Vodafone vs. Facebook: As boss backs Sarkozy

6th June 2011

Sarkozy convinced his fellow G8 leaders to agree an internet communiqué (details in the more information section at the end) which has alarmed some internet firms, many of whom also attended the summit in Paris, leading the meeting to be dubbed the e-G8.

Not Vodafone though. Writing in today's FT and reported here in European Voice:  

Mr Colao says: "Mr Sarkozy is really right to argue that realising the full potential of the internet will also require an effective legal framework and that self-regulation will not be enough."

Colao's case is that the internet will not fulfil its potential to create jobs and wealth unless it can be trusted. That needs a legal framework. Crucially as part of that framework, Colao would like to see restrictions on privacy infringements.

This all takes place in the context of the UK legal stand-off over Twitter posts most famously over the Twitter disclosure of the identity of Ryan Giggs despite a super-injunction. It was not just a case of social media versus politicians, but even brought UK judges and Parliament into conflict, with one MP using Parliamentary privilege to name the footballer in defiance of a court order.

Today, the internet furore is over the disclosure of more super injunction holders in the Irish weekend papers.

In his Financial Times letter, Colao also directly challenges Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg with the following statement.

"Mr Zuckerberg argues that there are already many self-governing mechanisms for building and maintaining trust (Ebay, Amazon and Wikipedia are all good examples) But the media report every day on threats or infringements of individual rights, often of the most vulnerable in society."

For Facebook and Google's opposing views, here is the Guardian report with quotes from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Eric Schmidt though the Google man sounds more conciliatory.

Zuckerberg said: "People tell me: 'It's great you played such a big role in the Arab spring, but it's also kind of scary because you enable all this sharing and collect information on people. But it's hard to have one without the other. You can't isolate some things you like about the internet, and control other things you don't."

Google executive director Eric Schmidt said: "The internet is the greatest force for good in the world. We should not have premature regulation ahead of innovation. There are technical solutions to these problems. Sarkozy sent a strong message he'd like to work with us on these issues."

But what does all this mean for the shares of internet firms?

Website Seeking Alpha considers the impact here

It writes: "If countries like France act to protect their near-term interests, it can limit the opportunities for global firms like Google, Apple and Facebook in the local market. We're all familiar with this from examining the development of business and the Internet in China, where Baidu continues to lead the market. As for Russia, it appears that Yandex will be the Internet search leader there."

Vodafone's motives may be less clear. However with many phone firms facing pressure to cut charges on a cross European basis and some struggling to define a profitable internet strategy, perhaps the firm is seeking to build some political capital. Or maybe Mr Colao simply agrees with the French president.

More information –

Here is the relevant part of the G8 communiqué –

The openness, transparency and freedom of the Internet have been key to its development and success. These principles, together with those of non-discrimination and fair competition, must continue to be an essential force behind its development.

Their implementation must be included in a broader framework: that of respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, the protection of intellectual property rights, which inspire life in every democratic society for the benefit of all citizens. We strongly believe that freedom and security, transparency and respect for confidentiality, as well as the exercise of individual rights and responsibility have to be achieved simultaneously. Both the framework and principles must receive the same protection, with the same guarantees, on the Internet as everywhere else.

The Internet and its future development, fostered by private sector initiatives and investments, require a favourable, transparent, stable and predictable environment, based on the framework and principles referred to above. In this respect, action from all governments is needed through national policies, but also through the promotion of international cooperation.

And here is one story that might have concentrated minds at Vodafone.  Australian website Perth Now reports on how personal details of many Vodafone customers leaked on to the internet.

To receive our free weekly email sign up here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *