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GDPR shows results, but work needs to continue

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Just over one year after the entry into application of the General Data Protection Regulation, the European Commission has published today a report looking at the impact of the EU data protection rules, and how implementation can be improved further. The report concludes that most Member States have set up the necessary legal framework, and that the new system strengthening the enforcement of the data protection rules is falling into place. Businesses are developing a compliance culture, while citizens are becoming more aware of their rights. At the same time, convergence towards high data protection standards is progressing at international level.

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, said: “The European Union strives to stay at the forefront of the protection of personal rights in the digital transformation while seizing the many opportunities it offers for jobs and innovation. Data is becoming an invaluable element for a booming digital economy and is playing an increasingly vital role in developing innovative systems and machine learning. It is essential for us to shape the global field for the development of the technological revolution and for its proper use in full respect of individual rights.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The General Data Protection Regulation is bearing fruit. It equips Europeans with strong tools to address the challenges of digitalisation and puts them in control of their personal data. It gives businesses opportunities to make the most of the digital revolution, while ensuring people’s trust in it. Beyond Europe, it opens up possibilities for digital diplomacy to promote data flows based on high standards between countries that share EU values. But work needs to continue for the new data protection regime to become fully operational and effective.”

The GDPR has made EU citizens increasingly aware of data protection rules and of their rights, as indicated by a Eurobarometer survey published in May 2019. However, only 20% of Europeans know which public authority is responsible for protecting their data. This is why the European Commission has launched this summer a new campaign to encourage Europeans to read privacy statements and to optimise their privacy settings.

While the new data protection rules have achieved many of their objectives, the Commission’s communication also sets out concrete steps to further strengthen these rules and their application:

One continent, one law: Today, all but three Member States – Greece, Portugal and Slovenia – have updated their national data protection laws in line with EU rules. The Commission will continue to monitor Member State laws to ensure that when they specify the GDPR in national laws, it remains in line with the Regulation and that their national laws are not a gold-plating exercise. If needed, the Commission will not hesitate to use the tools at its disposal, including infringements, to make sure Member States correctly transpose and apply the rules.

Businesses are adapting their practices: Compliance with the Regulation has helped companies increase the security of their data and develop privacy as a competitive advantage. The Commission will support the GDPR toolbox for businesses to facilitate compliance, such as standard contractual clauses, codes of conduct and new certification mechanism. In addition, the Commission will continue supporting SMEs in applying the rules.

Stronger role of data protection authorities: The Regulation has given national data protection authorities more powers to enforce the rules. During the first year, national data protection authorities have made use of these new powers effectively when necessary. Data protection authorities are also cooperating more closely within the European Data Protection Board. By the end of June 2019, the cooperation mechanism had managed 516 cross-border cases. The Board should step up its leadership and continue building an EU-wide data protection culture. The Commission also encourages national data protection authorities to pool their efforts for instance by conducting joint investigations. The European Commission will continue to fund national data protection authorities in their efforts to reach out to stakeholders.

EU rules as reference for stronger data protection standards across the globe: As more and more countries across the world equip themselves with modern data protection rules, they use the EU data protection standard as a reference point. This upwards convergence is opening up new opportunities for safe data flows between the EU and third countries. The Commission will further intensify its dialogues on adequacy, including in the area of law enforcement. In particular, it aims at concluding the ongoing negotiations with the Republic of Korea in the coming months. Beyond adequacy, the Commission aims to explore the possibility to build multilateral frameworks to exchange data with trust.

Next steps

In line with the General Data Protection Regulation, the Commission will report on its implementation in 2020 to assess the progress made after two years of application including on the review of the 11 adequacy decisions adopted under the 1995 Directive.

Background

The General Data Protection Regulation is a single set of rules with a common EU approach to the protection of personal data, directly applicable in the member States. It reinforces trust by putting individuals back in control of their personal data and at the same time guarantees the free flow of personal data between EU Member States. The protection of personal data is a fundamental right in the European Union.

The GDPR has been applicable since 25 May 2018. Since then, nearly all Member States have adapted their national laws in the light of GDPR. The national Data Protection Authorities are in charge of enforcing the new rules and are better coordinating their actions through new cooperation mechanisms and the European Data Protection Board. They are issuing guidelines on key aspects of the GDPR to support the implementation of the new rules.

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Artificial intelligence: Tackling the risks for consumers

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Artificial intelligence and automated decision making processes can pose certain threats to consumers. Find out how the European Parliament wants to protect them.

What is artificial intelligence and why can it be dangerous?

As learning algorithms can process data sets with precision and speed beyond human capacity, artificial intelligence (AI) applications have become increasingly common in finance, healthcare, education, the legal system and beyond. However, reliance on AI also carries risks, especially where decisions are made without human oversight. Machine learning relies on pattern-recognition within datasets. Problems arise when the available data reflects societal bias.

Artificial Intelligence in decision-making processes

AI is increasingly involved in algorithmic decision systems. In many situations, the impact of the decision on people can be significant, such as access to credit, employment, medical treatment, or judicial sentences. Automated decision-making can therefore perpetuate social divides. For example, some hiring algorithms have been found to be biased against women.

