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  1. BERLIN/PARIS (Reuters) - France and Germany threw their weight on Thursday behind plans to create a cloud computing ecosystem that seeks to reduce Europe’s dependence on Silicon Valley giants Amazon, Microsoft and Google. The project, dubbed Gaia-X, will establish common standards for storing and processing data on servers that are sited locally and comply with the European Union’s strict laws on data privacy. German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, speaking in Berlin, described Gaia-X as a “moonshot” that would help reassert Europe’s technological sovereignty, and invited other countries and companies to join. “We are not China, we are not the United States, we are European countries with our own values and with our own economic interest that we want to defend,” his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire said in Paris in a joint video news conference. The initiative comes as France and Germany step up economic cooperation to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Both have backed an EU-wide recovery plan while Berlin has just announced a major fiscal stimulus. In an initial step, 22 French and German companies will set up a non-profit foundation to run Gaia-X, which is not conceived as a direct rival to the “hyperscale” U.S. cloud providers but would instead referee a common set of European rules. “Building a European-based alternative is possible only if we play collectively,” said Michel Paulin, CEO of independent French cloud service provider OVHcloud. One important concept underpinning Gaia-X is “reversibility”, a principle that would allow users to easily switch providers. First services are due to be offered in 2021. That is already far too late, according to analysts at Gartner, who forecast that the global market for public cloud services will grow by 17% to $228 billion this year. “The leading cloud providers have already moved quickly to build up this market,” said Gartner analyst Rene Buest. Source
  2. Tesla allowed to cut down trees for fourth gigafactory Earlier this week, it was announced that Tesla had been ordered to halt work on its gigafactory in Germany over environmental factors. A court has now said it can continue cutting down trees on forest land that it owns in order to build the new factory. Tesla had been ordered by a court to halt work clearing forest land for its new factory thanks to a legal challenge by the Green League. With today’s update, the court that oversees the region threw out the injunction meaning Tesla can continue to fell trees in the 910,000 square metre area (91 hectares). According to Berlin.de, which first reported the news, the court has said that the decision is final; making it difficult for environmentalists to do anything else about it. In a statement on its website, Tesla attempts to address concerns, saying: “We are committed to improving the natural environment near the factory and in the wider state of Brandenburg. We aim to replant an area three times the factory plot, with mixed trees native to their habitat and the potential to become an old growth forest, while working with environmental and other expert groups for the best possible outcome.” Once the factory is open in 2021, it will employ around 12,000 people and produce up to 500,000 cars per year. This will allow the firm to ship vehicles to European customers more easily and cheaply, those savings may be passed on to customers to make the vehicles more appealing. Tesla has used its Chinese gigafactory to get around U.S.-China tariffs that have been applied as a result of the ongoing trade war. Source: Tesla allowed to cut down trees for fourth gigafactory (Neowin)
  3. Tesla ordered by court to halt work on German gigafactory Tesla has been ordered by a court to halt work on its fourth gigafactory that’s set to be built in Germany. An alliance of environmentalists, called the Green League, won a court injunction yesterday against the firm which has been clearing forest land to make room for the new factory. The Green League said that it is a threat to local wildlife and water supplies. While the construction is on hold at the moment, work may resume soon as the injunction is only temporary and subject to more hearings that could take place as soon as this week. According to the BBC, the firm has been clearing 91 hectares of forest in Grünheide to make way for the factory. The electric car maker cannot say it wasn’t warned about protests because the only permission it has had from the German government was via the environment ministry which said the firm could begin site preparations “at its own risk”. While one could argue the case of hypocrisy against Tesla, a supposedly environmentally-friendly firm, for cutting down trees, it should be noted that Tesla does own the land that it’s working on. It purchased 300 hectares from the state of Brandenburg to build Gigafactory 4. Once the site opens in 2021, it will employ 12,000 people and produce up to 500,000 cars per year at the site. The court put out a statement after its decision to temporarily suspend work saying that: “It should not be assumed that the motion seeking legal protection brought by the Green League lacks any chance of succeeding.” With a statement like that, it’s unclear where things will go next. Should Tesla’s Germany plans fall through, it could turn its attention to Texas. Source: BBC News Source: Tesla ordered by court to halt work on German gigafactory (Neowin) [ Earlier related news post by our friend @dufus ... https://www.nsaneforums.com/topic/362926-tesla-is-cutting-down-thousands-of-trees-to-put-up-its-german-gigafactory-4 ]
  4. 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
  5. Porsche will begin selling its vehicles online in the U.S. for the first time, the company announced on Monday. To begin with, the company is proceeding with a pilot program that will be offered with 25 of its U.S.-based dealer partners, but the automaker says it could expand to cover the U.S. market more broadly across a larger group of the 191 independent Porsche dealers that currently operate in the U.S. The pilot project will let Porsche buyers pick out and submit an order for both new and used in-stock vehicles, but the process isn’t entirely online — buyers will still have to show up at a dealership to sign the final paperwork and to take delivery of their new car. All the heavy lifting is handled online, however, including things like financing and payment calculators, as well as credit approvals and any insurance options that a buyer chooses to append to their purchase. U.S. online shoppers will be able to do all of this through new sections integrated into the websites of the dealers participating into the program. Meanwhile, at the same time in Germany, Porsche is introducing online vehicle sales centralized through their own “www.porsche.de” website, which itself is a pilot designed to test the waters for a broader European roll-out. Online auto sales are not new, but they still aren’t really a widespread thing in most markets, especially in the U.S., where the existing independent dealership system persists. Tesla leaned heavily into online vehicle sales, however, due in part to its unwillingness to work with independent dealer partners, and to the inflexibility of state laws that protect that system. The automaker’s investment in automotive e-commerce has clearly inspired others to follow suit, however, and I don’t expect Porsche will be the last to dip its toes in these waters. Source
  6. Germany will allow Huawei hardware into its 5G networks Against the advice of the United States, Germany has decided that it will allow hardware from Huawei to be used in 5G networks within the country. The decision was made following allegations made by the U.S. that Huawei hardware contains back doors that allow the Chinese to snoop on communications. Germany has become one of the first major countries to side in favour of Huawei. Last month, Poland signed an agreement with the U.S. making it tougher for Huawei to be included in 5G networks. Meanwhile, the UK government is still deliberating over its position, networks in the UK are in favour of including Huawei hardware while GCHQ has spoken out against the Chinese firm. In a statement, Huawei welcomed Germany’s decision and spoke out against the U.S.’ campaign against it, saying: “Politicising cyber-security will only hinder technology development and social progress while doing nothing to address the security challenges all countries face. Huawei will continue to work openly with regulators, customers, and industry organisations to ensure that mobile networks are secure. Over the past 30 years, we have served more than three billion people around the world, and we have maintained a strong track record in security throughout.” With the decision to keep Huawei, Germans will be able to access 5G sooner; telecoms in the country said that excluding Huawei would also have cost billions of dollars, so those costs will no longer need to be passed on to customers. Source: Germany will allow Huawei hardware into its 5G networks (Neowin) If you like this post, then this post.
