thinking is dangerous — it leads to ideas
President of the Board of the Polish Free and Open Source Software Foundation. Human rights in digital era hacktivist, Free Software advocate, privacy and anonimity evangelist; expert volunteer to the Panoptykon Foundation; co-organizer of SocHack social hackathons; charter member of the Warsaw Hackerspace; and Telecomix co-operator; biker, sailor.
I had the pleasure of attending the Friends of TTIP Breakfast Debate #4, about data protection, privacy and TTIP. What's symptomatic is that one of the questions posed in the information about the debate, was phrased:
What is clear from this little titbit are the priorities of people involved in TTIP negotiations. Namely, their main interest isn't protecting rights and freedoms of EU citizens. It's getting TTIP signed into law. Well, at least now we know, right?
Anyway, I was prepared by a friend with some interesting questions, that were both on-topic and probably quite stirring (we're not great friends of TTIP ourselves). I was not prepared, however, for the surprise I was going to get.
Namely, panel speakers had many of the same questions!
The debate oscillated mainly around the question whether or not Snowden leaks and data protection are relevant to TTIP negotiations. There were some that claimed that these issues are separate and do not influence one another (namely, EPP MEP Axel Voss and Erica Mann, a Socialist MEP turned Facebook lobbyist). Mrs Mann went as far as to say that mixing privacy, data protection and TTIP discussions is dangerous. Mr Voss acknowledged however that safe harbour has its weaknesses.
Mrs Mann also stated, to my amusement, that "big ICT companies, like Facebook, are as European as they are American, as they operate here and have a lot of users here" and that there are already several EU companies building upon the infrastructure of Facebook (so, "Facebook is good for EU business" argument).
Kostas Rossoglou, a senior legal officer at BEUC, took a firm stance that data protection is a crucial topic for TTIP negotiations. Or, rather, that data protection is not for negotiations, as privacy is considered a human right in the EU, and cannot be waived in a trade treaty.
In no uncertain terms Mr Rossoglou stated that TTIP cannot be allowed to weaken existing EU consumer and data protection regulations, that arbitration processes regarding data protection and safe harbour are ineffective, and that it's clear that the NSA scandal is connected both with data protection and TTIP — after all, how can we trust self-regulation by companies that have already broken our trust (by giving away users' data to three-letter agencies, regardless whether it was legal in the USA or not)?
The conclusion is simple: safe harbour has proven ineffective at protecting EU citizens rights by being a de facto free pass for US companies and US agencies to work-around the EU personal data protection regulations, and US and EU privacy protection systems seem to be irreconcilable.
Rainer Koch, of Deutsche Telekom (and the fourth person in the panel) didn't have much to say about data protection and privacy, being more interested in competitiveness that TTIP purportedly would strengthen.
Then there were questions from the public. Several people spoke; notably, a representative of the European Commission commented on the topic by stating that NSA and data protection are not, in their opinion, topics related to TTIP, as TTIP negotiations are not concerned with fundamental rights (that's an interesting take on the fact that TTIP simply seems to ignore data protection and privacy as fundamental human rights in the EU).
There was also a person from the US Department of Trade (the US party to the negotiations), explaining how well the arbitration actually works (hint: nope, it doesn't, as a private citizen to actually start an arbitration process has to pay several hundreds of dollars, not returnable).
Many of questions I wanted to ask had already been brought up by Mr Rossoglou, but I still had a few up my sleeve:
Around 5000 amendments, 100 compromise positions, but still 0 documents the public can read; how can TTIP have legitimacy when negotiated in such an opaque, non-transparent manner? I seem to remember other trade agreement that had been negotiated in secret...
To my surprise all the panelists agreed that more transparency is required. That's a big step. Now we just have to make them follow up on that with concrete actions...
While many EU companies build upon Facebook, the power dynamic is extremely one-way — Facebook can unilaterally kill the whole industry with a stroke of a pen (just as Twitter has). Which European company has been represented in similar meetings in the US? Why isn't there a European company here to support TTIP?
