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  1. FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German court on Thursday banned Uber ride-hailing services in Germany, arguing the U.S. company lacks a necessary licence to offer passenger transport services using rental cars. The verdict is another setback for the firm after it lost its licence to carry paying passengers in London last month, with the city’s regulator claiming it had put passenger safety at risk. In Germany, where Uber is active in seven cities including Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich, the company exclusively works with car rental companies and their licensed drivers. The verdict is effective immediately but can be appealed. “We will assess the court’s ruling and determine next steps to ensure our services in Germany continue”, an Uber spokesperson said. A person close to the company said that Uber will now change the way it operates in Europe’s largest economy, adding that it is also considering taking legal action against the ruling. The plaintiff, Taxi Deutschland, said it would seek immediate provisional enforcement. It said Uber would then have to pay fines starting at 250 euros per ride and rising to as much as 250,000 euros per ride in the case of repeated offences. The court in 2015 forbade Uber from matching up drivers using their own cars with ride hailers. Uber’s current service, which lets customers hail rides carried out in rented cars, is also illegal as it violates competition rules, the court said. Uber advertised rides to customers in a way that led them to view it as the provider of the transport service, the court said, adding that the firm also selects specific drivers and determines prices. “From a passenger’s point of view, Uber provides the service itself and is therefore an entrepreneur,” the presiding judge said, adding this meant Uber has to comply with laws governing passenger transport. Separately, Uber breached the obligation that hired cars have to return to a rental firm’s main office after carrying out a ride, the court said. Uber has had a series of run-ins with regulators, courts and drivers around the world and has been shut out of markets such as Copenhagen and Hungary. Last week it submitted an appeal against a decision by London’s transport regulator to strip the taxi app of its right to operate in one its most important markets. Germany’s highest court ruled in 2018 that a defunct limousine service offered by Uber was illegal. That upheld lower-court rulings in favor of a complaint brought by a Berlin taxi business that the so-called Uber Black service had violated German laws governing car rentals. Source
  2. State of Hesse says student and teacher information could be "exposed" to US spy agencies. Schools in the central German state of Hesse have been have been told it's now illegal to use Microsoft Office 365. The state's data-protection commissioner has ruled that using the popular cloud platform's standard configuration exposes personal information about students and teachers "to possible access by US officials". That might sound like just another instance of European concerns about data privacy or worries about the current US administration's foreign policy. But in fact the ruling by the Hesse Office for Data Protection and Information Freedom is the result of several years of domestic debate about whether German schools and other state institutions should be using Microsoft software at all. Besides the details that German users provide when they're working with the platform, Microsoft Office 365 also transmits telemetry data back to the US. Last year, investigators in the Netherlands discovered that that data could include anything from standard software diagnostics to user content from inside applications, such as sentences from documents and email subject lines. All of which contravenes the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, the Dutch said. Germany's own Federal Office for Information Security also recently expressed concerns about telemetry data that the Windows operating system sends. To allay privacy fears in Germany, Microsoft invested millions in a German cloud service, and in 2017 Hesse authorities said local schools could use Office 365. If German data remained in the country, that was fine, Hesse's data privacy commissioner, Michael Ronellenfitsch, said. But in August 2018 Microsoft decided to shut down the German service. So once again, data from local Office 365 users would be data transmitted over the Atlantic. Several US laws, including 2018's CLOUD Act and 2015's USA Freedom Act, give the US government more rights to ask for data from tech companies. It's actually simple, Austrian digital-rights advocate Max Schrems, who took a case on data transfers between the EU and US to the highest European court this week, tells ZDNet. School pupils are usually not able to give consent, he points out. "And if data is sent to Microsoft in the US, it is subject to US mass-surveillance laws. This is illegal under EU law." Even if it weren't, public institutions in Germany – such as schools – have a particular responsibility for what they do with personal data, and how transparent they are about that, Hesse's Ronellenfitsch explained in a statement. Despite ongoing discussions between German authorities and Microsoft, fulfilling those responsibilities hasn't been possible. A spokesperson for Microsoft tells ZDNet they are working on it: "We're thankful the [Hesse] commissioner raised these concerns and we look forward working with [them] to better understand their concerns." The spokesperson also pointed out that Microsoft has taken the US government to court to protect customer data and that administrators of school and workplace accounts can themselves limit what information is sent back to Microsoft. The transmission of information cannot be switched off altogether, though. Schools are far from the only public institutions in Germany with misgivings about Microsoft. Earlier this year, Vitako, Germany's federal association of municipal IT service providers, complained that the use of Office 365 by local councils meant private information about German citizens who were, for example, applying for drivers' licenses or marriage certificates, was potentially also exposed to US snooping. For the money we spend on software licenses, one would expect a product that requires less management and offers more security, one senior IT administrator from the city of Cologne grumbled: "Instead it's a costly risk for municipalities." In 2018, federal ministries and their various offices spent almost €73m ($82m) on licensing Microsoft programs – almost €26m ($29m) more than budgeted, most likely due to expiring licenses. In a letter on the topic, the Ministry of the Interior said that while open-source software and other alternatives were being tried out, German ministries currently had few options other than Microsoft. In fact, all