By Mark Scott, with help from Joanna Plucinska, Annabelle Dickson, Janosch Delcker, Zach Young and Cat Contiguglia | Send tips to [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected] | View in your browser
WHAT TO DO WITH A PROBLEM LIKE DATA? Depending on who you talk to, people’s online information should either be protected as a human right, monetized to offer new digital services or made widely available as if it was a 21st century currency.
As in all things, the truth is probably somewhere in between, a fact that must be maddeningly difficult for regulators, companies and the general public to get their heads around as people grow increasingly aware that maybe they should pay more attention to the reams of information they readily upload to the web.
Expect this theme to resurface again and again in the second half of 2018 as the European Commission and a series of national governments try to square this circle.
Everyone agrees that data — and access to it — will drive the digital economy. But there’s an open question over who will benefit and what limits (if any) should govern companies’ use of citizens data.
— The Brits take a stab: Some summer reading for those who missed this. The U.K. Treasury published a report called “The Economic Value of Data,” laying out London’s perspective. Key takeouts: The government wants to make as much data available to as many people as possible, but also acknowledges potential regulatory risks, notably the siloing of large data stockpiles with a few large companies.
— Don’t forget the Germans: Andreas Mundt, the head of Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, is one to keep an eye on (you can read our recent profile of him here). Not only is he an outlier in terms of reining in Facebook’s use of data but his potential limits on corporate use of digital information are being closely followed by competition authorities in Brussels.
— Corporate view: I called up a senior executive at one of the large U.S. tech firms to get his view on this regulatory pushback on data. Alas, he wouldn’t speak on the record out of fear of annoying authorities, but his point was simple. “It’s not like you hand over data to just one company and that’s it,” he said. “Data isn’t like oil, it’s not scarce. Trying to prove that it’s a competition problem is going to be harder than people may first think.”
For more on how data may, or may not, be the next competition battle, here’s something Morning Tech cooked up earlier.
Morning Tech is taking a break the week of August 13, but we’ll back in your inboxes bright and early on August 20. Breaking news will still come through as normal or keep an eye on our website.
MORE ON DATA:
— Data protection: Britain’s privacy watchdog fined the owner of Emma’s Diary, a website for expectant mothers, £140,000 (€155,000) for illegally selling data on more than one million people to the Labour Party, which then targeted the individuals in swing electoral districts in the country’s nationwide election last year. Read more here or below.
— Data security: NATO’s Strategy Communications Unit (the spies in charge of combating government-backed online misinformation) published a series of reports looking at everything from Jihadi efforts to influence traditional media to how people communicated during Brexit. Check out the full list here.
— GDPR redux: Instapaper, the digital service that allows people to read online content offline, has returned to Europe after a two-month hiatus as the company figured out how to comply with Europe’s new privacy standards.
ELECTION SECURITY: Andrus Ansip took to Twitter to call on national governments to do more in terms of preparing themselves ahead of next year’s European elections.
BUDGET — DIGITAL EUROPE FEEDBACK: The European Commission closed its feedback session for its Digital Europe budget program, designed to give the EU’s high-performance computing and artificial intelligence capabilities a boost. Some of the highlights? “Criticism has been expressed by the Regulatory Scrutiny Board about the lack of clarity on the uptake of existing measures and the relationship with Horizon Europe. The biggest challenge in such a program is indeed to avoid the creation of parallel structures and pursue a synergistic integration of activities,” wrote the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine. However, only six organizations responded with their thoughts on the new financial setup for digital. Read their feedback online.
TELECOMS — ITALY’S BROADBAND PLANS: Italy’s new government might not be happy about all of the EU’s digital reforms — ahem, copyright — but it’s moving full-speed ahead on changes to telecoms rules. A recent meeting in Rome confirmed the country would work on a roadmap to free up the 700 MHz spectrum band and to help digitize the TV sector’s output. Read the full press release online (in Italian).
