Germans Can’t Live Without Facebook

Or at least that’s the impression I get. Otherwise, if they were so terribly worried about what Facebook does with their data, they would simply stop using it. It’s still a “free” service, right? But, of course, nothing is ever for free.

Facebook

Facebook is open about collecting a broad variety of personal information, from facial recognition data to, yes, “likes” on other sites. Privacy-minded people can easily find out what Facebook knows about them and even download the data. So it’s not as if users were deceptively kept in the dark about Facebook’s harvesting of “21st century raw materials.” That, however, is not the Federal Cartel Office’s main concern; it’s that Facebook, as a company dominant in its market, forces users to agree to these harvesting practices: They don’t really have any place else to go for their digital social needs if they feel uncomfortable about how their data are used. If it’s a choice “between accepting ‘the whole Facebook package,’ including an extensive disclosure of personal data, or not using Facebook at all,” as the regulator put it in a December document, and if Facebook is a dominant company, it’s illegal in Germany.

The regulatory attack on personal data harvesting is based on the unproven assumption that the data are valuable.

Free Choice, More Convenience, Lower Prices?

Not in our city, buddy. I mean Airbnb buddy. Not if we from the we’re-from-the-government-and-we’re-here-to-help faction can do anything about it.

Miet-Map

We like things regulated here in Berlin. You know, we like things managed, micro-managed, even nano-managed or nanny-managed, if you prefer. What else do we have this oppressive Bevormundungsstaat (paternalistic state) for?

Looking to rent an apartment on your next vacation to Berlin? Starting Sunday, you can basically forget about it. From May 1, Germany’s capital is banning landlords from renting out apartments to short-term visitors, with only a few exceptions permitted.

The penalty for breaking the law is a substantial €100,000 ($113,000) fine — levied on people renting their homes, never on the guests themselves. There will still be some loopholes that allow a few vacation apartments to persist, but it seems that, in Berlin at least, the astronomical rise of Airbnb and other short-stay rental sites is effectively over.

Das Wohnungsangebot in Berlin bei Airbnb ist kleiner geworden. Mehr als 4000 Objekte wurden laut einem Medienbericht gestrichen. Offizielle Begründung: Sie böten “kein authentisches Reiseerlebnis”.

Bank Bad But Accounting Worse

This is government regulation in action, folks. Nationalize the banks? You betcha. State-owned banks are clearly the way to go.

“Germany is €55bn richer than it previously thought because of an accounting error at state-owned bank Hypo Real Estate Holding.” You see? The government really can make money out of nothing (and the chicks for free).

To be fair though, what’s 55 billion euros these days? And this mistake could have happened to anybody: “Collateral for derivatives wasn’t netted between the asset and liability side.” In other words, a government expert mixed up the + with the -.

The finance spokesman didn’t directly comment on the accounting error.