‘Hyper-political’ Web Summit opens in Lisbon
Politics and tax issues will loom large at Lisbon’s Web Summit opening Monday, with new mobilities, medical applications, robotics and crypto currencies also on the menu, organisers said.
olitics and tax issues will loom large at Lisbon’s Web Summit opening Monday, with new mobilities, medical applications, robotics and crypto currencies also on the menu, organisers said.
“Tech has become hyper-political,” said Paddy Cosgrave, the Irish founder and boss of Europe’s biggest tech gathering.
“Increasingly, the front page of newspapers around the world are dominated by issues relating to technology,” he told AFP.
This year’s edition is to welcome 70,000 participants, from innovative start-ups to internet giants and political heavyweights like Margrethe Vestager, EU Commission’s vice president and competition commissioner.
Among the main events are discussions on the future of money, cars, medicine, housing, advertising, medias and humans’ presence in outer space.
But what has emerged as the leading topic is how high tech has become a crucial factor in the Chinese-US trade war, the monetary power of sovereign governments and the radicalisation of social media.
In the background, sector giants continue to face calls for fair taxation or even dismantlement.
Regulators like Vestager will therefore draw a crowd, as will whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is to beam in from Russia via a video link.
Snowden has just published a book that lays out his reasons for passing tens of thousands of secret documents to major news organisations in 2013.
The files were compiled while he worked for the US National Security Agency and revealed a dense network of communications and internet scrutiny by the NSA and partner agencies around the world.
At another event, former Cambridge Analytica executive Brittany Kaiser is expected to outline risks to personal data in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election.
The now defunct data consultancy allegedly hijacked personal data on Facebook users ahead of the 2016 US vote.
– Huawei chairman to address summit –
Huawei’s rotating chairman Guo Ping is another headliner.
He is likely to call for support from the tech community after the Chinese phone giant was banned from the United States owing to suspicion its systems could be used to collect data for Beijing.
Vestager is to close the summit on Thursday, speaking just after Michael Kratsios, who is being sent from the White House to present the US viewpoint on internet taxation and regulation.
Vestager has spearheaded European efforts to get companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to pay more in taxes in countries where they earn large amounts of their profits.
In addition to her post as EU competition chief, the Dane has also now been tasked with overseeing digital activities across the 28-member bloc.
Vestager “is incredibly popular … because she’s trying to create a level playing field for innovators in particular in Europe,” Cosgrave told AFP.
He noted that the summit would be “her first major public appearance since she has been reappointed” to an incoming EU commission.
A scheduled address almost certain to raise the issue of internet taxation is by Pascal Saint-Amans, head of the OECD’s Center for Tax Policy and Administration.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is drafting a “unified approach” to a digital tax on internet giants and multinational groups to be presented by June of next year.