Will Europe Force a Facebook Blackout?

Facebook faces trouble in Europe—and Meta wants you to know about it. Every three months since June 2018, the company has used its financial results to warn that it could be forced to stop running Facebook and Instagram across the continent—potentially pulling its apps from millions of people and thousands of businesses—if it can’t send data between the EU and the US.

Whether Meta’s bluffing will become clear soon enough.

Data regulators are on the verge of making a historic ruling in a years-long case, and they are expected to say Facebook’s data transfers across the Atlantic should be blocked. For years, Meta has fought against European privacy activists over how data is sent to the US, with courts ruling multiple times that European data isn’t properly protected and can potentially be snooped on by the NSA and other US intelligence agencies.

While the case focuses on Meta, it has widespread ramifications, potentially impacting thousands of businesses across Europe that rely upon the services of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and more. At the same time, US and European negotiators are scrambling to finalize a long-awaited new data-sharing deal that will limit what information US intelligence agencies can get their hands on. If negotiators can’t get it right, people’s privacy will remain at risk and billions of dollars of trade will be put in jeopardy.

At the start of July, the Irish Data Protection Commission, Facebook’s main data regulator in Europe, issued a draft decision that would block Meta from sending data across the Atlantic. While the specifics of that draft decision aren’t known, if it is enacted, it could create a Facebook blackout across Europe.

Under the GDPR, Europe’s data law, countries across the continent get 30 days to scrutinize Ireland’s Meta decision and respond with any potential changes or complaints. That time is now up. A spokesperson for the Irish regulator says “some” objections have been received from a “small” number of other countries and it is working to address these. Experts say these are likely to be minor points of law, rather than overturning the entire decision.

So, how likely is it that Meta will actually pull its services from Europe? In reality, the chances are probably pretty slim. Meta has said it has “no desire” to leave the continent, going as far as publishing a blog post titled “Meta Is Absolutely Not Threatening to Leave Europe.” Europe’s 30-plus countries are a large market for Meta, and stopping services, even temporarily, could be costly. (A close comparison is when the company briefly banned news posts in Australia in early 2021, following a row with publishers.) While Meta may not leave Europe, it may have to make changes to how it stores and transfers data once the final decision from the Irish regulator is published, although there is no set timeline. It may also face a fine.

“My guess is that Meta is going to have to look at some form of geo-siloing if they want to continue to operate in the EU,” says Calli Schroeder, global privacy counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit digital rights research organization. Schroeder, who previously worked with companies on international data transfers, says this approach could mean Meta would have to create its own servers and data centers in the EU that aren’t connected to its broader databases.

Harshvardhan Pandit, a computer science research fellow at Trinity College Dublin who is researching the GDPR, says that as data authorities are still considering Meta’s case and a final decision hasn’t been published yet, they could include several caveats or steps that Meta should take to fall in line. For instance, one recent data protection decision in Europe gave a six-month period for a company to make changes to its business.

“I think the most pragmatic solution would be for them to create the European infrastructure, like Google or Amazon, which have quite a few data centers here,” Pandit says, adding that Meta could also introduce more encryption to how it stores data and maximize how much it keeps in the EU. All these measures would be costly, though. Jack Gilbert, director and associate general counsel at Meta, says that the issue “is in the process of being resolved.” Facebook did not respond specifically to questions about its plan to respond to the Irish decision.

European officials have twice ruled that systems put in place to share data between the EU and US don’t properly protect people’s data—the complaints have been ongoing since the early 2010s. European courts ruled that international data-sharing agreements weren’t up to scratch first in 2015 and then again in July 2020, when the Privacy Shield agreement was ruled illegal.

“All that the EU is asking for when organizations transfer data to other countries is to protect that data in line with the GDPR,” says Nader Henein, a research vice president specializing in privacy and data protection at Gartner. “The issue is that laws in the US that protect the data of ‘nonresident aliens’ are woefully insufficient and make it very difficult for organizations like Facebook to comply with local law and the GDPR.”

