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General

Europe: Fading stars over Britain?

When I was 15, I first came to the UK. And fell in love.

I stayed with my dad at his uni friend’s place for a week.

My dad’s friend had studied in Cambridge, worked in London for a bit, and now settled into the suburbs of the city.

He lived with his wife and his two formidable children in a spacious villa. An English dream.

Stories of German tourists and unconditional friendliness

Like the worst German tourists, we had notoriously planned the trip. Every day of my visit, we’d take the Tube into the city. We were guided by a little tourist guide, our London bible. The book told us exactly what we had to do, where we had to go, the route we had to take, no thinking required.

One of my fondest memories is how my dad and me explored Canary Wharf. We were travelling around in the DLR, when a fine English gentleman, seemingly well off, offered me his seat. I asked for a reason, but instead, he just insisted. I was deeply astonished by such unconditional friendliness.

Back at our host’s place, I was working on my English. Their 6‑year-old son pointed out to me that English wasn’t quite good, and that he might be able to help.

Private school, a necessity for success?

I guess he enjoyed his school, that he just started. Private school, a necessity to get into the best universities, as his father explained to me.

By the end of my stay, I would think for the first time in English, maybe also with a little help of my little friend.

The most astounding aspect of my very English week was though: the father was German, the mother Mexican. They had found love, worked hard, and settled in the UK.

They had made this brilliant place their home. At the same type, they had adopted some of the worst and best parts of UK society.

The future of the Union

The UK of today feels different. When I walk around the streets of Oxford, I often see the Union Jack.

It makes me wonder.

It makes me wonder what it stands for, and what the future of this once marvellous country will look like.

What once was for me a symbol of love, internationality, and openness, now reveals cracks and divides.

And, I am left wondering whether I still feel welcome.

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General

Data economics: Understanding and taming Big Tech

This document is highly work-in-progress, and I’d appreciate to hear from you. Contact me at @KKollnig or blog@​kollnig.​net, or leave a comment below.

Big Tech amass personal data at an unprecedented scale. This has unsettling consequences for individual privacy.

At the same time, Big Tech have a quasi-monopoly over digital services. They attract the majority of web traffic. This potentially restricts digital innovation.

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General

Lives at risk: Excessive data collection in apps

Last month, in January 2020, the Norwegian Consumer Council, an NGO, published a report on collection and sharing of personal data in popular apps. The reassuring title: “Out of Control: How Consumers Are Exploited by the Online Advertising Industry”.

On 186 pages, the researchers analysed the data practices of 10 popular Android apps. Amongst those apps: a children’s app, a period tracker, and various dating apps.

What they found was a blatant disregard for governing data protection legislation, notably the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

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General

Online ads: Who decides what I see?

An article on real-time bidding and ad exchanges

On average, a person sees over 1 700 online ads per month. A significant proportion of these ads are disseminated using so-called real-time bidding (RTB). Whilst the entire online advertising market has a size of 240bn USD, RTB only attracted 5bn USD in spending (1.8%) in 2018. However, RTB is mainly used to sell low-quality ads on otherwise unused desktop and mobile display space. As a result, the proportion of RTB amongst the overall number of online ads may well be higher than 1.8%. Unfortunately, there are no figures readily available, with RTB being a rather new technology. Spread and novelty of RTB motivate a closer look.

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General

Untere Ruhrtalbahn: Durch Saarn und Umgebung

Die Untere Ruhrtalbahn ist eine ehemalige Eisenbahnstrecke, die den Bahnhof der Stadt Kettwig (seit 1975 Stadtteil von Essen) mit dem Bahnhof Mülheim-Styrum verband. Die Bahnstrecke wurde 1876 in Betrieb genommen und umfasste eine Länge von 14,7km (1435 mm Normalspur) bis zur Stilllegung in den 1970er Jahren.