2017, Digital Horribilis – FrenchWeb.fr
2016 was a crazy year, of course from a perspective perspective, but it was also a crazy year from a geopolitical risk perspective. No decision maker can afford to ignore the intense turmoil in the world. I will obviously be particularly interested here in what digital should retain, as there has been so much talk about it last year. Social debates on labor law applicable to Web platforms, politics, diplomacy, everything is digital now, even war.
Putin invites himself to the US presidential election
2016 is first of all the year of the first American election hacked by a foreign nation.
At the same time, the American computing power has shown itself incapable of predicting the election of Donald Trump, populism, supported by the technology of social networks and the companies of disinformation of specialized digital pharmacies, triumphed over the political establishment, media, statistics and technology of the world’s leading economic and military power, causing it to waver around its democratic axis. Very bad time for anyone who thought they were credible in their field. At no time has the American administration been up to the aggression. This digital warfare operation should normally result in knocking heads down in American defense. Sure, they were going to fall anyway.
Three years ago, I said two things, namely that the digitization is a world war and that the next topic would be politics. Unfortunately, I had hit the nail on the head. During the election period, all democracies are now threatened by foreign governments hoping to choose the next king and able to use the security loopholes of the systems on the one hand, and to employ the techniques of growth hacking start-ups to operate the rumor machine on the other hand. In the 21st century, even digital warfare is asymmetric. On the one hand the CIA, CISCO, Palantir and the billions of dollars. On the other, a mission, monster nerve, unrelated financial resources and small teams. The analogy with terrorism, blood aside, is perfect.
But it should also be noted that the whole economy software American development, at all levels, relies heavily on Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian developers, either through the immigration of these populations or through offshoring of production. There is immense naivety on these subjects. There are back doors set up everywhere, can be activated on demand, for commercial blackmail operations until today, and now for political reasons. The risk of a NATO technology embargo, an economic heresy, on Russia and its satellites is strong, even in the context of the Putin-Trump flirtation. With our unit in Moldova, I can tell you that would not make me laugh! The various American agencies and the Pentagon did not necessarily appreciate the revelation of their weakness in the eyes of the world.
I fear the same mechanisms will now be used in France and Germany in 2017, on scenarios also written by Moscow. MLP and Fillon are self-appointed, surfing on “poutinolatry” and the Islamophobia of Christians 2.0. The first expressed admiration for Putin, and the second, open. The least I can say is that Vladimir Putin made little impression on me by the benevolent humanism of his intentions and that such positions leave me speechless. The gentleman set the Caucasus on fire, annexed part of Ukraine outside of international law, rigged the American elections, starved its population, played with its constitution, murdered on the right and on the left … but the 2 favorites of the French, in good munichards, see in him a partner. Fortunately there is a boss in Europe and his name is Angela. But undoubtedly, it is the new number 1 target of the Russian President. Will she have the means to defend herself?
In France, Fillon and MLP MUST be watched closely if we do not want an American surprise. The pages of the New York Times warn us a little more every day about the functioning of the infernal digital political machine of the Russian president. It’s up to us to remember something, to understand that it is really a war. Or not.
Uber, the multitude is rare
In 2016, there was also the emergence of the Uber crises, all over the world and the increasing tax audits in Europe, against the GAFA.
Beyond the inevitable penetration of technology that is never discussed, I often ask myself the question of the usefulness of what we, the digital pros, we manufacture good (or bad), for the world. And we can turn the problem in all directions, the multitude is increasingly rare when it comes to defending Uber. If the American company continues to advance, its capital of rascal sympathy has dried up.
And what interests me especially here are the angry reactions, what am I saying, indignant, of the political class in front of the practices of the giant of the charter of vehicles. But who is to blame when the mass internet is now 20 years old, and the GAFA models have been clarifying for 10 years now. I am thinking in particular of the lack of real tax work on digital. This is a major gap, an intellectual laziness potentially very damaging for countries which claim to be modern, but which have not done the job.
The work of sucking up trade flows, for structurally monopoly purposes, of the GAFAs, should find an appropriate response in European political thought. The France of Holland (will you forgive me for my provocation?) Has made up part of its digital delay. In many fields, and in particular that of the creation of start-ups, France has shown that it has understood much better than others, Germany among others, the turning point that the globalization / digitization couple imposes on us. We are in the same situation as at the beginning of the 20th century. Either we take the train, the car and the plane, or we continue on horseback and wade through the dung. And France and England, as at the start of the 20th century, are doing better than other Europeans.
