Start Up No.1,111: will Europe ban data export to US?, Germany’s privacy watchdog nixes Office 365, Twitter dithers on Trump, and more


Protests on 14 July in Hong Kong: why is YouTube limiting ads on their videos? CC-licensed photo by Studio Incendo on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Still here, then. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Why YouTube keeps demonetizing videos of the Hong Kong protests • OneZero

Will Oremus:

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the company’s guidelines would seem to rule out ads on huge swaths of what is generally considered mainstream news coverage. Imagine your evening newscast stripped of any story whose topic includes “violence,” “harmful or dangerous acts,” “tobacco,” “firearms,” or “controversial issues and sensitive events.” Note further that YouTube’s explanation of that last category includes “war,” “death and tragedies,” “political conflicts,” “terrorism or extremism,” and “sexual abuse.” You’d be left with the local sports roundup, the winning lotto numbers, and weather report — assuming, one supposes, the weather isn’t causing any deaths or tragedies.

In practice, it’s clear that YouTube makes plenty of exceptions for news coverage. You can find ads on segments about ethnic cleansing in Myanmar to clashes between Israel and Hamas in the West Bank. But when pressed by OneZero to explain on what basis it makes those exceptions, YouTube declined to elaborate, except to clarify that videos of political protests are eligible for ads unless those protests include violence. That’s a tricky stance, given that many protest movements start off peaceful but escalate to include incidents of violence — as has happened in Hong Kong.

On June 16, China Uncensored posted a video called “Biggest Protest in Hong Kong’s History,” chronicling the massive demonstrations of the day before. It was quickly marked by YouTube with a yellow monetization icon, indicating that it was eligible for “limited or no ads.”

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The problem with an unaccountable, inexplicable paymaster.
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A layer of ‘aerogel’ could make Mars habitable and even enable life to develop there – but here’s why we should wait

Andrew Coates:

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Ideas for changing or “terraforming” Mars, by introducing an atmospheric greenhouse effect to warm it, have been around for a long time. Recently it was shown that the carbon inventory on Mars is insufficient to do this, apparently killing off these ideas for now.

But the new study suggests a different approach – that smaller areas of Mars could be covered by a thin (2-3cm) covering of aerogel, providing a greenhouse effect by locking in heat. Using lab experiments, the researchers showed that this could increase the surface temperature by 50°C. The authors then used a climate model of Mars to confirm that the gel would be able to keep the water below it liquid up to a depth of several metres. It would also protect against harmful radiation by absorbing the radiation at UV wavelengths, while still allowing enough light for photosynthesis.

This suggests that a habitable region could be produced, enough even to grow some plants to fuel eventual human exploration. The idea is certainly interesting, and according to the experiments potentially plausible. But it ignores the other key issue affecting life on Mars – cosmic radiation. Silica aerogel, the proposed material, is sometimes called “frozen smoke” due to its low density. But because it is so low density, cosmic radiation of higher energy than ultraviolet light can pass through it almost unscathed. Without magnetic protection, this radiation threatens any life on the Martian surface, just as it does today.

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(An aerogel is “a synthetic and ultralight material made by taking a gel and replacing the liquid component with a gas.”)
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The Metamorphosis • The Atlantic

Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher:

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In the nuclear age, strategy evolved around the concept of deterrence. Deterrence is predicated on the rationality of parties, and the premise that stability can be ensured by nuclear and other military deployments that can be neutralized only by deliberate acts leading to self-destruction; the likelihood of retaliation deters attack. Arms-control agreements with monitoring systems were developed in large part to avoid challenges from rogue states or false signals that might trigger a catastrophic response.

Hardly any of these strategic verities can be applied to a world in which AI plays a significant role in national security. If AI develops new weapons, strategies, and tactics by simulation and other clandestine methods, control becomes elusive, if not impossible. The premises of arms control based on disclosure will alter: Adversaries’ ignorance of AI-developed configurations will become a strategic advantage—an advantage that would be sacrificed at a negotiating table where transparency as to capabilities is a prerequisite. The opacity (and also the speed) of the cyberworld may overwhelm current planning models.

The evolution of the arms-control regime taught us that grand strategy requires an understanding of the capabilities and military deployments of potential adversaries. But if more and more intelligence becomes opaque, how will policy makers understand the views and abilities of their adversaries and perhaps even allies?