this is just part of a much longer running fight about how Europeans can keep their data safe from US and Chinese eyes. Calls for Germany to work harder on 'digital sovereignty' are increasing. "We have to consider this again and put realistic funding behind it," Andreas Koenen, a senior member of the German Interior Ministry, argued for domestic cloud services at a conference in Berlin earlier this year. "The political situation is forcing this on us." The legal situation may soon do so, too. On Tuesday, a case brought by Austrian activist Schrems was heard in the European Court of Justice. Schrems already had one headline-making success there in 2015, when a case he brought overturned the so-called Safe Harbor agreement, which ruled on data transfers between the EU and the US. The new case could challenge Privacy Shield, the rules that replaced Safe Harbor in 2016. Thanks to the way the case has proceeded in its country of origin, Ireland, it may now also contest so-called 'standard contractual clauses' governing the trans-Atlantic movement of data. Some of Microsoft's transfers of data are governed by these too, and it could result in major disruption of international data flows. A decision is not expected from Luxembourg until mid-December. So in the meantime, school students in central Germany will just have to make do: The Hesse privacy commissioner has suggested they use similar office products with on-premise licenses, while everybody waits for Microsoft to get back to them. Source
  3. YouTube is trying to reduce the prevalence of extremist content on the platform YouTube is changing its community guidelines to ban videos promoting the superiority of any group as a justification for discrimination against others based on their age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status, the company said today. The move, which will result in the removal of all videos promoting Nazism and other discriminatory ideologies, is expected to result in the removal of thousands of channels across YouTube. “The openness of YouTube’s platform has helped creativity and access to information thrive,” the company said in a blog post. “It’s our responsibility to protect that, and prevent our platform from being used to incite hatred, harassment, discrimination and violence.” The changes announced on Wednesday attempt to improve its content moderation in three ways. First, the ban on supremacists will remove Nazis and other extremists who advocate segregation or exclusion based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status. In addition to those categories, YouTube is adding caste, which has significant implications in India, and “well-documented violent events,” such as the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and 9/11. Users are no longer allowed to post videos saying those events did not happen, YouTube said. Second, YouTube said it would expand efforts announced in January to reduce the spread of what it calls “borderline content and harmful misinformation.” The policy, which applies to videos that flirt with violating the community guidelines but ultimately fall short, aims to limit the promotion of those videos through recommendations. YouTube said the policy, which affects videos including flat-earthers and peddlers of phony miracle cures, had already decreased the number of views that borderline videos receive by 50 percent. In the future, the company said, it will recommend videos from more authoritative sources, like top news channels, in its “next watch” panel. Finally, YouTube said it would restrict channels from monetizing their videos if they are found to “repeatedly brush up against our hate speech policies.” Those channels will not be able to run ads or use Super Chat, which lets channel subscribers pay creators directly for extra chat features. The last change comes after BuzzFeed reported that the paid commenting system had been used to fund creators of videos featuring racism and hate speech. In 2017, YouTube took a step toward reducing the visibility of extremists on the platform when it began placing warnings in front of some videos. But it has come under continued scrutiny for the way that it recruits followers for racists and bigots by promoting their work through recommendation algorithms and prominent placement in search results. In April, Bloomberg reported that videos made by far-right creators represented one of the most popular sections of YouTube, along with music, sports, and video games. At the same time, YouTube and its parent company, Alphabet, are under growing political pressure to rein in the bad actors on the platform. The Christchurch attacks in March led to widespread criticism of YouTube and other platforms for failing to immediately identify and remove videos of the shooting, and several countries have proposed laws designed to force tech companies to act more quickly. Meanwhile, The New York Times found this week that YouTube algorithms were recommending videos featuring children in bathing suits to people who had previously watched sexually themed content — effectively generating playlists for pedophiles. YouTube did not disclose the names of any channels that are expected to be affected by the change. The company declined to comment on a current controversy surrounding my Vox colleague Carlos Maza, who has repeatedly been harassed on the basis of his race and sexual orientation by prominent right-wing commentator Steven Crowder. (After I spoke with the company, it responded to Maza that it plans to take no action against Crowder’s channel.) Still, the move is likely to trigger panic among right-wing YouTube channels. In the United States, conservatives have promoted the idea that YouTube and other platforms discriminate against them. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of systematic bias, Republicans have held several hearings over the past year on the subject. Today’s move from YouTube is likely to generate a fresh round of outrage, along with warnings that we are on the slippery slope toward totalitarianism. Of course, as the Maza case has shown, YouTube doesn’t always enforce its own rules. It’s one thing to make a policy, and it’s another to ensure that a global workforce of underpaid contractors accurately understands and applies it. It will be fascinating to see how the new policy, which prohibits “videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify ... segregation or exclusion,” will affect discussion of immigration on YouTube. The company says that political debates about the pros and cons of immigration are still allowed, but a video saying that “Muslims are diseased and shouldn’t be allowed to migrate to Europe” will be banned. The changed policy goes into effect today, YouTube said, and enforcement will “ramp up” over the next several days. Source
  4. Basically, you have to come up with a funny reason why the person above you should be banned. So, what should I be banned for?
