France Fines Google $57M for Data Privacy Violation

France’s data watchdog fined Google nearly $57 million on Monday, saying the tech giant failed to provide users with transparent information on its data consumer policies and how their personal information was used to display advertising targeting them.

The French agency CNIL said U.S.-based Google made it too difficult for internet users to understand and manage their personal preferences online.

“The information provided is not sufficiently clear,” the regulatory agency said, “for the user to understand the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google’s legitimate business interests.”

It was the first ruling using the European Union’s strict new General Data Protection Regulation since it was implemented last year, a sweeping set of rules that has set a global standard forcing large American technology firms to examine their practices or risk huge fines.

Google said it was studying the ruling to determine its next steps.

“People expect high standards of transparency and control from us,” Google said. “We’re deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements” of the new regulations.

 

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Few Signs of Breakthrough as May Set to Unveil Brexit Plan B

Prime Minister Theresa May was set to unveil her new plan to break Britain’s Brexit deadlock on Monday — one expected to look a lot like the old plan that was decisively rejected by Parliament last week.

May was scheduled to brief the House of Commons on how she intends to proceed. There were few signs she planned to make radical changes to her deal, though she may seek alterations to its most contentious section, an insurance policy known as the “backstop” that is intended to guarantee there are no customs checks along the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Brexit.

 

The EU insists it will not renegotiate the withdrawal agreement, and says the backstop is an integral part of the deal.

 

“This is the text we all invested ourselves in,” Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said as she arrived for a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels.

 

British lawmakers are due to vote on May’s “Plan B,” and possible amendments, on Jan. 29, two months before Britain is due to leave the EU.

 

Britain and the EU sealed a divorce deal in November after months of tense negotiations. But the agreement has been rejected by both sides of Britain’s divide over Europe. Brexit-backing lawmakers say it will leave the U.K. tethered to the bloc’s rules and unable to forge an independent trade policy. Pro-Europeans argue it is inferior to the frictionless economic relationship Britain currently enjoys as an EU member.

 

After her deal was thrown out last week by a crushing 432-202 vote in Parliament, May said she would consult with lawmakers from all parties to find a new way forward.

 

But Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called the cross-party meetings a “stunt,” and other opposition leaders said the prime minister did not heed their entreaties to rule out a “no-deal” Brexit and retain close economic ties with the EU.

 

Instead, May looks set to try to win over pro-Brexit Conservatives and her party’s Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. Both groups say they will not back the deal unless the border backstop is removed.

 

May’s spokesman James Slack said May’s talks with opposition lawmakers were “genuine,” and that a “significant number” had expressed concerns about the backstop.

 

He said it was clear “we’re going to have to come forward with something that is different” to get Parliament’s approval.

 

Britain’s political impasse over Brexit is fueling concerns that the country may crash out of the EU on March 29 with no agreement in place to cushion the shock. That could see tariffs imposed on goods moving between Britain and the EU, sparking logjams at ports and shortages of essential supplies.

 

Labour Party Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said Sunday that a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic,” and it was “inevitable” Britain will have to ask the EU to extend the two-year countdown to exit.

 

Several groups of lawmakers are trying to use parliamentary rules and amendments to May’s plan to block the possibility of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.

 

One of those legislators, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, said May was shirking her responsibility to the country by refusing to take “no deal” off the table.

 

“I think she knows that she should rule out ‘no deal’ in the national interest because it would be so damaging,” Cooper told the BBC. “She’s refusing to do so, and I think she’s hoping that Parliament will do this for her. That is not leadership.”

 

EU leaders, meanwhile, expressed frustration with British indecision.

 

“We now know what they don’t want in London,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. “Now we must at last find out what they want.”

 

Chief EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that while the EU would not amend the legally binding withdrawal agreement, it was ready to adjust the political declaration — a non-binding statement on future relations that forms the second part of the divorce deal.

 

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell said it was crucial to find out what type of deal Britain’s Parliament would support.

 

“We cannot keep negotiating something this way and when everything is negotiated, the U.K. Parliament refuses,” he said in Brussels. “We have to have the guarantee that the proposal has the parliamentary support not to be refused again.”

 

 

 

 

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World Economy Forecast to Slow in 2019 Amid Trade Tensions

The International Monetary Fund has cut its forecast for world economic growth this year, citing heightened trade tensions and rising U.S. interest rates.

The IMF said Monday that it expects global growth this year of 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in 2018 and from the 3.7 percent it had forecast for 2019 back in October.