Of course, I had missed Deutsche Telekom's participation to the panel, so I immediately retracted the last part — but the main question still stands. How can Facebook claim to be a boon to the economy if it can kill a whole branch of ICT market just by changing their API policy?
Do american companies whom Mrs Mann claims to be as European as American share as much data with European security agencies as they apparently do with NSA?
Mrs Mann's reply was "we only give data upon legal request" — which leaves us to wonder if they heed such "legal" requests also in Belarus, Russia, China and Iran? After all, these countries also have courts and court orders, right?..
How can you claim, Mrs Mann, that privacy, data protection and TTIP topics are dangerous to mix while working for a company that actually builds its business model on this very mix? Private citizen data are your trade secrets! There was a time when Facebook didn't even want to give users' data to users that created the content themselves!
Somehow Mrs Mann was not willing to reply to this question.
During the wrap-up panel session all the panelists agreed that more transparency is needed. What was remarkable was that Mr Voss said that TTIP can be a good used to renegotiate safe harbour, and that the US has to understand how important an issue personal data protection and privacy is in EU, and has to acknowledge that, as apparently the US government does not respect EU privacy regulations; that deep-mining and analysing data taken by US government from Internet giants is simply not acceptable; and that safe harbour has to be improved, "otherwise we are not willing to go forward as we have in the past."
These are some strong words, strong positions on important issues that seem so much better than what we had heard during the ACTA process. Hopefully they will influence the policy in the right way.
My not-too-optimistic (to say the least) evaluation of the Polish Pirate Party is not a secret to anybody, including their members and activists. All in all, my assessment of the Pirate movement in general is not clear-cut: much good came out of it, but it does seem like it's time to move on (where to — that's a whole different story).
One of the main points I tend to quarrel with the "P3" (as Polish Pirates choose to call themselves) is a certain popular social media portal. I can understand, of course, the need to reach out to people wherever they are (and for the most part they indeed tend to be on Failbook). I do feel, however, that the proper relationship (if any) between P3 and FB should be one getting people off of FB to P3, not advertising FB on P3's website...
Once somebody is already on your website, dear Pirates, why oh why do you see it the right thing to do to get them back to the portal that is in the midst of most of the issues Pirates officially get themselves involved in (like privacy, surveillance, censorship and enacting walls — pun not intended — within Internet, by privatisation of this once-free and open area for ingenuity, art and entrepreneurship)?
There is Diaspora, after all. A simple search there points to several active Pirate Party profiles. Most of them also use Zuckerberg's roach motel of a social network], I'm sure, but at least they try to lessen its grip on human communication by offering a way for people not caught in walled-garden trap to get information and interact with them in a decentralised way.
Why am I writing all this? Well, I find it curious, amusing, and very, very sad that while the Chilean Pirate Party started sharing with me on Diaspora today, the Polish Pirate Party doesn't even seem to have a profile there.
I believe Amelia is a much better choice: she's a good leader and a very effective lobbyist, having been incredibly active in copyright reform, privacy, transparency and other debates. She also has a deep and intimate understanding of issues that arise in these debates. She's an avid public speaker, and has great connections with the backbone of the Pirate movement — hackers, hackerettes, hackerspaces all around Europe.
Rick Falkvinge decided to put his weight behind Christian — and that's perfectly fine, of course. There are two eerie things about his support, however.
First of all, Rick based his support for Christian mainly in money:
The reason is simple: between him and the other candidate for the ballot’s top position, Christian is the only one funding my keynoting and evangelizing.
Secondly — and that's a biggie! — Rick (a pirate!) decided to censor the comments on his blogpost, and commented:
(If you want to campaign for the other candidate, use your own damn blog. A number of rude comments deleted.)
