Over half of UK businesses lack confidence to launch 5G-based IOT

Research from professional services firm EY suggests that while enthusiasm for 5G might be gathering steam, the in-house capabilities to transform into a connected enterprise is lacking.

While the progress of technology might be accelerating, it does appear the business models, structure and capabilities to take advantage are lacking. This appears to be the overall message from EY; enterprise customers in the UK are brimming with enthusiasm, but it might be a case of ‘all the gear and no idea’.

“UK businesses are keen to invest in 5G, but this is not matched by most organisations’ capabilities,” said Praveen Shankar, EY’s Head of TMT.

“To overcome this challenge and reach the full potential of 5G, providers need to articulate a more compelling vision of the opportunity, while businesses need to educate themselves on the game-changing possibilities. Success will require adapting existing strategies like IoT to take full advantage of 5G and also understanding the links with adjacent emerging technologies such as AI.”

EY suggests that while only 15% of UK businesses are investing in 5G for the moment, this will increase to 70% within three years. Only 44% are confident they can successfully implement 5G-based Internet of Things (IoT), while 75% believe a significant overhaul of their operating model would be needed to realise implementation.

This is perhaps one of the more significant worries about the industry, especially in the UK. The technology and network might be progressing, but is the customer ready? Has enough been done to educate and engage the customer, both consumer and enterprise? We suspect the answer to these questions are no.

There are incubation hubs in various countries, but these are small and very niche. Adverts have largely been focused on speed upgrades as opposed to the additional benefits of 5G. And finally, Release 16 will formalise some of the more important specifications for 5G such as the core, standalone RAN, virtualisation, low-latency features and network slicing. The industry is still waiting for the completion of this release.

Although the customer engagement has been slightly lacking from the telcos and the supporting ecosystem, this is not the worst situation to be in. Innovation is generally somewhat of ‘chicken and egg’ situation, and in this case network deployment and technology is progressing faster than the business cases to support them. The telcos might not like to hear it, but they will just have to wait it bit longer for the 5G rewards than previously anticipated.

Three to decouple traffic growth from price with CityFibre backhaul

CityFibre has been announced as the new preferred supplier for 5G backhaul for Three, as the telco aims to increase competition among its suppliers.

Three is the first major telco to be wooed by the CityFibre team, demonstrating the progress of the business over recent years. CityFibre should no-longer be considered a petulant disruptor in the connectivity world, but perhaps this is an indication the infrastructure challenger is a genuine contender.

“This is a huge vote of confidence in CityFibre from a national mobile operator with big plans for 5G,” said Greg Mesch, CEO at CityFibre. “Three’s decision to leverage our rapidly expanding networks nationwide shows the critical role full fibre infrastructure has to underpin 5G rollouts and reinforces CityFibre’s position as the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform.”

“A competitive fibre backhaul market is critical for the fast and efficient rollout of 5G,” said Dave Dyson, CEO at Three UK. “CityFibre are aggressively rolling out fibre across Britain and our strategic partnership with them will use the UK’s largest 5G spectrum portfolio to deliver the fastest 5G network nationwide.”

As part of the agreement, CityFibre will connect the 5G sites which are set to go live in the coming months as Three launches its commercial 5G services. CityFibre will also provide Dark Fibre services to Three, and small cell access points throughout its city-wide networks, providing the local fibre capacity required to support 5G services in busy urban areas.

After talking to Three, this is an effort to future-proof it’s backhaul relationships against the growing tides of data consumption in today’s 4G environment and the forecasted 5G era.

The surge in data consumption has been regularly discussed in recent years, especially with the emergence of 5G, but it is important to remember this was an existing trend in the 4G era. As applications become more data intensive, telcos have had to bring down the price per GB to meet the demands of consumers. Three suggests traffic across its network could increase 20X thanks to 5G, but in 2010 the average consumer only used 269 MB of data per month.

As it stands, the price of data transmission is directly linked to the amount of traffic which flows across a network; the price per GB is fixed irrelevant of the volume of traffic. Three has said by diversifying its supplier base and increasing competition, the aim is to decouple price from traffic growth.

An oversimplification of this process would be to imagine economy of scale. The more of a service which is purchased, the price per unit decreases. The relationships which are in place moving forward are obviously much more complicated than this, though it does appear to be a case of Three attempting to ensure it is not backed into a corner with a single supplier holding the aces.

While this is a headline which has the potential to turn heads, diversification is a process which has been on-going within the Three business for some time.

