Archive | Trump

The importance of Separation of Powers

The drama surrounding the US »travel ban« underlines the importance of separation of powers. Wikipedia:

Separation of powers is a political doctrine originating in the writings of Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws where he urged for a constitutional government with three separate branches of government. Each of the three branches would have defined abilities to check the powers of the other branches. This idea was called separation of powers. This philosophy heavily influenced the writing of the United States Constitution, according to which the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the United States government are kept distinct in order to prevent abuse of power. This United States form of separation of powers is associated with a system of checks and balances.

This principle will, no doubt, be stress-tested under president Trump.

Donald Trump might be impulsive and be shooting from the hip. This is problematic, as both Democrats and Republicans have granted the President extensive powers. (E.g. killing and detaining people, including US citizens, without due process.)

Those powers ought to be limited. But still, the larger picture is that there is a separation of powers and that the system is working. For now.

And this is where we should be vigilant. President Trump might do stupid and dangerous things. Mainly, these are issues for the everyday political discourse. But if he will try to limit the separation of powers – he will pass a red line. Then, the issue at hand will concern a cornerstone of democracy itself.

This is what is really important, interesting and worrying about the travel ban drama: A new president challenging the separation of powers from start.



Trump executive order might freeze all transfer of personal data from the EU to the US

This is interesting. US President Trumps executive order on »public safety« directs all federal agencies to exclude non-US citizens / non-permanent residents from the Privacy Act protection from mass surveillance.

It is very unclear what this will lead to when it comes to transfer of European personal data to the US. Under the so-called EU-US Privacy Shield, such data shall enjoy adequate privacy protection. There is already criticism that the arrangements in this agreement are too weak. And today’s executive order might invalidate them altogether.

If so, there can be no transfer of personal data from the EU to the US. This would have far-reaching consequences for US companies, from e.g. retail business to social networks.

The EU Commission seems to hope for special US legislation related to the Privacy Shield. But the question is if the above executive order doesn’t trump any such schemes.


Update / more input:
• Techcrunch: Trump order strips privacy rights from non-U.S. citizens, could nix EU-US data flows »
• Engadget: Trump signs executive order stripping non-citizens of privacy rights »
• EU Observer: Trump’s anti-privacy order stirs EU angst »
• Techdirt: Already Under Attack In Top EU Court, Privacy Shield Framework For Transatlantic Data Flows Further Undermined By Trump »


How dangerous is Big Data?

Kosinski and his team continued, tirelessly refining their models. In 2012, Kosinski demonstrated that from a mere 68 Facebook likes, a lot about a user could be reliably predicted: skin color (95% certainty), sexual orientation (88% certainty), Democrat or Republican (85%). But there’s more: level of intellect; religious affiliation; alcohol-, cigarette-, and drug use could all be calculated. Even whether or not your parents stayed together until you were 21 could be teased out of the data. (…)

The process is identical to the models that Michal Kosinski developed. Cambridge Analytica also uses IQ-Quiz and other small Ocean test apps in order to gain access to the powerful predictive personal information wrapped up in the Facebook likes of users. And Cambridge Analytica is doing precisely what Kosinski had warned about. They have assembled psychograms for all adult US citizens, 220 million people, and have used this data to influence electoral outcomes.

Antidote Zine: Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself »

Update, another piece, at Motherboard: The Data That Turned the World Upside Down »