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The Europe Roundup: A Privacy Code of Conduct

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, September 9 2011

  • Germany | A Privacy Code of Conduct
    German data protection advocates often take aim at Facebook: most recently the Facebook button “Like” has been made illegal by the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The state has in fact ordered all government offices to remove the button from their web presence and shut down any Facebook fan pages.

    The tension might now ease as yesterday Facebook declared that it would sign a voluntary code of conduct in Germany to protect user data. This is the result of a meeting between Richard Allan, director of policy in Europe at Facebook, and German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich happened earlier this week.

    As reported on TechEurope (WSJ's blog covering technology in the Old Continent):

    Even though the EU Commission has announced that it will revise its data protection initiative, Mr. Friedrich says self-regulation is nonetheless “especially important in the fast-moving domain of the Internet,” because such regulation takes a long time to materialize in Brussels.
    Mr. Allen, for his part, agreed: “We are supportive of the initiative for self-regulation. It can be a very effective way to control the interests of the users online,” the executive said in a statement.
    With the signing of this pledge, the German interior ministry said the social network had managed to diffuse the discussion around Facebook’s adherence to German data protection laws—a relief for the Silicon Valley giant, which has been on numerous times the target of German privacy officials.

    With this announcement an agreement seems to be found for now.
    The debate is far from being concluded, though, even in Germany's political context: the German newspaper Spiegel reports on contrasting statements of the Minister and Schleswig-Holstein data commissioner Weichert. Also another Minister weighed in:

    Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner, who has often unloaded hefty criticism onto Facebook, was also skeptical. "It remains to be seen if this is just more lip service or if Facebook will actually improve its data protection settings," Aigner's spokesperson said on her behalf, alleging that the company generally reacts only to massive pressure from users, competitors or data protection officials.

    In May 2010 Minister Aigner had wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, expressing her concerns about Facebook’s plans to further relax data protection regulations.

  • Russia | A crowdsourced map of electoral violations
    In Russia, the next parliamentary elections are due on December 4th and activists are working to be able to track possible election violations.
    The electoral monitoring association Golos (Russian for voice) together with gazeta.ru has launched Kartanarusheniy.ru, a crowdsourced map for collecting user data on electoral violations.
    The Ushahidi-like map (although developed on a different software) will allows users to report agitation violations, administrative and police pressure, bribery, misuse of power and violations of candidates' rights.
    Here's a statement from Golos describing the initiative:

    To help the participants the campaign website features experts describing violations of election laws with typical examples, and recommendations that should take in case of detection of any violations. This information will be displayed on the map and filters will be able to sort out them by geography, type and level of violations of the election. The data will be aggregated into statistical tables online. From an array of experts sent messages "VOICE" will select the most typical subjects, and analyze the campaign. Project proponents are hoping that reports from citizens will be subject to the study of electoral commissions.

    (via Global Voices)

  • Finland | An Open Data Handbook
    How are the Nordics working with open data? Check this example: an open data handbook released by the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications (here's the Finnish version). The guidebook is mainly targeted at civil servants willing to open up public sector data.
    (via apoikola)

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New Media Sites in Iran Blur Lines Between Citizen Journo, Professional Journo, & Activist

In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. A 40-second video of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan during an anti-government protest won a prestigious George Polk Award, the first anonymously-produced work to be so honored. And then came the 2013 study “Whither Blogestan,” which sought to explain Iran's shrinking blogosphere. Of nearly 25,000 highly active and connected blogs in 2008 and 2009, only 20 percent were still online in September 2013.

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