Whatever Is Not Expressly Allowed

Is verboten. In Germany. If you’re Facebook, Google, Amazon, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Co., that is.

Facebook

Recognize a pattern here? They’re all American companies and they’re all “free” to use. The Germans, of all people, surely must have figured out by now that nothing is ever for free. But they haven’t.

GERMAN REGULATORS JUST OUTLAWED FACEBOOK’S WHOLE AD BUSINESS – FACEBOOK’S MASSIVELY LUCRATIVE advertising model relies on tracking its one billion users—as well as the billions on WhatsApp and Instagram—across the web and smartphone apps, collecting data on which sites and apps they visit, where they shop, what they like, and combining all that information into comprehensive user profiles. Facebook has maintained that collecting all this data allows the company to serve ads that are more relevant to users’ interests. Privacy advocates have argued that the company isn’t transparent enough about what data it has and what it does with it. As a result, most people don’t understand the massive trade-off they are making with their information when they sign up for the “free” site.

“We disagree with their conclusions and intend to appeal so that people in Germany continue to benefit fully from all our services.”

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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.

EU Demands 20% Steaming Crap Quota

Sorry. I meant streaming crap quota, of course. You know, when it comes to what Netflix and Amazon Prime is allowed to offer its customers here in Europe?

Film

That’s right. The European Commission is planning to introduce a quota ensuring that at least 20 percent of the content offered by Netflix and Amazon Prime are European productions. This “identity-building measure” is necessary, the commissioners say, in order to, well, build identity (the European Commission’s identity?) and of course to continue to protect films and series that nobody wants or intends to watch but to keep on subsidizing anyway (“culture” in ze Europe is regulated by unelected state bureaucrats who know better than you and are here to help you whether you want their help or not  and not by yucky old and vulgar supply and demand – just in case you were wondering).

“Wir halten 20 Prozent für sehr maßvoll.”

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”.

Europe Must Think Hard About Automobile Control

“At some point we as a  politico-economic union will have to reckon with the fact that this type of violence doesn’t happen in other advanced  politico-economic unions or countries,” one leading European politician said, unnamed for the moment. “It doesn’t happen with this sort of frequency.”

Maniac

The comments came after a maniac driver in Graz, Austria mounted his vehicle on the pavement and aimed it at pedestrians – sending several crashing into the windscreen and flying over the car and killing at least three – before getting out and stabbing bystanders with a knife

“We will also need to think hard about stricter knife control, too,” the politician then added.

“I heard a little hissing sound as it went past at maybe 100kmh.”

Redistribution Is Da Solution (Again)

The next step backwards: Berlin has a new law prohibiting landlords from demanding rents that are more than 10 percent higher than the area average, in an attempt to keep housing affordable in a city that’s attracting 50,000 new residents a year. The rule relies on a disputed index — known as the Mietspiegel — that critics say is a statistical crapshoot.

Rents

“The rent brake is essentially a transfer of wealth from landlords to tenants. Berlin will become less of a destination for international investors because capital doesn’t like to be constrained.”

It’s Not Easy Being Optimist-In-Chief

When it comes to dealing with Europe, I mean. Optimism is suspekt (makes suspicious) here. There is always an angle to everything, you see.

Larry Page

For him (Larry Page), the real danger is opposing technological progress and greater efficiency. Such dangers lurk particularly in the Old World: “Especially in Europe, it appears easy to ignore the fundamental physics of a question in order to claim everything is just fine when things here cost twice as much as elsewhere. This attitude worries me greatly, because it hinders the work of entrepreneurs.”

But should not a society also have the right to say “No” to a superior technology? Certainly, agrees Mr. Page. But that’s not particularly clever. “If you make everything twice as expensive, you reduce people’s quality of life.” And do you really want to keep local entrepreneurs from making their contribution to the global economy? Naturally it’s great when citizens have the feeling they can decide. “I’m merely saying that when they make decisions contrary to a global system of capital, then they have to do that consciously and seriously. And I don’t believe anyone is doing that.”

“If I were a young entrepreneur today and I had the choice of starting my Internet firm in Germany or Silicon Valley, it wouldn’t be a hard choice. And regulation will only get worse in Europe. It will be very hard to build a company of global import there.”

Gerade die Europäer neigen in den Augen von Larry Page offenbar zu falscher Nostalgie. “In Europa scheint es leicht, die grundlegende Physik einer Frage zu ignorieren und zu behaupten, es ist schon in Ordnung, wenn Dinge hier doppelt so viel kosten wie anderswo”.

Uber And Out

It’s new, it promotes competition, it has something to do with the Internetz and it’s American. It just has to be verboten.

Taxis

The ride-hailing service Uber is about to have a head-on collision with Germany’s taxis and legal system. A court in Frankfurt has banned Uber’s most popular service from operating in the country until a hearing this year on whether it unfairly competes with local taxis.

It’s like this: Whatever is not expressly permitted in this country is strictly forbidden.

Es würden gegen Entgelt Personen befördert, „ohne im Besitz einer Genehmigung nach dem Personenbeförderungsgesetz zu sein.“

PS: Or maybe everyone’s pissed because they spelled Uber wrong?

UN Called In To Protect German Cultural Treasure That Gets You Drunk As Shit

The Reinheitsgebot may be “intangible” here, but the beer behind it sure isn’t.

Beer

German beer brewers have applied to Unesco for their Reinheitsgebot law to join a list of “intangible heritage” that includes Spanish flamenco and Turkey’s Kirkpinar oil-wrestling festival.

Are the blue helmets on the way yet?  Blau also means drunk in German, by the way.

But, as Simpson points out, the Reinheitsgebot law’s inception wasn’t about purity. “It was created to free up the baking grains so that there was less competition with the bakers,” Simpson said. “The bakers were up in arms because they felt the brewers were taking all the grains so the Reinheitsgebot restricted the grains that the brewers could use to malt, strictly malted barley.”