  7. Germany just hit a new milestone in the space where venture capital and the burgeoning cannabis industry meet. Berlin startup Demecan has completed a Series A financing round of 7 million euros to expand its production facility for medical cannabis and the wholesale trade in Germany. It’s become the only German company allowed to produce medical cannabis in Germany. This is a watershed for the country and is the first investment in this sector for the private investor network connected to btov Partners (a VC). The other half of the funding came from a single, named German family office, which is understood to have its roots in the consumer goods sector. Only two other companies, two of them from Canada, were awarded the contract to produce medical cannabis in Germany in May 2019. btov Partners manages assets of €420 million and has previously invested in tech startups such as Blacklane, Data Artisans, DeepL, Facebook, Foodspring, ORCAM, Raisin, SumUp, Volocopter and XING. The green light from Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), means Demecan will be able to produce at least 2,400 kilograms of dried cannabis flowers over the next four years. Demecan is also active as an importer and wholesaler of medical cannabis and can thus cover the entire value chain. Since the German government allowed cannabis to be prescribed for therapeutic purposes in 2017 demand has outstripped supply. Jennifer Phan of btov Partners said in a statement: “Demecan operates in a very attractive market at the right time. Germany currently represents the third-largest market for medical cannabis in the world and is on a growth path. We believe that the company has a first-mover advantage in a highly regulated market environment, especially as it is the only German manufacturing and trading company in the European market”. Dr. Constantin von der Groeben, co-founder of Demecan, added: “In recent years, we have intensively dealt with the market and reached an important milestone by winning the tender process. We are now focusing on further growth and the start of production in 2020.” Source
  8. BERLIN (AP) — German investigators said Friday they have shut down a data processing center installed in a former NATO bunker that hosted sites dealing in drugs and other illegal activities. Seven people were arrested. The main suspect in the long-running investigation that led to raids on Thursday is a 59-year-old Dutchman who authorities believe acquired the former military bunker in Traben-Trarbach, a picturesque town on the Mosel River in western Germany, in 2013, prosecutor Juergen Bauer told reporters. He then turned it into a very large and heavily secured data processing center “in order to make it available to clients, according to our investigations, exclusively for illegal purposes,” Bauer added. Regional criminal police chief Johannes Kunz said that authorities believe he had “links to organized crime,” and that he appears to have spent most of his time in the area although he was registered as having moved to Singapore. Thirteen people aged 20 to 59 are under investigation in all, including three German and seven Dutch citizens, Brauer said. Authorities arrested seven of them, citing the danger of flight and collusion. They are suspected of membership in a criminal organization because of a tax offense, as well as being accessories to hundreds of thousands of offenses involving drugs, counterfeit money and forged documents, and accessories to the distribution of child pornography. Authorities didn’t name any of the suspects. The data center was set up as what investigators described as a “bulletproof hoster,” meant to conceal illicit activities from authorities’ eyes. Investigators say the platforms it hosted included “Cannabis Road,” a drug-dealing portal; the “Wall Street Market,” which was one of the world’s largest online criminal marketplaces for drugs, hacking tools and financial-theft wares until it was taken down earlier this year; and sites such as “Orange Chemicals” that dealt in synthetic drugs. A botnet attack on German telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom in late 2016 that knocked out about 1 million customers’ routers also appears to have come from the data center in Traben-Trarbach, Brauer said. The arrests took place at a restaurant in the town and in Schwalbach, outside Frankfurt. Alongside the raids in Germany, there were searches in the Netherlands, Poland and Luxembourg. “I think it’s a huge success ... that we were able at all to get police forces into the bunker complex, which is still secured at the highest military level,” Kunz said. “We had to overcome not only real, or analog, protections; we also cracked the digital protections of the data center.” Source
  9. German government is too dependent on "single software providers", but changing that will be difficult and costly. A report commissioned by the German government identifies strategic risks in using Microsoft software A study commissioned by the German interior ministry has confirmed what many critics have long argued: the German government is too dependent on Microsoft software. Germany's ministry of the interior asked management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, to produce a "Strategic market analysis on reducing dependence on single software providers". In the 34-page document released yesterday, researchers conclude that "at all levels" the German government is "strongly dependent" on very few software providers. And that is particularly true for Microsoft, whose Office and Windows programs are running on 96% of public officials' computers. This dependence results in "pressure points in the federal government, that work in opposition to the government's [stated] strategic IT goals," the report notes. Concerns about information security at Microsoft could "endanger the country's digital sovereignty". That observation is not new. The German administration's dependence on Microsoft has already come in for plenty of criticism, most recently this summer, when ministers agreed to extend contracts with Microsoft to 2022. In 2018, the central government had spent €73m ($80m) on Microsoft licenses, around €25m ($27.5m) over the forecast budget – and that was without the cost of providing German state governments with Microsoft software. As opposition politicians pointed out, the total amounts to hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money. Besides financial concerns there are also political ones. Despite their best attempts, Germany's Data Protection Conference, or BSK, a collection of state-appointed data-protection officers who are trying to establish whether Windows 10 conforms to national regulations, has not been able to find out exactly what diagnostics, or telemetric information, Microsoft is collecting and where it is being sent. Reacting to the PwC report, Microsoft told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that the company is only there to support the German government and to "improve services for citizens". Its customers had made a choice to use them, and anyway, the Microsoft statement said, even the PwC study said there is "no realistic option" that could be implemented in the medium term. The interior ministry appears to agree, with a spokesperson telling the same newspaper that it isn't planning to stop using Microsoft tomorrow. Instead, there would be further negotiations with software providers, including Microsoft, and then research into options suggested in the PwC report. "We will also be assessing alternative programs, to be able to replace certain software," interior minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement. "This will happen in close coordination with the [German] states as well as the EU." Digital sovereignty is particularly challenging for the German government, Sidonie Krug, a spokesperson for political affairs at Eco, the Association of the German Internet Economy, tells ZDNet. "The federal system means that practically every state and even every district has its own IT system." Even at federal level, hierarchies of responsibility for IT create a lengthy decision-making process that can delay necessary changes. "That's why we've been saying for years that a ministry of digital affairs is needed," she argues, an appropriately financed body that can coordinate all these activities. Bernhard Rohleder, head of Bitkom, an association representing more than 2,600 German companies, says digital sovereignty isn't something that's decided by the operating system running on a civil servant's computer. "It's about being able to freely choose, and have the ability to produce, IT products." Rohleder believes the findings of this report mostly highlight Germany's lost leadership role in critical technologies. "Mutual interdependence is