Italian budget cuts carve into Internet police. And this is not a good thing

The “spending review” (i.e. the action Italian Govt is leading in order to reduce unproductive expenses in National budget) is worryingly leading to a cut in the information police services. 73 out of 76 local section of the “polizia postale” are planned for shutdown. Considering that this specialized police is conceived for “ex post” police activity against cyber-crimes, the predictable effect can be a limitation “ex ante” of the rights of Internet users: less internet activity means less chances to commit crimes. So, instead of having police run after cyber-criminals and protect users, we might have less user rights in order to have to spend less in crime protection. At the end of the day, you’d need no car-theft protection in a world that abolishes the wheel. A Turkish way to Internet security, if you want… Not exactly the right approach for a forward-looking Country. Italian police Unions are raising shouts to try and avoid such poor result, but financial “advisors” seem stronger. So to say: excel spreadsheets win over web 2.0!

sources: repubblica.it; huffingtonpost.co.uk

Application of 20% withholding tax suspended because…outdated(!)

The Italian Treasury has released today a press note (Comunicato Stampa N° 46 del 19 febbraio 2014) whereby it declares the intent to suspend the application of the general withholding tax on foreign bank transfers to Italian individuals. The reason for such change of mind can be read in the note: the application of EU-USA IGA reporting standards has established an automatic multilateral information exchange flow among OECD Member States (Common Reporting Standard), leading to a safer environment for tax fraud prevention.

The Ministry further says that the measure, initially submitted to EU Commission scrutiny after its first proposal, made in 2012, (Case EU Pilot 171/11/Taxu) has now become… outdated.

It is however curious how the measure has undergone a speedy obsolescence within 48 hours! That’s what we may call an instant tax…

Italy imposes withholding tax (20%) on foreign bank transfers to individuals. EU Commission looks closely for potential TFEU infringement

New Italian tax regulation imposes withholding tax (20%) on bank transfers addressed to Italian natural persons. The withholding is performed on the assumption that the amounts transferred are “revenues” in nature, until proved otherwise. The burden of proof is on the taxpayer (who else?). A short comment is available on “il Sole 24 Ore” (—>here).

This new measure has been introduced by art. 9 of Statute (Legge) 6.08.2013 n. 97 -so called “European Community Law” (i.e. a statute that, yearly, should enact in Italy the EU law that was not enacted till then)- that modified art. 4 of D.L. n. 167 of 1990.

The new article introduces the duty of all financial intermediaries (i.e. the banks) to apply the withholding tax on all transfers that get to Italy, then the taxpayer has to prove that they are not “revenues” but “assets” in nature(!). The technical specs of this new taxation method can be found on the provvedimento 2013/151663 del direttore dell’Agenzia dell’Entrate 18.12.2013.

The European Commission is checking if this measure is such to violate article 63 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (that establishes the freedom of payments). Mrs Emer Traynor, spokesperson of Commissioner to fiscal affairs Algirdas Semeta released a declaration in this sense.

GMail “Streak” traccia l’attività del destinatario di una mail. Un commento.

E’ recentemente comparsa sugli organi di stampa (cfr. “repubblica.it” —>leggi qui) la recensione di una nuova estensione di terze parti di GMail (“Streak”) -cui, è bene specificare, Google si è dichiarata estranea-, che permette al mittente di una mail di conoscere posizione del destinatario al momento dell’apertura di un messaggio GMail e ora dell’apertura, nonchè la natura tecnica del dispositivo che ha aperto il messaggio.

Secondo le attuali normative privacy (quella italiana sicuramente, ma anche il diritto della privacy consolidato -per principi- a livello europeo) questa applicazione compie una operazione di geo-localizzazione illecita (per quanto approssimativa), viola alcuni cardini della Convenzione Europea dei Diritto dell’Uomo (art. 3 CEDU) e probabilmente viola anche le norme sul c.d. “stalking”, realizzando una persecuzione a distanza non diversa dalla videosorveglianza illecita.

La messa a disposizione di un dispositivo del genere è un esempio, secondo gli estimatori, di come la tecnologia consenta di evitare comportamenti scorretti (ma non rispondere alle mail è scorretto?); a mio avviso -e in questo senso sono in buona compagnia- è un sistema sbagliato di coazione (leggi: di violenza) sulla vita delle persone.

Se i cittadini hanno acquisito il diritto a che lo Stato non si intrufoli nella loro corrispondenza personale (che include, è bene dirlo, il diritto sacrosanto di non averne) se non a seguito di grosse verifiche della liceità sei suoi intenti (a ciò serve l’autorizzazione del magistrato alle intercettazioni…), perché un privato qualunque dovrebbe avere il diritto di intromettersi nei comportamenti postali dei…destinatari della sua corrispondenza?