BT Wholesale, a customer of Openreach, was the primary supplier of backhaul services for Three during the 4G era, though in recent years it has been unbundling BT exchanges for years. In July 2018, Three announced a major project to unbundle 177 BT exchanges with SSE Telecoms, while it has already been working with CityFibre to provide backhaul services in Hull.

The objective here is to have less of a reliance on a single supplier, BT Wholesale and Openreach as a result, and to improve diversification. It is working towards creating a more sustainable and healthy vendor ecosystem.

This is of course not the end for the Three/BT relationship. CityFibre can offer services in certain regions across the UK but not everywhere. SSE Telecoms will help fill the void, though there are locations where it is not commercially attractive for anyone to build out moving forward. These areas, where Openreach is the sole supplier, are subject to a price ceiling consultation from Ofcom.

With the likes of CityFibre and SSE Telecoms aggressively expanding networks, Openreach will certainly face tougher competition in the coming years. For decades, Openreach has maintained a defacto monopoly on backhaul services across the market, though the telco desire for reduced costs and resilience through supplier diversity does seem to be translating into fresh competition.

CityFibre network:

BT finally unveils its reimagined TV proposition

The aggregator model has taken centre-stage at BT, leveraging its existing capabilities instead of trying to beat the content industry at its own game.

Under Gavin Patterson, BT tried to do something which almost looked impossible. It attempted to disrupt the content industry by not only owning the delivery model for content, but the content itself. It attempted to muscle into an established segment and compete with companies which were built for the content world. It was expensive, complicated and messy, and it failed spectacularly.

BT has not given up on content under new leadership, but it is taking a seemingly more pragmatic and strategic approach. Aside from its own content, Now TV will also be embedded in the BT interface, meaning that customers can now watch, pause, rewind and record premium Sky Entertainment and Sky Sports content. Customers will also be able to integrate Amazon Prime Video and Netflix onto their BT bill, while each element of the bundle can be scaled-up or -down month-by-month.

It is making best use of its assets, and it looks to be a comprehensive and sensible pillar of the convergence strategy.

“Life doesn’t stand still from month to month, so we don’t believe our customers’ TV should either. Our new range of TV packs bring together the best premium services, fully loaded with a wide range of award-winning shows, the best live sports in stunning 4K and the latest must-see films – all with the flexibility to change packs every month – with  quick and easy search to find what you want to watch,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division.

BT will ‘own’ some content, it still has the UEFA Champions League broadcast rights after all, but it is picking its battles. The BT TV proposition failed in years gone because it tried to go it alone, but without the broad range of content genres, it looked like a poor attempt to compete with the likes of Sky. In reality, it didn’t need to.

The telcos have a significant advantage over many content companies around the world; they have an existing and trusted billing relationship with the customer. According to the Ovum World Information Series, EE has 30.6 million mobile subscribers and BT has 9.1 million broadband customers. These relationships can be leveraged through the partnership model to realise new profits in a low-risk manner.

BT is in a position of strength. The streaming wars are raging, and the service providers will do almost anything to gain the attention of the consumer, as well as build credibility in the brand. By bundling services into the BT, the OTTs are leveraging the trust which the customer has in the telco billing relationship and gaining eyeballs on the service itself. All they have to do is offer BT a small slice of the profits.

This is the symbiotic relationship in practice. The OTTs gain traction with customers, while BT can complete the convergence objective in a low-risk manner through the aggregator model.

That said, it is somewhat of a retreat from its previous content ambitions.

“This well long overdue move feels like a last-ditch effort to be successful in TV,” said Paolo Pescatore, founder of PP Foresight.

“Aggregation is the holy grail. BT has done a superb job of introducing some novel features and bringing together key services all in one place. This will strongly resonate with users. However, it is unlikely to pose a considerable threat to Sky who in turn will be able to bundle BT Sport into its own packages. In the future expect this new TV platform to be bundled with BT Halo which will further strengthen its premium convergent offering.”

Convergence is a strategy which should be fully embraced by the BT business. Not only has it been proven in other European markets, see Orange in France and Spain, but the depth and breadth of BT’s assets should position it as a clear market leader. With mobile, broadband, public wifi hotspots and content tied into a single bill, as well as partnerships to bolster the experience, BT is heading down the right path. If it can start to build service products on top, such as security, this could start to look like a very competent digital business.