While Meta is the focus of the most high-profile complaint, it isn’t the only company impacted by a lack of clarity on how companies in Europe can send data to the US. “The data transfer issue is not Meta-specific,” David Wehner, Meta’s chief strategy officer, said in a July earnings call. “It relates to how in general data is transferred for all US and EU companies back and forth to the US.”

googThe impacts of the July 2020 decision to get rid of Privacy Shield are now being felt. Since January of this year, multiple European data regulators have ruled that using Google Analytics, the company’s traffic-monitoring service for websites, falls foul of the GDPR. Danish authorities went even further: Schools can’t use Chromebooks without restrictions being put in place. “There is a ton of legal uncertainty, and there is a significant compliance risk,” says Gabriela Zanfir-Fortuna, vice president of global privacy at Future of Privacy Forum, a nonprofit think tank.

Politicians are well aware of the problems. In March, US president Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a new Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework, which will change the way data is sent between the EU and US. The deal, which will be introduced by executive order, will limit what data US intelligence agencies can access and will create a new system where Europeans can complain if they think they’ve been illegally spied upon by US agencies.

However, since the deal was announced, no specifics—including any legal texts—have been published. In June, officials said the deal could be published in the coming weeks, but so far, there has been little public progress. The US Department of Commerce says discussions are still taking place, including a meeting between both sides last week. (A European Commission spokesperson says work on the new agreement is ongoing, but they do not have a timeline that can be shared.) The longer the negotiations take, the more blocking orders will drop. “Obviously, if that framework is not complete, we would be in jeopardy of being able to transfer data,” Facebook’s Wehner said earlier this year.

The deal is likely to take a while yet. “Realistically, at this point, we’re looking at a potential adequacy decision for this Trans-Atlantic data transfers framework sometime next year—maybe the first quarter of next year,” Zanfir-Fortuna says. Once the details have been published, EU officials will spend months scrutinizing the specifics to see if they fall in line with court orders.

And they won’t be the only ones pouring over it. Privacy activists and lawyers will also be looking at the agreement and could launch further legal challenges if they find that data moving from Europe to the US still isn’t protected strongly enough. “The continued challenges are not unwarranted, particularly considering the Snowden revelations and the prevalence of Big Tech firms coming out of the US,” Schroeder says. “As a whole, America really needs to make sure we rise to the challenge of showing that we can be good stewards of the industry that we’re trying to be leaders in.”

By:

Source: Will Europe Force a Facebook Blackout? | WIRED UK

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The Gap Between The Crypto Industry And Regulators Has Never Been Wider

For the past five years, cryptocurrency entrepreneurs have been in fierce disagreement with U.S. regulators over an existential question: whether certain digital assets are securities, or investment contracts that need to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The stakes are high–if a cryptocurrency is deemed a security in a U.S. court, it basically dies in the American crypto ecosystem. That’s because it can’t currently be traded on any cryptocurrency exchange, since none of them has a national securities exchange license.

Two weeks ago, the SEC filed a complaint in federal court asserting that nine tokens available to trade on Coinbase were securities, and the decree initially sounded like a step toward more regulatory clarity. But the SEC didn’t explain what makes the tokens different from other cryptocurrencies, and after the complaint came out, Coinbase published a blog post titled, “Coinbase does not list securities. End of story.” The episode was just the latest sign that the gap between the industry and regulators has never been bigger.

“The SEC chairman has publicly asserted that digital assets other than bitcoin are securities,” says Jai Massari, a former partner at law firm Davis Polk and now chief legal officer at blockchain startup Lightspark. Yet crypto companies have “necessarily taken the position that digital assets are generally not securities,” she says. It’s a stunning place for an industry to be, with near 100% disagreement between regulators and companies on a foundational question. “How this plays out in the coming months will shape the future of much of the existing crypto industry,” Massari says.

Until now, the SEC has kept an arms-length distance from defining which cryptocurrencies are securities, providing ambiguous guidance in public and private meetings with companies, according to securities lawyers Forbes spoke with. In its recent claim that nine Coinbase-listed tokens are securities, it invoked a set of guidelines called the Howey Test to make its argument. But the test is too vague and malleable to produce clear results, Massari and Davis Polk partner Joe Hall have written. Meanwhile, the cryptocurrency industry has kept marching forward with the implicit belief that few digital assets are securities.

In January 2021, when President Biden selected Gary Gensler as the new chairman of the SEC, many in the industry pointed out that Gensler had taught a blockchain course at MIT and hoped he’d provide more regulatory clarity on which digital assets are securities. But that hasn’t happened, and it’s largely because of the political muck Gensler would find himself in if he did so, says Joe Hall, who has been a Davis Polk partner for 23 years and has been working on crypto regulation since 2013.

