The European Commission repeats the mistake of the '09 Microsoft deal

We've already seen it in 2009. The European Commission could have built an exemplary anti-trust case against Microsoft for forcing manufacturers to bundle its operating system with the computers. Instead, it targeted a smaller issue of tying the web browser to the operating system. Since then, Microsoft lost the browser war on technical grounds, and Internet Explorer became known as a tool to download Google Chrome on a fresh computer.

The only real impact of the 2009 Commission's decision on consumers was negative. A sudden drop in the quality of email rendering in Microsoft Outlook 2010 and all the later versions comes from the fact that Microsoft teared off the Internet Explorer's component from Microsoft Office and replaced it with a much older and less capable library developed in the early 80s and initially used to display RTF documents. So, whenever you see bulky fonts and ugly formatting in your Microsoft Outlook, don't blame the sender, blame the European Commission.

This old story repeats with Google. They took on an irrelevant issue of Google Shopping search results, instead of picking one of the well-publicized issues of:

* abuse of control over the Android ecosystem
* Gmail interoperability with small independent mail servers
* Gtalk and Google Hangouts interoperability with third-party XMPP servers
* Google Single Sign-On interoperability with regards to industry standards

…the list can go on and on.

On the usefulness of Akoma Ntoso

There's been very few laws that I followed closely, but all of them had a direct impact on my life, so I took this seriously. I didn't actually follow laws, but rather legislative processes because I either wanted a change or I was averse to it. In both cases, the object of interest was not a law itself, but its evolution.

You should already know that most laws are hand-crafted patches applied to previous laws. There are virtually no laws that are written from scratch, one notable exception is the constitution. Other laws refer to past laws.

For example, today's law that extends the powers of the Belgian intelligence service is a patch applied to the law that created the service in 1996, and it says literally this:

  • Go the the article 3 of the past law and append this extra paragraph
  • commit your changes in the legislative branch
  • push to the executive branch

If you go and search for the original law, you won't find it that easily, because laws were digitized back to 1998, while the original law dates from 1996. If you are lucky, you'll have free online access to the so-called 'consolidated' version of the law. That is, a version with all the patches applied. However:

3 disruptive technologies that will change policymaking

Version-controlled laws

Here's a EurActiv article that gives a bird's eye view of the subject of version control systems applied to legislation.

End-to-end verifiable anonymous voting

This one is better explained by Wikipedia. Here's the description of the simplest of such voting systems.

Inline comments

Here's the best implementation of inline comments until now.



When EU institutions write about opensource… it reads like a good joke

Here is an excerpt of the Legal aspects of free and open source software workshop notes. Every phrase is a masterpiece.

"When the public agency has decided that open source requirements are particularly important for a specific software acquisition case, the process described in this section can be followed. This process would end in the agency downloading open source software itself, with no fee paid whatsoever. Separately, commercially provided services and support, if required, may be acquired by publishing calls for tender. Note that this process can be abandoned at any point - for instance, if the software cannot be found easily, or evaluated, or once downloaded is found unsuitable for any reason. At that point, the other approach described in the next section can be followed, namely, publishing a call for tender for open source software."

How the European Commission disrespects its own cookies directive

The most popular interpretation of the cookies directive is that websites should warn about cookies that are not essential for the operation of the websites. For instance, a cookie set to keep the items in your shopping cart is essential for the operation of an online shop and users should not be warned. If the cookie is set to track user activity for marketing purposes (e.g. by Google Analytics for targeting ads) — that's not essential, and the user should be warned.

The main website of the European Commission sets cookies to store information on surveys. This is not essential to the operation of the website, so technically they should warn about it. Bit they do not. OK. that's a small problem, they are almost clean… on sufrace.

If you look a little bit further, you'll see that parts of set Google Analytics cookies for the whole domain. For instance, EURES homepage sets Google Analytics cookies __utma, __utmb, __utmc and __utmz for everything at, as well as a couple of other cookies for itself,  such as eures_client_nr and piwiki_visitor, as well as a EURES_SESSIONID.

What EU officials are the best paid? The ombudsman office really stands out!

Average salary per EU institutions, 2012 budget.

European Parliament	109,354.29 EUR
European Council and Council	98,659.59 EUR
European Commission	133,042.28 EUR
Court of Justice of the European Union	120,409.29 EUR
Court of Auditors	110,742.09 EUR
European Economic and Social Committee	87,223.82 EUR
Committee of the Regions	92,775.27 EUR
European Ombudsman	239,840.80 EUR
European Data Protection Supervisor	98,468.52 EUR
European External Action Service	80,869.68 EUR

How much of the EU bugdet goes into the salaries of EU officials?

It's not obvious to find these numbers in the budget, so we'll have to use a hack. EU permanent staff pays 10.25% of their salaries to the pension fund. Pension contributions are accounted for as revenue, so they are consolidated the section 4 1 0 here. For 2012, pension contributions were at 483mln euros. By means of a simple extrapolation, we can now evaluate the amount paid in salaries to 4.7 bln euros, i.e. 6.5% of the EU budget. With the number of permanent position at 38 482, this gives an average of ~122 000 euros/year salary.

Naturally, the distribution of income is rather unequal at the instititions, with high earners being paid 7 times more that low earners (18 370 vs 2 654 euros/months base salary)