STARTUPS — LISBON’S TECH SCENE: Forget London, Paris or Berlin — the new place on the map for tech entrepreneurs in Europe is Lisbon, where they can live cheaply, take in views of the Atlantic Ocean, and jump on a train to EU citizenship. Geography, culture and the relatively benign costs of real estate and labor all play into Portugal’s boa-vida appeal — especially compared to London or Paris or, increasingly, upwardly-mobile Berlin.
— More to offer: Techies in Lisbon can also count on serious support from the Portuguese government, which is eager to lure them in the wake of a blistering economic crisis. And in Europe’s race for tech talent, Lisbon has a wildcard: A plan to offer residency, and eventually citizenship, for anyone who invests at least €1 million in the local economy, buys property worth €500,000, or creates 10 jobs. Locals have just one request for the newcomers flocking to Portugal: Please stop calling Lisbon “the new Berlin.” POLITICO’s AI Correspondent Janosch Delcker reports here or below.
BREXIT — IMMIGRATION: U.K. business lobby group the CBI calls for migration to be put on the table in future U.K. and EU trade talks in a report out today. Its proposals for a post-Brexit immigration system include calls for workers not to be subjected to burdensome EU visa rules. It acknowledges public pressure to end free movement but calls for a shift from controlled numbers to assessments of migrant contribution. You can read the full recommendations here.
PLATFORMS — FACEBOOK MODERATION: The social network’s Vice President of Policy Richard Allan wrote a blog post Thursday setting out what is and is not acceptable on the platform. Read in full here. Not OK: 3D printed guns.
PLATFORMS — PEOPLE FACEBOOK SAYS YOU SHOULD KNOW: Facebook’s People You May Know feature has been matching you with people it thinks you should befriend for years now. But the survival of the feature doesn’t mean it’s particularly well-liked. “People You May Know has been getting on people’s nerves for over 10 years,” writes Kashmir Hill in Gizmodo.
PENTAGON INNOVATION: The Pentagon has renamed its unit for collaboration with the tech industry, dropping “experimental” and marking its transition from temporary to permanent. Read the memo from U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan here.
US — ASSANGE TO TESTIFY? WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent the past six years in Ecuador’s London embassy, is considering an offer to appear before a U.S. Senate committee to discuss alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, according to his lawyer. Details from Reuters.
GERMANY — GAME THEORY: Germans will be able to buy computer games that feature Nazi symbols after the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body announced it would change how it assessed them on Thursday. A clause in the criminal code that allows symbols such as swastikas to be used in a “socially adequate” way will now apply to games, in addition to movies. More from DW.
COMPETITION — QUALCOMM SETTLES IN TAIWAN: Qualcomm is settling its Taiwan antitrust case by paying $89 million, according to an announcement today. More from Reuters.
INTERNET OF WHAT? Earlier this summer, Microsoft built an undersea data center off the coast of Scotland, taking advantage of a local excess of energy and the cold temperatures of the North Sea. Now, it’s gone one step further by adding a webcam so people can watch the fishes swim by. You can take a look for yourself, though Morning Tech isn’t convinced that it’s from the North Sea (the water is surprisingly clear!)
Morning Tech wouldn’t be possible without Kate Day and Zoya Sheftalovich.
**POLITICO has expanded its U.K. technology coverage and is piloting a U.K. edition of our Morning Tech newsletter. To test it out, email [email protected] mentioning U.K. Tech.**
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Lisbon bids for tech talent — with EU passports as a prize
— By Janosch Delcker
LISBON — Forget about London, Paris or Berlin for a minute.
The new place on the map for tech entrepreneurs in Europe is Lisbon, where they can live cheaply, take in views of the Atlantic Ocean — and jump on a train to citizenship in the European Union.
Geography, culture and the relatively benign costs of real estate and labor all play into Portugal’s boa-vida appeal — especially compared to London or Paris or, increasingly, upwardly mobile Berlin. Techies here can also count on serious support from the Portuguese government, which is eager to lure them in the wake of a blistering economic crisis.
In Europe’s race for tech talent, Lisbon has a wildcard: a plan to offer residency, and eventually citizenship, for anyone who invests at least €1 million in the local economy, buys property worth €500,000 or creates 10 jobs. The passport-for-investment scheme has already drawn thousands of investors and has begun to catch on with the tech community. Its potential to draw talent from Brazil, for example, which is brimming with skilled programmers, gives Portugal an edge at a time when Brexit and new restrictions on immigration are increasingly problematic for London, Europe’s No. 1 tech destination.
