Launch of the ESNG Website

We are glad to announce the launch of our new website esng.eu

- and invite you to take a look around:

Our new website provides:

  • european industry insights in the field of social networks and social technology, tackling topics of the European Commission and European Parliament like Level-Playing-Field, Data-Protection Regulations and many other, covering also the activities of the group,
  • a download section, where one can access all our papers filed to the European Commission,
  • General Informations and contact details from our members,
  • a more detailed mission statement, explaining the purpose and the perspective of our group.

You can find the press release here: Press Release

And a more detailed Presentation here: Extended Presentation

If you have any questions or topics you would like to discuss – please dont hesitate to contact us.

 

Best Regards,

The European Social Networks Group

Mission Statement

Social Media is on the rise. It has changed the way users communicate and interact on a big scale. It has a huge impact on society and politics. Social Media Networks provide platforms for free speech and are used for social and political discussions more and more. For both Social Media Networks and their users it is becoming increasingly necessary to ensure data protection, user privacy and fair competition.

A substantial percentage of the most popular Social Media Networks used by citizens of the European Union are based in non-member-states. At the same time, European Social Network Providers make up an important part of the network services consumed by European citizens. Promoting fair competition for between international and European providers in this arena not only supports not only supports the growth of European companies but is important for European citizens, society and politics as well.

As an interest group comprised of the largest European Social Networks, we are committed to fair competition for all Social Media Networks with special regard to data protection, user privacy and other individual rights of citizens.

From our point of view fair competition between European Social Media Network Providers and providers from non-member-states still has a long way to go. We believe in data protection and user privacy as core assets of our services. Nevertheless, Social Media Networks from non-member-states often appear to be far less restricted in their application of European data protection and privacy laws, and use the personal data of their users to extend their reach in very effective ways.

We as European Social Network Service Providers are actors in a global environment and are in competition with other social networks from non-member-states. In order to enjoy the same competitive opportunities, we endorse global standards,

or harmonization, of legal frameworks that apply to all Social Networks regardless of their origin. At the very least, European legislation should apply to all Social Network Providers that offer their services to citizens or companies of EU member states.

We believe that the regulation of internet services in the European Union is too complicated and lacks clarification of important issues in regard to the Social Networking Industry. Questions raised about whether the use of specific web technologies (e.g. cookies) are considered to be processing of personal data (and must be based on consent) or not do hamper innovation. We need clear rules and regulation that are easily applicable to all Social Networks that cater to citizens or companies in the European Union. – for the good of both the industry and the consumer.

From a strictly European perspective we believe that it is extremely important to reach full harmonisation within and between member states in regard to data protection and protection of individual rights of users in order to ensure fair competition between European Social Media Network Providers.

In terms of enforcement, we are in favor of working towards a strengthened self-regulatory system, which is an effective mechanism for keeping legislation industry-neutral and allows protection to evolve at the same rate as technology.

In term of the innovation process, we believe an approach similar to the one applied by venture capitalists would be more appropriate for our industry. We would recommend that Erasmus type of programmes be organised to give young graduates a chance to gain experience by building innovative products in young creative companies throughout the European Union.

We believe that the Social Networking industry in Europe will be better able to provide cutting edge technologies to European citizens and compete in the international marketplace with a modern approach to regulation of Social Networks, and a more efficient innovation process in Europe.

The Right to be forgotten

european parliament

The Data Protection Regulation will establish significant framework conditions for the further development of the internet industry.

The right to be forgotten, that is promoted within the proposal for a new EU Data Protection Regulation (PDF) and is seen as one of the most important initiatives contained (see coverage here and here), includes a revision of, and goes beyond, the existing right of a data subject to deletion of personal data, as defined in the EU Directive 95/46/EC (PDF). There has been no fundamental criticism of a revision of the right to deletion.

The EUROPEAN SOCIAL NETWORKS see problems in certain provisions of Art. 17 of the proposed EU Data Protection Regulation, however. We would like to draw attention to the fact that the scope of the right to deletion is still not quite clear. Group or forum contributions in social networks may serve as an example in this regard. These contain the content of an article in addition to information about its author. It is unclear even under existing law whether, for example, the rights that the general terms and conditions of business grant to the use of such content partly or wholly conflict with a right to have the contributions deleted. At this time the best practice appears to be to keep the information about the author anonymous while preserving the contribution. With Art. 17, however, it remains as unclear as ever whether the content of articles is to be regarded as personal data and therefore subject to the right to deletion.

Such an extensive right to deletion could have serious information and cultural policy consequences. Articles in groups or forums are usually part of a discussion, and other contributions by other authors are often based on the articles that precede them. If the latter have to be deleted, however, the context and framework of reference will be lost in many discussions. The information then becomes less valuable or, in some cases, even unintelligible.

A clear provision should be included here that does not expand the duty to delete to include the content of articles in group or forum contributions.

We consider Art. 17 (2) also to be vague. It is highly questionable which measures are still to be considered “reasonable” and which are not. Surely it can be considered reasonable, in the case of a search engine such as Google, to request that search engine content be un-indexed with the tools that Google offers. Considering the large number of search engines, a demand for further steps would be unreasonable, however, in view of the number of cases involved. This is a matter that should be clarified.

Level Playing Field

Europe’s Digital Stakeholders at a Competitive Disadvantage

One of the greatest difficulties that European technology companies currently face is the diversity—both within the EU and abroad—in the laws that govern data handling and protection

European companies providing services in various Member States must currently comply with the distinct data protection and privacy regulations that exist in each of those States, impeding companies’ growth beyond national borders.

Furthermore, European data protection and privacy regulations do not apply to non-European companies offering services within the EU, resulting in a competitive disadvantage for European companies both domestic and abroad.

To resolve this imbalance and remove competitive barriers, a single European market should be established that puts an end to the discrepancies among the individual legislations of Member States. It is crucial that a level playing field be created for Europe’s digital companies to allow for competition beyond national borders.

The European Social Networks Group believes that competitive equality can be achieved through the following actions:

  • Implement a single European legislative framework, creating greater harmonization in the privacy and data protection regulations applied throughout all Member States.
  • Apply European privacy and data protection regulations to all companies operating in the European market or targeting consumers located in Member States, regardless of the geographical location of the service provider or the technical means used to provide the service, thereby granting the same competitive opportunities to all digital companies and providing coherent legal security and protection to all targeted consumers.
  • Establish clear and uniform regulations throughout the EU that serve as global, universal standards for upholding individuals’ rights to privacy and data protection.
  • Encourage self-regulation initiatives—particularly the active promotion of codes of conduct—to improve the application of the laws and regulations related to data protection.

Meeting with Viviane Reding

Foto: Severin Nowacki, World Economic Forum/swiss-image.ch

On February 20th 2012 ESNG met with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Vivian Reding, to discuss the proposal for a new European Data Regulation. After expressing our general approvement of the regulation, especially regarding the leveling of the playing field, the applicability of legal frameworks to every company catering to EU Citizens and the harmonization throughout european member states, we discussed critical points that are still unclear and need input from the industry, such as the definition of Data Portability, the efinition of Child and obtaining consent from minors as well as the definition of personal data and the right to be forgotten. Mrs. Reding and her staff were very open towards our input and stressed the importance of the engagement from the european industry in the process of formulating the regulation – all of the still unanswered technical questions in the proposal require input from an industry perspective. After the meeting ESNG filed a Position Paper on EU Data Protection Regulation, summarizing our most important points and serving as a basis for further discussions with the rapporteurs on a european and on a national level.