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Yes, it really is that unindicted war criminal Henry Kissinger (age 96), ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt (64), American academic Daniel Huttenlocher (59). The article’s full of vagueisms – unsurprisingly – but the idea of nation states using AI for their defence/attack strategies is quite worrying.
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The US, China, and case 311/18 on Standard Contractual Clauses • European Law Blog

Peter Swire:

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In the aftermath of the 2015 case [on Facebook transferring data to the US, which found against Facebook and invalidated those transfers], most companies that transfer data from the EU were left to rely on contract standards promulgated by the European Commission, called Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC).  The SCCs set strict requirements for handling personal data by the company that transfers the data.

The legality of SCCs is now before the CJEU, with a similar challenge to Privacy Shield awaiting the outcome of the first case.

A CJEU decision that invalidates SCCs would result in the prohibition of most transfers of personal data from the EU to the US. The case primarily concerns the quality of legal safeguards in the United States for government surveillance, especially by the NSA. (Note – I was selected to provide independent expert testimony on US law by Facebook; under Irish law, I was prohibited from contact with Facebook while serving as an expert, and I have played no further role in the litigation.)

A decision invalidating SCCs, however, would pose a terrible dilemma to EU courts and decisionmakers.

At a minimum, the CJEU might “merely” prohibit data flows to the US due to a finding of lack of sufficient safeguards, notably an insufficient remedy for an EU data subject who makes a subject access request to the NSA. The EU on this approach would continue to authorize the transfer of personal data to countries not directly covered by the Court decision, such as, for example, China.  This approach would be completely unjustified: it would prohibit transfers of data to the US, which has numerous legal safeguards characteristic of a state under the rule of law, while allowing such transfers toward China, where the protection of personal data vis-à-vis the government is essentially non-existent.

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German privacy watchdog: Microsoft’s Office 365 cannot be used in public schools • WinBuzzer

Luke Jones:

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A data authority in the German State of Hesse has warned Microsoft’s Office 365 cannot be used in schools. Michael Ronellenfitsch, Hesse’s data protection commissioner, says the standard Office 365 configuration creates privacy issues.

He warned this week that data stored in the cloud by the productivity suite could be accessed in the United States. Specifically, personal information from teachers and students would be in the cloud. Ronellenfitsch says even if the data was held in centers in Europe, it is still “exposed to possible access by US authorities”.

The commissioner says public intuitions in Hesse and across Germany “have a special responsibility with regard to the permissibility and traceability of the processing of personal data.”…

…It is worth noting that Ronellenfitsch previously endorsed the use of Office 365 in schools. Back in 2017, he said schools can use the suite under certain conditions that match Germany’s data protection compliancy laws. At the time, Microsoft was partnered with Deutsche Telekom and offering the “Germany Cloud” initiative that is now depreciated.

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This isn’t an opportunity for Google or Apple: they don’t meet the authority’s criteria on privacy and data either.
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Trump’s racist tweets aren’t racist, Twitter decides • Gizmodo

Dell Cameron:

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Last month, Twitter announced that while the president will continue to remain exempt from the consequences of violating its policies, it would downrank and flag any “public interest” tweets that violate its rules.

“We may allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability,” the company stated. “When this happens, we add a notice to clarify that the Tweet violates our rules, but we believe it should be left up to serve this purpose.”

Noticeably, Trump’s go-back-to-your-country tweets remain unflagged.

“The plain reading of Twitter’s policies against repeated targeting and bullying of individuals using racist slurs and tropes makes clear that the president’s latest rant against Rep. Ilhan Omar and other congresswomen of color goes too far,” said Madihha Ahussain, a special counsel for Muslim Advocates, one of many civil rights groups working to persuade Twitter and other social networks to take meaningful action to address racist and extremist content.

Twitter declined to comment on the record about its decision, pointing instead to its policy of adding a “notice” to any “public interest” tweet that violates its rules.

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Twitter then contacted Cameron and complained about the headline. The sheer display of pusillanimity in the US media, and social networks, over the weekend has been astonishing. If Twitter bans anyone for anything after this, it’s rank hypocrisy.
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Award-winning reporter to counter-sue man who bankrolled Brexit for ‘harassment’ • Daily Beast

Nico Hines:

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The award-winning journalist whose investigations led to the collapse of Donald Trump’s campaign data gurus Cambridge Analytica and a record $5bn fine for Facebook has launched a lawsuit for harassment against the man who bankrolled Brexit.

Carole Cadwalladr, a freelance investigative reporter, served the papers Monday against Arron Banks, the largest Brexit campaign donor. Solicitors acting on her behalf say a campaign of harassment, trolling and threats of violence culminated Friday with a libel suit filed at the High Court against Cadwalladr for remarks she made during a TED talk, at a convention in London, and in a tweet.

