Monthly Archives: October 2011

Too much information: links for week ending 28 October 2011

Phorm resurfaces in Romania
The online behavioural tracking service Phorm has reappeared in Europe, via a partnership with Romtelecom in Romania, following its exit from the UK market in 2008 amid widespread speculation that its services were illegal under European law on the interception of electronic communications. European Digital Rights (EDRi) reports “With no public debate before the launch at the end of September, Romtelecom has presented a new service called MyClicknet, which basically implements the Phorm behavioural advertising solution with an opt-in approach.”

US seeks detailed information on China’s internet restrictions
The United States Trade Representative has written to China under World Trade Organisation rules asking for detailed information on the trade impact of Chinese website-blocking policies. In a statement released this week, the USTR made clear that “While the United States believes that the best internet policy is to encourage the free flow of information globally, the United States’ WTO request relates specifically to the commercial and trade impact of the internet disruptions”.

Thailand: Government admits “lese majeste” law may have been misused
Agence France Presse reports that the Thai government have responded to UN concerns that its lese majeste law, which prohibits criticism of the monarchy and is punishable with up to 15 years in prison, harms free expression. In a statement, the Thai foreign ministry accepted that the law may have been misused and advised it was setting up “a special committee in the Royal Thai Police headquarters… to scrutinise potential prosecutions”.

Russian privacy law used to suppress politically sensitive research
Human Rights in Russia reports on a legal case being brought against Russian historian Arseny Roginsky for passing data to the German Red Cross about ethnic Germans who were deported to the Arkhangelsk region during the Soviet period. If found guilty, Roginsky could face two years in prison, in what would be “a dangerous signal for researchers and for the staff and administrators of archives”.

Net neutrality resolution adopted by European Parliament
La Quadrature du Net reports that a key committee in the European Parliament has adopted a pro-net neutrality resolution, asking the European Commission to promptly assess the need for further legislative action to protect the open internet. La Quadrature du Net label the resolution: “a strong political statement in favour of net neutrality”.

When secrets aren’t safe with journalists
In this New York Times oped, OSF Fellow Chris Soghoian decries insecure communications practice at the West’s major newspapers and comes to the provocative conclusion that “Until journalists take their security obligations seriously, it will be safer to leak something to WikiLeaks — or groups like it — than to the mainstream press”.

Special: Occupy Wall Street media tools and strategy
The International Journalists Network list “Five tools from Occupy Wall Street that journalists should know about”, while the Columbia Journalism Review embed with the Occupy Wall Street media team, to find out about the strategies they use to get the message out.
Tools | Strategy

The Russian state and surveillance technology
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan detail the laws and technologies that allow the Russian authorities to keep tabs on citizens’ online activities, in this detailed feature for openDemocracy.net.

One man’s war against Facebook on the European front
New York magazine carries a short feature on Max Schermas, the 24 year-old Austrian student behind the Europe vs Facebook campaign.

Catching the next WikiLeaker
This Daily Beast reports from GEOINT, an annual conference for the military intelligence community, on how attitudes about the best way to catch potential whistleblowers have changed in the year since WikiLeaks published material leaked from the military’s secure networks, with the emphasis on surveillance of those with access to the network.

The case for piracy
This article published on a blog hosted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation lays the blame for piracy at the feet of the world’s major media companies.

More jobs predicted for machines, not people
This New York Times feature surveys conflicting ideas about the socioeconomic consequences of automation in the workplace, and details a new e-Book written by academics in the field, “Race against the Machine”.

Video: TV White Spaces in Africa – “The beginning of the future”
Russell Southwood interviews Steve Song about the promise TV White Spaces hold for access to communications in Africa.

Audio: Creating a digital public space
This edition of the UK Guardian’s Tech Weekly podcast speaks to archivists from across the UK’s major cultural institutions, including the BBC, about their plans to create a combined digital archive of works in their collections that is accessible to and reusable by the public.

Little Atoms at the Bishopsgate Institute: Whose mind is it anyway?

The Whose Mind is it Anyway? season at the Bishopsgate Institute kicked off in early September. It’s being co-curated with, among others, Little Atoms (which, incidentally, continues to air every Friday on Resonance 104.4FM – techies may wish to check out the recent episode featuring Misha Glenny talking about his new book on cybercrime) and the season runs into the New Year.

Why am I telling you this? Mainly because I’ll be chairing an event on the evening of Tuesday 15th November called “Information Dissemination in the New Media Age”. Featuring Heather Brooke (The Revolution will be Digitised), Brian Cathcart (a former colleague at openDemocracy, now Professor of Journalism at Kingston University) and Google’s Peter Barron. Here’s the blurb:

With rapidly developing new media and modes of mass communication, we continuously absorb information as well as giving information about ourselves. From political leaks to twitter, mobile location finders to credit card use, information is collected and roams. The beneficiaries are clear, with possible political advantages, marketing opportunities, subliminal advertising and surveillance as well as greater access to information for all of us. Who controls what information is circulated and to whom? And to what extent does censorship conflict with freedom of information or overlap with data protection and privacy?

