EU countries fail to agree on privacy rules governing WhatsApp, Skype

Tech companies and some EU countries have criticized the ePrivacy proposal for being too restrictive. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2019

EU countries fail to agree on privacy rules governing WhatsApp, Skype

  • EU countries need to come up with a stance before they start talks to thrash out a common position with the Commission and European Parliament
  • Tech companies and some EU countries have criticized the ePrivacy proposal for being too restrictive

BRUSSELS: EU efforts to create a level playing field between telecoms operators and Facebook’s WhatsApp and Microsoft unit Skype stalled on Friday after member countries failed to agree on the scope of proposed rules.
The European Commission kicked off the process two years ago with its proposal for an ePrivacy regulation which would ensure that tech companies offering online messaging and email services would be subjected to the same tough rules as telecoms providers.
Disagreements between EU countries on complex issues such as rules for cookies tracking users’ online activities, provisions on detecting and deleting child pornography and consent requirements however have stymied the process.
EU countries need to come up with a stance before they start talks to thrash out a common position with the Commission and European Parliament.
EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Friday again reached an impasse, EU officials said.
Tech companies and some EU countries have criticized the ePrivacy proposal for being too restrictive, putting them at loggerheads with privacy activists who back the plan.
“By first watering down the text and now halting the ePrivacy Regulation, the (European) Council takes a stance to protect the interests of online tracking advertisers and to ensure the dominance of big tech,” said Diego Naranjo at digital civil rights group European Digital Rights (EDRi).
It is not clear what the next step will be. Croatia, which takes over the EU presidency Jan. 1, may seek to resume the negotiations.


US Congress members push for Al Jazeera to register as foreign agent

Updated 13 July 2020

US Congress members push for Al Jazeera to register as foreign agent

  • US Congress amended the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2018 requiring all foreign media outlets based in America to detail their ties to foreign governments
  • The law is part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which was adopted in 1938 to identify Nazi propaganda outlets in the US

CHICAGO: The Qatari-owned satellite news channel, Al Jazeera, is facing renewed pressure to register as a foreign agent in the US under a two-year-old law.

After a year-long push, the US Congress amended the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2018 requiring all foreign media outlets based in America to detail their ties to foreign governments.

The law is part of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which was adopted in 1938 to identify Nazi propaganda outlets in the US.

They are required to include, “a description of the relationship of such outlet to the foreign principal of such outlet, including a description of the legal structure of such relationship and any funding that such outlet receives from such principal.”

Among news outlets forced to register is the Russian-owned broadcaster RT. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, that prompted the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association — the body in charge of issuing press passes for the US House of Representatives and the Senate — to revoke the outlet’s pass.

Soon after, in February 2019, the China Global Television Network (CGTN) registered under the act and lost access to Congress, although another media outlet funded by the Chinese government, Xinhua News Agency, has not.

Last year, several influential lawmakers demanded the same requirement be imposed on Al Jazeera, whose chairman is Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family.

The broadcaster was founded by the former emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who handed over power to his son, Sheikh Tamim, in 2013.

The current emir’s brother has been accused of committing murder and assault against Americans in a Massachusetts-based lawsuit, and the Qatar Charity funded by the Qatar Foundation were recently accused of funding terrorist violence that killed or maimed 10 American citizens in Israel.

The signatories include US Senators Tom Cotton, Chuck Grassley, John Cornyn, Todd Young, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, and Representatives Mike Johnson and Lee Zeldin.

“Qatar’s officials have said that government-controlled media is a form of ‘soft power.’ As such, one can reasonably infer that Al Jazeera is a messaging tool for the Qatari government and on its behalf has engaged in inherently political activities and sought to influence public opinion in the US,” the lawmakers wrote.

Click here to read the letter:

https://www.cotton.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1161

Critics note that Al Jazeera’s videos on YouTube are stamped with the disclaimer, “Al Jazeera is funded in whole or in part by the Qatari government.”