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Friday's papers: Tech companies listening in, underage curfews, statue graffiti and urban ticks

Finland's press covers voice message quality checks, curfews, illegal graffiti and ticks in the city.

Aleksis Kiven patsas
Sculptor Wäino Aaltonen's statue of Aleksis Kivi was unveiled in 1938. Image: Regina Rask/Yle

Finland's most widely read daily Helsingin Sanomat features a story on the surveillance of voice messages and commands.

The paper interviews four people whose job it is to listen to random samples of voice material from Finland and check to see if the server's algorithms have rendered the words correctly into text. They say their quality assurance work focused on voice messages and commands on Apple products and Google programmes, and they did not know the identity of the people sending the messages.

The interviewees said that most of the Finnish-language material they check is two or three-word commands like "Call my wife" or "Find this address". Children playing around or long accidental recordings are also common, but the workers say these kinds of messages are ignored, as checking them would not improve the service. One quality checker said that some of the messages they examined from Finland are sexual by nature and "very vulgar".

HS reports that service providers like Google and Apple user agreements give the tech giants the right to save entered audio material. Timo Voutilainen, a public law expert specializing in information networks from the University of Eastern Finland, tells the paper that such agreements cover situations in which users knowingly use their devices to retrieve information, but "when the Siri application for example accidentally starts recording something and the phone's owner doesn't even notice, it is borderline spying if the information is used to benefit the company."

Community rules in the southwest

The tabloid Iltalehti carries a report from the west coast municipality of Eurajoki, where the population has set a blanket curfew for its underage residents. After property damage and loud moped use got out of hand about three years ago, the city announced that under-18s would have to be home by 9pm on weekdays and 11pm on weekends in the future.

The curfew had the desired effect, according to Eurajoki's education director Vesa-Pekka Leino. "It showed the young people that we were taking this seriously. Things clearly calmed down," he says.

On Tuesday in the newspaper Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, Science and Culture Minister Annika Saarikko proposed that all of Finland's municipalities consider similar curfews for their underage residents, in line with what has been dubbed the "Icelandic Model" that has successfully cut back on alcohol and tobacco use among minors with combined community efforts.

Other Finnish municipalities that have introduced curfews include Lammi, Laitila and Pöytyä, IL writes.

Spray paint on Stenvall

And the second major tabloid in Finland, Ilta-Sanomat, reports on vandalism in the Helsinki city centre, as the statue of Finland's most revered writer, Aleksis Kivi (1834–1872), has been painted with graffiti.

The bronze statue of the author of "Seven Brothers" is situated in the square adjacent the Helsinki Railway Station, in front of the National Theatre. The base of the memorial was defaced with white spray paint sometime after Monday, IS reports.

So far this century, several statues have also been vandalised, including the equestrian memorial to Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, the sixth president of Finland, in front of the Kiasma Museum, and the statue of Finland's third president, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud in front of the Parliament House. A statue to honour former professional footballer Jari Litmanen in Lahti has also been defaced.

Ticks go urban

And IS also has a story on the spread of dreaded encephalitis and borreliosis-bearing ticks in Finland, saying that even the country's major cities aren't safe from the dangerous pests.

A study from University of Turku tick researcher Jani Sormunen found that ticks were easily found in almost all urban cityscapes, meaning that they are not the scourge of just rural and forest settings.

"Our research group visited Helsinki's parks and forests this summer. We discovered a tick population in almost every place we examined. Only very well managed parks that kept the grass very short seemed to be spared," he told IS.

Sormunen doesn't want to cause a panic, but he says that people who have visited outdoor areas with brush, longer grass and piles of leaves should check themselves thoroughly for ticks once they return home.

Ticks spread two diseases that are dangerous to humans; tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and borreliosis. The National Institute of Health and Welfare has recorded 642 cases of borreliosis and nine cases of TBE so far this year, the tabloid reports.

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