acceptable," he tells ZDNet. "But one-sided dependence must be avoided at all costs." The PwC report presents the German government with various options for improvement. These included setting a framework and rules for the future use of other software, particularly open source. Another option involves negotiating individual deals with software providers. For example, the Dutch justice department has come to an arrangement with Microsoft about the security of telemetric data, while the Israeli government had done a deal on the cost of cloud storage. Realistic goals, user acceptance, taking it step by step, ensuring the right IT skills are available and utilizing the knowledge of open-source communities are all important aspects to seeking digital independence and reaching critical mass, the report's authors argue. It also provides an example of how not to do it: In the early 2000s, city administrators in Munich decided to switch to open-source software – Linux and LibreOffice (formerly OpenOffice) – for both security reasons and to save money. The migration was partially successful with some user groups but around a third of the Bavarian civil servants stayed with Microsoft for one reason or another. This led to the emergence of two parallel systems and eventually, to more expense and less efficiency. In 2017, Munich decided to switch back to just one system: Microsoft's . Digital sovereignty is not impossible for Germany, Dirk Riehle, a professor of open-source software at Friedrich Alexander University in Nuremberg, tells ZDNet. There are three main aspects to it, he says: software, data and servers. Data is the most difficult – as the Eco association reports, only about 4% of the world's data is hosted in the EU – and Germany is tied to the US and China. But when it comes to software, open source presents realistic opportunities, Riehle says, and the country can also build its own server centers. In terms of the German government, he says, some departments obviously need digital sovereignty more than others, while some aspects of general online consumer behavior may not need any. So this should be carefully assessed, Riehle adds. "And we should be clear. It's not easy and it will be expensive, not least because it will be difficult to maintain," he says. "Germany will never have the economies of scale in this area either, so we will be paying extra for our sovereignty. Digital sovereignty is possible, yes, but there will be high costs." Source
  10. Google ordered to halt human review of voice AI recordings over privacy risks A German privacy watchdog has ordered Google to cease manual reviews of audio snippets generated by its voice AI. This follows a leak last month of scores of audio snippets from the Google Assistant service. A contractor working as a Dutch language reviewer handed more than 1,000 recordings to the Belgian news site VRT which was then able to identify some of the people in the clips. It reported being able to hear people’s addresses, discussion of medical conditions, and recordings of a woman in distress. The Hamburg data protection authority told Google of its intention to use Article 66 powers of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to begin an “urgency procedure” under Article 66 of GDPR last month. Article 66 allows a DPA to order data processing to stop if it believes there is “an urgent need to act in order to protect the rights and freedoms of data subjects”. This appears to be the first use of the power since GDPR came into force across the bloc in May last year. Google says it responded to the DPA on July 26 to say it had already ceased the practice — taking the decision to manually suspend audio reviews of Google Assistant across the whole of Europe, and doing so on July 10, after learning of the data leak. Last month it also informed its lead privacy regulator in Europe, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), of the breach — which also told us it is now “examining” the issue that’s been highlighted by Hamburg’s order. The Irish DPC’s head of communications, Graham Doyle, said Google Ireland filed an Article 33 breach notification for the Google Assistant data “a couple of weeks ago”, adding: “We note that as of 10 July Google Ireland ceased the processing in question and that they have committed to the continued suspension of processing for a period of at least three months starting today (1 August). In the meantime we are currently examining the matter.” It’s not clear whether Google will be able to reinstate manual reviews in Europe in a way that’s compliant with the bloc’s privacy rules. The Hamburg DPA writes in a statement [in German] on its website that it has “significant doubts” about whether Google Assistant complies with EU data-protection law. “We are in touch with the Hamburg data protection authority and are assessing how we conduct audio reviews and help our users understand how data is used,” Google’s spokesperson also told us. In a blog post published last month after the leak, Google product manager for search, David Monsees, claimed manual reviews of Google Assistant queries are “a critical part of the process of building speech technology”, couching them as “necessary” to creating such products. “These reviews help make voice recognition systems more inclusive of different accents and dialects across languages. We don’t associate audio clips with user accounts during the review process, and only perform reviews for around 0.2% of all clips,” Google’s spokesperson added now. But it’s far from clear whether human review of audio recordings captured by any of the myriad always-on voice AI products and services now on the market will be able to be compatible with European’s fundamental privacy rights. These AIs typically have trigger words for activating the recording function which streams audio data to the cloud. But the technology can easily be accidentally triggered — and leaks have shown they are able to hoover up sensitive and intimate personal data not just of their owner but anyone in their vicinity (which of course includes people who never got within sniffing distance of any T&Cs). In its website the Hamburg DPA says the intended proceedings against Google are intended to protect the privacy rights of affected users in the immediate term, noting that GDPR allows for concerned authorities in EU Member States to issue orders of up to three months. In a statement Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg commissioner for data protection, added: “The use of language assistance systems in the EU must comply with the data protection requirements of the GDPR. In the case of the Google Assistant, there are currently significant doubts. The use of language assistance systems must be done in a transparent way, so that an informed consent of the users is possible. In particular, this involves providing sufficient information and transparently informing those concerned about the processing of voice commands, but also about the frequency and risks of mal-activation. Finally, due regard must be given to the need to protect third parties affected by the recordings. First of all, further questions about the functioning of the speech analysis system have to be clarified. The data protection authorities will then have to decide on definitive measures that are necessary for a privacy-compliant operation. ” The DPA also urges other regional privacy watchdogs to prioritize checks on other providers of language assistance systems — and “implement appropriate measures” — name-checking rival providers of voice AIs, Apple and Amazon . This suggests there could be wider ramifications for other tech giants operating voice AIs in Europe flowing from this single notification of an Article 66 order. The real enforcement punch packed by GDPR is not the headline-grabbing fines, which can scale as high as 4% of a company’s global annual turnover — it’s the power that Europe’s DPAs now have in their regulatory toolbox to order that data stops flowing. “This is just the beginning,” one expert on European data protection legislation told us, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The Article 66 chest is open and it has a lot on offer.” In a sign of the potential scale of the looming privacy problems for voice AIs, Apple also said earlier today that it’s suspending a similar human review ‘quality control program’ for its Siri voice assistant. The move, which does not appear to be linked to any regulatory order, follows a Guardian report last week detailing claims by a whistleblower that contractors working for Apple ‘regularly hear confidential details’ on Siri recordings, such as audio of people having sex and identifiable financial details, regardless of the processes Apple uses to anonymize the records. Apple’s suspension of manual reviews of Siri snippets applies worldwide. Image Credits: TechCrunch Source: Google ordered to halt human review of voice AI recordings over privacy risks
