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[TechDirt] How Corporate Sovereignty Threatens Democracy

As people have begun to learn about corporate sovereignty through plans to include it in TAFTA/TTIP, the European Commission has been trying to scotch the idea that it might allow corporations to dictate policies to nations. Here, for example, is a comment in the Commission's main TTIP FAQ, which tries to answer the question "Why is the EU including Investor to State Dispute Settlement in the TTIP?" : "Including measures to protect investors does not prevent governments from passing laws, nor does it lead to laws being repealed. At most, it can lead to compensation being paid." [...]

Does GBU deserve to be awarded 2% of a country's GDP, paid for by the citizens of a land struggling to raise its living standards? That hardly seems fair. And yet it's precisely what ISDS could allow, because the arbitration panel that decides such corporate sovereignty cases is unconstrained in what it can award, and not at all concerned with what the knock-on effects might be.

But the politicians making up the European Commission should be, since they are supposed to represent the 500 million European citizens that pay their salaries. The fact that they are pushing as hard as they can for ISDS in TAFTA/TTIP shows which side they are really on, and that they are quite happy to put corporations before nations, and profits before people.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140416/09560626932/how-corporate-sove...

[TechDirt] TAFTA/TTIP: What Are The Benefits? What Are The Costs?

As we draw near to the conclusion of TAFTA/TTIP's first year of negotiations, the detailed differences are starting to emerge between the US and EU. But one thing they both take for granted is that it's a good idea. "Good" in this context is essentially about money: the argument is that concluding a trade deal between the US and EU will boost both their economies, increase companies' profits, create employment and generally make people better off. Of course, since all of those are in the future, the only way to justify those kind of claims is to model the likely effects of TTIP on the various economies -- of the US, EU and rest of the world.
That's precisely what a study entitled "Reducing Transatlantic Barriers to Trade and Investment; An Economic Assessment" aimed to do (pdf). [...]

While some will doubtless argue about the details of the new GUE/NGL analysis, it has the valuable function of reminding us that TAFTA/TTIP is not just about corporate profits, but also concerns the 800 million people who make up the citizenry of the US and EU. Until they are included in the equation, and their potential losses and gains factored in, any claims about TTIP's "benefits" -- even the tiny ones that the European Commission's analysis comes up with in its "ambitious and comprehensive" agreement -- must be regarded as simplistic, one-sided and incomplete.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140417/09391926947/taftattip-what-are...

[BBCNews] Privacy fears over FBI facial recognition database

Campaigners have raised privacy concerns over a facial recognition database being developed by the FBI that could contain 52m images by 2015.

The civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained information about the project through a freedom of information request. [...] The facial recognition database is part of the bureau's Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme which is a large biometric database being developed to replace the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). [...]

"This means that even if you have never been arrested for a crime, if your employer requires you to submit a photo as part of your background check, your face image could be searched - and you could be implicated as a criminal suspect, just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file," said the EFF. [...]

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-27037009

[CorporateEurope] Still not loving ISDS: 10 reasons to oppose investors’ super-rights in EU trade deals

At the end of March, the European Commission launched a public consultation over its plan to enshrine far-reaching rights for foreign investors in the EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated. In the face of fierce opposition to these investor super-rights, the Commission is trying to convince the public that these do not endanger democracy and public policy. See through the sweet-talk with Corporate Europe Observatory’s guide to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). [...]

In January, in response to growing public concern over the proposed EU-US trade deal (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP), the European Commission announced it was halting negotiations over the deal’s controversial investor rights to conduct a public consultation on the issue. This was an important success for the growing anti-TTIP movement, which is unanimously opposed to the corporate powers in the deal. [...]

Nonetheless, the consultation period does create space for real debate and pressure. And people in Europe should use this space to tell the Commission, as well as MEPs (especially in the run-up to the EU elections in May) and member states, to axe the extreme corporate rights once and for all – not only in the proposed transatlantic trade deal, but also in other international agreements under negotiation with countries such as Canada, China, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Japan, for example. [...]

http://corporateeurope.org/international-trade/2014/04/still-not-loving-...

[Techdirt] Yes, Net Neutrality Is A Solution To An Existing Problem

While AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have argued -- with incredible message discipline -- that network neutrality is "a solution in search of a problem," that's simply not true.

