Friday, January 20, 2012

Non-Celebratory Post Number 601

...and another thing. What's the deal with paper receipts? I'm not a complete eco-mentalist, but I try to limit consumption of unnecessary things. What is the point of printing a paper receipt for every transaction in a supermarket etc? Particularly if I'm using my loyal customer card. If there's a warranty claim, or a suspicion of shoplifting, you've got an electronic record of what went through the register, and I have a record of what went through my credit card. It's the year 2012. Why are we still wasting paper on receipts? Some people might enjoy the peace of mind from re-checking the numbers at the register, so OK, make the functionality available if someone actually asks for it. But I cannot see any other good reason for it. In fact, here's a freebie for Estonian and EU politicians: run on a promise of enhancing data retention & transparency, by requiring that every store chain that gives out loyal customer cards must also have a Web interface where you log in with your ID card and see a complete record of what the company knows about you - including your purchase history. I'm sure SEB would absolutely love to integrate that kind of data into their spending diary app. Hell, they'll probably co-finance its development.


This Wednesday, Wikipedia and a bunch of other websites blacked out their content in protest to SOPA, a bill in the US Congress that would break the internet while not actually being effective at fighting piracy.

There is a version of this legislation that is immediately relevant to Europeans. It's called ACTA, and it's an international treaty that needs to be ratified by the Europarliament and individual EU member states before it goes into effect. The first step was approval by the European Commission, and that was done in a very underhanded and secretive way, to prevent the public from learning about it. Didn't work.

On the day of the SOPA blackout, I decided to be slightly more proactive, and do a little personal test of democracy. I went on Facebook and looked for the accounts of Estonia's Members of the European Parliament. Four of the six had accounts.* I sent a private message to three of them and posted on the wall of the fourth. (Facebook will only let you post on the wall of someone who already confirmed you as a friend, but you can message anyone directly. I happened to be Facebook-friends with Indrek Tarand already.) My question was simple: how do you intend to vote on ACTA?

That was two days ago, and impressively, two people have replied already. Ivari Padar said that he was not part of the committee that dealt directly with ACTA, but referred me to his parliamentary faction's position paper on it. It's a boring political answer and the paper doesn't actually say whether the Socialists & Democrats faction is for or against the treaty, but at least they're asking questions - and Padar scores points for promptly responding to a voter's inquiry.

The other response was from Tarand, who pointed me to his website. He'd published an opinion on ACTA as long ago as 2010, and while this is also a political text, it does make clear that Tarand's attitude to ACTA in its current form is negative. Hopefully he will vote against it if and when it comes up in the Europarliament's agenda.

Contact your MEPs and make sure the rest of them do as well.

*Tunne Kelam does have an account, actually, but I didn't find it at first - and it looks inactive (probably registered for him by a staffer to prevent squatting). Vilja Savisaar-Toomast has not replied yet, and neither has Kristiina Ojuland. Siiri Oviir does not have a personal account.

PS: This is the 600th post on Awesome.


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