GERMANY EYES MARKETPLACES: Germanys competition authority, the Bundeskartellamt, could soon set its sights on e-commerce platforms — to the interest of Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
The issue? Unfair competition with smaller market retailers using their sites.
For Vestager, a potential German move could be a green light to come in with harsher measures on the EU level.
So far, the EUs competition honchos have been reluctant to crack down on marketplaces over how they interact with smaller third-party sellers with an old-fashioned competition case.
Instead, theyve cajoled other commissioners in charge of digital issues to tailor new platforms-to-business rules to certain competition issues. Online marketplaces as well as Google Search are among the targets.
National competition authorities do at times coordinate with EU authorities and could lay the groundwork for broader action.
In the realm of tech, Vestager could be looking for a precedent on the national level before taking action, and not just on e-commerce matters. If her German counterparts move ahead, Vestager could also follow in the footsteps of the Bundeskartellamt in targeting Facebooks handling of user data. The German authority last December deemed Facebooks collection and use of data from third-party sources “abusive.”
If Germany does launch a case on e-commerce, potentially targeting the likes of Amazon, an EU domino effect may ensue. Vestager could finally be empowered to launch a case instead of pushing other policy-drafting departments to use regulation to solve competition problems.
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Hello and welcome to Morning Tech. Its Strasbourg week for MEPs and Brussels policy makers. Their week started off with some drama… to say the least. Read Laurens take for more on that.
In Sofia, the Cyber Defense Group of the European Defense Agency meets.
And in London, tech week continues. Check out the events page for more on on Createch 2018, the China-UK Hi! Technology Festival and keynote speeches from digital experts.
The London School of Economics hosts an event on the digital dominance of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
In Paris, France Digitale hosts an event on a potential regulatory framework for initial coin offerings.
STARTUPS — UK UNICORNS: France may be overtaking the U.K. as the digital capital of Europe (according to our reporting), but when it comes to unicorns, aka companies with a valuation of over $1 billion, the country still seems to be holding strong. Find out more from City AM.
CYBER — EU PARLIAMENT DEBATES KASPERSKY: The European Parliament is debating a bill to strengthen cyber defense capabilities, nudging capitals to boost cybersecurity units in their armies and cooperate more. But one amendment slamming the Russian cyber firm Kaspersky Lab could derail the whole discussion, Laurens reported earlier. If MEPs endorse the draft with the “Kaspersky amendment,” it would be an explicit condemnation of the Russian firm — something only the British and Dutch government have publicly echoed so far.
According to Bart Preneel, scientist and expert at cryptography, the only solution is to force Kaspersky and other foreign vendors in Europe to give lawmakers and agencies full access to their source code: “What Europe should decide is which networks they consider critical, and open up these networks. If you would want to sell equipment for these, it has to be open: completely open source.” Read more on that in our weekly newsletter on data and AI.
P2B — ICYMI RAPPORTEUR #2: The Industry, Research and Energy Committee has chosen its rapporteur for the platforms-to-business file: European Peoples Party MEP Anna Záborská is set to take over. Heres the committee procedure file for more.
AI — AND ON THE G7 FRONT: The G7 wasnt all about U.S. President Donald Trumps antics and trade war tough talk. The G7 gathering in Charlevoix, Canada also managed to find some agreement on what the future of AI should look like.
The top takeaways? Artificial intelligence needs to benefit society equally — women, children and “those at risk of being left behind.” The development of the technology should also be human-centric to ensure it brings the most benefits to mankind. Read the full declaration online.
Speaking of AI: Fear not the killer robot. “If there [are] killer robots, it will be because weve been stupid enough to give it the instructions or software for it to do that without having a human in the loop deciding,” computer science professor Nigel Shadbolt from Oxford University said at London Tech Week on Monday, according to the Guardian. Phew!
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COPYRIGHT — EUROPE VS. NETFLIX: European broadcasters are scrambling to get a digital edge on growing competition from Amazon and Netflix — but its unlikely to work.
Getting a European equivalent to take off in Europe will require massive investment and the redrawing of copyright lines across the continent.
“Building a Hulu in Europe, with its dozens of languages and patchwork of regulations, will be trickier than in the U.S. Broadcast rights for most shows are sold country by country, so its difficult to put together a seamless service for the entire region. Different rules about storing recorded shows in the cloud — France, for instance, has more relaxed guidelines than the U.K. — could be a roadblock,” Bloomberg writes.
Speaking of which: We hear copyright campaigners, looking to massage out the Article 13 proposal to make sure it restricts any potential “general monitoring obligation,” are ramping up their lobbying ahead of next weeks June 20 vote in the Legal Affairs committee. Expect some new campaigns from certain NGOs to hit the web this morning to fight “censorship machines.”
DATA FLOWS — BACK TO BASICS: The European Data Protection Supervisor, which advises the EU institutions on privacy, published its report on a draft bill called the “free flow of non-personal data” regulation. The bill is aimed at stopping countries from imposing data localization requirements that force companies to store data within national borders. The privacy watchdog has concerns:
1. The Commission changed the name of the proposal last-minute to the “free flow of non-personal data” when it published its proposal in September, but that (purely political) move hurts the bill, EDPS said: “[R]elying only on a negative definition of non-personal data may prove very difficult to apply in practice.”
2. The draft includes mentions of “mixed data sets” that (like many datasets) contain personal data and general information. The EDPS said it should be clearer what that means, and that GDPR protects personal data.