The issue which remains is one of price. The Halo bundle is one few can compete with, but if it is not priced correctly it will not be a success. This does seem to be the issue with the BT consumer business right now, it is pricing itself out of the competition. Convergence is attractive to customers when it is convenient and makes financial sense, but right now it doesn’t seem to.

BT is slowly heading in the right direction. It might have taken years, but it is slowly creating a proposition for the consumer which few should theoretically be able to compete with. If it can merge the business into a single brand and sort out the pricing of its products, it should recapture the market leader position.

Three enters the 5G marathon with ‘free’ 5G

There might not be enough base stations or devices yet, but Three has completed the UK’s 5G portfolio with the connectivity upgrade at no extra cost for existing customers.

It may have lost ground on rivals over the last six months, but that will matter little in the grand scheme of things. Coverage is poor, penetration is low, and smartphones are expensive. With Samsung announcing its 5G series, Apple poised to launch in September and a variety of more affordable devices emerging, Three could be generating 5G momentum at the right time.

“Three’s enviable position in 5G spectrum presents it with a golden opportunity to achieve the scale it craves to challenge larger rivals and spearhead a push into new markets,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “It may never have such a chance to move its business on to the next level.

“A major marketing focus for Three this year will likely be around speed and it is already talking about a 5G service twice as fast as rivals. This could put it on a PR collision course with rival EE, which has drawn heavily on network leadership in its own marketing since being first to launch 4G, back in 2012.”

At the end of February, all four mobile network operators (MNO) in the UK will be up-and-running with a mobile 5G offering. The firm has said it will launch in 65 towns and cities across the nation, with the 5G service being free for any customer who has purchased a compatible device.

This is a very interesting statement to make from Three. O2 and Vodafone have already said 5G connectivity would not be premium on some 4G tariffs, leaving only EE which is charging its customers for the pleasure of the fastest ‘G’ available on the market. What is worth noting is that EE’s Essential 5G Plan does include three swappables, but it does cost an extra £10 a month, and as there is no option to have 5G connectivity alone, it is a premium irrelevant as to what the telco says.

Three has traditionally disrupted the UK connectivity market with either aggressive pricing or data consumption models, and it looks like it will do the same here. O2 and Vodafone have both priced 5G connectivity in the affordable range (£35 and £30 respectively) for unlimited data SIM-only plans, while Three is entering the fray with £22 a month for postpaid plans and £25 for prepaid.

“Today we are celebrating what is possible through 5G with a showcase of our ultra-fast 5G capabilities marking the next step in our 5G journey,” said Three CEO Dave Dyson.

“Three is set up to be the fastest 5G network in the country; Three’s customers will benefit from the vast 5G capacity and speeds that only Three can offer, enabling the best 5G experience possible.”

Dyson is referring the telcos spectrum holding as the 5G advantage here. Three holds 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum in the mid-band frequencies, and some useful licences in the higher frequency bands also. This does offer Three an opportunity to disrupt the market, though it will have to convince customers this is enough to turn around perceptions from the 4G era.

Looking at the latest statistics from Opensignal, Three has the worst availability for 4G connectivity across the UK, the worst video experience, the second-to-worst upload experience, slowest latency and the second-to-worst average download speed. On a positive note, it did have the fastest 3G download speeds.

Three has somewhat of a damaged reputation, which is tolerated by some. Its core audience are data intensive, price conscious, city-centric customers, but if it wants to make any realistic improvements on market share, it will have to look beyond this demographic. And to attract new customers, it will have to improve on its performance in the 4G era.

Ofcom appoints safe pair of hands as new boss and gets new internet censorship role

Establishment figure Dame Melanie Dawes has been announced as the new Chief Exec of UK telecoms regulator Ofcom.

She replaces Sharon White, who was also a senior civil servant before being handed the Ofcom gig. Dawes (pictured) is currently Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a position she has held since 2015. Prior to that she was Director General of the Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat at the Cabinet Office.

“I am delighted that the Secretary of State has approved Ofcom’s appointment of Dame Melanie Dawes as the next Chief Executive of Ofcom,” said Lord Burns, Ofcom’s Chairman. “The Government’s statement that it is minded to appoint Ofcom as the regulator for online harms is a vote of confidence in Ofcom’s expertise. I know Melanie will do a fantastic job of leading the organisation and maintaining its strengths.

“I look forward to working with her over the months ahead as we prepare for this forthcoming legislation as well as the ongoing tasks of achieving better broadband and mobile coverage and supporting UK broadcasting.”

