CNNum @ Digital Summit Bratislava // European Commission - 28-29 septembre 2016

The Digital Assembly 2016 features six workshops to discuss some of the key topics of the Digital Single Market strategy. Here are 3 key points pushed by Yann Bonnet, General Secretary of the French Digital Council:

1/ Encryption is one of the main lever for security in the digital environment

The debate on the backdoors is not security vs privacy, but less security vs. more security. Encryption is one of the main lever for security in the digital environment. It is crucial to spread widely the tools for encryption for individuals and for the public and private sector. For citizens, data encryption make the exercise of the right of respect of privacy possible by everyone. For companies, data encryption constitutes the best defence against economical spying. For the State, it simply is a condition of its sovereignty. Individuals’ and organizations’ literacy is thus an imponderable prerequisite and States have to deploy a massive effort of communication to make publics sensible to the challenges of protection and of data securisation.

The French Minister of the Interior recently announced that it wanted to lobby in UE for a law change that would enable courts to demand that Internet companies decrypt data to help further criminal investigations >> So, in other words, to effectively push for end-to-end encryption to be outlawed.

  • In response to the French Minister of the Interior, the Council has launched a working group on the subject (led by Rand Hindi, CEO of Snips). Last summer, we also published a column in the French newspaper to voice our concerns. ( ) The Council will be very vigilant in the process of the revision of the ePrivacy directive.
  • Limiting end to end encryption would have unanticipated consequences, about these proposals, both in terms of cybersecurity and in terms of violations of civil liberties.

2/ The adoption of a “platform fairness” principle and the development of evaluation of platforms’ practices.

Current legislation shows difficulty in apprehending platforms as a whole. Ex-post tool are not efficient enough in a fast moving and digitized economy. The european Commission has considered the option of a sector-based regulation but if decided, those measures would only enter into force in a long term perspective while there is an urgent need for more responsiveness. The French Digital Council believes this should be accomplished through two pillars :

  • The adoption of a “platform fairness” principle requiring platform operators to be transparent about their practices (“say what they do, do what they say, and give means to verify this”) and to do not discriminate businesses and individuals apart from preferences guided by service quality purposes.

The stakes go beyond the dereferencing of websites and applications ; It also impacts small businesses ranked in sectoral platforms such as Tripadvisor, workers of the on-demand services such as Deliveroo or Uber, and industrial businesses relying on real time access to databases in the API economy.

  • A reinforcement of public regulator’s capacity to analyze platforms practices’ impact on users’ rights effectiveness and the development of public evaluation of platforms’ practices. Our concertation with the french businesses involved in the Google search case has shown the need to objectify the difficulties facing professional and individual users of platforms. In fact, it involves a wide range of expertises : interface design, technical skills, etc. that can not be assured only by lawyers. Moreover, the Council is conviced that, in an audience economy, regulation should be more social and pushed by the market and that crowd vigilance must be encouraged and fully integrated into regulation schemes. To this end, the european union could support the development of  a network of European rating agences supported by an open network of contributors to make people aware of problems and good practices, publish behavior ratings to light the choices of consumers, entrepreneurs, investors…

Germany has already put in place a MarktWachter Digitale Welt, in charge of monitoring online practices towards individuals and professionnals users.

3/ Creating the European Network of Digital Councils to increase policy consistency within the EU and galvanize cooperation between EU member-states

The success of the French Digital Council results from the vision and the aspirations on which it was built. Indeed, this institution was created and renewed on the idea that the digital is not defined yet, and needs to be approached by public actors - administrations, governments, and representatives - in an innovative way. As the digital may impact numerous economic sectors and is already disrupting social models and interactions, public policies need to anticipate these metamorphosis with prospective reflections and constructive debate. This reflection phase represents an essential step before taking any administrative measure nor political embodiment.

Addressing digital issues with a similar methodology with a similar approach at European level is crucial: the French Digital Council systematically identifies priorities that need to be discussed between EU member-states and/or directly at European level. For instance:

On digital taxation, the French Digital Council recommended to create expertise groups in Europe in order to find common grounds in terms of fiscal legislation: the European Commission expert group created in October 2013 by Commissioner Semeta and which issued its report in May 2014 was an excellent action to allow experts, members of the administration and decision-makers to discuss together this issue and give recommendations that can applied following the European agenda in terms of taxation (ie ACCIS project, etc.);

On the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the French Digital Council gave similar conclusions: without European interlocutor specialized in digital matters within the negotiating team, the digital ecosystem has no identified interface to communicate its needs and the negotiation is asymmetric, regarding the American methodology;

The French Digital Council contributed to drafting a non-paper for France position during the European Council in October 2013: the interaction with national entities in charge of European coordination was efficient and allowed France to raise concerns and initiate discussions on crucial, but technical issues (cybersecurity, investment policy, education, data protection regulation, etc.).

> The European Commission could encourage the creation and networking of hybrid entities ensuring a dynamic interface between digital ecosystems, State members and the European Union.