What happened online? February 2016

Foto: Crab Nebula, M1, NGC 1952, Supernova remnant / NASA and ESA; Acknowledgement: M. Weisskopf (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center)

01/02 After being online for only seven years, the messaging service Whatsapp now counts seven million active users.

01/02 Germany’s Federal Bank reminds consumers that, from midnight, the IBAN must be used in all bank transactions.

01/02 Streaming volume will now also be used to generate rankings on German album charts, although only the use of paid streaming services is taken into account.

01/02 After a protracted transparency battle, members of the German Bundestag are given access to documents from the negotiations for the free trade agreement TTIP. A special reading room is set up for this purpose in the Federal Economics Ministry. However, the conditions are strict: parliamentarians are not allowed to pass on any information and have to surrender their mobile phones before entering. The documents are not translated into German.

08/02 Germans would rather do without alcohol than the internet: according to a Forsa Survey, half the population of Germany could willingly abstain from the use of a luxury, such as alcohol or tobacco, or a consumer product. However, only 20 percent (among those under 30, only 12 percent) could stomach even a temporary break from the internet.

09/02 Since its launch, more than 100,000 projects have been financed through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, among them four Grammy Award-winning albums and one Oscar-winning film. Kickstarter has distributed a total of more that two billion dollars.

17/02 A US court orders Apple to cooperate with investigators through bypassing encryptions on the iPhone belonging to one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shootings. In a “customer letter”, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why he opposes the order, fearing a dangerous precedent could be set should his company be forced to comply. The case prompts an international debate on consumer data protection.

18/02 Arne Schönbohm begins his term as the new head of Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) with 600 employees at his disposal.

18/02 One percent of German households are connected to the internet via a fibre optic network, placing Germany in 28th place in Europe. In first place are Latvia, Lithuania and Sweden, each with 35 percent of households boasting fiber-optic connections.

19/02 In the on-going battle over the ancillary copyright for press publishers, publishers are again left empty-handed. The Berlin district court rules that, despite its overwhelming market dominance, Google could be trusted not to abuse this position.

22/02 Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior clears newly developed Trojan software for deployment. They intend it to be used exclusively in lawful interception operations, collecting data directly on the target’s computer in order to render subsequent encryption ineffective.

22/02 There are only 30,000 telephone booths left in Germany. Ten years ago there were 110,000.

24/02 US President Barack Obama signs the “Judicial Redress Act”, clearing the way for EU citizens to sue US authorities for violations of data-protection law, albeit with a high hurdle.

25/02 The German Bundestag passes a resolution calling upon the government to formulate an action plan for “intelligent mobility”, the goal of which should be the development of “intelligent traffic control”. The opposition votes against it, fearing the advent of the “transparent driver” subjected to constant surveillance and data collection.

26/02 At an event in Berlin, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits there is room for improvement in the way his platform deals with hate speech. 200 employees are hired in Germany to help address this problem.

28/02 Netflix blocks access to its services via VPN tunnel. The aim is to prevent users in Germany from gaining access to videos for which Netflix has acquired only the US rights.