“I congratulate Dame Melanie Dawes on her appointment as chief executive of Ofcom,” said DCMS Secretary of State Nicky Morgan. “Melanie’s experience leading organisations through change will be vital as the Government today announces it is minded to appoint the organisation as regulator for new online harms laws.”

What’s all this ‘online harms’ stuff they’re all banging on about, I hear you ask. Well the UK government has been having a public consultation on how to protect people from bad stuff on the internet. As a result it has concluded there needs to be some kind of state intervention to make sure those who publish bad stuff are censored, punished and prevented from ever doing so again.

“We will give the regulator the powers it needs to lead the fight for an internet that remains vibrant and open but with the protections, accountability and transparency people deserve,” said Morgan. There’s just so much to unpack in that. Of course things like child abuse, promoting terrorism, etc should be kept off the internet and proponents of them punished, but that stuff is already illegal, so why do we need extra powers to fight it? Proposing the censorship of ‘harmful’ but otherwise legal content creates so many new problems it’s hard to know where to start.

“There are a number of important questions that remain unanswered – especially in a post-Brexit environment – such as how Ofcom will use its new powers, how a regulator would deal with companies not based in the UK and ISP blocking – including how the UK reacts to technical developments such as DNS-over-HTTPS. ISPA will be working with its members on these and other points as we enter the next phase of consultation,” said Andrew Glover, the Chair of ISPA.

It had previously been rumoured that the new UK government would push for a more radical appointment, but maybe this additional internet censorship remit caused it to err on the side of caution. Dawes would have had her hands full without the impossible job of policing the internet, now she’s really got her work cut out.

Verizon plugs its 5G in London

The US and UK might not be on the best of terms at the moment, but Verizon has opened a London office to demo its 5G goods and draw attention from international customers.

After opening 5G development labs across the US and signing 5G/MEC partnership with with América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra and Vodafone, Verizon is continuing to expand its remit with the new office in Holborn, central London.

“Verizon has proven expertise in delivering 5G in the US,” said Tami Erwin, Group CEO of Verizon Business. “One of the best ways of unleashing the true possibilities of 5G is getting it into the hands of innovators and visionaries. Our London facility enables our international customers to benefit from this expertise as they look to deploy 5G-enabled applications and experiences.”

The lab itself it not only geared towards engaging international customers, but also spreading its wings to develop its own ecosystem system in new markets. The aim will be to enable co-creation for new software services and hardware products in such areas as autonomous vehicles, smart communities, virtual healthcare, smart manufacturing, the industrial Internet of Things, immersive education, augmented and virtual reality and responsive gaming.

Alongside the 5G lab, the team will also open a production studio in April, where Verizon Media’s owned and operated brands, as well as partners, can create the content of tomorrow. This content could be 3D, focused on virtual reality, or hologram-based, though the objective is to create new ideas through combining technologies such as volumetric capture, motion capture and AR broadcast, with the speed and power of 5G.

“The new London studio represents our continued commitment to give our consumers access to premium next-generation experiential content across our global ecosystem of brands,” said Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan.

“As we move from a 2D world into a world that includes 3D content, Verizon Media is providing our publishers and advertisers access to a cutting-edge technology platform, giving them the ability to experiment with 5G, and providing the means to distribute them at

BT uncouples its 5G offering from its Halo

UK operator group BT restricted 5G to customers of its Halo convergent bundle, but just three months later it has reversed that decision.

‘BT today announced it is making its 5G plans available for all customers,’ heralds the press release, as if giving all its customers access to the latest mobile technology is an act of philanthropy. The release announces new 5G plans for all customers, but as far as we can tell from the website, that just amounts to removing bundle discounts. Apparently BT (i.e. EE) 5G is available in 50 towns across the UK.

“Our BT Halo customers have been some of the first to enjoy 5G in the UK, and we’re now giving all of our customers the chance to get superfast, reliable mobile connections even in the busiest places,” said Pete Oliver, Managing Director of Marketing, BT Consumer. “Whether you’re watching HD TV or sport on the go, or FaceTiming your family on the way home, 5G makes a huge difference to everyday experiences and opens up even more exciting new experiences like seamless augmented reality and HD mobile gaming.”

If 5G is so great, why wasn’t BT offering it to all its customer straight away? The answer is presumably that it hoped it offering it uniquely through Halo would drive uptake of its flagship bundle. A change in strategy so soon would seem to imply those hopes were forlon, otherwise why not stick with it? Then again this could always have been the grand plan.

