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'No conflict of interest,' as MS recruits top Brussels IT Eurocrat

But a curious number of his staff seem to cover 'competition cases'

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In a barely-registered coup earlier this month Microsoft recruited senior European Commission official Detlef Eckert. But that's not a problem - Eckert, who it is understood will be joining The Beast on the 1st of December, "has had nothing to do with the Microsoft competition case," the FT's 'Observer' gossip column tells us, but simply "had responsibility to roll out broadband communications."

Oh really? Although both the Commission and Eckert assured the FT there was no possible conflict of interest, the entry in the Commission's internal Guide des Services for Eckert's unit of DGIS (Directorate General, Information Society) includes, in that case, numerous baffling entries.

Two of the staff reporting to him specifically cover "competition cases," and if you include economic analysis (some considerable overlap here, surely), then out of a total of eleven (excluding support staff), four have posts that would appear to have some considerable relevance to competition policy. And if they're not doing approximately what their job descriptions say, then one wonders what they are doing.

The listing for the rest of Eckert's little empire illustrates what an unfeasibly large pile of unimportant stuff can reside under the banner 'broadband rollout.' We have:

- Policy and technical aspects of information security, cryptography and related subjects
- Encryption policy, export controls of information security products and services, notification procedures, interception of telecommunications, third pillar activities, Internet. Informatics coordinator
- Electronic commerce, international aspects - Global Business Dialogue (GBDe), alternative dispute settlement, digital management
- e-Signature directive
- Information and network security, e-signature directive

Not forgetting "Employment and the Information Society," and of course eEurope, which does indeed have the goal of bringing "the benefits of the Information Society to all Europeans."

None of that little lot is likely to be of the slightest interest to Microsoft, of course, and nor is responsibility for issues such as open source software and patenting of computer-implemented inventions, which our sources assure us he also had.

But we're told he's only taking leave of absence from the Commission for a period of up to three years, during which time he can always come back. So maybe he's a spy. ®

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