  5. Entrusting your data to big tech platforms can be highly risky. Users who have been banned by Google for supposedly violating its terms of service have been left without access to key parts of their lives. Many have appealed the suspensions but have received automated responses. They don't know why they've been banned. "This is just how life is when you're dealing with trillion-dollar faceless corporations," said Aral Balkan. When he received the notification from Google he couldn't quite believe it. Cleroth, a game developer who asked not to use his real name, woke up to see a message that all his Google accounts were disabled due to "serious violation of Google policies." His first reaction was that something must have malfunctioned on his phone. Then he went to his computer and opened up Chrome, Google's internet browser. He was signed out. He tried to access Gmail, his main email account, which was also locked. "Everything was disconnected," he told Business Insider. Cleroth had some options he could pursue: One was the option to try and recover his Google data — which gave him hope. But he didn't go too far into the process because there was also an option to appeal the ban. He sent in an appeal. He received a response the next day: Google had determined he had broken their terms of service, though they didn't explain exactly what had happened, and his account wouldn't be reinstated. (Google has been approached for comment on this story.) Cleroth is one of a number of people who have seen their accounts suspended in the last few days and weeks. In response to a tweet explaining his fear at being locked out of his Google account after 15 years of use, others have posted about the impact of being barred from the company that runs most of the services we use in our day-to-day lives. "I've been using a Google account for personal and work purposes for years now. It had loads of various types of data in there," said Stephen Roughley, a software developer from Birkenhead, UK. "One day when I went to use it I found I couldn't log in." Roughley checked his backup email account and found a message there informing him his main account had been terminated for violating the terms of service. "It suggested that I had been given a warning and I searched and searched but couldn't find anything," added Roughley. "I then followed the link to recover my account but was given a message stating that my account was irrecoverable." Roughley lost data including emails, photos, documents and diagrams that he had developed for his work. "My account and all its data is gone," he said. One Google worker posted in exasperation on October 12 that his husband's account had been locked, and he wouldn't be able to regain access. Others professed to have been barred from using Microsoft services, while losing access to Facebook accounts can be equally damaging. "This is just how life is when you're dealing with trillion-dollar faceless corporations," said Aral Balkan, who has long campaigned against the control of our data – and lives – by big tech firms. "It's just one reason why it's so important that we fund and develop human-scale small tech as an alternative to the stranglehold of big tech on our lives." It's a little like having your house burn down We've spent the history of the modern internet putting more and more of our lives online. From checking in at restaurants and reviewing museums, to relying on Google to navigate us to hotels where we take photographs that we post to Facebook and Instagram, there's very little left in our lives that big tech doesn't touch. We transact business emails through Gmail, and trust Skype (owned by Microsoft) to handle our video calls with family and friends. We don't realize that until we lose access. When key services like Gmail go down, we're left listless. And in extreme circumstances, when we're booted out from accessing services through bans, the impact becomes even more devastating. You only need look at what Cleroth has lost for an indication of the kind of data we give up to big tech firms. "I'm still trying to piece [together] everything that I did lose," he explained. "I'm slowly realizing over time just how much stuff is 'missing'." There are the obvious things, like access to Gmail, YouTube and Google Calendar. The game developer has lost reminders of birthdays and anniversaries. "It's going to lead to some more awkward conversations," he said. But it's not just access to his work emails that he's lost: "A fair amount of software licenses get delivered by email, especially audio software which his expensive," he said. "I have products from over two dozen different companies so it's probable I've lost a fair amount of those, given I also have no access to the email they were registered with." Then there are other services he's lost access to. Cleroth logged into many apps and services using his Google account, which he doesn't have access to anymore. "If they're paid, I'll have to buy them again if I switch phones," he said. The music he purchased through Google Music has also disappeared. "The app took it upon itself to delete all the downloaded music I had on my phone." And most notes that the developer jotted down on his phone were stored through Google Keep, which is also gone. "It had a lot of brainstorming for serious and personal projects, as well as other important notes that I scribbled just as reminders usually, most of which I can't really recall at all," he said. "Frankly my memory is not that good, and well, that's one of the reasons I had all these services that Google offers me," he added. The developer feels betrayed by the company for shutting off access to vast swathes of his digital life in an instant, with little logical recourse. "It feels like getting baited by all the convenience that Google offers, only for Google to use your data as it pleases and possibly take it all away with no prior notice," he said. Worse, he's worried it could happen elsewhere. "It feels debilitating that there's no way to even prevent this in the future," he explained. "No matter what I do or who I choose to do 'business' with, there'll always be a risk of losing it." He feels anger, too. "I'm extremely angry at Google for just completely locking me out or deleting all my data without a single notice, losing money, data on personal projects, contacts, so much," he explained. The lack of transparency about how he broke their terms of service also has him worried. "I keep thinking there has to be a reason they've suspended me, even though it could just be some algorithmic glitch or something.," he said. "It's difficult to shake this feeling, given that Google practically has mountains of data on me. "I'm also angry at myself for not having even thought of the possibility I could lose my Google account with everything in it and accounts linked through Google," he added. "Apparently I'm not alone in this blind faith though. Hopefully that changes." Source
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