Trump throws his toys out of the pram over UK Huawei decision

US President Donald Trump reportedly gave UK PM Boris Johnson a major ear-bashing over the phone following the UK’s decision to allow Huawei in parts of its 5G networks.

The news comes courtesy of the FT, who has an anonymous source that reckons they know how the phone call went. We’re told Trump was apoplectic and expressed his views in livid terms. It must have been a hilarious call, with Trump hurling abuse and BoJo countering with placatory phrases such as “steady on, old chap”.

Trump’s notorious petulance aside, it’s becoming increasingly clear that his administration views 5G as a matter of core geopolitical concern, both in terms of security and commerce. It has been moved to the front line of the battle of wills between Trump and Chinese supremo Xi Jinping and the US is trying to insist its allies to what they’re told on the matter.

US Attorney General William Barr made a speech yesterday in which he banged on about what a threat to all we hold sacred China is. Barr thinks 5G is a critical weapon to be used against China and reiterated the FCC’s position on the importance of getting hold of C-Band spectrum as part of an increasingly state-sponsored bid for 5G dominance.

At the core of his speech was the need to have an alternative to Huawei that the US state can control. Apparently oblivious to the hypocrisy of this stance, since it’s the suspicion of Chinese state control over Huawei that has fuelled US hostility towards it, Barr seems to think state intervention in the affairs of private companies is OK so long as the goodies are doing it.

“There have been some proposals that these concerns could be met by the United States aligning itself with Nokia and/or Ericsson through American ownership of a controlling stake, either directly or through a consortium of private American and allied companies,” said Barr. “Putting our large market and financial muscle behind one or both of these firms would make it a far more formidable competitor and eliminate concerns over its staying power or their staying power. We and our closet allies certainly need to be actively considering this approach.”

The US position on 5G, security and China seems to be evolving rapidly. In the space of what feels like just a few weeks it has moved from trying to persuade its allies to distance themselves from Huawei to shouting at them down the phone and contemplating direct intervention in their companies. Trump needs to seriously consider winding his neck in on this before he permanently alienates the US from its global friends.

US Congress moves to denounce UK decision on Huawei

It would be fair to say the Supply Chain Review conclusion received a less than enthusiastic response in the US, and now it appears Congress is stacking the deck for an offensive.

The House of Representatives has introduced what is known as a ‘Simple Resolution’ condemning the UK accepting attitude of the UK, Huawei effectively as an agent of the state and the Chinese Government.

Presented to the House by Congressman Michael McCaul, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, and Representatives Ted Yoho, Mike Turner and Mike Gallagher, the Resolution denounces the UK decision to include Huawei in 5G plans, though it is not entirely clear what the end game here actually is. This Resolution could be used to force a firmer stance against the UK, a worrying sign with trade talks set to commence in the very near future.

“We are extremely disappointed that the United Kingdom seems poised to allow CCP [Chinese Communist Party] controlled Huawei to build much of their next generation 5G networks,” the politicians said in a joint statement.

“Huawei equipment is absolute poison – providing them access to any aspect of a 5G network compromises the integrity of the entire system and will result in network data being sent back to Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

“We hope the UK will reverse course on this consequential decision and work with us to build a 5G future that will not only protect our mutual interests but will safeguard the values we share.”

While the Resolution does not propose any new rules or amendments, it contains dozens of statements to paint a picture. This could be viewed as the prologue, setting the scene, creating the bad guy, before the main part of the story begins. Some of the points include:

  • All Chinese companies, private and state-owned, are under the effective control of the Chinese Communist Party
  • Supply Chain Review measures are not enough to ensure the security and fidelity of the United Kingdom’s 5G network
  • China has a series of laws which forces Chinese companies to effectively act as the intelligence gathering arm of the Government

This document could represent the opinion of the House of Representatives and could be used as a weapon against China and the UK.

There are two key takeaways from the Supply Chain Review. Firstly, Huawei has been deemed a ‘high-risk vendor’ but can continue to operate in the UK. Secondly, ‘high-risk vendor’ equipment will be limited to a 35% share of a telcos radio inventory, while said share can only carry 35% of the total internet traffic.

While this is a position which has been welcomed in the UK, it faced fierce criticism in the US, despite President Trump staying quiet on the matter. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton suggested the UK was handing the front door keys to the Chinese, while several has maintained the stance that the sensitive and non-sensitive parts of the network cannot be separated.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a much more mellow approach when visiting London last week. Pompeo was not overly critical, but statements were made suggesting the UK had time to change its mind. Perhaps this is a hint that the US will continue lobbying the UK to ban Huawei while trade talks are conducted.