“When there’s a trillion-dollar market, any SEC chairman has to know that if he or she wades into that, it can be completely consuming and put them in the middle of a food fight between traditional financial services and crypto companies. Those are the worst kinds of fights to be in,” he says. “You have vested interests on both sides. It can consume an incredible amount of time and resources … you have to deal with your overlords on Capitol Hill.”

The “Pottery Barn rule”—a principle of “you break it, you buy it”–also exacerbates the situation for regulators. If the SEC says a certain cryptocurrency isn’t a security, it’s treated like an endorsement, attorneys say. Later on, if something goes awry with the asset and consumers lose a lot of money, Gensler will be heavily criticized by congressional oversight committees and the media, according to Hall.

“It’s easy to criticize the SEC from the outside,” Hall adds. “But I know exactly why they’re doing it. There is just no benefit from the point of view of an individual to stick your neck out and actually try to solve the problem. It’s much easier to bring enforcement actions against people for violating the laws.” An SEC spokesperson declined to comment for this article.

As crypto companies keep operating despite the risk of SEC enforcement actions, Hall doesn’t think those businesses are acting naively, or that they believe they can safely ignore what the SEC is doing. For better or worse, they’re just moving ahead despite the risks and uncertainty. “If you weren’t willing to live with regulatory uncertainty, there’s just no way you could operate in the business,” he says.

More recently, crypto companies have developed the financial strength and confidence to go head to head with the SEC. In late June, crypto asset manager Grayscale sued the SEC for failing to allow the company to convert the Grayscale Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), a bitcoin-based investment vehicle that it released in 2013, into a spot bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), which would make the investment more accessible to the average U.S. investor.

How will the fundamental disagreement between regulators and the industry get resolved? “There’s no point in hoping that anyone at the SEC or a change in guard will result in the cavalry riding in,” Hall says. “We really need to turn to Congress to solve it.”

I lead our fintech coverage at Forbes and also cover crypto. I edit our annual Fintech 50 and 30 Under 30 for fintech, and I’ve written frequently about leadership and corporate

Source: The Gap Between The Crypto Industry And Regulators Has Never Been Wider

Critics by

There are a number of technology and finance experts who say that cryptocurrency is a purely speculative asset, and one that serves no real purpose. And this month, a group of them wrote a letter to leaders in Congress, asking that they: “Ensure that individuals in the U.S. and elsewhere are not left vulnerable to predatory finance, fraud, and systemic economic risks in the name of technological potential which does not exist.”

One of the signatories was Molly White, a software engineer who runs the blog Web3 Is Going Just Great, which documents instances of fraud and catastrophe in the crypto universe. And she is not a fan of the new bill. “It is very much what I think the cryptocurrency industry was hoping to see from regulators, which is a very limited set of regulations applied to the industry,” she said.

Some in the industry have responded positively so far. The Crypto Council for Innovation called it a significant step forward, and the Blockchain Association called it a “milestone moment.”

White says cryptocurrencies aren’t like traditional commodities like wheat or oil, so the CFTC shouldn’t be the main regulatory muscle.”Cryptocurrencies are more like securities because people broadly put money into them hoping for a return on their investment,” White said. “And when someone is engaging with something as an investment, that’s a good sign that it should go to the SEC.”

What’s more, White said the CFTC simply wasn’t equipped to handle the workload — even if the bill allows the CFTC to impose a fee on digital asset exchanges to help fund its large role.”There would need to be a major change in the amount of resources going to the CFTC for them to suddenly take on this enormous and much broader set of issues than they’ve dealt with in the past,” she said. “And the SEC is frankly just more experienced in this field already.”

Related contents:

Crypto regulation: US and UK regulators join hands Cryptopolitan

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Is Your Smartphone Ruining Your Memory? Rise of Digital Amnesia

Help! My mind has gone blank: What happens when we outsource part of our memory to an external device?  Photograph: Ilka & Franz/The Observer

‘I can’t remember anything’ is a common complaint these days. But is it because we rely so heavily on our smartphones? And do the endless alerts and distractions stop us forming new memories? Last week, I missed a real-life meeting because I hadn’t set a reminder on my smartphone, leaving someone I’d never met before alone in a café. But on the same day, I remembered the name of the actor who played Will Smith’s aunt in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1991 (Janet Hubert).

