WELCOME to Connected Rights, your crackle in the potentiometer of digital rights news and analysis.
Enjoy this newsletter? Forward it to a friend or get them to sign up. I’m David Meyer, aka @superglaze on Twitter and @davidmeyerwrites on Facebook. Don’t forget to check out the Connected Rights website and download a copy of my book, Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. Soo dhowow!
THE WOMAN LIKELY TO BE GERMANY’S NEXT CHANCELLOR caused a storm by suggesting that online opinions might be censored ahead of an election. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a.k.a AKK, was angrily responding to a coalition of YouTubers who urged voters ahead of the European elections not to vote for AKK’s conservative CDU party, nor for the centre-left SPD. “What would actually happen in this country if, say, 70 newspapers decided just two days before the election to make the joint appeal: ‘Please don’t vote for the CDU and SPD’?” AKK said. “That would have been a clear case of political bias before the election.”
Is this not a threat to freedom of speech, pointed out just about everyone? Absurd, cried AKK in response. “Freedom of opinion is a valuable asset in a democracy. But what we need to talk about are the rules that apply during an election campaign,” she tweeted.
A political car-crash, and all very ironic, given that one of the accusations included in the original YouTube video that sparked the storm was that the German government over-censors the Internet.
MEANWHILE, A BERLIN DISTRICT COURT ORDERED TWITTER to unblock the account of the Berlin branch of the far-right AfD party, which the social network had blocked under its internal rules about election interference. Twitter had also suspended many other accounts for “election-influencing” statements that were satirical or clearly a demonstration of free expression. Cut it out, said the court – opinion and party politics are allowed.
GOOGLE IS BEING INVESTIGATED BY THE IRISH Data Protection Commissioner over its automated ad-bidding system, specifically the question of whether the system illegally uses sensitive personal data about race, health and so on. Yes, this was triggered by the complaint from Brave et al. Google: “We will engage fully with the DPC’s investigation and welcome the opportunity for further clarification of Europe’s data protection rules for real-time bidding.”
THE WIKIMEDIA FOUNDATION HAS ASKED THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS to force Turkey to unblock Wikipedia, which has been banned there for over two years now.
From the foundation’s statement: “This is not a step we have taken lightly; we are doing so only after continued and exhaustive attempts to lift the block through legal action in the Turkish courts, good faith conversations with the Turkish authorities, and campaigns to raise awareness of the block and its impact on Turkey and the rest of the world…The order blocking Wikipedia referred to only two articles, which have continued to be open for improvement by anyone and edited by volunteers around the world despite the block. It is unclear what, if any, concerns remain.”
NETZPOLITIK REPORTS THAT THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION is negotiating an “e-evidence” deal with the U.S. that would allow European prosecutors to demand user data from Facebook, Apple and so on – in exchange for which the U.S. government would be able to demand data from Europe-based companies.
According to the piece, the Trump administration wants the ability to monitor communications in real time, and it’s possible that EU member states would end up being unable to object. The U.S. would be able to pass on the data to third states, under certain circumstances.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA APP SNAPCHAT IS SUPPOSEDLY PRIVACY-FRIENDLY, but Motherboard reports that multiple employees have abused an internal system that lets workers there access user data. The article talks about “internal tools that allowed Snap employees at the time to access user data, including in some cases location information, their own saved Snaps [ephemeral messages] and personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses”.
More: “Although Snap has introduced strict access controls to user data and takes abuse and user privacy very seriously according to several sources, the news highlights something that many users may forget: behind the products we use everyday there are people with access to highly sensitive customer data, who need it to perform essential work on the service. But, without proper protections in place, those same people may abuse it to spy on users’ private information or profiles.”
WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE INHERENT ALGORITHMIC BIAS in dating apps? Check out the Monster Match app, which parodies dating apps in an educational way. As Wired describes it: “As you swipe, the game reveals some of the more insidious consequences of dating app algorithms. The field of choice becomes narrow, and you wind up seeing the same monsters again and again… The monsters, in all their colorful variety, demonstrate a harsh reality: Dating app users get boxed into narrow assumptions and certain profiles are routinely excluded.”
HERE’S YOUR WEEKLY FACIAL RECOGNITION HORROR STORY: A Chinese programmer based in Germany as apparently come up with a system that cross-references the faces of pornographic actresses with social media profile pics, so guys can find out if their girlfriends have done amateur porn. He claims that what he’s doing is legal – yes, bro, sex work is legal in Germany, but there’s this thing called the GDPR…