A sommesso avviso di chi scrive, per questo genere di “invenzioni” non si applica la categoria della “libertà della rete”, non più, almeno, di quanto tale categoria si applichi all’invenzione di un nuovo tipo di grimaldello per entrare in case altrui…

Ovviamente, tutto ciò “absit iniuria verbis”: se qualcuno vuole contraddire, libero di farlo!

Italian Ministry of Welfare publishes survey on labour law reform 1 year after enactment

The Italian Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali has published the paper “Il primo anno di applicazione della legge 92/2012” (the first year from enactment of Statute 92/2012): a survey on the results achieved by the labour reform in this year.

Looking at the statistics, probably the most striking figure is the number of dismissals for cause (i.e. for causes attributable to the worker) vs the number of dismissals for justified reason (i.e. for objective causes). The paper shows (p. 43) that ca. 75% of dismissals are due to justified reason, making this largely the main reason for dismissal in most cases. Apparently, there is a link between this figure and the introduction, in the Italian labour law system, of the “reasons of economy” among the possible justifications for dismissal, however, the report carefully avoids this perspective.

The labour law reform law 92/2012 can be consulted here.

Ms Kroes’ telecommunication consolidation package meets everybody’s critics.

This article (Is Kroes consolidation package now a dead parrot?) hits the point: fostering consolidation, in the European markets’ environments, means basically re-introducing monopolies at national levels. In other words, turning the clock back to 1995. If, despite two decades of single European market, there is no real trend for further consolidation is that, admittedly….there is no real need for it. Probably, the European telecom market structure is presently well addressed by an articulated set of cross-border and national champions. Its “workable” competition, after all: something even Chicago Boys could subscribe to.
On the other hand, probably it would be worth re-focusing on supra-national authorization sets: there is still so much to be achieved in terms of administrative simplification in this field…

(see discussion on Linkedin started by )

Cyberbullying – Italian Ministry of Economic Developement promotes providers’ ethical code

8 January 2014 – Good news on Cyberbullying, bad news for cyberbullies.

The Italian Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico has published a consultation document that is the initial draft version of a code of ethics for Service Providers aiming at protecting young people from cyberbullying. “Cyberbullying is the use of Information Technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner” (cfr Wikipedia), and is one of the worrying sides of the present decay of public speech over Internet.

The document establishes a Committee made of experts taken from the stakeholders of the project : institutions (The Ministry, Agcom, Polizia postale e delle comunicazioni, Autorità per la privacy, Garante per l’infanzia e Comitato media e minori), industrial syndication (Confindustria digitale, Assoprovider ecc.) and operators(Google, Microsoft ecc.) and a principle of easy and quick reaction from qualified personnel in case of cyberbullying episodes.

This initiative is highly welcome, as this phenomenon is increasingly scary. Since 2008, 41 teenagers committed suicide admittedly due to mobbing and stalking episodes occurred while living a normal web-life (see enquiry –> here). It is hard to decide whether these (unjustifiable) deaths are “more” or “less” tragic than the effects this type of “mala educacion” is inducing in adults’ behaviours, such as the recent political mobbing cases emerged on Mr Bersani’s health conditions, or than plain religious censorship (as happened in Iran yesterday –>here).

What SciFi tells us, again and again.

I propose you this reflection, published in November 2012 -an Eon ago, if you want- on the “Indice dei Libri del mese” (an important literary review published in Italy) by Edoardo Villata -“La guerra di Star Trek“.

It draws an (easy?) parallel between a Star Trek Episode (the author does not quote but it refers to “A Taste of Armageddon” by Robert Hamner e Gene L. Coon, 1967) and the casualties produced by the economic crisis we’re still crawling in.

And, among the casualties, the works of art and the elements of culture that disappear because of the budget cuts. Or by the choices of budget cuts done with a warfare mindset.

Now, 1967 Star Trek was good Science Fiction, of course was no economic science. However, it included a quality that lacks to so many future-tellers of today: common sense, memory, in a word, humanity.

That’s why Science Fiction told about “future”, while Standard & Poors publications talk about “outlook”. Imagining might be very scary, if you take imagination seriously.

Europe and Privacy – “Article 29 Working Party” releases Working plan 2014-2015

The Art. 29 WP has released on 3 dec. 2013 its 2-years working plan for years 2014-2015. In the document (available —> here), we can read that “The Working Party’s goal for the 2014-2015 period is to ensure a coherent and correct application of the current legal framework and to continue to prepare for the future legal framework”.

The stress placed on the current framework, while the future one is left on the background, gives room to the assumption that work around the reformed Data Protection Regulation, that shall replace the national legal framework, might again be facing some hard times. However, we might be pessimistic…

Article 29 Working Party is the European consultative body established to study improved ways of addressing privacy principles in European legislation. It is made of representatives of the Data Protection authorities of all Member States plus a representative from the Eu Data Protection Supervisor and a member of the EU Commission.

The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party was set up under the Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. It has advisory status and acts independently. (quoted from DG Justice website)