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Euro Net foundation born – a think tank too far?

EIF to address 'network society issues' and 'shape public policies'

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As though there weren't enough self-appointed Internet coordinating bodies, the European Internet Foundation was born yesterday in Brussels. It is backed mostly by large consultancy and service companies (15 so far, including Anderson, BT, ICL, Siemens, Telewest...), called associates, who probably welcome the lobbying opportunity to the 56 members of the European Parliament who have put their names down as founder members, but who will probably do little else. Oh yes, the objective of this "politically-led, politically-balanced, non-partisan venue for identifying and addressing network society issues" (which will not "take positions on specific issues") is to "help shape public policies responsive to the unique [but could it be non-unique?] potential and character of Europe's Internet revolution". The first meeting will be held in Brussels on 28 March, with the fee-paying associates picking up the bill. But is this vanilla think tank a think tank too far? At an unrelated event today and tomorrow, the EU is holding a public hearing on data protection, under the auspices of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs - with our very own Duncan Campbell, author of the Echelon study on the interception of telecommunications, being an invited guest. This afternoon they'll be discussing the US Safe Harbours scheme in what looks like a little European data protection paranoia for a change. Meanwhile, the French are going their own way next month with what they dub the 1st Worldwide Forum on Electronic Democracy, "under the high patronage of Jacques Chirac, President of France" and the apparently lower patronage of the European Parliament, with financial support of course from the European Commission. The Forum will address the French obsession of US-EU relations and the future of democracy. Political parties will no doubt be keen to hear the session on how they should organise themselves in the information society. We're sure they can't wait, in view of the cock ups so far. ®

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