We therefore need appropriate administrative responses
While my job has led me to respond to sophisticated tax issues such as transfer pricing, in different states, I am frankly surprised that no one has managed to think of digital taxation as a global value chain, allocating a role of factor of production to users of a free service.
Let me explain. The OECD in its recommendations, which are the reference in the event of a conflict of fiscal territoriality, considers that a flow is not taxed on the basis of the nationality of the user. in fine service (as the slingers of the PS would like for example and all the lazy calabash), but on that of a sharing linked to the added value produced on the soil of each of the states. Thus, in the case of a adword Google invoiced from Ireland to a French e-merchant, it would be possible to tax Google by considering that it needed a French user clicking on the link, in order to be able to finalize the service and invoice it. Hence the role of “free producer” played on French soil by the user. It is certainly not simple, it requires real work of tax innovation, but it is compatible with the international standard. There would thus be a way for states to continue to collect a fair tax, where traditional local communication channels are regularly contracting (audio-visual advertising revenue, communication agency… that GAFA gleefully vampirize). Between us, I don’t panic that much for digital agencies.
Finding solutions with Uber
In the case of Uber and other unicorn collaborative platforms, the breaches are increasingly open as Californians’ appetite for the monopoly is strong. Let’s focus on Uber once again. Users everywhere feel it. First of all, the quality started to decline, which is one of the known consequences in a monopoly situation. It is not the G7 before Uber that can contradict me. Then, the number of excessive invoices increases in all the metropolises. In mega-cities like NY, the pick-up time algorithm is showing its limits more and more frequently, and the user often waits much longer than the advertised time. In NY some drivers break the rule and ask for a tip, some even going so far as to post it in the car. Knowledge of the territory covered by the driver is more and more … that of the GPS, which does not have the animal intelligence of a real taxi driver. In the end, I start to find anxiety-provoking Uber in NY. But Airbnb hit me badly too. As this is not the first time and I have the means to do otherwise, I simply will not use it again.
In short, all these little muddles, in particular at Uber, merge with a generally bad political and social image. There is less rush on Twitter to defend Uber than in the past. The debate on the possible concealment of work has ended up leaving traces in the minds. The trial of the young shoot Heetch, in Paris, did not pay as much passion either as a few months ago. In short, as I anticipated two years ago, these subjects have become politicized and a company like Uber seems ripe for a discussion on the evolution of its model.
In France, Uber is stuck, forced to discuss. First, because despite what everyone believes … France is one of the only two havens where Uber achieves profitability. Second, because his image is deteriorating. Solutions are found for them and applicable to others. There cannot be double standards indefinitely. If a driver works on Uber 70% of his day, it means that the dependency criterion has been established, even if he has the power to impose penalties. France is not the only country to have had this problem with Uber. The former American tech anti-system Jedi urgently needs solutions to get out of the dark side where he has put himself a bit on his own.
All the collaborative economy and part-time benefit systems will have to be based on a minimum level of social protection if they want to exist in Western European countries.
2017 will be digitally very hard
In 2017, consciously or unconsciously for the public, digital will be on the international political and diplomatic scene. The weeklies will feature broad headlines on cyber attacks, but the public will not necessarily understand the risks and issues. Some rogue states are close to using unconventional weapons and soldiers. The nice Anonymous is no longer in fashion and a lot of hackers are on the market. It is with them, as it is with terrorism, there are very many sleeper cells, in addition to commandos and more operational companies.
In the private sector, American clouds will also question the security of companies and even states. Coordinated attacks on several of them simultaneously could produce an economic, legal, brutal disorder, this potential constituting a weapon particularly adapted to the new context of cold war.
The Web itself, in its function of network, is attackable, and its nodes could constitute targets of military operations of choice, having the effect of cutting off most communications for a significant time.
In short, we are facing the first major challenges of the Internet’s maturity, both economically and politically. It is the laxity of states and their inability to trust progress that has created these economic, social and defense weaknesses. Even the most advanced are ultimately very helpless in the face of the power accumulated by the GAFA and may no longer be able to guarantee a future to their entrepreneurs, whose margins are trapped, without any tax return. States would be very inspired to quickly reconsider the issues of society and sovereignty that they have allowed to drift. The weakest may have already died without knowing it.
Frédéric Lasnier is CEO of Pentalog and Chairman.
Read also: Meta forecast 2017