13 March 2020 — True Publica
The UK government has published its negotiation objectives for the free trade agreement with the US. The document includes Digital Trade measures that could define British regulation of the internet and our online activities for years to come.
Our digital rights are being shaped by the economic discussions in this Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with severe impacts on privacy and free expression and association among other rights.
The government, this government, in particular, are becoming legendary for their distribution of misinformation and use of language and when it comes to digital rights, there is no exception to this rule.
The UK government aims to agree on provisions “that facilitate the free flow of data, whilst ensuring that the UK’s high standards of personal data protection are maintained, and include provisions to prevent unjustified data localisation requirements.” The document does not detail how this tension will be solved but explains that the UK will “help shape global rules in areas such as data flows, blockchain, driverless cars and quantum technology”, “maximising the UK’s reach in emerging fields like global data flows and Artificial Intelligence (AI)”.
The government is also committed to promoting “appropriate protections for consumers online and ensure the Government maintains its ability to protect users from emerging online harms.”
The US published its negotiating objectives for a deal with the UK a year ago, with concrete demands and objectives honed through constant negotiation on trade on a variety of fronts. The UK government has admitted that the existing US trade deals will form the starting point for discussions.
As you can see, the UK is attempting to sell to its own citizens a statement of intent that is total nonsense. It enters those negotiations exactly on the terms the USA laid out long before the negotiations started
Below is an outline of basic concerns about some of the key elements of the Digital Trade agenda that can be found in those trade agreements signed by the United States. The realuty is that there so many concerns that if a trade deal is signed with the USA, the citizens of Britain will become ‘fair game’ targets of an abusive state.
- Placing the regulation of the digital sphere under a trade banner creates a fundamental problem of democratic oversight because trade treaties generally give disproportionate power to the executive.
- Technology regulation – including platforms – could be undermined by trade enforcement by providing companies with a very strong tool to sue the UK for any policy that they believe damages their interests.
- As a general principle, the regulation of the internet and online platforms should not be restricted in such a manner. The UK, in particular, will be in a difficult position vis a vis the US to enforce any digital trade dispute. ISDS should not be included in any UK trade deal.
- Digital trade agreements contain clauses that ban any restrictions on the “cross-border transfer of information, including personal information, by electronic means” in the conduct of a “covered” business. This means any US online service could object to any UK law or regulation that stops data from their prospective UK customers being sent to the US.
- America will drive the free flow of data towards the internet giants of Silicon Valley that currently dominate the global Internet outside China and Russia.
- The US lacks meaningful general privacy protections in the commercial sector, particularly for foreigners outside the general protections of their Constitution. Agreeing to unrestricted data flows to the US would put the UK in a double bind that could jeopardise data flows to and from the EU with severe consequences for businesses and citizens.
- the line between legitimate regulation and state abuse is sometimes difficult to demarcate
- The US is demanding secrecy to their own source code or algorithms. There are growing concerns about potential unfairness and bias in life-changing decisions made or supported by the use of algorithms, from credit to court sentencing or migration status. Preventing the disclosure of source code or algorithms would hamper efforts to develop new forms of technological transparency and accountability.
All trade deals between countries and regions are extremely complicated and take an average of seven years to negotiate. This one fragment of a single trade deal only demonstrates that they really are too complicated to negotiate in just a few months. But that is exactly what the UK and US are threatening to do. If signed, it will be sold to the people as a great trade deal. There will be public outrage about chlorinated chickens and poisoned lipsticks and while we’re all looking up that on the internet – the abuse of our data by America will accelerate as Britain drops current basic protections that are enforced by the EU.
For more information, you can visit openrightsgroup.org who have explained this particular subject in much more detail – HERE