Monthly Archives: November 2011

Spotted! Me at LSE this evening

I will be delivering a guest seminar as part of the IT Law & Media Seminar Series “Data Liberty in the 21st century” tonight at LSE. The seminar starts at 18:00 and lasts for an hour and a half. Attendance is free and open to all but space is limited so please email H [DOT] Tan1 [AT] lse [DOT] ac [DOT] uk to confirm your place. The venue is the New Academic Building NAB 7 Floor Moot Court.

I’ll be using the seminar to explore some of the ideas raised in my book Barefoot into Cyberspace. And I’ll be selling and signing books after the event.

Too much information: links for week ending 25 November 2011

South Africa passes secrecy bill
The Telegraph report that the South African Parliament have passed a Protection of Information Bill to replace apartheid-era secrecy legislation, amid protests from journalists, businesses and civil society groups. The bill does not include exceptions for journalists who publish suppressed material exposing government wrongdoing or corruption, meaning that if they do so, they could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

Turkish authorities introduce internet filter
Deutsche Welle reports on the Turkish telecommunications authorities plans to switch on the country’s much-contested internet filter this week: “tens of thousands of Turks have held protests across the country under the motto ‘Hands off my Internet!’ Media outlets and Internet forums have also sharply criticised the plan.”

Most countries not following their own FOI laws
Associated Press reports the worrying results of their investigation – begun in January this year – into the practice of governments in 105 countries and the European Union when it comes to responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests: “Only 14 countries responded with the full information we asked for within their legal deadline. Most countries did not provide us with any of the information we asked for. Three out of 10 requests were completely ignored.”

China’s Great Firewall tests mysterious scans on encrypted connections
Forbes details reports from administrators of services with encrypted connections that indicate that China many be testing new software to detect and block censorship circumvention tools provided for Chinese citizens by the West.

Big plans for biometric data in Afghanistan
The New York Times reports on the rise of biometric data collection at Afghanistan’s airports, and at the country’s eight major border crossings. The data is being shared with the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

Dutch MEP claims European politicians gagged over US data-sharing deal
Computerworld UK reports that a leading Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has revealed that MEPs have been banned from talking about the content of a deal to share information about European airline travellers with the United States, and may only read the contents of the deal in a “sealed room”.

Special: internet and privacy
In an essay for Slate, Evgeny Morozov attacks Facebook for its real names policy, calling it “part and parcel of Facebook’s noxious vision for the future of the internet, where privacy, rather than hard-earned cash, becomes the currency of the day”. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has published extracts from a debate between privacy commentators and experts Stewart Baker, danah boyd, Jeff Jarvis and Chris Soghoian about the value of online privacy. Also this week, Wired ran a feature on Soghoian and his work exposing companies’ poor privacy practice.
Morozov | Debate | Wired on Soghoian

#Occupy: The tech at the heart of the movement
This is the first in a series of essays to be published in the Atlantic about the tech at the heart of the Occupy movement: “a set of mobile technologies that didn’t exist ten years ago offered protesters new human capabilities that they used to record and disseminate information, as well as organise – or maybe more properly, design – the protests”.

Reports: Mapping Digital Media
The Open Society Foundations Media Program has released a series of detailed reports examining the impact of digitisation on media and journalism in several countries, and introducing specific issues related to free expression in the digital environment, including net neutrality and legal liability for content online.

What’s your DNA worth?
Forbes examines the possible implications of a patent application submitted by VISA relating to the collection of DNA data for marketing purposes.

Filtering and blocking closer to the core of the internet?
This in-depth report from IP Watch examines new policies and technologies to control the content that flows across the internet by intervening at the layer which controls how web domain names work.

Audio: the history of the mobile phone
Stephen Fry charts the early history of the mobile phone, in part two of his series on the history of phone communications for the BBC.

Audio: Were the Luddites right?
To mark the 200th anniversary of the Luddite movement, which began when artisans in the North of England started protesting against new machines that were destroying their way of life, the Free Thinking Festival invited participants including historian of the Luddites Katrina Navickas, BBC technology correspondent Bill Thompson and fellow of the New Economics Foundation Andrew Simms to explore what the Luddites can teach us in the digital age.

Video: Communication, power and the state in the network society
This is the first in a series of three lectures delivered over the last two weeks at Cambridge University by influential network communications scholar and social scientist Professor Manuel Castells.

