Even Thumbs Deserve Privacy

This article published by Il Fatto Quotidiano is illustrated by a photo that portrays a policeman from the mobile team of Rome and an arrested man whose image is blurred. Not, as you might think without seeing it, on the face that also has a winking expression towards the photographer, but on the hand that is shaped in the pose (the thumb raised) universally become synonymous with “I like it”.

The expression of the arrested subject is disturbing because it is no different from that of a star crossing the red carpet of a film festival or a sports champion celebrating a victory. And it reinforces the mistaken perception – further distorted by television series such as Narcos and Gomorrah – that there is an aesthetic of evil in the name of which, by committing atrocious acts, one can become famous.

This “right thumb” attached to the hand of an ordinary person accused of a crime obviously means that from the desire for a “moment of glory” experienced in film/television fiction we have moved on to the lust of a celebrity at all costs, including that of becoming a protagonist of a crime story.

I don’t know who (whether the photographer or the newspaper) has made the choice to blur the anatomical detail of the arrested, but in both cases I can’t find a reasonable explanation, except for the one that, by now, even the thumbs have a right to their privacy.

The EUCJ to Alter The Personal Liability Principle

With a disturbing decision, related to case C-136/17 in re: search engine’s de-listing duties the European Court of Justice hold that

the operator of the search engine as the person determining the purposes and means of that activity must ensure, within the framework of his responsibilities, powers and capabilities, that the activity meets the requirements of EU law in order that the guarantees laid down by EU law may have full effect and that effective and complete protection of data subjects, in particular of their right to privacy, may actually be achieved.

but did not spend a single word on the role and duties of the originator of information. Continue reading “The EUCJ to Alter The Personal Liability Principle”

Copyright on Information. A Dangerous Path

In its “Re-use of Public Sector information” website section, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner writes verbatim

All of the information featured on our website is the copyright of the Data Protection Commission unless otherwise indicated. You may re-use the information on this website free of charge in any format.

At first sight this statement might looks innocuous, but actually it carries a blatant mistake that will turns into a dangerous trend: imposing copyright on information.

In the EU, Copyright – better, the Right of Author – grants legal protection to the way an idea is creatively put in writing or in whatever way can be perceived by a human beings. In other words, this Shakespear’s quote from Hamlet’s Act II, Scene II

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.

is protected by the Right of Auhtor because of the “how” (creative form) rather than of the “what” (raw information). 1

Therefore, the statement of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner is a wrong enforcement of the Right of Author prerogatives.

But why is it dangerous too?

The talk I did at the 2004 Licensing Executive Society of Britain and Ireland Annual Conference, lately edited in a paper published by Ciberspazio e Diritto (English version available here) explains what is at stake:

The impossibility of securing patents did not stop the attempts to establish some sort of “ownership” on the genetic information, and alternative ways have been sought. As far back as 1987, Walter Gilbert, one of the pioneers in bioinformatics research, declared to the Washington Post: “I don’t believe in the patentability of the genome. What we are actually interested in is securing copyrights on the sequences. This means that if someone wishes to read the code, they will have to pay us to get access. Our goal is to make the information available to everyone. Provided they pay a price.

Imposing “copyright” over information, then, is not only wrong because there is no creativity on raw data. Is dangerous because it is a way to deprive people of their right to knowledge (right to science) and to be informed (free speech)

 

  1. Of course Hamlet is in the public domain regime, but the moral Right of Author still stands

Twitter to “mark” abusive political messages. The Last Bastion of “Intermediary Liability” has fallen

According to the New York Times, Twitter is going to “mark” abusive political messages. This is a very good news, as ISPs can be finally immune to the OTT and Platform “we’re just neutral” lie.

After about 20 years, like the proverbial Chinaman on the river’s bank, I’ve finally witnessed the end of an unsustainable claim that affected for very longtime ISPs: the OTTs and Platforms’ position about their “neutrality” in relationship to the behaviour of their users.

This has always be – at very least – grossly misleading a statement that let lawmakers into regulating ISPs as if they where OTT, while they are not. Facebook decided to actively close fake politically oriented account, and now with Twitter self-acknowledgement of its power/duty to actively interfere with users’ activity, the difference between ISPs and OTT should be finally clear.

Unfortunately, I fear that the very same notion of “OTT” has lost its meaning, therefore the regulatory game should start again from the very beginning. Hopefully, now, without waiting another 20 years or so…

Google Docs Political Correctness and the “N” word

 I use to transcribe the lessons of my courses by having Google Docs listen at the recordings and transcribe it right into a text file.

While transcribing a lesson on the Italian terrorism, I made a reference to  (Toni Negri), the academic who has been accused of providing ideological support to the left wing revolutionary groups.

Well, to my surprise, when I checked the transcript, I noticed that the word “Negri” has been written “N***”.

At a first glance I thought that it was just a software error, but then I understood: “Negri” is the Italian for “Nigger”, a word that in the English language is never neither written nor pronounced, being referred to as “the “n” word”.

As Google failed to understand that “Negri” was a family name, it just fell back on the political correctness and edited in real time the “n word”.

This experience shows that Google voice recognition service is not neutral.

Forewarned, is forearmed…