Little Rock Over and over again I would ask members, organizers, activists and others, “What’s the skinny on Brexit? What’s it going to mean to us and our people?” The answer was almost invariably a shrug and one of those looks that says, “who the heck knows?”
That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of opinions about different directions it might go and the responses many might take. The Scottish National Party claims that they would revive their push for independence for Scotland if Brexit isn’t to their liking. Right now, the independence effort is off the radar. The Labour Party is letting the governing Conservative Party wallow in their own mess. UKIP is a threat without being a real danger. But, still no one knows what will happen to jobs and what will happen to immigration and everything connected to both of these front-page issues.
Theresa May, the Prime Minister who is still barely holding on, because no one wants this mess on their shoes, keeps backtracking on one demand after another. She’s now agreed to pay more than a billion in old bills. She’s guaranteed that EU residents that are living and working in the UK will be able to stay, regardless of Brexit, though the doors will undoubtedly be closing more tightly with Brexit.
Immigration continues to be the stick stirring the drink all over Europe, and an issue that the EU talks big about everyone handling their share of the weight on refugees, but there’s no enforcement, just a lot of shame-and-blame. Meanwhile Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and right wing or so-called populist parties in France, Italy, and elsewhere are still making mischief and division over the issue.
More people cared about Wetherspoon’s being out of food and grocery stores being out of eggs and bread, than Brexit. This looks like a continuing mess of rare proportions.
Pittsburgh New internet privacy rules are emerging in Europe with the announcement that there will be one set of rules governing internet data for all 28 countries in the European Union. US companies are already crying like stuck pigs even though the rules do not take full effect for another two years and still have some procedural steps before being completely finalized.
The problems from the tech side: permissions and transparency. The EU rules would require individual user sign-off on every instance where a company wants to use your data. Period. In the USA consumers at best are asked for a blanket permission without knowing the what or wherefore, but increasingly knowing that ticking approval on the box means you can expect ads to follow interminably that try to align your interests and their products. In Europe conceivably you could simply say “no” to use of your data for advertising purposes, while in the USA the constant requests for sweeping approvals almost block usage of your phones and other tools unless you automatically consent. The outline of the new regulatory regime in Europe in this area indicates that penalties and fines for companies aren’t patty cake, but could range as high as “4% of global profit.” One corporate lawyer complained to the Wall Street Journal that ambiguous law and high fines were a “toxic” combination. The EU has their attention!
On the transparency side Europeans are about to learn how they are sorted by the algorithms used by the companies. That’s not to say they are going back office and seeing the code, but they will see the “baskets” and categories where they are grouped. And, they can complain about it and that should be interesting. Add the earlier right of Europeans to “disappear” or have data removed from Google, Yahoo, and the other search engines, and Europe isn’t just a different set of governments from the United States, it’s a whole different world.
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, in a speech on security coinciding with the most recent Republican shout out, debate, or whatever they call it, pleaded with tech companies to play nicer with the government in the name of security, claiming the techies need to get over the Edward Snowden revelations. I imagine that she’s not asking for a real solution as much as a workaround, but in some way her speech also demonstrated the real difference on privacy and its regulation between Europe and the United States. In Europe the regulations flow from what the individual wants to governing corporate behavior. In the United States it runs the other way and what the corporations want from the individuals ends up in government regulations. There they are worried about individual rights. Here we are just sales figures on profit and loss columns, more data to be crunched, part of the garbage in and the garbage out.
This may be a case where compliance with EU regulations may end up having some benefits that wash over the shores on our side of the Atlantic.