There are many concrete examples of network neutrality violations around the world. These network neutrality violations include ISPs blocking websites and applications, ISPs discriminating in favor of some applications and against others, and ISPs charging arbitrary tolls on technology companies. [...]

Even in the U.S., there have been some major violations by small and large ISPs. These include:
*The largest ISP, Comcast, secretly interfering with peer-to-peer technologies, including some of the most popular basic technologies used to distribute online TV and music (2005-2008);
*A small telephone ISP called Madison River blocking Vonage, a company providing competing telephone service online (2005);
[...]

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140413/15112526896/yes-net-neutrality...

[ComputerworldUK] The Cost of Open Source: the Solution?

Glyn Moody considers a proposal described by Alan Cox on how to deal with the problem in open source code exemplified by the Heartbleed bug. A step to solving the problem, he writes, would be "that those providing software should accept liability for the problems it causes." Moreover, "only attach liability where money is involved", i.e. those charging money for software used, including those integrating open source code into their products, should be liable though the "people who write the code - even if they are paid for doing so - don't need to worry about being held personally responsible."

He quotes Simon Phipps: "Unlike pretty much any other kind of commercial venture, the deployers of software are able to disclaim all liability for harm caused by their code. Fix that, and the magic of market forces will fix everything else."

http://blogs.computerworlduk.com/open-enterprise/2014/04/the-cost-of-ope...

[TheGuardian] Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations

The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden. [...]

Snowden, in a statement, said: "Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance." [...]

"We are truly honoured that our journalism has been recognised with the Pulitzer prize," said Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian. "This was a complex story, written, edited and produced by a team of wonderful journalists. We are particularly grateful for our colleagues across the world who supported the Guardian in circumstances which threatened to stifle our reporting. And we share this honour, not only with our colleagues at the Washington Post, but also with Edward Snowden, who risked so much in the cause of the public service which has today been acknowledged by the award of this prestigious prize." [...]

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/apr/14/guardian-washington-post-pu...

[ArsTechnica] After Netflix pays Comcast, speeds improve 65%

Netflix's decision to pay Comcast for a direct connection to the Comcast network has resulted in significantly better video streaming performance for customers of the nation's largest broadband provider.

Netflix has bemoaned the payment, asking the government to prevent Comcast from demanding such interconnection "tolls."

[...] Comcast's increased speed allowed it to pass Time Warner Cable, Verizon, CenturyLink, AT&T U-verse, and others in Netflix's rankings. Comcast remains slower than Cablevision, Cox, Suddenlink, Charter, and Google Fiber.

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/04/after-netflix-pays...

[Rt] India, Turkey lead in Facebook censorship, while US tops data snooping

According to Facebook’s latest transparency report, India and Turkey are the most frequent censors of the social network, blocking thousands of users’ content, while the US is the country that has requested most information about user accounts.

Between July and December 2013, Indian authorities censored 4,765 Facebook posts which allegedly violated Indian laws that forbid criticizing religions or the government. [...]

While India leads the world in total content blocked from users, Turkey came in a close second with 2,014 pieces of restricted material, most of which level criticism against the Turkish government, a practice which is against the law. Germany censored 84 pieces of user content that ran afoul of laws on promoting Neo-Nazi ideology, as did the authorities in France (80 restrictions) and Austria (78 restrictions).

http://rt.com/news/facebook-us-censorship-nsa-096/

[Infosecurity] Microsoft Wins EU Data Protection Approval for Cloud

Microsoft has been given the stamp of approval from Europe for data security. The Article 29 Working Party, which represents the 28 national data protection agencies across the European Union, has determined that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud contracts meet the standard for privacy protection set forth in Europe’s data protections regulations. [...]

He went on to note that should the EU suspend the Safe Harbor Agreement with the US, as called for recently by the European Parliament, Microsoft enterprise customers’ use of cloud services on a worldwide basis won’t be interrupted or curtailed. And, even if the Safe Harbor Agreement remains in place, it covers only transfers from Europe to the US. The Microsoft approved contractual commitments, by contrast, enable transfers globally. [...]

http://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/view/37967/microsoft-wins-eu-data-p...

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