Tickets are £8 (£6 concs) and the action starts at 7:30pm. More details here. I’ll be selling and signing books after the event.

Too much information: links for week ending 21 October 2011

France: Court orders blocking of “Copwatch” website
The New York Times reports that a French court has ordered France’s internet service providers to block a website “that shows pictures and videos of police officers arresting suspects, taunting protesters and allegedly committing acts of violence against members of ethnic minorities”. La Quadrature du Net have issued a statement following the block, saying the case “shows that the blocking of websites, even if promoted in the name of legitimate pretexts such as fighting the dissemination of child abuse images or illegal gambling, is ultimately a tool for the political censorship of the internet”.
Report | Statement

US Senator questions constitutionality of ACTA
Intellectual Property Watch reports that US’s recent signing of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) may face a constitutional challenge following news that Senator Ron Wyden is querying the United States Trade Representative’s power to enter into such an agreement without Congress’s approval. ACTA is a bilateral treaty with provisions for copyright and patent enforcement which have the potential to go beyond norms established by the World Trade Organisation.

Google encrypts more searches
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports on Google’s announcement this week that it is switching its logged-in users to encrypted search by default. EFF dub the move a “significant win” for users, for whom secure search will act as an “essential protection against surveillance… whether by governments, companies, or hackers”.

Register now for Open Access Week webcasts
Next week is Open Access week, and to mark the occasion the Right to Research Coalition will host two webcasts: “The State of Open Access and the Student Role in Creating Change”, which will feature Heather Joseph from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC); and “Open Access and the Impact of Open on Research”, which will feature John Wilbanks of Creative Commons.
Webcasts | Open Access Week

Guide: “Doing digital” in non-profit organisations
The Stanford Social Innovation Review publishes the first two parts of a three part series authored by experts in digital practice for the non-profit sector. The first part looks at common mistakes organisations make when managing digital personnel, and the second outlines four models of “managing digital” in a non-profit organisation. Part three will be published later this month.
Mistakes | Models

Global survey of Parliamentary monitoring organisations
This report, published by the National Democratic Institute and the World Bank Institute, surveys organisations monitoring parliamentary activity across the world and offers some preliminary recommendations to donors seeking to fund such organisations.

A day in the life of privacy
This piece for Security Week looks at the privacy compromises made by the average American on a normal working day.

Book Review: “Public parts: How sharing in the digital age improves the way we work and live”
Evgeny Morozov stands up for privacy in this brutal and controversial review published by the New Republic of Jeff Jarvis’s latest book. Readers may also wish to view Jarvis’s line-by-line response.
Morozov | Jarvis

Audio: Outriders at the 3rd Arab Bloggers Summit
The BBC’s Outriders podcast reports from the third Arab Bloggers Summit in Tunisia, interviewing participants from across the Middle East and north Africa.

Spotted! Me at the Anarchist Book Fair with Heather Brooke

Poster for the Anarchist Book FairThis Saturday, I’ll be appearing at the anarchist book fair in Whitechapel, London. Come along to hear me and Heather Brooke, author of The Revolution Will be Digitised in a discussion lead by the NUJ’s Donnacha DeLong on “Reclaiming the Media”. Here’s the blurb:

This year will hopefully be remembered as the year when Rupert Murdoch got his just desserts. 25 years after the Battle of Wapping, the UK’s biggest scandal-rag, the News of the World, became a scandal itself and was shut down. But Murdoch isn’t the only problem in the world of the media, only a handful of corporations own virtually all of it. All run to make huge profits and have been cutting staff and quality for years. Time to reclaim the media and build new economic models.

The meeting starts at 12 noon in the Mason Lecture Theatre at the Queen Mary campus on Mile End Rd. More details here. I’ll be around a little bit before and a little bit after, selling and signing books.

Barefoot into Cyberspace: figures for September

Below are the figures for how many people read/bought Barefoot into Cyberspace in August and September. I’m providing them for people who are interested in the nuts and bolts of a book project undertaken outside of the world of mainstream publishing and with a Creative Commons element. I intend to provide these figures on a month-by-month basis.