  11. Does renewables pioneer Germany risk running out of power? FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany, a poster child for responsible energy, is renouncing nuclear and coal. The problem is, say many power producers and grid operators, it may struggle to keep the lights on. FILE PHOTO: Water vapour rises from the cooling towers of the Jaenschwalde lignite-fired power plant of Lausitz Energie Bergbau AG (LEAG) in Jaenschwalde, Germany, January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo The country, the biggest electricity market in the European Union, is abandoning nuclear power by 2022 due to safety concerns compounded by the Fukushima disaster and phasing out coal plants over the next 19 years to combat climate change. In the next three years alone conventional energy capacity is expected to fall by a fifth, leaving it short of the country’s peak power demand. There is disagreement over whether there will be sufficient reliable capacity to preclude the possibility of outages, which could hammer the operations of industrial companies. The Berlin government, in a report issued this month, said the situation was secure, and shortfalls could be offset by better energy efficiency, a steadily rising supply of solar and wind power as well as electricity imports. Others are not as confident, including many utilities, network operators, manufacturing companies and analysts. Katharina Reiche, chief executive of the VKU association of local utilities, many of which face falling profitability as plants close, said the government’s strategy was risky because it had not stress-tested all scenarios. She characterized the plan as “walking a tightrope without a safety net”. Utilities and grid firms say if the weather is unfavorable for lengthy periods, green power supply can be negligible, while storage is still largely non-existent. Capacity aside, the network to transport renewable power from north to south is also years and thousands of kilometers behind schedule, they add. Stefan Kapferer, head of Germany’s energy industry group BDEW, said it would be risky to rely on imports. “Conventional power capacity is falling nearly everywhere in Europe and more volatile capacity is being built up,” he told Reuters. The government rejected such concerns, saying the likelihood of plant crashes or identical weather conditions across Europe was remote. Regardless of reliability, however, Germany becoming a net power importer would have major consequences for the whole continent, whose power markets are interlinked under EU single market rules - and are dominated by exports from Germany. The shift comes at a time when nuclear plants in France, another major exporter to the rest of Europe, are ageing fast - meaning it is also increasingly likely to rely on imports. Searing summer temperatures rising to record levels in parts of Europe highlight a quandary facing the continent: how to phase out the fossil fuels driving global warming, while avoiding power shortfalls in an era when there could be increasing spikes in demand from cooling systems and expanding data centers. COMPANIES ON EDGE Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, should lose 12.5 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity by 2022 and its final 10 GW of nuclear power, leaving below 80 GW of conventional capacity, according to recommendations from a government-commissioned panel in January. There will still be nearly enough reliable capacity to meet the country’s peak demand of around 82 GW, with rising green capacity and the option of imports providing a comfortable cushion, economy minister Peter Altmaier said this month. He was speaking upon the release of a separate government safety monitoring report which said a one-for-one match of supply and demand is unnecessary because overcapacities of 80 to 90 GW in the wider European region provided some leeway for imports into Germany. However Germany’s four transmission system operators (TSO) estimate there could be a shortfall of 5.5 gigawatts between peak power demand and reliable capacity in 2021, which equates to the supply of electricity to 13-14 million people, and that’s before factoring in the bulk of coal plant closures. Altmaier’s position is supported by environmental campaigners who say some energy producers were playing up the threat of blackouts to protect their own interests. “Their motive is obvious,” said Green lawmaker and energy expert Oliver Krischer. “They want to build up pressure to receive payments for capacities which otherwise would have no chance to come to play in the market.” Some utilities have asked for compensation for the coal exit plan, with RWE, Germany’s largest electricity producer, wanting up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) per GW to soften the financial hit of plant closures. Regardless of who may be right or wrong, German manufacturers say they are worried about the prospect of black-outs or even short outages. They say they can’t afford to lose secure flows of electricity, nor can they survive higher network handling costs that could accompany more unreliable renewables. “The early exit from coal-to-power generation fills us with great concern,” Philipp Schlueter, chairman of Trimet, operator of three aluminum plants in North Rhine-Westphalia state, told Reuters. “Our aluminum plants need non-stop supply of power at competitive prices and a stable power grid at all times.” Aluminum maker Hydro Aluminum Rolled Products in Grevenbroich, in the same western German state, said that plants should only be closed once alternatives were in place. “As an energy-intensive industry, we can only go without conventional energy once renewables are in a position to offer reliable supply,” managing director Volker Backs told Reuters. North Rhine-Westphalia, also home to other big corporates like E.ON, RWE, Thyssenkrupp and Bayer, accounts for a third of German gross domestic product. Grid operator Amprion, which operates high voltage lines mainly in that state, says the region will have to rely on power imports from the early 2020s at the latest. “Secure capacity goes down continuously until 2020 and there could be a deficit even before all nuclear reactors leave the grid,” CEO Klaus Kleinekorte told Reuters. Steelmaker and chemicals industry lobbies also voiced concerns. Wacker Chemie’s CEO has signaled the company could shift some operations overseas, saying he saw more favorable conditions in the United States. BIG QUESTION FOR EUROPE The problem takes on a European dimension as much of the bloc is following a trend of reducing reliance on thermal plants and switching to renewables. Over the next 10 years, coal-fired and nuclear power plants with a total capacity of around 100 GW will be shut down in Europe, equivalent to Germany’s thermal power capacity alone, according to grid operator data. To counter this, hundreds of gigawatts of offshore wind are planned to line European coastlines by the end of next decade, according to the EU’s green expansion plans. Most industry experts agree the transition is needed to combat climate change, and that within 10 or 15 years there will be substantial renewable generation to provide reliable cover for the continent, on the road to carbon neutrality by 2050. However, they say, a big question remains: how will Europe struggle through until this happens, keeping the lights on and its businesses competitive? Countries in similar positions can’t all import from each other. Germany’s rapid and radical shift makes the scenario more precarious. German output accounts for around 20% of the European Union’s electricity, with France another 17%, according to figures from Eurostat, the EU statistics office. Germany is a net exporter to Austria, Switzerland and Poland and also the Netherlands, which sends some of the power onwards to Britain and Belgium. Thus, if Germany alone was to stop reliably producing surpluses, several parts of the continent could see power shortfalls - and outages - as a consequence. There have already been warning signs this year as Germany’s net exports in the first half of 2019 fell by 14%. The situation has been exacerbated by a European heatwave that drove demand in France to near record levels in June, curbing its export availability. Fabian Joas, energy expert at Berlin think-tank Agora, said it would be a difficult road for most of Europe to meet its goal of abandoning conventional energy in coming decades. “But we will be able in the long run to operate a power system based nearly fully on renewables,” he added. “Everyone who understands the matter agrees on that.” Source: Does renewables pioneer Germany risk running out of power?
