European Union

UK report urges action to combat AI bias

The need for diverse development teams and truly representational data-sets to avoid biases being baked into AI algorithms is one of the core recommendations in a lengthy Lords committee report looking into the economic, ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence, and published today by the upper House of the UK parliament. “The main ways to address these kinds of biases are to ensure that developers are drawn from diverse gender, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and are aware of, and adhere to, ethical codes of conduct,” the committee writes, chiming with plenty of extant commentary around algorithmic accountability. “It is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI’s development and use,” adds committee chairman, Lord Clement-Jones, in a statement. “The UK has a ...

Facebook, AggregateIQ now being jointly probed by Canada, B.C. data watchdogs

Privacy watchdogs in Canada and British Columbia are combining existing investigations into Facebook and AggregateIQ. The latter being a Victoria-based ad targeting tech company that has been linked to Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy at the center of the Facebook data misuse storm. CA whistleblower Chris Wylie — who last month gave public testimony revealing how millions of Facebook users’ data was passed to his former employer for political ad targeting — has described AggregateIQ as the Canadian arm of CA’s parent entity, SCL. (Although AggregateIQ has denied any affiliation with CA or SCL, claiming on its website “it is and has always been 100% Canadian owned and operated”.) “The investigations will examine whether the organizations [Aggregate IQ and Facebook] are in comp...

Social media handed “one-hour rule” for terrorist takedowns in Europe

The European Commission is still considering whether to regulate social media platforms to ensure they promptly remove illegal content — be it terrorist propaganda, child sexual exploitation or hate speech but also commercial scams and even copyright breaches. Yesterday it revealed the next steps in trying to rule social sharing platforms in the meanwhile, placing a big squeeze on tech companies to takedown terrorist content specifically by setting out what it’s calling the “one-hour rule” — which requires companies take down this type of illegal content within one hour of it being reported (or at least “as a general rule”). It says this time frame is needed because this type of content poses a “particularly grave risk to the security of Europeans”, and thus its spread “must be treated as ...

At last an end to geoblocking in Europe? Nope, not by a long chalk…

The European Commission is holding a press conference later today to trumpet progress made on ending “unjustified geoblocking”, as it tells it, with the stated aim of greasing the wheels of pan-EU ecommerce in time for Christmas. Which, from a consumer point of view, sounds great. Unfortunately it’s not quite as great as it sounds. Especially if you were imagining it would apply to popular digital media streaming services like Spotify and Netflix. Nope, sorry. Geoblocks for digital media are not being vanquished in this round of EU Digital Single Market regulation chess. What is being agreed by EU lawmakers is an end to geoblocks for the sale of goods and services — just not if the electronic services in question happen to be stuff like, er, streaming music, TV, video and so on… Don’t be f...

UK to fine critical organizations up to $24M if they fail to put in strong cyber security

As companies gear up to make themselves complaint with upcoming data protection regulations in Europe around GDPR, those doing business in Member States will also be facing another wave of requirements around cyber security, as part of the NIS Directive covering network and information security that must be put into place across Member States by May 9, 2018. In the UK, the government has announced that organizations working in critical services like energy, transport, water and health can be fined up to £17 million ($24 million) as a “last resort” if they fail to demonstrate that their cyber security systems are equipped adequately against attacks. Major requirements for organizations will include having the right people and organization in place to handle a cyber attack; having the right ...

Twitter accused of dodging Brexit botnet questions again

Once again Twitter stands accused of dodging questions from a parliamentary committee that’s investigating Russian bot activity during the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum. In a letter sent yesterday to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, DCMS committee chair Damian Collins writes: “I’m afraid there are outstanding questions… that Twitter have not yet answered, and some further ones that come from your most recent letter.” In Twitter’s letter — sent last Friday — the company says it has now conducted an analysis of a dataset underpinning a City University study from last October (which had identified a ~13,500-strong botnet of fake Twitter accounts that had tweeted extensively about the Brexit referendum and vanished shortly after the vote). And it says that 1% of these accounts were “registered in Russia...