Memory is weird, unpredictable and, neuroscientifically, not yet entirely understood. When memory lapses like mine happen (which they do, a lot), it feels both easy and logical to blame the technology we’ve so recently adopted. Does having more memory in our pockets mean there’s less in our heads? Am I losing my ability to remember things – from appointments to what I was about to do next – because I expect my phone to do it for me? Before smartphones, our heads would have held a cache of phone numbers and our memories would contain a cognitive map, built up over time, which would allow us to navigate – for smartphone users, that is no longer true.

Our brains and our smartphones form a complex web of interactions: the smartphonification of life has been rising since the mid 2000s, but was accelerated by the pandemic, as was internet use in general. Prolonged periods of stress, isolation and exhaustion – common themes since March 2020 – are well known for their impact on memory. Of those surveyed by memory researcher Catherine Loveday in 2021, 80% felt that their memories were worse than before the pandemic. We are – still – shattered, not just by Covid-19, but also by the miserable national and global news cycle. Many of us self-soothe with distractions like social media.

Meanwhile, endless scrolling can, at times, create its own distress, and phone notifications and self interrupting to check for them, also seem to affect what, how and if we remember. So what happens when we outsource part of our memory to an external device? Does it enable us to squeeze more and more out of life, because we aren’t as reliant on our fallible brains to cue things up for us? Are we so reliant on smartphones that they will ultimately change how our memories work (sometimes called digital amnesia)? Or do we just occasionally miss stuff when we don’t remember the reminders?

Neuroscientists are divided. Chris Bird is professor of cognitive neuroscience in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex and runs research by the Episodic Memory Group. “We have always offloaded things into external devices, like writing down notes, and that’s enabled us to have more complex lives,” he says. “I don’t have a problem with using external devices to augment our thought processes or memory processes. We’re doing it more, but that frees up time to concentrate, focus on and remember other things.” He thinks that the kind of things we use our phones to remember are, for most human brains, difficult to remember.

“I take a photo of my parking ticket so I know when it runs out, because it’s an arbitrary thing to remember. Our brains aren’t evolved to remember highly specific, one-off things. Before we had devices, you would have to make a quite an effort to remember the time you needed to be back at your car.” Professor Oliver Hardt, who studies the neurobiology of memory and forgetting at McGill University in Montreal, is much more cautious. “Once you stop using your memory it will get worse, which makes you use your devices even more,” he says. “We use them for everything.

If you go to a website for a recipe, you press a button and it sends the ingredient list to your smartphone. It’s very convenient, but convenience has a price. It’s good for you to do certain things in your head.” Hardt is not keen on our reliance on GPS. “We can predict that prolonged use of GPS likely will reduce grey matter density in the hippocampus. Reduced grey matter density in this brain area goes along with a variety of symptoms, such as increased risk for depression and other psychopathologies, but also certain forms of dementia.

GPS-based navigational systems don’t require you to form a complex geographic map. Instead, they just tell you orientations, like ‘Turn left at next light.’ These are very simple behavioural responses (here: turn left) at a certain stimulus (here: traffic light). These kinds of spatial behaviours do not engage the hippocampus very much, unlike those spatial strategies that require the knowledge of a geographic map, in which you can locate any point, coming from any direction and which requires [cognitively] complex computations.

When exploring the spatial capacities of people who have been using GPS for a very long time, they show impairments in spatial memory abilities that require the hippocampus. Map reading is hard and that’s why we give it away to devices so easily. But hard things are good for you, because they engage cognitive processes and brain structures that have other effects on your general cognitive functioning.”

Hardt doesn’t have data yet, but believes, “the cost of this might be an enormous increase in dementia. The less you use that mind of yours, the less you use the systems that are responsible for complicated things like episodic memories, or cognitive flexibility, the more likely it is to develop dementia. There are studies showing that, for example, it is really hard to get dementia when you are a university professor, and the reason is not that these people are smarter – it’s that until old age, they are habitually engaged in tasks that are very mentally demanding.”

