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This week @netzpolitik.org, #47: Surveillance and Savants

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Welcome to our highlights of net political news from Germany, week 47.


Netzpolitik.org ist unabhängig, werbefrei und fast vollständig durch unsere Leserinnen und Leser finanziert.

Who wins the contracts?

The computer scientist Martin Tschirsich has examined ten products from various manufacturers of communal information systems. The software is used for the administration, manages citizens data and other information the city or municipality processes. They often play a part in managing cash flows through calls for tenders and manage confidential documents. We take a closer look at which security gaps exist, and how the human factor plays a part.

Politics fails civil rights

Everything that we know so far about the negotiations and their results indicates that a black-yellow-green coalition would not have brought about a hoped-for restart in net policy. The IT lobby was heavily involved. There were bright spots on the subject of data retention. But with the end of negotiations,  hope for an end to data retention practices needs be postponed. 

In Lower Saxony, on the other hand, the Social Democrats and Christian Democratic Union have agreed on a grand coalition headed by the SPD. Apart from broadband expansion and an economy-centered network policy, the coalition appears appears hostile to progress on fundamental rights and freedoms promising more surveillance with less oversight. We examine the core netpolitical tenets of the coalition agreement.

In Hesse, the dispute over the planned introduction of computer Trojans goes into the next round. The Green Party base voted against the use of Trojans by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz). This puts the green members of parliament in Hesse, who have adopted some of the rhetoric of Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, in a quandary: will you vote against the will of the party base? Or do you oppose the Hessian Trojan and thus your coalition partner, the CDU?

Big online platforms avoid responsibility

The Performance Artists of the Centre for Political Beauty opened a branch of the (Berlin) Holocaust Memorial in Thuringia – within sight of Björn Höcke’s, provincial leader of the far right Alternative for Germany, house. Höcke is a political revisionist known for citing Adolph Hitler. A video of the action on YouTube was subsequently blocked and the artist collectives account deactivated. After a public outcry, YouTube reopened the CPB’s account and unlocked the video.

Facebook moves more slowly in ‚the case of disappearing Followers‘: Kerem Schamberger was still unable to download his Facebook data. The company admits to having deleted thousands of accounts from Schamberger’s followership because of unspecified violations.

Google News wants international media owned by the Russian state to be downgraded by its algorithms. This raises questions about transparency, not least if Google News hasn’t been doing this in secret already? How can we know?.


More surveillance techniques

The Federal Department for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) is increasingly focusing on technical solutions. So-called „assistance systems“ are supposed to facilitate decisions on asylum status. Among other things, private mobile phones of refugees are copied – a measure deemed legitimate by the BAMF in the context of „refugee management“.  The faith the BAMF places in automated natural language dialect analysis is particularly impressive given the paucity of evidence for its effectiveness.

In a one-month field test, the consumer protection center North Rhine-Westphalia has tested fitness apps and trackers. Companies must, by law, provide information on the use of the collected data, but do so insufficiently if at all in response to consumer protection requests. Now the Consumer Protection Center is admonishing companies to comply with the law.

Weitersagen und Unterstützen. Danke!
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