Banning certain words from discussions can sound like an idea from a totalitarian regime. However, we have seen some automatic censorship of potentially harmful words in some messengers or forums for long, and this is going even further.
According to a recent article from The Intercept [1], amazon is (or will be) blocking some words and flag the corresponding posts in the internal messaging app of the company. The problem with this kind of measure is where to draw the line between censoring harmful words for the employees and simply forbidding open and objective talks that could disadvantage the company? Amazon isn’t exactly known for taking care of their employees, and while the managers claim that this measure is to build a “positive community”, it also prevents the employees to talk about some meaningful topics that the company just wants to avoid, by banning words like “union”, “pay raise” or “harassment” (more comprehensive list in the original article).


We all know that when using our computers and phones, a lot of data is collected and that maintaining privacy can be a very difficult task. But what we often overlook, is that technology also helped tracking us when we are not specifically using it.
My point here is about cameras. These little devices are everywhere: inside every building that receives public (as well as some places that don’t), outside most of these building, in the streets, everywhere. To me this is the perfect example of the balance that exists between security and privacy / freedom. We sacrifice some of our privacy hoping that it will improve our security.
To be clear, having ‘normal’ cameras in shops (private places, by entering you accept the privacy/security trade-off) as well as sensitive places (including some public spaces) is totally normal. So far, there were just video streams routed to a place where people were looking at it and potentially saving it; it’s still a trade-off, but a positive and not too harmful one, I guess.

What is more concerning is the fast development of artificial intelligence and the fact that we are able to make these cameras smarter and smarter. For example, I remember seeing an article [4] (eng.: [3]) about the city I was studying in previously, that received 240 cameras from Huawei [2] with a facial recognition feature, in an attempt from the Chinese company to promote this technology. As of now, such use of facial recognition is – fortunately – forbidden, but it shows that this is something both the city and Huawei were interested in deploying. Moreover, the only way to make sure this technology isn’t actually used is… a simple visit to the administration by the police. And of course, the city refused to disclose how regularly it was checked.

The end of the story, however, is more reassuring: Valenciennes ended up discontinuing the partnership with Huawei and the cameras will be put out of usage. The national data protection authority also warned the local administration.
But as citizens, it’s important for us to pay attention to such attempts to monitor more and more closely people’s lives.


[1] https://theintercept.com/2022/04/04/amazon-union-living-wage-restrooms-chat-app/
[2] for free; they were worth 2 million euros
[3] https://privacyinternational.org/long-read/4691/huawei-valenciennes-bad-romance
[4] https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/hauts-de-france/nord-0/valenciennes/valenciennes-la-ville-mise-en-garde-par-la-cnil-sur-l-usage-de-son-systeme-de-videoprotection-offert-par-huawei-2203429.html

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