Facebook to roll out global privacy settings hub — thanks to GDPR

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said major privacy changes are coming to the platform later this year, as it prepares to comply with the European Union’s incoming data protection regulation. Speaking at a Facebook event in Brussels yesterday, she said the company will be “rolling out a new privacy center globally that will put the core privacy settings for Facebook in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data” (via Reuters). Last year the company told us it had assembled “the largest cross functional team” in the history of its family of companies to support General Data Protection Regulation (aka: GDPR) compliance. From May 25 this year, the updated privacy framework will apply across the 28 Member State bloc — and any multinationals processing European citizens’ ...

Facebook expands ‘Community Boost’ digital skills training program to Europe

Facebook has announced it’s expanding a free training program that teaches Internet-skills, media literacy and online safety to Europe. It says its “ambition” is to train 300,000 people across six EU countries by 2020 — specifically in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland. It also says it will be opening “digital learning centers” in three of the countries — Spain, Italy, and Poland — as part of the program (though it’s not yet clear where exactly the three centers will be located). The company says the training will generally be offered to “underrepresented groups”. It’s not entirely clear what that means but Facebook points to a Berlin school it set up last year, in partnership with the ReDI School of Digital Integration, which teaches classes ­such as coding and professional...

WTF is GDPR?

European Union lawmakers proposed a comprehensive update to the bloc’s data protection and privacy rules in 2012. Their aim: To take account of seismic shifts in the handling of information wrought by the rise of the digital economy in the years since the prior regime was penned — all the way back in 1995 when Yahoo was the cutting edge of online cool and cookies were still just tasty biscuits. Here’s the EU’s executive body, the Commission, summing up the goal: The objective of this new set of rules is to give citizens back control over of their personal data, and to simplify the regulatory environment for business. The data protection reform is a key enabler of the Digital Single Market which the Commission has prioritised. The reform will allow European citizens and businesses to fully ...

Europe keeps up the pressure on social media over illegal content takedowns

The European Union’s executive body is continuing to pressure social media firms to get better at removing illegal content from their platforms before it has a chance to spread further online. Currently there is a voluntary Code of Conduct on countering illegal online hate speech across the European Union. But the Commission has previously indicated it could seek to legislate if it feels companies aren’t doing enough. After attending a meeting on the topic today, Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner for Digital Single Market, tweeted to say the main areas tech firms need to be addressing are that “takedown should be fast, reliable, effective; pro-activity to detect, remove and disable content using automatic detection and filtering; adequate safeguards and counter notice”. Main areas to...

Twitter says Russians spent ~$1k on six Brexit-related ads

Twitter has disclosed that Russian-backed accounts spent $1,031.99 to buy six Brexit-related ads on its platform during last year’s European Union referendum vote. The ads in question were purchased during the regulated period for political campaigning in the June 2016 EU Referendum — specifically from 15 April to 23 June 2016. This nugget of intel into Kremlin political disinformation ops that were centered on the UK’s Brexit vote has been released as part of an ongoing internal investigation by Twitter into possible Russian Brexit meddling — initiated by a request for information from a UK parliamentary committee that’s investigating fake news. The UK’s Electoral Commission, which oversees domestic election procedure and regulates campaign financing, has also written to social media comp...

Facebook’s Brexit probe unearths three Russian-bought “immigration” ads

Facebook has provided more details about the extent of Russian digital interference related to the UK’s Brexit vote last year. Last month the social media giant confirmed that Russian agents had used its platform to try to interfere in the UK’s referendum on EU membership — but said it had not found “significant coordination of ad buys or political misinformation targeting the Brexit vote”. Today’s findings apparently bear out that conclusion, with Facebook claiming it’s unearthed just three ads and less than $1 spent. The Brexit related Russian-backed ads ran for four days in May, ahead of the UK’s June referendum vote, and apparently garnered around 200 views on Facebook. It says the ads targeted both UK and US audiences — and “concerned immigration”, rather than being explicitly about t...

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