(Other scientists disagree – Daniel Schacter, a Harvard psychologist who wrote the seminal Seven Sins Of Memory: How The Mind Forgets and Remembers, thinks effects from things like GPS are “task specific”, only.) While smartphones can obviously open up whole new vistas of knowledge, they can also drag us away from the present moment, like it’s a beautiful day, unexperienced because you’re head down, WhatsApping a meal or a conversation. When we’re not attending to an experience, we are less likely to recall it properly, and fewer recalled experiences could even limit our capacity to have new ideas and being creative.

As the renowned neuroscientist and memory researcher Wendy Suzuki recently put it on the Huberman Lab neuroscience podcast, “If we can’t remember what we’ve done, the information we’ve learned and the events of our lives, it changes us… [The part of the brain which remembers] really defines our personal histories. It defines who we are.” Catherine Price, science writer and author of How to Break Up With Your Phone, concurs. “What we pay attention to in the moment adds up to our life,” she says. “Our brains cannot multitask. We think we can. But any moment where multitasking seems successful, it’s because one of those tasks was not cognitively demanding, like you can fold laundry and listen to the radio.

If you’re paying attention to your phone, you’re not paying attention to anything else. That might seem like a throwaway observation, but it’s actually deeply profound. Because you will only remember the things you pay attention to. If you’re not paying attention, you’re literally not going to have a memory of it to remember.”

The Cambridge neuroscientist Barbara Sahakian has evidence of this, too. “In an experiment in 2010, three different groups had to complete a reading task,” she says. “One group got instant messaging before it started, one got instant messaging during the task, and one got no instant messaging, and then there was a comprehension test. What they found was that the people getting instant messages couldn’t remember what they just read.”

Price is much more worried about what being perpetually distracted by our phones – termed “continual partial attention” by the tech expert Linda Stone – does to our memories than using their simpler functions. “I’m not getting distracted by my address book,” she says. And she doesn’t believe smartphones free us up to do more. “Let’s be real with ourselves: how many of us are using the time afforded us by our banking app to write poetry? We just passively consume crap on Instagram.” Price is from Philadelphia. “What would have happened if Benjamin Franklin had had Twitter?

Would he have been on Twitter all the time? Would he have made his inventions and breakthroughs? “I became really interested in whether the constant distractions caused by our devices might be impacting our ability to actually not just accumulate memories to begin with, but transfer them into long-term storage in a way that might impede our ability to think deep and interesting thoughts,” she says. “One of the things that impedes our brain’s ability to transfer memories from short- to long-term storage is distraction.

If you get distracted in the middle of it” – by a notification, or by the overwhelming urge to pick up your phone – “you’re not actually going to have the physical changes take place that are required to store that memory.” It’s impossible to know for sure, because no one measured our level of intellectual creativity before smartphones took off, but Price thinks smartphone over-use could be harming our ability to be insightful. “An insight is being able to connect two disparate things in your mind. But in order to have an insight and be creative, you have to have a lot of raw material in your brain, like you couldn’t cook a recipe if you didn’t have any ingredients:

You can’t have an insight if you don’t have the material in your brain, which really is long term memories.” (Her theory was backed by the 92-year-old Nobel prize-winning neuroscientist and biochemist Eric Kandel, who has studied how distraction affects memory – Price bumped into him on a train and grilled him about her idea. “I’ve got a selfie of me with a giant grin and Eric looking a bit confused.”) Psychologist professor Larry Rosen, co-author (with neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley) of The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World, also agrees: “Constant distractions make it difficult to encode information in memory.”

Smartphones are, of course, made to hijack our attention. “The apps that make money by taking our attention are designed to interrupt us,” says Price. “I think of notifications as interruptions because that’s what they’re doing.” For Oliver Hardt, phones exploit our biology. “A human is a very vulnerable animal and the only reason we are not extinct is that we have a superior brain: to avoid predation and find food, we have had to be really good at being attentive to our environment. Our attention can shift rapidly around and when it does, everything else that was being attended to stops, which is why we can’t multitask.

When we focus on something, it’s a survival mechanism: you’re in the savannah or the jungle and you hear a branch cracking, you give your total attention to that – which is useful, it causes a short stress reaction, a slight arousal, and activates the sympathetic nervous system. It optimises your cognitive abilities and sets the body up for fighting or flighting.” But it’s much less useful now. “Now, 30,000 years later, we’re here with that exact brain” and every phone notification we hear is a twig snapping in the forest, “simulating what was important to what we were: a frightened little animal.”