So far, fewer than a dozen entrepreneurs, including some from the tech sector, have taken advantage of the passport-for-jobs option. But supporters expect numbers to go up now that a number of major companies, including some of the world’s tech giants, opened branches in Lisbon during the last year.
And this growing list of firms opening tech offices marks only the beginning of what’s yet to come, officials say.
Graça Fonseca, Portugal’s secretary of state for administrative modernization and a longtime political companion of Prime Minister António Costa, laid out her vision of how Portugal would become a leading destination for entrepreneurs who want to develop applications for the public sector.
“What I say to [entrepreneurs] is ‘Listen, working solutions for public markets are global: What you can develop here in Portugal can go to Germany, London, Paris, wherever,’” she said in an interview at her office overseeing the Tagus river.
Locals, including Fonseca, have just one request for the newcomers flocking to Portugal: Please stop calling Lisbon “the new Berlin.”
“Lisbon cannot compete with Berlin in terms of its dimension, its territory, its history. And why should we?” she said. “Berlin doesn’t have what we have, and we don’t have what Berlin has.”
A man from Berlin
Lined with tattoo parlors and old-school car repair shops, the streets of Lisbon’s industrial Beato district — about an hour-and-a-half’s walk east from Fonseca’s office — look more Brooklyn than Berlin.
“All of this will be office spaces,” said Simon Schäfer, guiding a visitor through the gigantic upper floor of an industrial complex.
Turning the 25 factories in the heart of Beato, which once produced food for the Portuguese army, into a mega-campus for startups and global companies is the latest project for Schäfer, a 40-year-old German.
He arrived in 2016, when Costa’s administration poached him from Berlin, where he had already supervised the opening of two massive tech campuses. His main project is to build “StartUP Portugal,” an association overseeing the country’s strategy for entrepreneurship.
One of the first things Schäfer did was to put up billboards across the country that read “This is not the New Berlin.” It was his way of responding to visitors who kept asserting that Lisbon was about to just copy-paste the approach of Germany’s hip capital, which attracted creatives with cheap rents in the 2000s, followed by entrepreneurs in the 2010s.
Lisbon, however, offers its own unique selling points, he said.
Schäfer has worked worked with the German government and Berlin’s regional administration as well as the European Commission. But he says nothing compares to the support he gets from Costa’s current minority Socialist government in Portugal.
“Where else would it be possible for an association to literally have its office inside the economy ministry?” he said.
In the last two years a key aspect of his association’s strategy, besides fostering startups, was convincing the world’s tech giants to open up branches in Portugal, Schäfer said. This year alone, companies including American tech giant Google, German online retailer Zalando and carmaker Volkswagen all announced they were setting up local tech development centers.
When Mercedes-Benz followed suit in May, the company said the Portuguese capital was “currently becoming the ‘place to be’ in the digital world.”
The arrival of these major players “doesn’t just create jobs,” Schäfer said.
Their presence, “also has a spillover effect into the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” and helps to bring back some of the hundreds of thousands of people who left during the economic crisis.
Back on its feet
When Graça Fonseca, a sociologist by training, began oversight of economic growth and innovation in then-mayor Costa’s office in 2009, Portugal had hit rock bottom. Unemployment was at more than 10 percent and kept rising until it peaked at near 18 percent in 2013.
“Really, the crisis was here,” she remembered. But, she said, Costa and his team managed to get Lisbon back on its feet, a success she hopes to replicate nationally.
The city lacked an economic strategy. One of the first measures taken was an international PR campaign promoting Lisbon abroad as a hub bridging Portuguese-speaking countries on three different continents.
But Fonseca was also aware that Lisbon’s depressed city center needed to be revived; besides boosting commerce and tourism, growing a tech scene there became a central pillar in their strategy.
In 2011, the city launched an incubator called “Startup Lisboa” right in its troubled center. Slowly but steadily, a total of 280 startups moved into previously empty offices and shops, creating over 1,500 jobs.
