Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) and Google Person Finder

Last weekend I took part in Random Hacks of Kindness an international hackathon dedicated to creating useful systems to respond to critical global challenges. I met with other programmers at the Betahaus in Berlin and worked with Tim Schwartz and Mikkel Gravgaard on Google Person Finder a searchable database of missing persons that helps people find loved ones during disasters. It was used during the 2010 Haiti and Chilean Earthquakes and is developed by volunteers and employees of Google.

Photo by Flickr user rhokberlin

Photo by Flickr user nblr

Photo by Flickr user nblr

Germany and Google Street View

This week I have been enjoying the blurred images of German buildings whose owners have chosen to opt-out of Google Street View. Infamous moments in the country’s history have led Germans to take privacy very seriously; especially when it comes to information about their residences. Unlike the United States, where data privacy is an opt-out option, Germany law states that, “citizens must opt-in to have their data collected in any way.” (1). In fact, there is a document detailing the rights of the “data subject” in the German Federal Data Protection Act which serves “to protect the individual against his right to privacy being impaired through the handling of his personal data.”

An even more powerful gesture are the very public images that have resulted from this protection. While they serve a specific function—to obscure identifying aspects of buildings, faces, etc.—they also communicate very effectively the message that individuals should have the right to decide how their data is used. This gets to the heart of the Give Me My Data app—to prompt this sort of discussion. It is then ironic that Google, a company whose revenue is based almost completely on advertising opportunities made possible by aggregating and re-representing data, has inadvertently brought us this message.

I was excited to find my own apartment building in Berlin has been removed.

Another building down the street

Helge Denker, a reporter with the German daily, Das Bild, has found a clever way to opt-out.

Exchange! Congress Berlin


Exchange! Congress Berlin
20 October 2010, Berlin

10:00 PECHA KUCHA BRUNCH with Wolfgang Krause (art boys, Berlin), Joelle Dietrick & Owen Mundy (Florida, USA), Lilia Dragneva (KSA:K, Chisinau, Moldova), Solvita Krese (LCCA, Riga, Latvia), Barbara J. Scheuermann (Babusch, Berlin), Louise Taylor (UK), Andrew Stooke (Oliver Holt Gallery, UK), Jörn J. Burmester (Performer Stammtisch, Berlin), Club Real (Berlin).

14:00 VIDEO SCREENING (Highlights from Attitude Festival Bitola, Macedonia)

14:30 PERFORMANCES (Liverpool Performance Artist and Drag-”Queen of Culture” Mandy Romero, Sound Artist Alex Decoupigny, Performance Artist Dovrat ana Meron)

15:00 ROUND TABLE TALK with Artists and Exchange Radical Moments! Co-organizers

16:00 TEA TABLE TALKS, an encounter scenario with 12 tables and 24 chairs. Come, sit down and talk to artists, curators and organizers.

Free entry! We ask for registration. Please send email with name and subject “Exchange! Congress”

RSVP on Facebook

19:00 – 22:00 PMC EXPERIMENT: Performance Art Meets Constellation Work (this is with invitation only!)

GLS Campus Berlin
Sprachschule, AULA
Kastanienallee 82, D -10435 Berlin