  12. BERLIN (Reuters) - More than 2,000 workers at seven Amazon (AMZN.O) sites across Germany have gone on strike over pay for at least two days, labor union Verdi said on Monday. The walkouts, under the motto ‘No more discount on our incomes”, started overnight and coincide with Amazon’s Prime Day when the U.S. online retail giant offers its ‘Prime’ customers discount deals. Germany is its second-biggest market after the United States. Amazon has faced a long-running battle with unions in Germany over better pay and conditions for logistics workers, who have staged frequent strikes since 2013. “While Amazon fuels bargain hunting on Prime Day with hefty discounts, employees are being deprived of a living wage,” Verdi retail specialist Orhan Akman said in a statement. Verdi said the strikes had hit Amazon’s sites in Werne, Rheinberg, Leipzig, Graben, Koblenz, as well as at Amazon’s two sites in Bad Hersfeld. Amazon did not provide exact numbers for how many employees were striking but said participation was limited and had no impact on customer deliveries. “The company must finally recognize the collective wage agreements for the retail and mail order sectors,” Akman said. “Wages and salaries at Amazon must no longer be determined in the style of a lord of the manor.” Verdi also demanded that collective bargaining agreements be made binding across Germany’s retail sector. “A universally binding collective agreement would then apply for Amazon too,” said Akman. An Amazon spokesman said the company was a fair and responsible employer even without having a collective agreement in place, adding: “In our fulfillment centers, our wages are at the upper end of what is paid in comparable jobs.” Amazon runs 12 warehouses - which it calls fulfillment centers - in Germany. Earlier on Sunday, Amazon said it plans to open a new warehouse in Germany this year and create more than 2,800 jobs with permanent contracts. Source
  13. BERLIN (Reuters) - German authorities have fined Facebook 2 million euros ($2.26 million) for providing a distorted picture of the amount of illegal content on the social media platform, a violation of the country’s law on internet transparency. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Federal Office of Justice, a judicial agency, said that by publishing incomplete information regarding the complaints it had received, the web giant created a skewed picture. Faced with a global backlash over the role its platform played in election campaigns from the United States to Britain to the Philippines, Facebook has been on a public relations drive to improve its image. Under Germany’s network transparency law, social media platforms are required to report the number of complaints of illegal content they have received. The charge that Facebook underreported violations could undermine its drive to burnish its tarnished reputation. “This creates a distorted picture of the scale of illegal content on the platform and the way Facebook deals with it,” the office said. “The report contains only a fraction of the complaints of illegal information.” In 2018, Facebook said it had received 1,048 complaints relating to illegal content on its platform over the second half of that year, according to its transparency report. By contrast, transparency reports from Twitter and Google’s YouTube video service both reported well over a quarter of a million complaints for the whole year. Scarred by the memory of the two authoritarian police states on its territory over the past century, Germany has some of the world’s strictest privacy and hate speech laws, latterly combined with some of the strictest social media regulations. Source
  14. Speigel Online reported last week on comments by Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer proposing greater governmental access to end-to-end encrypted communications, such as those by WhatsApp and Telegram. While his comments represent merely one lawmaker's thoughts and the encryption community has vehemently objected to encryption backdoors and client application access, the reality is that at its annual conference earlier this month, Facebook previewed all of the necessary infrastructure to make Germany’s vision a reality and even alluded to the very issue of how Facebook’s own business needs present it with the need to be able to covertly access content directly from users’ devices that have been protected through end-to-end encryption. Could Germany’s backdoor vision be closer that we might imagine? I have long suggested that the encryption debate would not be ended by forced vulnerabilities in the underlying communications plumbing but rather by monitoring on the client side and that the catalyst would be not governmental demands but rather the needs of companies themselves to continue their targeted advertisements, harvest training data for deep learning and combat terroristic speech and other misuse of their platforms. Moreover, merely breaking encryption would not offer nearly as many opportunities for mass societal-scale surveillance as monitoring on the edge. While it was little noticed at the time, Facebook’s presentation on its work towards moving AI-powered content moderation from its data centers directly onto users’ phones presents a perfect blueprint for Seehofer's vision. Touting the importance of edge content moderation, Facebook specifically cited the need to be able to scan the unencrypted contents of users’ messages in an end-to-end encrypted environment to prevent them from being able to share content that deviated from Facebook’s acceptable speech guidelines. This would actually allow a government like Germany to proactively prevent unauthorized speech before it is ever uttered, by using court orders to force Facebook to expand its censorship list for German users of its platform. Even more worryingly, Facebook’s presentation alluded to the company’s need to covertly harvest unencrypted illicit messages from users’ devices without their knowledge and before the content has been encrypted or after it has been decrypted, using the client application itself to access the encrypted-in-transit content. While it stopped short of saying it was actively building such a backdoor, the company noted that when edge content moderation flagged a post in an end-to-end encrypted conversation as a violation, the company needed to be able to access the unencrypted contents to further train its algorithms, which would likely require transmitting an unencrypted copy from the user’s device directly to Facebook without their approval. Could this be the solution Germany has been searching for? While Facebook’s presentation reflected preliminary research rather than a production finished product, all of the necessary pieces of Germany’s desired surveillance platform are there. In fact, by enabling the proactive censorship of speech before it is ever uttered, Facebook’s platform would actually go beyond the country’s wildest dreams. Putting this all together, Facebook’s push towards content moderation on the edge is likely to have significant unintended consequences. By raising the specter of on-device content scanning for disallowed speech inside of end-to-end encrypted conversations and in particular sparking the idea of being able to silently harvest those decrypted conversations on the client side, Facebook is inadvertently telegraphing to anti-encryption governments that there are ways to bypass encryption while also bypassing the encryption debate. In the end, it is almost a certainty that the days of being able to securely converse through end-to-end encryption are coming to a close as companies move their censorship and data harvesting and analysis to the edge. Source