A year later, the country also started to hand out “golden visas” to those who invest at least a million euros, buy real estate worth half a million or create at least 10 jobs in Portugal.
Since then, 6,369 residence permits, allowing people to travel freely within the Schengen area and to apply for full citizenship status after six years, have been issued, according to government statistics released in July. Only a tiny fraction of those — 11 visa — went to entrepreneurs, while the majority were given to real estate investors, primarily from China, prompting critics to warn that the program could be used for money laundering or tax evasion.
But supporters point to the almost €3.9 billion of foreign money the program has poured into Portugal since 2012. This investment, they say, helped foster growth in a country where banks still struggle with the heritage of bad loans and remain reluctant to lend money, particularly to young companies. And they are confident the number of entrepreneurial visa will soon go up, now that big players have arrived in Lisbon.
In 2016, Lisbon also managed to lure Europe’s largest tech event, the Web Summit, away from Dublin for at least three years. In the same year, when the U.K. — the EU’s No. 1 tech destination — voted to leave the bloc, the Portuguese government was quick to set up a task force called “Portugal In” to attract foreign investment. In 2017 alone, British investment in the country grew more than fivefold to €750 million from €140 million in 2016, according to government data.
Numbers suggest the measures — along with a boom in tourism and exports, traditionally the backbone of the economy — are paying off: Growth is currently estimated at 2.6 percent, its fastest since 2000. Unemployment is down to 6.7 percent, the lowest in 16 years.
Bringing them home
Now that Portugal is on the map for tech, the plan is to start bringing back some of those who left during the crisis.
It’s impossible to state exactly how many people joined the exodus, partly because many who left to other EU countries never notified authorities that they were moving. However, experts estimate that nearly half a million people left Portugal between 2011 and 2014 — the country’s largest emigration in 50 years.
The government is determined to make it as easy as possible for them to resettle.
“We were surprised how fast the process was, and not only that — people also helped us a lot,” said Ricardo Rodrigues, the director of the new Lisbon office of mycujoo, a tech startup providing livestream services to soccer clubs and associations around the world.
Launched by Portuguese founders four years ago in Zurich, the firm later opened offices in the Netherlands and Singapore. When they decided to add a location in Lisbon earlier this year, their main concern was finding tech-savvy talent.
But within weeks, applications were pouring in. And government-run agencies quickly helped them find an office in a co-working space near Lisbon’s iconic 25th of April bridge.
“The government [is providing] very good conditions,” Rodrigues said.
Mycujoo now has plans to further expand in Portugal, not least because its founders are Portuguese and because salaries and fixed costs are lower than at any of the company’s other locations.
At the end of the day, it’s not just money that helps companies to attract talent, Rodrigues added as he stood on the rooftop of the complex where mycujoo’s offices are located.
“People don’t only look for a salary at the end of the months,” he said, blinded by the sun reflecting in the Atlantic Ocean, “It’s also about whether they can have a good quality of life.”
UK watchdog fines broker £140,000 for illegally selling data to Labour Party
— By Mark Scott
LONDON — Britain’s privacy watchdog fined a data broker £140,000 (€155,000) today for illegally collecting and selling personal information to the country’s Labour Party, which used the information to target potential voters during last year’s general election.
The Information Commissioner’s Office said Lifecycle Marketing, which runs the Emma’s Diary website for expectant mothers, illegally sold information on more than one million people to Experian Marketing Services, a unit of a credit reference agency, for use by the Labour Party.
The party then used the online data to send targeted mail to mothers living in marginal electoral districts in an effort to convince them to vote Labour, according to the ICO. The company did not disclose that people’s information would be used by political parties.
“All organisations involved in political campaigning must use personal information in ways that are transparent, lawful and understood by the U.K. public,” Elizabeth Denham, head of the ICO, said in a statement.
“The relationship between data brokers, political parties and campaigns is complex,” she added. “Even though this company was not directly involved in political campaigning, the democratic process must be transparent.”
Spokespeople for Emma’s Diary and the Labour Party were not immediately available for comment.