Links for week ending 17 September 2010

Iranian activists advised to stop using Haystack
Following news of a security flaw, the US-based Censorship Research Center (CRC) has announced that it has halted ongoing testing of its anti-censorship software Haystack in Iran. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has recommended that people stop using all versions of the Haystack software immediately. The news follows on from concerns that CRC had not previously made the Haystack code available to the wider security and censorship-circumvention community for testing and scrutiny.

European Parliament adopts declaration against ACTA
377 members of the European Parliament have signed up to a written declaration condemning many aspects of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The EU is a party to the draft treaty, with its negotiating effort being led by the European Commission. Although the declaration has no binding force, it indicates that the Commission may have to push for more consumer- and citizen-friendly provisions at the treaty’s next, and potentially final, negotiating round this month, in order to be sure the deal it strikes will be approved by Parliament.

Russian authorities use IP-enforcement powers to raid NGO offices
Following a story broken by the New York Times, that police in Russia were seizing the computers of civil society groups on the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoft software, Microsoft have issued blanket licences to advocacy groups and media organisations, both in Russia and elsewhere. The move means Microsoft’s in-country lawyers will no longer provide legal support for politically motivated piracy raids.

FCC likely to approve new unlicensed spectrum
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to expand the proportion of the airwaves available to device and network innovators in a meeting later this month, The regulator is expected to give final approval to a conversion to unlicensed spectrum of white space freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television.

Safaricom slashes mobile text-message cost
Bloomberg report that a price war between competitors in the Kenyan mobile market has seen Safaricom reduce its SMS prices by up to 94%.

DoS attacks sponsored by movie industry
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that an Indian company is offering Denial of Service attacks as a service to rightsholding clients trying to remove pirated movies from the web.

Consumers International survey
A new survey designed to reveal the obstacles consumers face in gaining access to educational and cultural resources has been released by Consumers International. The survey was conducted in 13 languages, covering 15,000 consumers across 24 countries. It found that “the biggest barriers that consumers face in accessing copyright works are those created by copyright law. Even so, consumers around the world will choose original copyright works over pirated copies, provided that they are available at an affordable price.”

Does open data only empower the empowered?
This excellent blog post by Michael Gurstein uses the example of the digitized land registry in Bangalore to warn that open data initiatives may empower the already-empowered to use information in self-interested ways: “This is not to suggest that processes of computerization inevitably lead to such outcomes but rather to say that in the absence of efforts to equalize the playing field… the end result may be increased social divides rather than reduced ones.”

10 sources of free textbooks online
The Curriki website celebrates a new school term by pointing readers to ten great sources for open educational resources.

Indian civil society and biometric ID
This AlterNet feature tracks the developing disquiet among civil society groups in India as their government prepares to roll out a new biometric identification project whose aim is to give every Indian a lifelong Unique ID number.

Rise of religious search engines?
NPR report on a new trend: the rise of religious search engines. One creator of a search engine aimed at Christians says “a search on his site would not turn up pornography. If you search ‘gay marriage’, you would get results that argue against gay marriage”. Other search engines aimed at the Jewish and Muslim communities are also investigated in this report.

The future of peer review
Cameron Neylon argues that online reaction to a recent new proof for a major outstanding mathematical theorem hints at the future of peer review: “The online maths community has lit up with excitement…And in the process we are seeing online collaborative post publication peer review take off.”

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