Smartphone use can even change the brain, according to the ongoing ABCD study which is tracking over 10,000 American children through to adulthood. “It started by examining 10-year-olds both with paper and pencil measures and an MRI, and one of their most interesting early results was that there was a relationship between tech use and cortical thinning,” says Larry Rosen, who studies social media, technology and the brain. “Young children who use more tech had a thinner cortex, which is supposed to happen at an older age.”

Cortical thinning is a normal part of growing up and then ageing, and in much later life can be associated with degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as migraines. Obviously, the smartphone genie is out of the bottle and has run over the hills and far away. We need our smartphones to access offices, attend events, pay for travel and to function as tickets, passes and credit cards, as well as for emails, calls and messages. It’s very hard not to have one. If we’re worried about what they – or the apps on them – might be doing to our memories, what should we do?

Rosen discusses a number of tactics in his book. “My favourites are tech breaks,” he says, “where you start by doing whatever on your devices for one minute and then set an alarm for 15 minutes time. Silence your phone and place it upside down, but within your view as a stimulus to tell your brain that you will have another one-minute tech break after the 15-minute alarm. Continue until you adapt to 15 minutes focus time and then increase to 20. If you can get to 60 minutes of focus time with short tech breaks before and after, that’s a success.”

“If you think your memory and focus have got worse and you’re blaming things like your age, your job, or your kids, that might be true, but it’s also very likely due to the way you’re interacting with your devices,” says Price, who founded Screen/Life Balance to help people manage their phone use. As a science writer, she’s “very much into randomly controlled trials, but with phones, it’s actually more of a qualitative question about personally how it’s impacting you. And it’s really easy to do your own experiment and see if it makes a difference. It’s great to have scientific evidence.

But we can also intuitively know: if you practice keeping your phone away more and you notice that you feel calmer and you’re remembering more, then you’ve answered your own question.”

By:

Source: Is your smartphone ruining your memory? A special report on the rise of ‘digital amnesia’ | Memory | The Guardian

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ExxonMobil loses bid to dismiss AG Healey’s climate change lawsuit

Massachusetts’ highest court on Tuesday rejected a bid by ExxonMobil to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the state that accuses the oil giant of misleading the public about the role its fossil fuels play in causing climate change.

The lawsuit filed in 2019 by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleges Exxon launched an effort, “reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s long denial campaign about the dangerous effects of cigarettes,” to deceive consumers and investors about climate change.

WBUR is a nonprofit news organization. Our coverage relies on your financial support. If you value articles like the one you’re reading right now, give today.

Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court upheld a lower court ruling that rejected the company’s argument that a state law shielded it from the lawsuit.

A phone message seeking comment was left with Exxon, which has denied spreading disinformation about the contribution of fossil fuels to global warming.

In a congressional hearing last year, the company’s CEO, Darren Woods, told lawmakers that its public statements on climate “are and have always been truthful” and that Exxon has “long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate change” and “devoted significant resources to addressing those risks.″

The Massachusetts lawsuit says Exxon engaged in a “sophisticated, multi-million dollar campaign” to sow doubt in climate science and downplay the link between fossil fuels and climate change. The lawsuit says Exxon also undertook “greenwashing campaigns” in an effort to portray itself as environmentally responsible.

“Rather than honestly disclose and mitigate climate change risks, ExxonMobil’s misrepresentations about and failures to disclose those risks have delayed the needed transition to clean energy around the world and make these existential climate-driven threats to the global economy more likely to occur,” the complaint says.

Healey called the court’s ruling a “resounding victory” in the state’s efforts to “stop Exxon from lying to investors and consumers.”

“Exxon’s repeated attempts to stonewall our lawsuit have been baseless, and this effort was no different. We look forward to proceeding with our case and having our day in court to show how Exxon is breaking the law and to put an end to the deception once and for all,” she said in a statement.

Lawyers for Exxon argued in court documents that the company’s statements about climate change and energy policy were “protected petitioning activity” even if they were made to defend the company’s reputation.

But the top court said the law Exxon claimed should protect the company in this case doesn’t apply to government enforcement actions brought by the attorney general.

It’s the latest twist in years long battle between Massachusetts and Exxon. The company previously unsuccessfully sued Massachusetts in an effort to block Healey’s investigation into Exxon and climate change.