“This is such an abuse of the law by Arron Banks. He’s not suing TED. He’s not suing the Observer or the Guardian. He’s a bully who’s targeting me as an individual to harass and intimidate me and prevent me from doing journalism, a course of behavior that has been going on for more than two years,” Cadwalladr told The Daily Beast.

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I hope Carole wins this, and the libel case, and gets gigantic personal damages for both. She deserves it, and Banks’s behaviour deserves to be spotlighted for what it is.
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There’s a big problem with Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency • Ars Technica

Timothy B. Lee:

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Facebook envisions a Libra ecosystem that looks a lot like the existing bitcoin ecosystem. Just as people use intermediaries like Coinbase to acquire and manage their bitcoins, Facebook envisions users interacting with the Libra network via exchanges and user-friendly apps—including Facebook’s own app called Calibra. Each company building a Libra payment service will need to hire its own lawyers to make sure it’s complying with all applicable laws.

A key assumption behind this plan is that the Libra network itself will operate beyond the reach of any country’s regulatory regime in the same way that bitcoin does. A Libra Association representative, Dante Disparte, articulated this principle in a recent interview with blockchain podcaster Laura Shin. Shin asked Disparte what would happen if a government like the United States demanded that the Libra Association blacklist certain Libra addresses in order to comply with sanctions laws—something that’s required of most conventional payment networks.

“The Association won’t interact with any jurisdiction,” Disparte said. “The Association has three macro-level functions: governance, management of a reserve, management of an open-source technology. The companies that offer consumers and citizens in different jurisdictions around the world are the regulated entities that provide an on- and off-ramp to Libra the currency.”

But this position has a fair number of skeptics. One of them is Jerry Brito, a lawyer who runs a blockchain-focused think tank called the Coin Center.

“I don’t understand how this is possible,” Brito tweeted. If the US government asked the Libra Association to block a list of Libra addresses, the Association’s members—big companies like Facebook, Mastercard, Visa, and Uber—would have little choice to comply, he argued.

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See for comparison: Amazon’s hosting, briefly, of Wikileaks during the US diplomatic cables leak; Paypal and Visa denying payments to Wikileaks subsequently.
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Florida DMV sells your personal information to private companies, marketing firms • ABC Action News

Adam Walser:

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In Idaho, [Tonia] Batson lived in a group home where someone else handled her finances, daily living and healthcare arrangements. She had no digital footprint because she can’t read or write.

That’s why [Batson’s sister and legal guardian Sonia] Arvin wanted to know how marketers got Batson’s personal information.

“The only one that had it was the DMV,” said Arvin. “Even if it’s a public record in Florida – if we tell them we want it private, it should be kept private.”

The state opened an investigation into Batson’s case after ABC alerted FHSMV officials.

That’s because Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV) said companies buying data on Floridians are not allowed to use that information for marketing.

But not every company plays by the rules.

The state told ABC it has banned data sales to three companies since 2017 for misusing driver and ID cardholder information.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles told ABC that under the law, it must provide driver information but said federal privacy laws and its own rules limit how outside companies can access Floridian’s personal information.

One of the data brokers accessing Florida DMV information is Arkansas-based marketing firm Acxiom, which has an agreement with the state to buy driver and ID cardholder data for a penny a record.

On its website, Acxiom claims it has collected information from almost every adult in the United States.

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A penny per record. The incentive for flouting that is far higher, and the fines probably much lower – if fines are handed out (none are mentioned in the story).

US data privacy? It would be a nice idea. But if even the government is selling your data, people like Facebook could legitimately claim, Catch-22 style, that “everyone’s doing it, so I’d be a fool not to”.
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Huawei plans extensive layoffs in the US • WSJ

Dan Strumpf:

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Huawei Technologies is planning extensive layoffs at its US operations, according to people familiar with the matter, as the Chinese technology giant continues to struggle with its American blacklisting.

The layoffs are expected to affect workers at Huawei’s US-based research and development subsidiary, Futurewei Technologies, according to these people. The unit employs about 850 people in research labs across the US, including in Texas, California and Washington state.

Huawei declined to comment. The exact number of layoffs couldn’t be determined, but people familiar with the matter said they were expected to be in the hundreds. Some of Huawei’s Chinese employees in the US were being given the option of returning home and staying with the company, another person said.

Futurewei employees have faced restrictions communicating with colleagues in Huawei’s home offices in China following the May 16 Commerce Department decision to put Huawei on its so-called entity list, which blocked companies from supplying US-sourced technology to Huawei without a license, according to these people.

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I saw this division referred to by one person on Twitter as the “Thievery Division”. Ouch. Though he’s a hedge fund manager, so make your own jokes.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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