How to protect consumers in the era of AI

The development of AI and automated decision-making processes also presents challenges for consumer trust and welfare. When consumers are interacting with such a system, they should be properly informed about how it functions.

The position of the Parliament
In a resolution adopted on 23 January, the internal market and consumer protection committee urges the European Commission to examine whether additional measures are necessary in order to guarantee a strong set of rights to protect consumers in the context of AI and automated decision-making.

“We have to make sure that consumer protection and trust is ensured, that the EU’s rules on safety and liability for products and services are fit for purpose in the digital age,” said German Greens/EFA member Petra De Sutter., chair of the internal market and consumer protection committee.
Next steps

MEPs will vote on the  resolution in mid February. After that it will be transmitted to the Council and the Commission. The Commission should present its plans for a European approach to AI on 19 February.

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APEC Advances Digitization of the APEC Business Travel Card

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Officials from APEC member economies break new ground in digitizing the APEC Business Travel Card scheme, seeking to modernize the process and make it easier for cardholders in the region to travel with the development of a mobile application.

The APEC Business Travel Card (ABTC) scheme facilitates short-term business travel within the APEC economies by streamlining the entry process at ports of entry within the region. Approved applicants are issued with a card that serves as the entry authority to fully participating economies.

“We continuously seek to improve the system and make it easier and more secure for cardholders to travel around the region,” said Kimberlee Stamatis, Convenor of the APEC Business Mobility Group who oversees the scheme.

The mobile application will include security features such as user verification, the use of watermarks and disabling of screenshots within the mobile application to ensure authenticity of the cardholder.

“Additional security features for the mobile application further hinder fraudulent replication and misuse, and protect the personal details of APEC Business Travel Card holders,” she added.

Additionally, the mobile application will provide cardholders and airport officers real-time information on the status of the travel card. Cached information will also be accessible for a period, in the event that the holder is not able to go online while they are traveling.

“The service will be offered to new applicants from fully participating economies, and we are exploring ways to enable existing cardholders to request the mobile application when they apply for a card renewal, which is required every five years,” Stamatis explained.

Further discussions are underway to ensure that the mobile application caters to the needs of both cardholders and airport officials. The APEC Business Mobility Group will work on the pilot version of the application with the expectation to launch it in November 2020, during APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in Malaysia.

Depending on member economies’ preference for either the mobile application or physical card, the service is expected to be ready for use in early 2021.

Nineteen APEC economies are fully participating members to the ABTC scheme: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Chile; China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; the Philippines; the Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; and Viet Nam; Canada and the United States are transitional members.

Transitional members’ cardholders will not be able to use the mobile application, however, their existing processes will remain unchanged.

The APEC Business Travel Card scheme reduces travel costs between APEC economies by 38 percent. Businesses pay 27 percent less in application fees and 52 percent less in immigration processing.

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Preparing Dushanbe for a New Digital Era

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 “Preparing Dushanbe for a New Digital Era” was the theme of a workshop held on February 4th and hosted jointly by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Hukumat of Dushanbe City, the State Unitary Enterprise (SUE), “Smart City Dushanbe” under the Hukumat of Dushanbe City, and the World Bank. Participants included leading Korean experts in the field of digital transformation and smart cities, as well as high-level Government representatives of the Republic of Tajikistan, development partners, the private sector, and civil society. 

“Living in the era of digital transformation has many benefits and challenges. As this is a high priority for us, we are expanding our work with development partners on digital transformation. South Korea is the first country that comes to mind as an example of best practices and expertise in the deployment of smart cities and the ability to increase the vitality of urban areas. For us, Korea’s experience gained during almost three decades of building smart cities is extremely valuable,” said Yusuf Majidi, Deputy Minister of Finance of Tajikistan. 

Smart city technologies allow city officials to interact directly with both the community and city infrastructure, and to monitor what is happening in the city and how it is evolving. ICT is used to enhance the quality, performance, and interactivity of urban services, reduce costs and resource consumption, and increase interaction with citizens. Smart city applications allow for better management of urban flows and enable real-time responses. In doing so, a “smart city” increases the efficiency of public services provided by city authorities, uses scarce resources more effectively, and improves citizens’ quality of life. 

“In this process, the Government is an enabler and a regulator, but digital transformation and smart cities can only be delivered with the active participation of the private sector, and by ensuring tangible benefits for the private sector,” added Jan-Peter Olters, World Bank Country Manager in Tajikistan. 

The keynote speaker was Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, Master Planner, Busan National Pilot Smart City, and Lead Researcher at the National Information Society Agency (former Chief Information Officer of Seoul), who shared the Republic of Korea’s extensive experience in developing smart cities. Oleg Petrov, Senior Digital Development Specialist at the World Bank, provided an update on the proposed Digital CASA Tajikistan project and its role in supporting the Government to build the foundations for a digital economy and the “Smart City Dushanbe” initiative.

This event was a key milestone in developing the Smart City initiative in Tajikistan, a key element of the Digital Economy 2040 Concept and Digital CASA Tajikistan Project. The World Bank confirmed its commitment to providing support to Tajikistan in building the required infrastructure to increase Internet bandwidth and speed, support the required adjustment and modernization of the institutional telecommunications environment, and develop the most critical applications aimed at increasing the efficiency and transparency of public services.

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