland Security gets comfy in Silicon Valley

The Department of Homeland Security is opening an office in Silicon Valley, largely in an attempt to recruit from Silicon Valley companies. If only we knew the implications of this move on the NSA programs such as PRISM

Given Enough Money, All Bugs Are Shallow

You don’t have to be a programmer or hacker to find Jeff Atwood’s post on security bugs interesting. Jeff compares the positives and negatives of relying on open source communities to find and report security bugs in code, to relying on commercial bug bounty programmes which reward people with large amounts of money. He comes to the conclusion that open source projects need better funding, and more competition for ecosystem diversity, and that money could easily skew the incentives for software security. Overall, Jeff remains hopeful that good people will freely report security bugs in open source software because:

“It is the right thing to do™ and they want to contribute back to open source projects that have helped them, and the world.”

Next week: Republica!

Next week, Aral, Jo and I will be in Berlin for Republica, so I’m hoping next week’s roundup will bring you the best things we learn from the event. Remember to give us a shout if you’ll be in Berlin, as we’d love to meet you.