What happened online? August 2016

A Cosmic Holiday Ornament, Hubble-Style / Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

01/08 Fearing that sexual predators could use Pokémon Go to lure children, the state of New York bans convicted sex offenders from downloading or using the popular app. According to New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein, there is a “frightening” correspondence between the locations of offenders’ homes and targets in the game.

03/08 Germany’s Federal Government proposes legislation imposing fines of up to 500,000 Euro should an internet service provider violate EU net-neutrality regulations, for example in transmitting data packets at different speeds.

04/08 Eleven NGOs, including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International, sign a petition calling for regulatory changes to Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) to ensure that foreign journalists working in the country are not subject to surveillance.

04/08 The Chinese government releases figures indicating that in the first half of 2016, over 710 million people, just over half of the total population, accessed the internet at least once, over 92 percent of them with a smartphone. By comparison, there are about 510 million people living in the whole EU.

06/08 “Anyone living in our country should be able to communicate in our country’s language. This also applies to social media.” This according to Peter Hauk, Minister for Consumer Protection in the state of Baden-Württemberg. “If it is available to be read publicly, it should be available in German.”

06/08 In an expert report, Hans-Jürgen Papier, former President of the German Federal Constitutional Court, , criticizes the strategic telecommunications surveillance carried out by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) on internet exchange points such as the De-Cix in Frankfurt am Main as “on the whole unconstitutional”.

06/08 The traffic authority in Bremen decides to begin outfitting its busses and streetcars with free wireless. Personal registration will not be necessary.

09/08 In response to an enquiry, the German government reports that the Federal Police, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) together sent 210,000 so-called silent SMS messages in the first half of 2016. These messages are not displayed to the recipient, but provide meta data that can be used to track devices.

10/08 The Berlin police announce an autumn launch of “Krimpro”: new, in-house developed software that assists in predicting the probability of a break-in at a specific location, and thus can potentially intervene to prevent a crime or apprehend a perpetrator (predictive policing).

11/08 In response to the attacks in Würzburg and Ansbach and the shooting in Munich, Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) announces a new set of domestic security upgrades. They not only include budget and personnel increases, but also foresee intensified internet surveillance and video surveillance using facial and number plate recognition software.

16/08 According to a current survey, there was “only” 520 million Euro invested in Berlin startups in the first half of 2016. In 2015, the comparable number was 1,5 billion Euro. Berlin is in forth place Europe-wide, behind London (1.3 million), Stockholm (1 million), and Paris (673 million).

17/08 The German Federal Government wants to push forward the transition to e-government. It passes legislation that will loosen or remove altogether the requirements in numerous situations for hard copy documentation, eliminating paperwork and the need to physically visit agency offices.

19/08 In Berlin, a conference of Interior Ministers from the German Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Socialist Union in Bavaria (CDU/CSU) call for the government’s telecommunications data retention mandate to be extended to six months and expanded to include social media. In addition, video surveillance should be intensified, and encrypted communications should be subject to interception.

19/08 In the last six months, Twitter has deleted a total of 235,000 accounts that were recruiting for, or supporting, terrorism.

26/08 The battle over a selfie taken by the macaque Naruto continues. After a US court ruled that the monkey could not hold the rights to its photo and awarded these instead to the camera’s owner, David Slater, the animal rights organization PETA appeals the ruling.

29/08 Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan meet Pope Francis in the Vatican to discuss the role of communication technology in combating poverty.

30/08 The EU commission decides that Ireland is entitled to collect illegally withheld taxes from Apple amounting to 13 billion Euro. Rather than demanding the money be repaid with interest, Ireland instead launches a legal challenge to the Commission’s decision. Apple CEO Tim Cook considers his company the “world’s largest tax payer”.

30/08 Germany’s states are equipping their investigative agencies to better combat internet crime, planning new special divisions and expanding existing departments. They are nonetheless faced with the problem of finding enough qualified specialists in the field.

“Das Netz – digitalization and Society. English edition” gathers writers, activists, scientists, politicians and entrepreneurs to think about the developments of our digital life. More than 50 contributions reflect on the digital transformation of society. It is available as a free PDF. Download here!