 

“After two years of solid expansion, the world economy is growing more slowly than expected and risks are rising,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as she presented the new forecasts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

 

The fund left its prediction for U.S. growth this year unchanged at 2.5 percent — though a continuation of the partial 31-day shutdown of the federal government poses a risk. The IMF trimmed the outlook for the 19 countries that use the euro currency to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

 

Growth in emerging-market countries is forecast to slow to 4.5 percent from 4.6 percent in 2018. The IMF expects the Chinese economy — the world’s second biggest — to grow 6.2 percent this year, down from 6.6 percent in 2018 and slowest since 1990.

 

The World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have also downgraded their world growth forecasts.

 

Britain’s messy divorce from the European Union and Italy’s ongoing financial struggles pose threats to growth in Europe.

 

And rising trade tensions pose a major risk to the wider world economy. Under President Donald Trump the United States has imposed import taxes on steel, aluminum and hundreds of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from China and other U.S. trading partners.

 

“Higher trade uncertainty will further dampen investment and disrupt global supply chains,” said IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath.

 

Rising interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere are also pinching emerging-market governments and companies that borrowed heavily when rates were ultra-low in the aftermath of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.

 

As the debts roll over, those borrowers have to refinance at higher rates. A rising dollar is also making things harder for emerging-market borrowers who took out loans denominated in the U.S. currency.

 

 

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Uganda Seeks to Regulate Fish Maw Trade

At the Gaba landing site in Kampala, fishermen dock their boats filled with both tilapia and Nile perch.

Waiting along the shores, donning white gum boots and white coats, fish traders wait to offload the Nile perch that has turned profitable for many traders.

The fish’s commodity, known as a swim bladder, is used as an aphrodisiac in China and is now being recognized by the Ugandan government as water gold, but fishermen at the forefront say they are being exploited.

A study by the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization has shown that a growing appetite in Asia has seen the former waste by-product becoming a multi-million-dollar export.

Idrisa Walusimbi began working as a fisherman 20 years ago. Now, he has his own boat and is chairman of the fish protection unit. He says in the early 1990s, Nile perch fish maw would be fried and eaten by locals. But lately, the Chinese market has made it more lucrative, especially for the exporter.

“You find that from the lowest fisherman, as you know, that he gains, but not so much. Then you find the middleman gains more, and the trader above gains even more, the levels keep increasing and the ones that profit the most are the final local buyer and exporter,” Walusimbi said.

Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania collectively earn $86 million from trading the commodity. Uganda alone earned $40 million in 2017 as the largest exporter of the Nile perch swim bladder to China.

Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda’s minister for agriculture, animal industry and fisheries, says fish maw is a new item that needs to be regulated.

“That’s why we want to regulate it, so that our fish farmers and of course the fish mongers and the fisheries sector really, benefit from this very lucrative business. Yes, it’s certainly a new type of gold, so we need to look at it more critically,” Ssempijja said.

International prices for dry maw range between $450 and $1,000 per kilogram, depending on the size, quality and market strength. Fish sold to locals have the swim bladders taken out and sold for between $107 to $214 per kilogram.

At the Gaba landing site, fish processing companies have trucks loaded with the Nile Perch fish maw left intact.

The Lake Victoria Fish Organization in its report advises that the fish maw be recognized as a separate commodity from fish. Walugembe George, a fisherman, says he wishes there was a standard price so they too could benefit.

“We have always known that it’s a saleable commodity, but we sell it at low prices. So, we have been exploited. Why do the prices hike and then slump?” he asked.

The Ugandan government is currently consulting and discussing a fisheries and aquaculture bill that calls for the fish maw to be one of the products that should be regulated.

 

 

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Russian Media Watchdog Moves Against Facebook, Twitter

Russia’s communication watchdog, Roskomnadzor, opened “administrative proceedings” Monday against Facebook and Twitter for non-compliance with country’s data laws, Interfax news agency reported.

Roskomnadzor head Alexander Zharov is quoted as saying that U.S. social media giants have a month to comply or face legal proceedings.

According to Roskomnadzor, Facebook and Twitter have not explained how and when they would comply with legislation that requires all servers used to store Russians’ personal data to be located in Russia.

Russia has introduced stricter internet laws in the past five years, among other things requiring search engines to share encryption keys with Russian security services.

In April last year, thousands rallied in Moscow in support of internet freedom after Russian authorities attempted to block access to the popular messaging app Telegram.

Telegram had refused to give state intelligence services access to private conversations which are usually encrypted.

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