Predictions 2015: Academics’ Foresight

December 31, 2014

From Professor Chris Marsden, University of Sussex. Author of Regulating Code (MIT Press 2013), Internet Co-Regulation (CamUP 2011) and Network Neutrality (Bloomsbury 2nd ed. 2016)


New European Digital Commissioner Oettinger will prove to be a disaster. Not only is he opposed to telecoms competition and instinctively protectionist towards European cartels, but he has never been a regular Internet user in his 61 years and thinks women are to blame for having digital private photographs stolen. The effects of having Deutsche Telekom’s man in charge is offset by the determination of Member States and Council to push through in 2015 the two great reforms of the ex-Commissioners Kroes and Reding: a consumer-friendly telecoms ‘Connected Continent’ Regulation, and the General Data Protection Regulation. Oettinger’s titular boss, Vice President Ansip, may keep the wheels on these regulatory reforms for a while.

I also predict that the Google antitrust investigation will fizzle out in 2015, not least because incoming Commissioner Vestager does not want to use all her political capital up at once. I make no predictions for US net neutrality at all – far too dangerous!


From Marion Oswald, Head of the Centre for Information Rights, University of Winchester. Organiser of the 2nd Conference on Trust, Risk, Information & the Law, 21 April 2015 In respect of which a current Call for Papers applies)



Attitudes to privacy will continue to polarise. Two of the main players – ‘data-hungry’ corporations and privacy technologists – will develop new technologies in an attempt to frustrate the other. Both will argue that they have the ‘innocent’ end-user’s best interests in mind. New tracking technology will defeat existing countermeasures. End-users will be encouraged to fight back with privacy-enhancing technologies, but apathy will, in the main, prevail. The law will cling to the concept of consent as the way of regulating personal data use, and to justify the imposition of one-sided terms and conditions by social media providers. We’ll find out whether Google Glass and the like are merely a flash-in-the-pan or a longer term phenomenon. If the latter, will people become ‘privacy vigilantes’ in their own defence with the use of Glass ‘blockers’ and what will that mean for computer misuse offences?

From Dr Monica Horten, Visiting Fellow at LSE. Author of ‘A Copyright Masquerade: how corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms’ (Zed 2013); and  ‘The Copyright Enforcement Enigma – Internet Politics and the Telecoms Package’ (Palgrave 2012). Website: Twitter @Iptegrity


I’ve chosen to resist the obvious dig at the new European Commission, and Commissioner Oettinger’s non-answer on software back-doors, not to mention net neutrality or copyright. Instead, I’d prefer to look at the broader policy question of governments seeking ‘better’ relationships with technology companies. This, surely, is the significant new policy issue that will arise for 2015. If the call from Robert Hannigan (the new director of GCHQ) for a public debate in his article in the FT (3 November 2014) was genuine then we should have that debate, especially here. In light of the Snowden revelations, the eyes of the rest of the world will be on the UK in respect of its handling of Internet surveillance and anti-terrorism. Hence the UK policy response will have a global impact. In this context, it is very important for the UK to work carefully through the balancing act between giving the State what it needs to deal with a very serious threat, and not violating the privacy and free speech rights of the majority of the population.


The role of the technology companies as Internet intermediaries and mere conduits, at the same time as being data processing repositories for States, is an uncomfortable issue for governments who are also duty-bound to guarantee fundamental rights. In 2015, this is the nettle that will have to be grasped,




and real leadership is needed.