So, hereby I am using "my own damn blog". And for the record, here's my "rude comment" that got censored along with other comments:
I’m with Asta on this one. I am following your site, Rick, for years, and you have inspired many people, including me, to act and to get involved in the copyright reform debate — and with solid results (to mention the anti-ACTA movement in Poland).
But this is dismal. I understand the need to finance your activities, but this is not the right reason for political decision of this weight, by no means!
In my opinion, the right person for the No 1 spot is, unsurprisingly, Amelia Andersdotter. You may believe otherwise. But the discussion should be based upon merit, not on who pays whom what.
I stand by my comment, as do the other "rude commenters". This is no way to act for a pirate.
I was planning to attend TEDx Warsaw Women (it happens to be coming up soon), as it looks like an interesting event. Unfortunately, its Organisers decided that:
1. they don't give squat about attendees' privacy;
2. they ignore completely those of us who do not have an acconut with a certain social network.
I rarely receive such a clear and unambiguous information regarding my persona non grata status on any event, so I would like to thank Organisers for being so frank on this. I am not inclined to pay for attendance with my privacy, my data.
While we're at it, however, I'd like to point the Organisers to some other TEDx and TED talks. For example Bart Jacobs' Fat, Dumb, Happy & Under Surveillance and Mario Rodriguez's Facebook Privacy & Identity - Exploring your digital self.
Chris Soghoian also made an interesting talk on Why Google won't protect you from big brother, and Eli Pariser offered a birds-eye view on What FACEBOOK And GOOGLE Are Hiding From The World.
Had TEDx Warsaw Women Organisers seen any of these talks they might have come to understand why requiring potential attendees to surrender their privacy to companies that are well-known for their hostility towards it is, simply put, not cool.
When a copyright reformist NGO organizes a conference together with (among others) one of the biggest collection societies in Poland, Google, and the Warsaw Hackerspace, you know stuff is going to happen. Especially when Eben Moglen is the keynote speaker, with Jérémie Zimmermann and many of the Polish "opennists" of anti-ACTA fame following closely.
And had you been there you would not have been disappointed!
You'd see a Google rep talking about open innovation and complaining about how Amazon complicates life for Kindle users, and how it's all fault of the European Union — just minutes after Eben posed a question about how the 20th century could have worked out if "books reported who reads them to the central authority".
You'd see a copyright maximalisation lobbyist from a collection society trying to teach Eben about the free software movement and libre licensing of culture (the highlights: free software is an anti-copyright movement; Creative Commons licenses have been created by the users to force authors to give up their rights and their works).
You'd see talks about the history of copyright, the Internet master switch, the complicated relationship between copyright and privacy and many, many more (including mine, on how the Internet is not a problem).
One thing you would not have expected, however, is that the most important talk would be given by a politician. And that it would be...
After the anti-ACTA protests and 4th of July, 2012 vote to reject the treaty, it was obvious that the time for copyright reform has come. People have spoken, and politicians have heard them — or so it seemed, at least.
It also seemed obvious that just as anti-ACTA protests have started in Poland, and just as the political will to reject it by the EU have started to form first in Poland, such copyright reform initiative should come from Poland. And so, everybody waited for any Polish politician to pick that topic up and run with it.
The wait was long, but apparently it is finally over: Paweł Zalewski, a Polish MEP, announced at CopyCamp that he shall propose a pan-European copyright reform initiative (yes, the quality is ghastly), with four major points:
I had the opportunity to provide an opinion on Mr Zalewski's ideas on behalf of the FOSSF (along with a few other pro-copyright-reform NGOs in Poland), and am quite happy with it: it's actually close to my copyright reform wishlist for what can be achieved within the terms of binding international treaties (like TRIPS or the Berne Convention).
Mr. Zalewski is now working out the exact shape and form of his proposal; it is to be presented in Brussels in November (and will almost certainly include proposed changes to InfoSoc directive). So we may now hope that there finally is a politician that intends on pursuing this topic.