Too much information: Links for week ending 18 November 2011

US: “An explosion of opposition to the internet blacklist bill”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports on the growing chorus of voices from business, policy-making, academia and civil society that are ranged against draconian legislation currently being proposed in the US to address online copyright infringement. Ars Technica publish legal analysis of the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) from law professor and founder of the Chilling Effects project on online censorship, Wendy Seltzer, while the SSRC’s Joe Karganis publishes initial findings of his research into the scope of the problem the bill is attempting to address. Opponents of the bill dubbed this past Wednesday “American Censorship Day”, in recognition of SOPA’s assault on free speech rights. They are encouraging US citizens to take action by contacting their representative in Congress.
Report | Legal Analysis | Research | American Censorship Day

WIPO: World Blind Union urges US and EU governments to agree to “right to read”
A critical round of negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) for a binding Treaty for the Visually Impaired will begin next week. The treaty would oblige its signatories to remove copyright barriers which prevent blind, partially sighted, dyslexic and other “reading disabled” people from accessing books, but has so far been opposed by governments in the US and EU. The World Blind Union issued a statement directed at those governments urging them to support the treaty next week, and “help end the book famine” for blind and reading-disabled people. Frank la Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, has also issued a statement, urging all negotiating parties “to work assiduously to agree a binding WIPO treaty for blind and other reading disabled people, and to thereby open a door to reading, ideas and information for reading disabled people across the world”.

Brazil: Cybercrime law could restrict fundamental rights
Global Voices report on proposed legislation in Brazil that could criminalise many online activities and “would mark an abrupt shift in Brazil’s progressive digital policy environment”.

At Open Access meeting, advocates emphasise the impact of sharing knowledge
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the Berlin 9 Open Access meeting held last week in Washington DC, which “focused on the benefits of putting research… into the hands of scholars, students, innovators, and the general public”.

EU agency warns of voluntary surveillance society
The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has published a report warning that “Europeans and others run the risk of creating a surveillance society that results in discrimination or the exclusion of some individuals, that lacks privacy and fosters paranoid behaviours by some in response to a sense of being constantly monitored, and that results in a loss of autonomy”, The Fierce Government blog reports.

Twitter ordered to yield data in WikiLeaks case
The New York Times reports on a federal court ruling that Twitter must hand over information to the US Justice Department about three of their account holders – Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp and Birgitta Jónsdóttir – under investigation for their involvement with WikiLeaks.

“The field [formerly known as?] ICT4D is messy”
Linda Raftree sums up “a flurry of sometimes harsh and pointed, always thoughtful posts” on the continuing relevance or otherwise of the ICT4D (Information Communication Technologies for Development) field.

China startup report
This short slideshow presentation is a good introduction to the Chinese internet market.

Book sprints and traditional publishing
O’Reilly Media Editor Andy Oram reports from a week-long “book sprint” held last month, which aimed to produce four manuals for four different free software projects. His postings analyse “the similarities and differences between conventional publishing and the intense community effort represented by book sprints”. The book sprint used the FLOSS Manuals platform.

Bibliography of digital resistance
This bibliography published by the University of Milan’s European Observatory on Digital Resistance, Liberation Technology and Human Rights contains key texts on the relationship between new technology and protest movements around the globe.

The next internet: netroots activists dream of global mesh network
This article on Ars Technica examines The Darknet Project, a new initiative to create “a decentralised web of interconnected wireless mesh networks that operate independently of each other and the conventional internet”.

Too much information: links for week ending 11 November 2011

UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning release OER policy document
Creative Commons reports that UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning have jointly released a policy document “to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation, and use of Open Educational Resources”.

United States faces questions on ACTA, IP enforcement and free expression
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a letter sent by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a US Representative “undertaking to explain the apparent contradiction in the strong enforcement of intellectual property rights and efforts to ensure freedom of expression on the internet”, a contradiction that was highlighted by the UN’s Frank la Rue earlier this year. Meanwhile, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development reports that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a US-led treaty that threatens to take intellectual property enforcement laws beyond WTO-established standards, is being questioned by US authorities, at the European Parliament, and at the WTO. A video produced by La Quadrature du Net that encourages European citizens to write to their elected representatives at the European Parliament protesting ACTA has been viewed more than 1m times.
Clinton answers | ACTA questions | Video

Open Net Initiative releases data on global internet filtering
The Open Net Initiative have released the data they collect about global internet filtering, to enable reuse by researchers and developers: “The data provides an overview of the most recent ONI ratings of the breadth and depth of Internet censorship in seventy-four countries”.

