In Bar-Yam’s model, areas where different language groups overlap have a high likelihood of ethnic violence (E). Once administrative boundaries are included, the risk of violence drops–except for a northwestern region, where ethnic violence has in fact occurred (F).
Ethnic violence is one of the bloodiest and most virulent kinds of conflict. Pinpointing areas where it’s likely to erupt and sussing out why some areas have avoided it are intensely interesting issues to geographers, and Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute made headlines four years ago with a model indicating that how messy the borders are between ethnic groups may be a good predictor of violence. Now, after using it to predict where violence was likely to occur in India and the former Yugoslavia, both areas known for their ethnic turbulence, he’s posted a paper on the ArXiv that applies his analysis to Switzerland, a enviably peaceful country that nevertheless has four national languages and large, devout populations of both Protestants and Catholics. How do the Swiss do it, he asks?
Last year, Google raised the ire of many when it confessed that its city-mapping Street View vehicles unintentionally gathered unencrypted Wi-Fi data as they rolled past people’s abodes. To fix its image and to fend off lawsuits, the company soon tightened its privacy policies and ensured that its Street View cars stopped collecting that information. But the controversies just won’t stop. Google is now trying to convince privacy-conscious Swiss officials to drop the country’s tight Street View restrictions, while security-conscious Israeli officials are concerned that the technology will help terrorists.
Twenty-seven countries have been partially mapped via Street View, a Google product that provides 360-degree panoramic views from ground level. The company creates these images by sending groups of camera-studded vehicles to various parts of the world to snap pictures as they drive.
Although Switzerland is home to one of Google’s largest offices outside the United States, the country has strict privacy laws that have prevented Google from loading new Street View images of Switzerland for the past year. On Thursday, Google petitioned a Swiss court to lift this ban. The search engine company told Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court that its technology automatically conceals the identity of faces and license plates, and that it is no different from rival services.