  15. Vodafone Germany Blocks Popular Pirate Forum to Avoid Lawsuit Internet provider Vodafone has started to block access to the popular pirate linking forum Boerse.to in Germany. The ISP feels compelled to take this action, without a court order, to avoid a legal dispute with the local music rights group GEMA. With millions of monthly visitors, Boerse.to is one of the most popular ‘warez boards’ in Germany. The site launched in 2014, following the demise of Boerse.bz. Like its predecessor, it operates as a linking site where users archive and share links to pirated movies, TV-shows, music, and more. A few days ago, subscribers of Vodafone Germany noticed that something wasn’t right. All of a sudden, they were unable to access the Boerse.to domain. Instead of the usual homepage, they were redirected to a blocking notification. This came as a surprise, as there was no knowledge of a blocking request against Vodafone in German courts. Also, subscribers of other Internet providers could still access the site just fine, as the local news site Tarnkappe confirmed. After the weekend, more details started to emerge. Vodafone confirmed that it had indeed started to block Boerse.to, but not by court order. Instead, it decided to implement the blocking measure following a request from the German music rights group GEMA. “On the basis of a notification from GEMA, we have set up a DNS blockade for the ‘boerse.to’ domain. “The blockade affects Vodafone GmbH’s fixed and mobile network,” a Vodafone spokesperson informs TorrentFreak. Blocked (image via Tarnkappe) The measure doesn’t come out of the blue. Vodafone was previously notified by its service provider 1&1, which took action following a complaint from GEMA. The music rights group then went after Vodafone as well. While there is no court order directing the ISP to implement a blockade, Vodafone believes it has to take action in order to avoid liability. “GEMA has officially sent us a notification and we have set up the DNS blockade in order to avoid a legal dispute in accordance with the principles established by the Federal Court of Justice,” the ISP informed TorrentFreak. In the referenced Federal Court case, last summer the Court ruled that WiFi providers cannot be held liable for piracy carried out by their users. However, they can be told to block file-sharing services and even entire websites once any copyright infringement has been confirmed. “According to the Dead Island decision of the Federal Court of Justice in July 2018, there is a subsidiary obligation to act under Section 7 (4) TMG for the access provider,” Vodafone tells us. “As an access provider, we are critical of these blocking requests. We comply with a legal obligation here,” the ISP notes, adding that it verified in advance that GEMA took its own pre-litigation efforts against the original infringers. This isn’t the first time that Vodafone has implemented a pirate site blockade based on these arguments. It did the same late last year after it was notified about infringing activity at the streaming portals ‘s.to’ and ‘bs.to’. Commenting on the blockade, GEMA said that it would prefer to take action against site owners directly. However, this isn’t always possible, often because the operators are unknown. Blocking is the only remaining option. While many rightsholders will welcome this shortcut route as an easier way to block websites in Germany, the effectiveness of the measures is still up for debate. Generally speaking, a DNS blockade is easily circumvented by subscribers, who can simply which to open alternatives, provided by companies such as Google and Cloudflare. Source
  16. Germany to Extend Electric Company Car Tax Incentives: Paper FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz attends a media briefing during his visit to Beijing, China, January 17, 2019. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz plans to extend tax incentives for electric company cars, he told a newspaper on Saturday, the government's latest attempt to boost demand for clean vehicles. Germany is trying to increase electric car sales in the wake of a diesel emissions cheating scandal that has engulfed its auto industry in the last three years. "Half of all cars sold in Germany are company cars," Scholz told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "So I have decided that we will not end tax support for electric cars and plug-in hybrid company cars in 2021 but extend them maybe over the whole decade," he said, adding that would help improve air quality and meet climate goals. He added, however, that the rules for plug-in hybrids would be tightened, so that only cars that can travel on electric power further than they do today would be eligible. Since January, drivers of electric company cars which they also use for private journeys pay less tax than they would for a vehicle with a combustion engine. Government subsidy schemes have helped boost sales but even with rising demand, electric cars made up only 1 percent of new car registrations last year, according to the KBA motor vehicle authority. The government has acknowledged it will miss its target of having 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020 by two years. Source
  17. Amazon’s Dash buttons have been found to breach consumer e-commerce rules in Germany. The push-to-order gizmos were debuted by Amazon in 2015 in an attempt by the e-commerce giant to shave friction off of the online shopping process by encouraging consumers to fill their homes with stick-on, account-linked buttons that trigger product-specific staple purchases when pressed — from washing powder to toilet roll to cat food. Germany was among the first international markets where Amazon launched Dash, in 2016, along with the U.K. and Austria. But yesterday a higher state court in Munich ruled the system does not provide consumers with sufficient information about a purchase. The judgement follows a legal challenge by a regional consumer watchdog, Verbraucherzentrale NRW, which objects to the terms Amazon operates with Dash. It complains that Amazon’s terms allow the company to substitute a product of a higher price or even a different product in place of what the consumer originally selected for a Dash push purchase. It argues consumers are also not provided with enough information on the purchase triggered when the button is pressed — which might be months after an original selection was made. Dash buttons should carry a label stating that a paid purchase is triggered by a press, it believes. The Munich court has now sided with the group’s view that Amazon does not provide sufficient information to Dash consumers, per Reuters. In a press release following the ruling, Verbraucherzentrale NRW said the judges agreed Amazon should inform consumers about price and product before taking the order, rather than after the purchase as is currently the case. It also expressed confidence the judgement leaves no room for Amazon to appeal — though the company has said it intends to do so. Commenting on the ruling in a statement, Verbraucherzentrale NRW consumer bureau chief, Wolfgang Schuldzinski, said: “We are always open to innovation. But if innovation is to put consumers at a disadvantage and to make price comparisons more difficult, then we use all means against them, as in this case.” Amazon did not reply to questions about how it intends to respond to the court ruling in the short term, such as whether it will withdraw the devices or change how Dash works in Germany. Instead it emailed us the following statement, attributed to a spokesperson: “The decision is not only against innovation, it also prevents customers from making an informed choice for themselves about whether a service like Dash Button is a convenient way for them to shop. We are convinced the Dash Button and the corresponding app are in line with German legislation. Therefore, we’re going to appeal.” Source
  18. German government would like to regulate what kind of routers are sold and installed across the country. The German government published at the start of the month an initial draft for rules on securing Small Office and Home Office (SOHO) routers. Published by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), the rules have been put together with input from router vendors, German telecoms, and the German hardware community. Once approved, router manufacturers don't have to abide by these requirements, but if they do, they can use a special sticker on their products showing their compliance. The 22-page document, available in English here, lists tens of recommendations and rules for various router functions and features. We possibly couldn't list all rules for this article, since some are really technical, but we selected a few of a greater importance: Only DNS, HTTP, HTTPS, DHCP, DHCPv6, and ICMPv6 services should be available on the LAN and WiFi interface. If the router has a guest WiFi mode, this mode must not allow access to the router's configuration panel. The Extended Service Set Identifier (ESSID) should not contain information that is derived from the router itself (such as the vendor name or router model). The router must support the WPA2 protocol, and use it by default. WiFi