EU dropped plans for safer pesticides after pressure from US

EU plans to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals found in pesticides have been dropped because of threats from the US that this would adversely affect negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), according to a report in The Guardian. Draft EU regulations would have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that have been linked to testicular cancer and male infertility.

Just after the official launch of the TTIP negotiations on 13 June 2013, a US business delegation visited EU officials to demand that the proposed regulations governing EDCs should be thrown out in favour of a further “impact study.” Minutes of the meeting on June 26 show Commission officials saying that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards.” Nonetheless, the European Commission capitulated shortly afterwards.

That climbdown was despite repeated promises from the European Commission that TTIP would not jeopardise EU health and safety standards. For example, a Commission factsheet on Pesticides in TTIP from February 2015 states: “TTIP will not lower the food safety standards for pesticides.” The Guardian report demonstrates that plans to strengthen regulations governing EDCs were blocked, which is equivalent to a lowering of future standards that would have been introduced had it not been for TTIP.

Link (Techdirt)

European Mobile Networks Plan To Block Ads, Not For Your Safety, But To Mess With Google

So things just keep getting stranger and stranger online. A bunch of mobile operators are apparently planning to start automatically blocking all mobile ads. Now, for those of you who hate ads online, this might seem like a good thing, but it is not. If you want to disable ads on your own, that should be your call. In fact, as we’ve noted before, we think people on the web have every right to install their own ad blockers, and we find it ridiculous when people argue that ad blocking is some form of “theft.”

But this is different… and this is dangerous.

As the reports make clear, this move has nothing to do with actually protecting the public from malicious or annoying ads… and everything to do with the mobile operators hoping to shake down Google.

The plan – which would be devastating to companies reliant on advertising – is not limited to a single European network. Its apparent aim is to break Google’s hold on advertising.

The FT report says that “an executive at a European carrier confirmed that it and several of its peers are planning to start blocking adverts this year” and will be available as an “opt-in service” however they are also considering applying the technology across their entire mobile networks.

And, the clear plan is to then go to Google and say “give us money or else”:

The unnamed European carrier in the Financial Times article is reportedly planning to target Google and block its ads to force the company into giving up some of its revenue.

Link (Techdirt)

Report: Facebook tracks all visitors, even if you’re not a user and opted out

Facebook tracks the Web-browsing activities of all visitors to the facebook.com domain even if they are not a Facebook user, according to new research from Europe. The report updates work from earlier this year, which found that Facebook’s updated privacy policy breached EU law.

The research has been commissioned by the Belgian data protection agency, which is investigating Facebook. It was a collaboration between the Interdisciplinary Centre for Law and ICT/Centre for Intellectual Property Rights (ICRI/CIR) at the University of Leuven and the Department of Studies on Media, Information, and Telecommunication (SMIT) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels.

This newly found tracking, used to provide targeted advertising, is carried out through Facebook’s social widget, the Like Button. A cookie is placed in the browser when someone visits any page in the facebook.com domain, including sections that do not require an account. For visitors that are not Facebook users, the cookie contains a unique identifier, and it has an expiration date of two years. Facebook users receive additional cookies that identify them uniquely. Once those cookies have been set, Facebook will receive them for every subsequent visit to a website that uses Facebook’s social widget. That applies whether or not the Facebook user is logged in to his or her account and whether or not the visitor to the third-party site actually uses the social widget.

France Says Corporate Sovereignty Must Come Out Of CETA, Or Be Replaced By Something Completely Different

Although he is generally in favor of this agreement [CETA], the [French] Secretary of State [for External Commerce] considers that before ratifying the treaty it will be necessary either to withdraw current sections on ISDS or rewrite them entirely. Moreover, the opinion of [the French Secretary of State] Matthias Fekl represents not only the official position of France, but also a consensus shared by Germany and the European social democrats. In the daily Le Monde, he said on Wednesday that the only options remaining on the table were “the withdrawal, pure and simple, of ISDS or coming up with something new.” There is therefore no question of the Secretary of State signing the Canada-EU treaty without “inventing something new, that is no longer [investor-state] arbitration, but a new way to settle disputes, by integrating public courts in the procedure.”

Link (Techdirt)

EU Commissioner Wants to Abolish Netflix-Style Geoblocking

Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library.

The same is true for many other media services such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant Video, and even YouTube.

These regional blockades are a thorn in the side of Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market in the European Commission. In a speech this week he explained why these roadblocks should be abolished.

“Far too often, consumers find themselves redirected to a national website, or blocked. I know this from my own experience. You probably do as well,” Ansip said.

“This is one of many barriers that needs to be removed so that everyone can enjoy the best Europe has to offer online. It is a serious and common barrier, as well as extremely frustrating,” he added.

Link (TorrentFreak)