Economist 5/14/14

  1. With its ruling the European Court of Justice, the European Union’s highest court: confirmed that existing European law already includes something, albeit in a limited form, that privacy advocates and the European Commission have long sought: a digital right to be forgotten. But it did more. It also said that Google does not merely display links to already published personal information, but processes that information and allows profiles of individuals to be compiled. This, the court said, is already covered by existing European privacy laws. And the judges held that the firms cannot hide behind the fact that this processing is done on servers outside Europe. The court did not establish a broad right to be forgotten. Google also does not have to stop linking to any piece of personal information, but only to data that are either “no longer relevant” or “excessive”—and if there is no public interest in having easy access to the information in question.Yet only a few hundred thousand Germans have asked Google to blur pictures of their houses on its Street View service.
  2. THE release on May 13th of the Jordanian ambassador to Libya who was abducted in Tripoli in April, may have set a dangerous precedent. To secure the release of Fawaz al-Itan, the government in Amman reportedly agreed to return a Libyan militant serving a life sentence in Jordan.  Since the start of the year, five Egyptian diplomats, two Tunisian embassy staff and a South Korean trade official have been kidnapped in the Libyan capital. The Tunisians are still being held.Libyan officials confirmed that Mr Drissi was returned to Libya, but would not comment on whether he was in custody or free.
  3. SEVERAL of the government organisations that produce key statistical data releases use a practice called “lock-up” to try and improve the quality of media coverage of those releases. Rather than leave journalists to speed through the data when it is released publicly, the better to be first to the wires with a story, these organisations give early access to members of the press. A short while before the official data come out they are provided to writers in a room at the organisation in question.Since October, access to the lock-up room has meant surrendering one’s phone and forgoing access to the internet until the information goes public. In September of last year; gold instruments began moving a few milliseconds early, indicating that someone had gotten wind of the decision beforehand. To be fair, journalists might not have been to blame.
  4. FOR a document cobbled together during a few hectic days in 1946, in bombed-out Tokyo, Japan’s constitution has weathered the test of time.Conservatives have long resented the May 1947 constitution, which enshrines Western-style rights and officially ended the god-like status of the emperor, reducing him to a mere “symbol of the state”. In particular, Article 9, in which Japanese people “forever” renounce war as a “sovereign right” and also renounce “the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes” rankles Mr Abe’s supporters. Debates about the constitution have grown more heated with China’s rise.Mr Abe’s government argues that Japan should be permitted to engage in “collective defence,” so that it can fight alongside a military ally—America—if that ally comes under attack. However, one serious roadblock: the constitution’s popularity. Many ordinary Japanese support Article 9, which they credit with keeping the country out of war for 68 years.
  5. BRITAIN’S flexible labour market was a boon during the economic slump, helping keep joblessness down and then, when the recovery began, allowing employment to rise.Zero-hours contracts allow firms to employ workers for as few or as many hours as they need, with no prior notice. In theory, at least, people can refuse work. Fully 1.4m jobs were based on these contracts in January 2014.The contracts are useful for firms with erratic patterns of demand, such as hotels and restaurants.Flexibility suits some workers, too. According to one survey, 47% of those employed on zero-hours contracts were content to have no minimum contracted hours. Yet that leaves more than a quarter of workers on zero-hours contracts who say they are unhappy with their conditions. Zero-hours contracts make it easier for employers to abuse their labour-market power.

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