passwords should have a length of 20 digits or more. WiFi passwords must not contain information derived from the router itself (vendor, model, MAC, etc.). The router must allow any authenticated user to change this password. The procedure of changing the WiFi password should not show a password strength meter or force users to use special characters. After setup, the router must restrict access to the WAN interface, with the exception of a few services, such as (CWMP) TR-069, SIP, SIPS, and ICMPv6. Routers must make CWMP available only if the ISP controls the router's configuration from a remote, central location. Password for the router's configuration/admin panel must have at least 8 characters and must have a complex setup involving two of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, special characters, numbers. Just like WiFi passwords, admin panel passwords must not contain router-related information (vendor, model, MAC, etc.). The router must allow the user to change this default admin panel password. Password-based authentication MUST be protected against brute force attacks. Routers must not ship with undocumented (backdoor) accounts. In its default state, access to the admin panel must only be allowed via the LAN or WiFi interfaces. If the router vendor wants to expose the admin panel via WAN, it must use TLS. The end-user should be able to configure the port to be used for access to the configuration via the WAN interface. The router admin panel must show the firmware version. The router must users about an out-of-date or end-of-life firmware. The router must keep and display a last login log. The router must show the status and rules of any local firewall service. The router must list all active services per each interface (LAN/WAN/WiFi). Routers must include a way to perform factory resets. The routers must support DHCP over LAN and WiFi. These are just some of the BSI recommendations, and you'll find more in the above-linked document. The reason why Germany is taking steps to standardize router security has something to do with an incident that took place at the end of 2016 when a British hacker known as "BestBuy" attempted to hijack Deutsche Telekom routers, but bungled a firmware update and crashed nearly a million routers across Germany. The BSI's efforts to regulate SOHO routers haven't pleased all parties involved. In a blog post last week, the Chaos Computer Club (CCC), a well-known community of German hackers, has criticized the first draft of these recommendations, calling them "a farce." CCC said it attended the BSI meetings on this topic together with members of OpenWrt, a software project that provides open-source firmware for SOHO routers, and they say telecom lobby groups have put considerable effort into sabotaging the rules as a whole. The two groups raised two issues that they say were not included in the BSI recommendations, rules that were of crucial importance. One was that all routers should come with an expiration date for the firmware that must be visible to users before they purchase the device. Second, after the vendor stops supporting a model's firmware, vendors should allow users to install custom firmware on abandoned and EOL devices. Talks on the BSI rules are expected to continue. In October, the state of California passed state legislation that established a strict set of rules for passwords used by Internet-connected (IoT) devices, marking this the first IoT-specific regulation in the world. While Germany isn't passing official laws, it will become the first country that tries to pass any kind of router-specific guidelines. Source
  19. Protesters on Saturday blocked a railway line leading to a large strip coal mine in western Germany that has become a cause celebre for environmentalists amid plans to clear part of a neighboring forest to expand the facility. Aktivist block tracks for coal transportation during a protest against the plans to clearing and grubbing the Hambach Forest for an open-pit lignite mine. Another group of about 40 people occupied an excavator at the Hambach mine near Cologne, eight of them climbing onto the machine. Activists aimed to disrupt mining operations at the site run by energy company RWE. Thousands of people took part in Saturday's demonstration, with police warning them to stay out of the mine. Police used water cannons to stop demonstrators crossing a closed highway and heading toward the site. Separately, employees of RWE were demonstrating for their jobs to be preserved. The area has seen repeated protests amid plans to clear part of the neighboring Hambach Forest to make way for an expansion of the lignite mine. Earlier this month, a German court blocked the felling of the forest, saying it needs time to examine whether the woodland deserves protected status. Environmentalists argue that it does because of the bats that live there. Environmentalists also say the continued extraction of coal runs contrary to Germany's goal of reducing carbon emissions to prevent global warming. Source
  20. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is making a move to open up Germany's market to U.S. gas companies, following a lobbying push from President Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported. Merkel told a group of lawmakers over breakfast in October that her government will co-finance a $576 million liquified natural gas (LNG) shipping terminal in northern Germany, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the meeting. The project had been stalled for years, but Trump has lobbied hard for Europe to increase LNG purchases from the U.S. while reducing their reliance on Russia. Germany gets most of its gas from Russia, and American efforts to open its market to U.S. companies has stalled due to lack of government support. Merkel told lawmakers that the decision to co-finance the LNG terminal was "strategic" and could pay off in the long term, people familiar with the meeting told the Journal. A German government spokesman told the Journal that the move was made because of Germany's economic interests, not U.S. pressure. Less than a week after the reported Merkel meeting with lawmakers, an international consortium filed its first official bid for government financing for a terminal in a town near Hamburg. Merkel said in her conversation with lawmakers that the government support for the terminal will likely have to continue for the long term and that the terminal will likely not break even for at least 10 years. “We’re creating jobs and we’re also deepening the trans-Atlantic relationship," Richard Grenell, U.S. Ambassador to Germany, told the Journal. "The U.S. is totally committed to bringing U.S. LNG to Europe and to Germany." Source
  21. Frankfurt am Main (AFP) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said in an interview for publication Sunday he backed a global minimum fiscal regime for multinationals as Europe looks to levy tax notably on US tech giants. Germany's Finance Minister Olaf Sholz "We need a minumum tax rate valid globally which no state can get out of (applying)," Scholz, a social democrat in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government, told the "Welt am Sonntag" weekly. Europe is trying to devise a strategy to tax profits from the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and digital platforms such as YouTube and Airbnb which currently manage to keep fiscal exposure to a bare minimum. Digital platforms "aggravate a problem which we know well from globalisation and which we are trying to counter -- the shifting of profits to fiscally beneficial regions," said Scholz. Scholz was last week nonetheless reported not to be convinced by a controversial EU proposal to slap a European tax on US tech giants amid worries it may turn out to be both ineffective and protectionist. France for a year has rallied EU partners to draw up the tax which Paris says is necessary to ensure tech giants pay their way. Scholz explained he had launched an initiative designed to help states react to so-called fiscal dumping in support of embryonic OECD plans designed to fight tax transparency and cross-border tax evasion. "We require coordinated mechanisms which prevent the displacement of revenues to tax havens," said Scholz. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has proposed a European tax on "big tech" with susbstantial digital revenue in Europe, based on overall revenue in Europe and not just profits. But lead opponent Ireland says a growing number of countries are grumbling about hidden problems with the tax, including that it could inadvertently snag European companies. There is also concern as to what consequences might flow from such a plan at a time against the backdrop of a potential full-blown EU-US trade war. Berlin worries that cranking up the ante on trade with the United States by launching what Washington could see as an attack on Silicon Valley's corporate giants may threaten German auto exports. Germany has already shown some opposition to a French plan to tax tech giants three percent of certain forms of revenue including advertising and sale of personal data. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday he will in the coming days urge EU members to commit to backing a tax. A March proposal by the Commission includes introducing a tax as a bridge measure until such time as the OECD can roll out a measure which can be applied globally. Source