August September TOTALS
html 3,619 608 4,227
pdf 2,337 719 3,056
ePub 520 20 540
Kindle 177 39 216
Print – direct 70 24 94
Print – POD 54 62 116
TOTAL 6,777 1,452 8,249

Some explanation:

  • The last two days of July are incorporated in the figures for August
  • html stats are number of views as reported by WordPress
  • pdf stats are number of reads as reported by Scribd
  • ePub stats are kindly provided by Terence Eden
  • Print – direct stats are the number of copies I have sold directly at speaking events
  • Print – POD are reported by Lightning Source, the print-on-demand partner for the book.
  • Kindle stats are provided by the Kindle direct publishing platform at kdp.amazon.com

Too much information: links for week ending 14 October 2011

“Marco Civil” reaches Brazilian Congress
A draft bill to establish a civil rights-based governance framework for the internet has reached the Brazilian Congress. A2K Brasil has published an English translation of the bill, and a blog post summarising its contents, which were devised as the result of an inclusive consultation process spear-headed by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

US: Secret orders target email
The Wall Street Journal reveals that the US government obtained a secret court order to force companies including Google to hand over the communications traffic records of WikiLeaks volunteer (and US citizen) Jacob Applebaum. The revelations “provide a rare public window into the growing debate over a federal law that lets the government secretly obtain information from people’s email and cellphones without a search warrant”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is campaigning to change this law.
Report | EFF campaign

Russia: State funded blogging school opens in Chelyabinsk
Global Voices publishes a short, English-language summary of a Russian-language report about a new state-funded blogging school.

Cuba: Radio/TV Martí texting is ‘cyberwar’
The Miami Herald reports on allegations made by the Cuban authorities that a service funded by the US government to send censored news from the US to Cuban mobile phones via SMS violates the country’s laws and may disrupt the network.

Italy: Wikipedia restores service
The Italian Wikipedian community has restored access to Italian Wikipedia after amendments to a draft law they say threatens the existence of Wikipedia were proposed in the Italian Parliament. Last week, the entire Italian Wikipedia was replaced by a message protesting against the law.

Views on Open Data contrast during ICIC sessions
This short report from the 7th International Conference of Information Commissioners underlines the contrasting view open government data activists and freedom of information (FOI) campaigners hold of each other’s disciplines. Freedominfo.org reports: “One Canadian open data advocate called reforming FOI laws a low priority. FOI traditionalists… warned that politicians are using open data portals to avoid legal reforms”.

Report: Casting a wider net
This new report from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs describes a series of real-world tests to deliver access to BBC websites into Iran and China and draws lessons from these tests for broadcasters and other media players seeking to use the internet to get their content into countries who are likely to block it.

Financial Times special series: Cyberwar – the new arms race
This US-focused in-depth report into cybersecurity examines the issues, the politics and the economics of so-called “cyberwar”. It includes an interactive visualisation of the defence companies the FT says are “creating a cyber-industrial complex”.
Special issue | Visualisation

TV white spaces can open up low-cost, high-speed internet across Africa
This Association for Progressive Communications (APC) report details a recent meeting of civil society organisations, government officials, industry and regulators to discuss how to make better use of so-called “TV white spaces” – wireless spectrum freed up by advances in wireless technology. The meeting was convened in the hopes of persuading regulators to open up spectrum allocation beyond incumbent licence-holders, in order to “enable a new generation of wireless entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa”. The report includes an APC interview which explores the issues at stake with Henk Kleynhans, chair of the South African Wireless Access Providers Association, Google Africa’s Ory Okolloh and South African wireless entrepreneur Steve Song.
Report | Background

Speaking stats to justice
Chance magazine publish this feature from Benetech’s Daniel Guzmán about the statistical work he undertook as an expert witness in a 2010 legal case against the police in Guatemala which “set a historic precedent for human rights”.

Video: John Palfrey and Jeremie Zimmerman on Net Neutrality
This 13 minute video from the Open World Forum, featuring the Berkman Center for Internet and Society’s John Palfrey speaking to La Quadrature du Net’s Jeremie Zimmerman, is an excellent introduction to global issues surrounding net neutrality.

Audio: Algorithmic Culture
In this interview for the CBC Spark podcast Ted Striphas, an associate professor at Indiana University’s Department of Communication and Culture, examines how our cultural life is affected by the growing automation of cultural curation. The interview builds on a series of blog posts Striphas has published on the topic.
Interview | Blog posts

Audio: How telecom providers respond to government surveillance requests
Chris Soghoian reveals the real story behind the small print of telecoms companies’ privacy policies.

