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TOPIC: privacy


You Don't Clean Up Your Dog's Poop? DNA Could Trace It Back To You

In one German town, like in several places around the world, the mayor wants to take action against those who don't clean up their dog's "business." But Germany's data protection laws mean the initiative will be difficult to implement.

WEILERSWIST — Stepping in a pile of dog excrement is bad enough. But for city workers, the ick factor is often even higher. The droppings spray when public lawns are being mowed, stain clothing and equipment, and sometimes end up in employees' faces. Despite the increased use of bag dispensers and campaigns, almost all cities and municipalities continue to face the reality that certain resident dog owners are too lazy to pick up and dispose of their four-legged friends' "business."

In Weilerswist, a German municipality near Cologne, Mayor Anna-Katharina Horst wants to implement a measure that is DNA file for dogs. Horst wants the city to send all owners an invitation to take a DNA sample of their four-legged friend. In addition, a sample is to be taken with the registration of each new dog.

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How I Lost My Smartphone And Found My Neighbors

A simple tale from Italy of a hundred strangers in a waiting room, and the limits of our modern obsession with privacy.

ROME — Here's a small personal story that has made me smile and reflect for the past few days: It’s about our obsession with privacy, which can be a pointless battle at a time when, in an online crowd of strangers identified only by numbers, we all find ourselves connected.

We all know everything about each other already. We can even find out about each other’s personal tastes, mutual friends or phone numbers. It's a good thing — here's why.

I enter, as I do every day, the large waiting room of a public place where I will spend the next few hours in the company of a hundred or so people. We have known each other for months, but we do not know each other. We are identified by acronyms, a matter of privacy.

I realize I don’t have my phone. I left it at home or lost it — I don’t know. The place where I am is far from the place where I live, and without a phone I can neither use a car-sharing app to get home nor call a cab — and there are never any taxis to hail at the nearby parking lot.

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The Digital Tracking Of India's Sanitation Workers Is An Extra Dirty Deal

Lower-caste cleaners must wear GPS-enabled smartwatches, raising questions about their privacy and data protection.

Munesh sits by the roadside near a crowded market in Chandigarh, a city in India’s north, on a January day. She is flanked by several other women, all of them sweepers hired by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. She shows the smartwatch she is wearing and says, “See, I didn't even touch it, but the camera has turned on."

Munesh, who estimates she is in her 40s and, like many Indians, goes by just one name, is one of around 4,000 such sanitation workers. The corporation makes it mandatory for them to wear smartwatches — called Human Efficiency Tracking Systems — fitted with GPS trackers. Each one has a microphone, a SIM embedded for calling workers, and a camera, so that the workers can send photos to their supervisors as proof of attendance.

In Chandigarh, this project is run by Imtac India, an IT services company, at a cost of an estimated $278,000 per year. Meanwhile, sanitation workers say that the government has not invested in personal protective gear throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they have long worked without medical care and other vital social services.

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Court Orders French Celebrity Magazine To Pay Homeless Man €40,000

Since its founding in 1949, the iconic French weekly Paris Match has published countless photos of the rich and powerful — and every now and then, a paparazzi shot might cost them.

This time, instead, it was a homeless man demanding the magazine pay serious VIP money for running a photograph of him without his permission. Last week, a court in Nanterre, west of the French capital, ordered Paris Match to pay 40,000 euros to the man for publishing his picture, as part of an investigative article on crack cocaine addiction in Paris.

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Jeff Israely

Will You Give Up Your Privacy To Go Outside?

For most of human history, the best way to protect personal privacy was to simply stay at home. Lock yourself in your room, or the proverbial closet, and nobody can find out a thing. In little more than a decade, those walls and doors have vanished as digital technology invites us to take large chunks of our lives online. Without ever leaving home (or while scrolling our smartphones in an empty forest), we are now vulnerable to a world of connected spies, data miners, identity usurpers, trackers and any number of other private and public-sector violators of what we hold to be confidential information.

The debate over electronic privacy has been escalating ever since in the West: from Edward Snowden's accusations against the state, to those aimed at commercial tech giants like Facebook and Amazon, to the rogue producers of deep fakes and other nefarious trolls. Meanwhile, authoritarian governments — exposed momentarily to the power of the internet to drive dissent — have quickly taken the upper hand in using digital technology as a tool for control. Yes, until two months ago, the lines on the privacy question seemed drawn quite clearly.

