Digitrade Digest #91


Australia Bans TikTok From Government Devices Amid Security Concerns

WSJ: Australia said it will ban TikTok on all government-issued digital devices, following the U.S. and other intelligence-sharing allies in response to concerns about data security on the app.

The decision announced by Australia’s attorney general means all members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance have restricted government access to the video-sharing app through full or partial bans. Lawmakers worry that the Chinese government could force TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd. to hand over user data, or to influence the videos they view.

The U.S. gave government agencies 30 days from the start of March to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems. Canada and the U.K. have enacted similar prohibitions in recent weeks, while New Zealand banned it from devices linked to its Parliament.

Australia’s ban, which covers all devices issued by federal government departments and agencies, came on the advice of the intelligence and security agencies, Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said. Previously it was left to individual departments to decide whether their employees could install the app.

“The direction will come into effect as soon as practicable,” Mr. Dreyfus said.

The U.S. federal government and most state governments—as well as the European Union—have barred government employees from using TikTok on work devices.

TikTok said that Australia’s decision was driven by politics and that the government hadn’t responded to its offers of what it called constructive engagement.

“There is no evidence to suggest that TikTok is in any way a security risk to Australians and [it] should not be treated differently to other social-media platforms,” said Lee Hunter, TikTok’s Australia and New Zealand general manager.

TikTok has said U.K., Australian and New Zealand user data is stored in the U.S. and Singapore, and access to it is tightly controlled. The company has also said no user data have been shared with the Chinese government and that it wouldn’t provide the data to Beijing if it were asked to do so.

China’s commerce ministry calls Australia’s TikTok ban ‘discriminatory’

MarketWatch: China’s commerce ministry on Friday called Canberra’s move to ban video-sharing app TikTok on government devices “discriminatory,” saying that it will hurt global confidence in Australia’s business environment.

The remarks come after Australia announced the ban earlier this week in the wake of the U.S. and other intelligence-sharing allies taking similar steps against Beijing-based TikTok, owned by ByteDance Ltd.

“We urge the Australian side to treat all types of enterprises fairly and justly, provide an open, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment, while creating a favorable atmosphere for the development of China-Australia economic and trade cooperation,” an unnamed official from the Chinese commerce ministry said in a statement on the government body’s website.

The official said the ban isn’t conducive to maintaining Australia’s national security and is damaging to the interests of the country’s citizens and companies.


ChatGPT Has a Big Privacy Problem

Wired: On March 31, Italy’s data regulator issued a temporary emergency decision demanding OpenAI stop using the personal information of millions of Italians that’s included in its training data. According to the regulator, Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali, OpenAI doesn’t have the legal right to use people’s personal information in ChatGPT. In response, OpenAI has stopped people in Italy from accessing its chatbot while it provides responses to the officials, who are investigating further.

The action is the first taken against ChatGPT by a Western regulator and highlights privacy tensions around the creation of giant generative AI models, which are often trained on vast swathes of internet data. Just as artists and media companies have complained that generative AI developers have used their work without permission, the data regulator is now saying the same for people’s personal information.

Similar decisions could follow all across Europe. In the days since Italy announced its probe, data regulators in France, Germany, and Ireland have contacted the Garante to ask for more information on its findings. “If the business model has just been to scrape the internet for whatever you could find, then there might be a really significant issue here,” says Tobias Judin, the head of international at Norway’s data protection authority, which is monitoring developments. Judin adds that if a model is built on data that may be unlawfully collected, it raises questions about whether anyone can use the tools legally.

Italy’s blow to OpenAI also comes as scrutiny of large AI models is steadily increasing. On March 29, tech leaders called for a pause on the development of systems like ChatGPT, fearing its future implications. Judin says the Italian decision highlights more immediate concerns. “Essentially, we’re seeing that AI development to date could potentially have a massive shortcoming,” Judin says.

The Italian Job

Europe’s GDPR rules, which cover the way organizations collect, store, and use people’s personal data, protect the data of more than 400 million people across the continent. This personal data can be anything from a person’s name to their IP address—if it can be used to identify someone, it can count as their personal information. Unlike the patchwork of state-level privacy rules in the United States, GDPR’s protections apply if people’s information is freely available online. In short: Just because someone’s information is public doesn’t mean you can vaccuum it up and do anything you want with it.

Italy’s Garante believes ChatGPT has four problems under GDPR: OpenAI doesn’t have age controls to stop people under the age of 13 from using the text generation system; it can provide information about people that isn’t accurate; and people haven’t been told their data was collected. Perhaps most importantly, its fourth argument claims there is “no legal basis” for collecting people’s personal information in the massive swells of data used to train ChatGPT.

“The Italians have called their bluff,” says Lilian Edwards, a professor of law, innovation, and society at Newcastle University in the UK. “It did seem pretty evident in the EU that this was a breach of data protection law.”


CCIA Welcomes USTR’s National Trade Estimate Report Detailing Barriers to Digital Exports

CCIA: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative released its annual National Trade Estimate (NTE) report today, providing a valuable assessment of some key barriers for internet services and internet-enabled businesses in foreign markets. For the 2023 Report, USTR detailed a number of foreign trade barriers including restrictions on cross-border data flows, data and infrastructure localization mandates, discriminatory cloud certification schemes, proposals for network usage fees, digital authoritarianism actions, and other measures designed to disproportionately target U.S. firms.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association offered USTR examples of existing and developing digital trade barriers as part of trade officials’ annual request for comments last October.


‘Chile is looking to include digital services as well in trade agreement with India’: Alex Wetzig

IndianExpress: Following the recent agreement between Chile and India for cooperation in agriculture and allied sectors, Chile is looking to expand its trade basket with India, Alex Wetzig, Secretary General, Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

In an interview with Aanchal Magazine and Anil Sasi, Wetzig said given the growing market of India, it is aiming for the trade agreement to include services also. Excerpts:

Q: You mentioned services, which specific services are being targeted?

A: It is not a specific service… but if we think we can profit from some services, especially in the digital area, from India, and services that could be useful for India in the Latin American region. We have free trade agreements with 64 economies in the world. So, primarily looking at service sector companies from Chile who can come here or from India to go. But of course we understand that the Indian companies are more powerful than our companies to go to our market, but we have some companies with possibilities to have a start here or to have more business with India. Mining for instance.