Too much information: links for week ending 7 October 2011

ACTA signed
Last weekend, at a signing ceremony in Japan, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and the United States all signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a bilateral treaty with provisions for copyright and patent enforcement which have the potential to go beyond norms established by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). James Love of Knowledge Ecology International argues the case for why the US signing may be subject to challenge based on its inconsistencies with US law, while Michael Geist outlines the legal changes that must take place in Canada before the treaty can be ratified. The EU, which was also party to negotiations, is yet to receive authority from the European Parliament to sign the treaty, report Out-Law.com. La Quadrature du Net are among the European civil society voices urging the European Parliament to withhold its consent.
Report | Love | Geist | Out-Law.com | La Quadrature

Italian Wikipedians shut down Wikipedia in protest at draft censorship law
The Italian Wikipedian community replaced the entire Italian Wikipedia with a message to Wikipedia users about a draft Italian “Wiretapping Bill” which they threatens the existence of Wikipedia because it would require websites “to publish, within 48 hours of the request and without any comment, a correction of any content that the applicant deems detrimental to his/her image”. The Wiretapping Bill has the full support of Silvio Berlusconi, and is in danger of passing through the legislative process without scrutiny. The Wikimedia Foundation has issued a statement saying it “stands with our volunteers in Italy”.
Italian Wikipedians’ statement | Wikimedia Foundation’s statement

Tunisia secretly tested censorship software for Western companies
Arab Bloggers reports: “The new chairman and CEO of the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI), Moez Chakchouk, told participants at the Arab Bloggers Meeting today that western companies offered significant discounts on use of censorship software to the Tunisian government in exchange for testing and bug-tracking. He said confidentiality contracts preclude him from naming the companies, but said the Internet Agency has extracted itself from these partnerships and thus can no longer afford to censor, even if they wished to.”

Iran blocks TOR, TOR unblocks itself later that day
The TOR project carries a short report detailing Iran’s successful attempt to block its citizens from accessing TOR, and TOR’s subsequent workaround which allowed it to resume its service in Iran the same day. TOR (which stands for “The Onion Router”) is a system which allows online anonymity.

EU restricts export of surveillance technology
The European Parliament has revised EU rules on the export of surveillance technologies to make companies wishing to export such technologies seek permission from the authorities first. IT News reports “the new rules limit the risk of sensitive technologies being exported to certain foreign regimes such as China, Russia, India and Turkey, as well as those subject to arms embargoes”.

Anonymous attacks official Syrian websites
Global Voices reports on coordinated attacks by Anonymous against the official websites of every major city in Syria, whose homepages have been replaced with an interactive map of the country, showing the names, ages and date of deaths of victims of the Syrian regime since the protests started in March.

Access Info Europe launches AsktheEU.org
Access Info Europe have launched a new web portal that radically simplifies the process of requesting information from the EU. Built on the Alaveteli software that underpins mySociety’s successful WhatDoTheyKnow.com platform for Freedom of Information requests in the UK, AsktheEU.org sends an email to the relevant EU body, making responses it receives public and allowing users to rate the responses for quality and comprehensiveness.

The Geopolitics of the Open Government Partnership
This short piece by David Eaves frames the recently announced Open Government Partnership, an international effort to make governments more transparent led by the US and Brazil, as “the first overt, ideological salvo in the what I believe will be the geopolitical axis of Open versus Closed”.

US: “Phone and web clampdowns in crises are intolerable”
In this opinion piece for Bloomberg, Susan Crawford urges the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to recognise the decision by the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) to shut down mobile phone services during a protest in August as a violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which prohibits discontinuing or impairing service without due process.

Special Issue: Global human rights challenges of forensic DNA
The new issue of GeneWatch magazine produced by the Council for Responsible Genetics, focuses on the increasing risks posed by the proliferation of forensic DNA collection around the world, with articles from experts and activists from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, China, Germany, India, Pakistan and Portugal.

Report: Truth, lies and the internet
This new, UK-focused report from DEMOS about young people’s ability to critically evaluate information they access online includes a comprehensive literature review as well as a survey of over 500 teachers. It concludes that young people are “vulnerable to the pitfalls of ignorance, falsehoods, cons and scams”.

“Recognition of internet freedom as a trade issue growing”
The Huffington Post carries an op-ed by Edward J. Black, President of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, detailing how “the internet’s evolution as a platform to enable commerce has also put the issue of internet restrictions on the radar of the international trade system”.

Book review: “Surveillance or Security?: The risks posed by new wiretapping technologies”, by Susan Landau
In this piece for the Boston Review, Evgeny Morozov provides a summary of Susan Landau’s detailed new book on surveillance, which argues that FBI-mandated surveillance “back doors” may not be the most realistic or effective response to the proliferation of secure communications products ushered in by the digital age.

Book reviews: “Dark Market – Cybertheives, cybercops and you”, by Misha Glenny
Evgeny Morozov reviews Misha Glenny’s new book on cybercrime for the Wall Street Journal, calling it “a bold attempt to write a biography of a single obscure website that, between 2005 and 2008, served as the premier destination for criminals engaged in online fraud”. For the UK’s Independent, computer security expert Ross Anderson also highlights the book as an important work which has much to teach experts about the human element of computer crime, but regrets the work’s technical inaccuracies.
Morozov | Anderson