Leave it to a highly contagious and lethal disease to quickly blur those lines. With countries in the West preparing to ease unprecedented national and regional shutdowns, officials are looking to include a range of required (or at least strongly urged) digital testing and tracking tools to limit new outbreaks of COVID-19. Mobile phone applications that force people to share personal health data and reveal their location and other forms of relinquishing control of their personal information are now considered integral to ensuring that normal life can begin to resume. We're told it worked in South Korea and China, where concerns about data privacy are either less ingrained in the culture, or simply smothered by the authorities.

All of this may be bringing that old trade-off full circle: If you really want to protect your privacy, you must again stay inside. Let's ponder that alongside the even more pressing worry about preserving our very lives if we venture outside.

None of these tensions are easy to resolve, especially with so little truly known about the nature of this virus. What is the immediate risk of being in public places? What is the longer-term price of keeping our economies on hold? When will it all be over?

Meanwhile, longer-lasting moral questions, like privacy, hover just above it all. For now, a sense of tentative pragmatism seems to prevail, as a crisis of this magnitude prompts citizens to put their fate in the hands of the state for lack of any other viable solution. So if the government says so, most people are probably prepared to share some of their personal information to feel safer — we have, after all, gotten used to knowing that our data is being shared and our smartphone maps know where we are. But after two months of quarantine, one thing we're not used to right now: Going outside.

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Urvashi Aneja and Angelina Chamuah *

The Case For Banning Facial Recognition Systems Altogether

With automated electronic surveillance systems, suspicion does not precede data collection but is generated by the analysis of the data itself.


NEW DELHI — The Delhi police reportedly used automated facial recognition software (AFRS) to screen the crowd during Prime Minister Modi's election rally in Delhi last December. This was also the first time Delhi police used facial images collected across protests in Delhi to identify protesters at the rally.

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Samir al-Nimr

A Surreal Facebook Alter Ego To Keep Egyptian Activists Safe

When reality transcends constitutional and legal provisions, you must be extra clever about social media use.


CAIRO — I don't remember exactly when I decided to create a parallel identity for myself on Facebook. Was it on one of the days following the September 20 demonstrations after I read on social media about security forces stopping citizens downtown and forcing them to enter their passwords to browse around their apps in the hopes of catching people who oppose the regime?

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Parminder Jeet Singh

Why Data Rights Are About Much More Than Just Privacy

How economic actors, communities and developing countries fare in the digital economy will depend in large part on how much control they have over the data they produce.


Digital data and the pervasive intelligence that it provides about people, and about artefactual and natural phenomena, is the very basis of a digital economy. With the industrial revolution, machines soon became practically unavoidable everywhere. The same will be true of much of digital intelligence-based economic processes and systems as a digital economy takes center stage. The efficiency dividend is just too high, and a host of entirely novel services simply too alluring for societies to resist them.

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Mohamed Hamama

A Hacker Pays For Egypt's Ambiguous Relationship With Data

Dubbed 'the International,' a young Egyptian computer programmer had built a program to scrape user data from Facebook. But the same practice is routinely done by the government and large corporations.

CAIRO — Egypt's Ministry of Interior recently announced that its General Directorate of Information Technology had arrested the creator of a computer program "designed to steal confidential data from Facebook accounts (phone numbers and email addresses linked to the accounts)." The suspect now faces accusations of "selling stolen data to other parties for money and using it for marketing and advertising on social media websites."

The case has raised questions about data mining, privacy and the inconsistent application of Egypt's cybersecurity laws — whereby the state and large corporations are given leeway while smaller outfits find themselves targeted — and further highlights the complexities surrounding issues of personal online data and who is allowed to benefit from its collection and sale.

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Sabine Delanglade

China's BAT Tech Giants Giving GAFA Run For Their Money

Upstarts no longer, the so-called BAT companies — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent — are a force to be reckoned with.


PARIS — At a time when the Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon — the GAFA — are starting to hear it from customers over their quasi-totalitarian practices, they're also taking heat from the country that invented gunpowder: China.

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Karin Janker

Why Digital Abstinence Won't Fix Facebook


MUNICH — In the aftermath of the Facebook data scandal, some users have been deleting their accounts. It's an understandable gut reaction, but it's also a declaration of surrender because it's not up to the individual to oppose the superiority of Internet companies. That's the job of the politicians.

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Ulrich Schäfer

Europe To Silicon Valley: Time To Pay For Your False Promises


MUNICHWe are making the world a better place: That has been a central promise that helped Silicon Valley's Internet giants seduce the public, on their way to gaining unprecedented power over our lives. That vow remains at the heart of the message of Mark Zuckerberg and his company Facebook. The goal, as Zuckerberg has always said, is to create a large community, a global platform for sharing that would eventually bring us all closer together.

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