Links for week ending 29 October, 2010

Google ends secret wifi data gathering as international privacy watchdogs investigate
Google Vice President Alan Eustace has stated that his company is “mortified” that its Streetview cars have been “inadvertently” collecting and storing personal data while scanning wifi networks. The Streetview cars, which travel the world taking photographs to upload to Google’s controversial Streetview service, had also been gathering information about the location of wifi networks to improve the company’s geolocation services, a practice Google say they will now stop. Privacy watchdogs in the UK, Germany, France and Canada are currently investigating the issue.

Mobile operators under pressure in Mozambique
In a move understood to have followed the widespread use of SMS to organise protests during September’s food shortages, the government of Mozambique will require mobile operators to register the SIM cards of all their customers by mid-November. This week, the government announced that a levy imposed on mobile phone subscribers that would contribute to a government-controlled Transport and Communications Development Fund would now be shifted onto operators in order to avoid constitutional issues around introducing new forms of taxation.

Livejournal bloggers expose suspicious government IT contracts in Russia
Global Voices report that Russian bloggers with IT expertise have launched a new campaign to scrutinise government IT tenders, after they noticed that the Ministry of Health was inviting companies to tender for contracts on unfair or suspicious terms. The campaign has already seen at least three tenders cancelled, with one official responsible for a suspicious tender being forced to resign.

Vatican speaks out against unduly aggressive IP protection
In an address to the General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization last month, a Vatican spokesperson has condemned aggressive intellectual property (IP) protection that harms access to medicines in poorer countries. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations remarked: “on the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care.”

Future internet scenarios
The Internet Society have shared the results of a scenario planning exercise they engaged in to reveal plausible courses of events that could impact the future “health of the Internet”. The results are presented in a compelling way, and represent a useful framework for understanding current issues such as censorship technologies, the rise of web hyper-giants like Facebook and Google, and cyber security concerns.

Judging the cyber war terrorist threat
In this essay for the New Yorker Seymour Hersh gives context and depth to Western governments’ current obsession with cyberwar, tallying the potential cost to civil liberties of an over-reliance on the military to respond to cyberthreats.

Ten theses on Wikileaks
Internet scholars Geert Lovink and Patrice Riemens present ten competing analyses of the status and prospects of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. This week Wikileaks disclosed hundreds of thousands of US Army reports pertaining to the war in Iraq, which revealed greater civilian casualties than previously reported, and allegations of widespread torture of detainees.

How to examine copyright’s impacts on innovation
This United States National Academy of Sciences has set up a committee to examine and enrich the evidence base informing current copyright practice. In this blog post, Public Knowledge summarise their submission, which urges the committee to re-examine several issues including the length of copyright term and the cost effectiveness of imposing liability for copyright infringement on internet service providers.

How Useful is Humanitarian Crowdsourcing?
Ushahidi critic Paul Currion of attempts to advance the debate on crowdsoucing and humanitarian response: “My critique of crowdsourcing – shared by other people working at the interface of humanitarian response and technology – is not that it is disruptive to business as usual. My critique is that it doesn’t work.”

Comments are closed.