  22. from the who-is-whois-for? dept The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has only just started to be enforced, but it is already creating some seriously big waves in the online world, as Techdirt has reported. Most of those are playing out in obvious ways, such as Max Schrems's formal GDPR complaints against Google and Facebook over "forced consent" (pdf). That hardly came as a shock -- he's been flagging up the move on Twitter for some time. But there's another saga underway that may have escaped people's notice. It involves ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which runs the Internet's namespace. Back in 2015, Mike memorably described the organization as "a total freaking mess", in an article about ICANN's "war against basic privacy". Given that history, it's perhaps no surprise that ICANN is having trouble coming to terms with the GDPR. The bone of contention is the information that is collected by the world's registrars for the Whois system, run by ICANN. EPAG, a Tucows-owned registrar based in Bonn, Germany, is concerned that this personal data might fall foul of the GDPR, and thus expose it to massive fines. As it wrote in a recent blog post: All of those activities are potentially illegal under the GDPR. EPAG therefore built a new domain registration system with "consent management processes", and a data flow "aligned with the GDPR's principles". ICANN was not happy with this minimalist approach, and sought an injunction in Germany in order to "preserve Whois data" -- that is, to force EPAG to collect those administrative and technical contacts. A post on the Internet Governance Project site explains why those extra Whois contacts matter, and what the real issue here is: As the tell-tale word "content" there reveals, the real reason ICANN requires registrars to collect technical and administrative contacts is because the copyright industry wants easy access to this information. It uses the personal details provided by Whois to chase the people behind sites that it alleges are offering unauthorized copies of copyright material. This is precisely the same ICANN overreach that Techdirt reported on back in 2015: the organization is supposed to be running the Internet's domain name system, not acting as a private copyright police force. The difference is that now the GDPR provides good legal and financial reasons to ignore ICANN's demands, as EPAG has noted. In a surprisingly swift decision, the German court hearing ICANN's request for an injunction against EPAG has already turned it down: However, as ICANN rightly notes, that still leaves unanswered the key question: would collecting the administrative and technical contact information contravene the GDPR? ICANN says it is "continuing to pursue the ongoing discussions" with the EU on this, and a clarification of the legal situation here would certainly be in everyone's interests. But there is another important angle to this. As the security researcher Brian Krebs wrote on his blog back in February: There's no reason to doubt the importance of Whois information to Krebs's work. But the central issue is which is more important for society: protecting millions of people from spammers, scammers and copyright trolls by limiting the publicly-available Whois data, or making it easier for security researchers to track down online criminals by using that same Whois information? It's an important discussion that is likely to rage for some time, along with many others now being brought into sharper focus thanks to the arrival of the GDPR. Source
  23. German prosecutors said Monday they were dropping a probe into whether Facebook bosses including Mark Zuckerberg were condoning hate speech online. Executives at the social media giant found themselves the target of a complaint filed in 2016 that alleged they were not taking sufficient action to clamp down on racist content. Concern has risen in Germany over the vitriolic comments made by some Facebook and Twitter users, which gained intensity as public misgivings grew in some quarters over the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015. Lawyer Chan-jo Jun, who initiated the claim, had compiled 442 Facebook posts containing incitement of hatred and violence, as well as support for terrorist groups. But he said the social network failed to delete them, even though they were repeatedly flagged up as offensive speech. Despite the list of posts, the prosecutor said: "Failing to delete illegal posts on the internet platform in a timely way is not a basis for suspicion of criminal behaviour by executives at Facebook." Germany has in recent months moved to clamp down against online hate speech. A new law that came into force on January 1 requires social media giants to remove hate speech and other illegal content, or risk fines of up to 50 million euros ($57 million). Under the legislation, companies like Twitter and Facebook would have 24 hours to remove posts that openly violate German law after they are flagged by users. Fierce protests by free-speech advocates against the law -- known as NetzDG -- prompted the government to announce in early January it was already considering modifications. Source
  24. Germany is investigating a security breach of its defence and interior ministries' private networks, a government spokesman has confirmed. A notorious Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear, or APT28, is being widely blamed in German media. They are thought to be behind a number of cyber-attacks on the West, including breaches in the 2016 US election. The hack was first realised in December and may have lasted up to a year, the DPA news agency reported. The group is reported to have targeted the federal government's internal communications network with malware. "We can confirm that the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and intelligence services are investigating a cyber-security incident concerning the federal government's information technology and networks," a German interior ministry spokesman said on Wednesday. He said the attack was "isolated" and had been "brought under control" but declined to comment on reports of Russian involvement. Fancy Bear was blamed for a similar attack on the lower house of the German parliament in 2015 and is also thought to have targeted the Christian Democratic Union party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Officials in the country issued repeated warnings about the potential of "outside manipulation" in last year's German election. The hacking group has been linked to the Russian state by multiple security experts investigating its international hacks. They are also known by other names including Sofacy, Pawn Storm, Sednit and Tsar Team. The group played a key role in 2016's attack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the US, according to security experts. Bbc.com
  25. Last Friday it was reported that Microsoft has agreed to stop forcibly downloading operating system upgrades onto computers in Germany. We would like to clarify that the agreement applies to new versions of the operating system, not to fixes to the current versions. NOTE: Even this statement leaves wiggle room. Since it is only new versions, the updates to Windows 10, the current version, can still continue because it is not a version upgrade, it is still Windows 10. At least that is the way it appears to be interpreted. Article Update
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