PRIVACY — MEPs CALL ON COMMISSION TO SUSPEND PRIVACY SHIELD: MEPs on the European Parliaments Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs voted in favor of a motion that stated the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield “does not provide the adequate level of protection for EU citizens,” and called on the European Commission to suspend the arrangement until American authorities comply with its terms, the committee tweeted overnight.
FACEBOOK — ZUCKERBERG BLAME GAME: Remember that shambolic meeting of top MEPs with Mark Zuckerberg over the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal? No? Granted: Not much noteworthy came out of it, except for Parliaments inability to seize a good news opportunity. In a reconstruction of events, the news website EUobserver looks at whos to blame for the bad format.
US — SENATE TO TRY TO OVERTURN ZTE MOVE: U.S. Senate leaders agreed Monday to include language in the annual defense spending bill that would reverse the Trump administrations decision to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE after it was caught violating the terms of a 2017 penalty agreement by making illegal sales to Iran and North Korea. More here from our U.S. team.
TWEET DU JOUR: “Several customers who are in a chair in the sky zooming along at 500 mph complained their internet was too slow” — Someone got their snark on in an evaluation form by low-cost airliner jetBlue. h/t Bryan Campbell
PRIVACY — SPANISH FOOTBALL ROW: An official app by the Spanish football league asks users for their consent to use the microphone. El Diario, a Spanish newspaper, reported the issue and asked the league for comment, which had some extraordinary explanations: The organization said the microphone was being tapped to monitor whether users were watching football matches and to “detect fraud.”
TELECOM — TELEFÓNICA DROPS COPPER: The Spanish telecom provider is moving to an all-fiber network by 2023. El Español has the story.
Morning Tech wouldnt be possible without Nicholas Vinocur and Zoya Sheftalovich.
***POLITICO Pro Article***
Car mechanics gear up for a more uncertain electric future
— By Kalina Oroschakoff
This article is part of the special report Clean Mobility.
HAMBURG, Germany — For René Kienas, owning a small independent garage in car-worshiping Germany has meant a lifetime of steady work.
But for his younger partner Ricardo Wunderlich, 35, the future will be “significantly more colorful and more uncertain,” he told POLITICO in the back office of Kienas garage, tucked behind a busy inner-city street in one of the wealthiest areas of Hamburg.
Thats because the car industry faces at least two massive upheavals. One is the likely replacement of millions of diesel and gasoline-engine cars by electric vehicles. The second is the looming prospect of self-driving cars. Those intertwined revolutions will mean wrenching change for the millions who make their living from the car industry — affecting car assembly workers, car rental agents, taxi drivers, and mechanics like Kienas and Wunderlich.
The core issue is that the car industry of the future is going to need a lot fewer workers than today.
Conventional engines, transmissions and exhaust systems — together making up a cars powertrain — are a lot more complicated than their battery-powered replacements — consisting of a battery pack and an electric motor. A conventional powertrain has about 1,400 parts, while an electric one only has about 200.
That means fewer workers will be needed to assemble and maintain the new types of automobiles.
“Electric motors are smaller and less complex than internal combustion engines. Highly automated production is possible for battery packs and electric motors,” says a study on the car industry by ING Bank.
No country is more aware of the problem than Germany, home to Europes most important automotive industry. A new study by the countrys largest labor union IG Metall found that if electric vehicles were to make up for 40 percent of the car market by 2030, roughly a third of those employed in building internal combustion engines and powertrains for the auto sector would lose their jobs .
Fewer parts = less work
While an electric car revolution would also create thousands of new jobs, its impact on the labor market would be enormous.
Because electric cars have fewer parts to wear out, simpler motors will mean less work for garages like the one owned by Kienas
“If we would exchange all thats running on an internal combustion engine to an electric motor, then half of the companies would be unemployed” as the need for regular check ups and maintenance would go down, Kienas said. “Itd be all electric motors, without any wear and tear.”
For the moment electric cars are still a rarity on European roads. Sales this year are expected to come in at about 200,000, according to LMC Automotive, a consultancy. Electric cars should account for between 2 percent to 8 percent of all European cars by 2020, says the European Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Thats not enough to derail Kienas life plans — he aims to retire in the next decade.
Kienas garage has adapted to change in the past; on its paint-flecked walls trays of wrenches, spanners and other traditional tools jostle for space with computers and modern diagnostic instruments.
“Electric cars dont worry me, just look at the numbers,” said Kienas, 51.
He thinks the shift will have an impact on his business once the share of electric cars hits 10 or 12 percent of the total fleet. “But I simply dont believe in that yet. When I look at whos driving an electric vehicle, its CEOs of huge companies, and they dont drive much.”
He also hopes that there will still be work on things that wont change with the new cars. “It does have wheels, and it does have brakes — all of that has stayed the same. Its still a car. Its simply that the drive concept has changed,” Kienas said.
For Wunderlich, who figures on working for 30 more years, the future looks less certain and less fun.
“The internal combustion engine is more complex, more interesting, more diverse,” he said. Instead, with an electric car it will be a greater focus on the brakes, wheels, and car components. “Always the same thing. Thats how I imagine it.”
It also means he likely faces “massive further training” to work on high voltage equipment.
More disruption loom — as car and ride-sharing applications such as Uber, Drive Now and Car to Go become ever more popular, reducing the need to own a car, or even to have a drivers license.
“While I cant determine which way the wind will blow, I doubt that people will own cars in a major way,” Kienas said.
His partner should know. Wunderlich fixes cars for a living, but he cant drive.
“Even if I had a license, I wouldnt have a car,” he said pointing to handy alternatives from public transport to transport apps. “It doesnt get any cheaper.”