Looking at what this actually means is a bit more nuanced and speculative, however.

A ‘Simple Resolution’ is a legislative measure passed by one of the two House’s of Congress. As it has not been passed by both, it cannot be written into law, but it can be used to express a sentiment of the politicians in the House. This sentiment could be used to create a Committee, pave the way for a Bill to be introduced, or force policy decisions in other departments.

This Resolution is important, but unless the Senate passes a similar Resolution, its impact will be limited. In this Resolution, the politicians are effectively condemning the UK’s actions and every Chinese company as an agent of the Chinese state, therefore we suspect it wouldn’t take much to gain support in the Senate.

However, if both Houses pass the same Resolution, the US will have an official stance against every Chinese company and the UK’s adoption of Huawei technology. Some of the wording in this document makes for a potentially hyper-aggressive position against China.

As an official Resolution of Congress is a measure of the opinions of the members, it could be a powerful document. The State Department could be forced to take a much more aggressive stance against the UK in trade talks, the President could be convinced by the majority into signing some sort of executive order, or it could pave the way for much more aggressive legislation against ‘high-risk’ companies.

What is always worth remembering is that the US Constitution bans the Government from legislating against a single company, but this does look like a political preparation for a renewed assault against Huawei.

With Senator Cotton’s proposed Bill still on the floor of Congress, an official intelligence sharing ban with the UK and other countries which are deemed Huawei friendlies is still a possibility. And with the trade talks looming, the US still has a few carrots and sticks in store for the UK.

Some might have suspected this would be the end of the Huawei debate and the beginning of the UK’s 5G future, but while the US can still poke and prod politicians, the Huawei debate is still alive. It remains to be seen what impact this Resolution in the House of Representatives has, but it could be very significant.

UK AI watchdog reckons social media firms should be more transparent

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation says there is strong public support for greater regulation of online platforms, but then it would.

It knows this because it got IPSOS Mori to survey a couple of thousand Brits in the middle of last year and ask them how much they trust a bunch of digital organisations to personalise what they deliver and to target advertising in a responsible way. You can see the responses in the table below, which err towards distrust but not by a massive margin. The don’t know’s probably provide an indication of market penetration.

How much trust, if any, do you have in each of the following organisations to personalise the content users see and to target them with advertising in a responsible way?
Facebook YouTube Instagram TikTok Twitter Snapchat Amazon LinkedIn BBC iPlayer Google search or Maps
A great deal of trust 7% 10% 6% 4% 6% 5% 13% 7% 16% 13%
A fair amount of trust 24% 38% 22% 8% 22% 15% 43% 25% 45% 44%
Not very much trust 30% 26% 24% 15% 25% 22% 24% 18% 17% 23%
No trust at all 32% 16% 24% 28% 25% 26% 13% 20% 10% 13%
Don’t know 8% 10% 23% 45% 23% 32% 7% 30% 11% 7%

It seems that UK punters haven’t generally got a problem with online profiling and consequent ad targeting, but are concerned about the lack of accountability and consumer protection from the significant influence this power confers. 61% of people favoured greater regulatory oversight of online targeting, which again is hardly a landslide and not the most compelling datapoint on which to base public policy.

“Most people do not want targeting stopped, but they do want to know that it is being done safely and responsibly and they want more control.” said Roger Taylor, Chair of the CDEI. “Tech platforms’ ability to decide what information people see puts them in a position of real power. To build public trust over the long-term it is vital for the Government to ensure that the new online harms regulator looks at how platforms recommend content, establishing robust processes to protect vulnerable people.”

Ah, the rallying cry for authoritarians everywhere: ‘think of the vulnerable!’ Among those, it seems, are teenagers, who are notorious for their digital naivety. “We completely agree that there needs to be greater accountability, transparency and control in the online world,” said Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of the Child and Adolescent Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. “It is fantastic to see the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation join our call for the regulator to be able to compel social media companies to give independent researchers secure access to their data.”

The CDEI was created last year to keep an eye on AI and technology in general, with a stated aim of investigating potential bias in algorithmic decision making. This is the first thing it has done in that intervening year and it amounts to a generic bureaucratic recommendation it could have made on day one. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it did at least pad that out into a 120-page report.