By: Alanna Durkin Richer

Source: ExxonMobil loses bid to dismiss AG Healey’s climate change lawsuit | WBUR News

ExxonMobil said today it plans to grow shareholder value by delivering solutions that help meet the global need for energy and for lower greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer, outlined how the company’s strategy leverages its capabilities and competitive advantages at the annual meeting of shareholders.

  • Annual Shareholders Meeting highlights company’s plans to play a leading role in the energy transition
  • Strategy focused on five priorities to sustainably grow shareholder value
  • Streamlined business structure to take advantage of technology, scale and integration

“We have opportunities to play a leading role in helping society achieve its net-zero ambitions and in meeting the world’s growing demand for energy and essential products,” said Woods. “Recent events have reminded us how globally connected energy markets are. They’ve also underscored the importance of our role in creating sustainable solutions that improve quality of life, while supporting a lower-emissions future.”

ExxonMobil in April streamlined its business structure to consist of three core businesses – Upstream, Product Solutions and Low Carbon Solutions – to fully leverage the company’s competitive advantages of scale, integration, technology, functional excellence and highly skilled workforce.

ExxonMobil is focused on five key strategic priorities to sustainably grow shareholder value:

  • Leading industry in financial, operational and environmental performance, including across key metrics of safety, reliability, greenhouse gas emissions intensity reductions, earnings and cash flow growth.
  • Being an essential partner through creation of innovative solutions for customers, partners and stakeholders.
  • Upgrading the company’s advantaged portfolio to ensure it leads competition and delivers value across a range of external environments and through volatile and evolving markets.
  • Continuing to innovate, providing solutions that meet the growing needs of society reliably and affordably. This means new products, technologies and approaches that better meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs and can be deployed at scale to create meaningful impact.
  • Developing the company’s workforce and maintaining a diverse and engaged organization that provides every individual unrivalled opportunities for personal and professional growth with impactful work meeting society’s evolving needs.

Woods highlighted the company’s strong performance in 2021, noting that earnings significantly improved to $23 billion and cash flow from operating activities totaled $48 billion, the highest since 2012. Future plans include structural cost savings of $9 billion per year by 2023, compared to 2019, and more than $15 billion of investments through 2027 on initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

They include investments to reduce emissions from company operations and to advance critical technologies like carbon capture and storage, hydrogen and biofuels, which together are expected to develop into multi-trillion-dollar markets in the decades ahead.

How a Few Thoughtless Words About Privacy Led To Huge Political and Economic Headaches

 
 

One of the most surprising developments in recent years is how privacy – something that by definition is about small, intimate things – has become a major global force in the spheres of economics and politics. Perhaps the clearest demonstration of that transformation involves data flows across the Atlantic, and the Austrian lawyer and activist Max Schrems.

As the New York Times reported in 2015, Schrems was a 24-year-old student studying at the Santa Clara School of Law in California, when lawyers from Silicon Valley came to talk to students about their companies’ approach to privacy. Schrems was “taken aback” when he heard them say that they didn’t take Europe’s privacy laws very seriously, since companies rarely faced any significant penalties for breaking them.

What was probably just an off-the-cuff remark by a lawyer touched Schrems, an Austrian national, personally. It spurred him to investigate how Facebook dealt with EU data protection laws. In particular, Schrems asked to see all the data the company had collected from him, as he was entitled to do under EU privacy laws.

He was surprised to see that Facebook had retained information that he had deleted, including highly personal matters. Schrems filed various complaints with the Irish Data Protection Commission, which regulates Facebook in the EU because Facebook’s European headquarters are located in Ireland.

The revelation by Edward Snowden in 2013 that the US National Security Agency could access the personal data of EU citizens, thanks to the Prism program, led to another privacy complaint by Schrems, which concerned the transfer of his personal data from the EU to the US.

Under the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, which preceded today’s better-known General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that was only permitted if the receiving country offered “an adequate level of protection of the data”. Schrems claimed that Snowden’s leaks revealed that the US did not offer the necessary level of protection.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, agreed with him, and ruled that the Safe Harbor framework agreed between the US and the EU to legalise the transfer of personal data was invalid. That ruling made the transfers to the US of personal data concerning EU citizens much harder, since companies could not depend on the Safe Harbor framework.

To remedy the situation, a replacement for the Safe Harbor scheme was agreed between the US and the EU. However, as PIA blog reported in 2020 the Privacy Shield was also sunk by the CJEU, largely on the same grounds as before.

Since then, the US and EU have been working hard to come up with a third framework to allow the smooth transfer of EU personal data in a way that is legal under the GDPR. Businesses on both sides of the Atlantic were becoming seriously concerned about the delay. The US Chamber of Commerce of Commerce and BusinessEurope issued a joint statement on the topic, which includes the following:

We call on the European Commission and on the U.S. Administration to swiftly conclude a robust new framework for data transfers, addressing the problems which led to the invalidation of the Privacy Shield, and upholding our shared transatlantic values of privacy and security.

Finalizing a new agreement will not only provide a legal mechanism that is accessible to small and medium-sized businesses but also will remove growing uncertainty around the role of standard contractual clauses, which are relied upon for the bulk of cross-border data flows. We are confident that a new agreement is within reach that can provide long-term legal certainty and will in turn yield increased innovation, cooperation, and growth across the transatlantic economy.

Indeed, the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has just announced that the EU and US have “found an agreement in principle on a new framework for transatlantic data flows.” However, there are few details yet. In particular, it is not clear whether it can deal with the fallout of an important recent judgment handed down by the US Supreme Court. An opinion piece in The Hill explains:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this month in FBI v. Fazaga, a case challenging FBI surveillance, will make it significantly harder for people to pursue surveillance cases, and for U.S. and European Union (EU) negotiators to secure a lasting agreement for transatlantic transfers of private data.

The justices gave the U.S. government more latitude to invoke “state secrets” in spying cases. But ironically, that victory undercuts the Biden administration’s efforts to show that the United States has sufficiently strong privacy protections to sustain a new Privacy Shield agreement — unless Congress steps in now.

The future “Trans-Atlantic Data Privacy Framework” has “a new multi-layer redress mechanism”, and specifies that “intelligence collection may be undertaken only where necessary to advance legitimate national security objectives, and must not disproportionately impact the protection of individual privacy and civil liberties”.

However, without full details of how those will work in practice, it’s impossible to say whether it is likely that the CJEU would rule that the new framework is invalid, as it did for the other two. Max Schrems has already indicated that he or others will bring a legal challenge if the new framework seems to offer insufficient safeguards.

Without a valid framework, companies will be forced to come up with expensive and messy ad hoc solutions that will act as a significant obstacle to the frictionless flow of personal data across the Atlantic. And all because of a few words said by a lawyer in front of one particular student.

By: Glyn Moody

Source: How a Few Thoughtless Words about Privacy Led to Huge Political and Economic Headaches for the US and EU political and economic headache

.

Critics:

By: Cameron F. Kerry

Recent congressional hearings and data breaches have prompted more legislators and business leaders to say the time for broad federal privacy legislation has come. Cameron Kerry presents the case for adoption of a baseline framework to protect consumer privacy in the U.S.

Most recent proposals for privacy legislation aim at slices of the issues this explosion presents. The Equifax breach produced legislation aimed at data brokers. Responses to the role of Facebook and Twitter in public debate have focused on political ad disclosure, what to do about bots, or limits to online tracking for ads.

Most state legislation has targeted specific topics like use of data from ed-tech products, access to social media accounts by employers, and privacy protections from drones and license-plate readers. Facebook’s simplification and expansion of its privacy controls and recent federal privacy bills in reaction to events focus on increasing transparency and consumer choice. So does the newly enacted California Privacy Act.

Our existing laws developed as a series of responses to specific concerns, a checkerboard of federal and state laws, common law jurisprudence, and public and private enforcement that has built up over more than a century.

It began with the famous Harvard Law Review article by (later) Justice Louis Brandeis and his law partner Samuel Warren in 1890 that provided a foundation for case law and state statutes for much of the 20th Century, much of which addressed the impact of mass media on individuals who wanted, as Warren and Brandeis put it, “to be let alone.”

The advent of mainframe computers saw the first data privacy laws adopted in 1974 to address the power of information in the hands of big institutions like banks and government: the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act that gives us access to information on credit reports and the Privacy Act that governs federal agencies.

Today, our checkerboard of privacy and data security laws covers data that concerns people the most. These include health data, genetic information, student records and information pertaining to children in general, financial information, and electronic communications (with differing rules for telecommunications carriers, cable providers, and emails).

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