Websites to generate FOI requests proliferate
Freedom Info reports on the recent launch of six new websites designed to make it easy to submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to authorities in the EU, Germany, Kosovo, Chile, Macedonia and Brazil. Many of them use the Alavateli platform developed by mySociety.

UK: Record industry body asks ISP to block the Pirate Bay
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a lobbyist group for the record industry, has asked major British Internet Service Provider (ISP) BT to block the BitTorrent site Pirate Bay. The request follows a recent court decision compelling BT to block another website, Newzbin. LINX reports that “BT has ruled out any extension of blocking any site without a court order”.

Selling our wireless future
In this editorial for the Huffington Post, Yochai Benkler defends unlicensed spectrum policies against those who would sell off spectrum to the highest bidder to plug the US’s budget deficit gap. Benkler has published a working paper in support of his analysis, examining demand for spectrum in eight different US markets including wireless healthcare and smart grid applications.
Editorial | Research

Free but not easy
This short feature for the Economist provides a good summary of the issues – such as international expansion, fundraising and stagnating editor numbers – that currently face Wikipedia.

Research: The adverse effects of sunshine
This research presents evidence that legislative transparency initiatives in Vietnam have potentially may have the effect of “curtailed participation and conformist behaviour”.

The discreet switch to Twitter
This analysis for the Monday Note identifies why looking at user figures alone might not give an accurate picture of the rising importance of Twitter, and the decline of Facebook, when it comes to social media marketing.

Tackling the high cost of textbooks
This editorial for the Seattle Times celebrates last week’s launch of the Open Course Library, a repository of open educational resources that anyone can download, use and adapt free-of-charge, developed by the Washington State community and technical college system.

With US tech, internet censorship continues in Syria and Burma
Digital Journal highlights a new report from the Toronto Citizen Lab about technology produced by US company Bluecoat that is used in Burma and Syria to suppress speech.

Interview: We are all Khaled Said
The Boston Review publishes an interview with the administrators of the Facebook page which helped fuel the Egyptian Revolution, “We are all Khaled Said”.

Interview: Academic publishing and zombies
Inside Higher Ed talks to Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a media studies academic and director of scholarly communication at the Modern Language Association
about her new book “Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy”.

Infographic: Google vs Facebook
The All Facebook blog republish an infographic produced by security vendor Veracode which compares privacy standards on Google and Facebook, arguing Facebook has fallen behind Google in how it protects its users’ privacy.

Interview with Indymedia at the Anarchist Bookfair

Indymedia have released a video of me talking to them at the Anarchist Bookfair about Barefoot into Cyberspace.

Too much information: links for week ending 4 November 2011

Egypt: Blogger detained for 15 days
Reuters reports that Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah has been detained for fifteen days after refusing to answer military prosecutors in a case where he stands accused of inciting violence and sabotage. The case is widely seen as reflecting a broader crackdown on dissent by the ruling Egyptian army, and a return to old ways of repression. Abd El Fattah was detained by the Mubarak regime in 2006. Abd El Fattah has sent a letter from prison, which was published on Wednesday in the UK’s Guardian newspaper in English and in Arabic by the Egyptian newspaper Al Shorouk. This video depicts Abd El Fattah’s family and rights work.
Report | Letter | Video

“Hollywood finally gets a chance to break the internet”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) highlight a new piece of draft legislation being pushed through the United States Congress: the STOP Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Dubbing it “the worst piece of IP legislation we’ve seen in the last decade — and that’s saying something”, EFF detail how it will require internet service providers, search engines and payment processors such as Paypal to “disappear” websites which are alleged – by rightsholders – to infringe their intellectual property rights. The law may also threaten services that rely on safe-harbour provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to host user-generated content. EFF are publishing a series of blog posts analysing the law, and are urging their supporters to act.
First post | Second post

Russia: Government plans to control the online media
European Digital Rights (EDRi) report on tests being conducted by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s communications regulator, of software that traces “extremist” content on the web: “In case the respective software decides, based on rather vague criteria, that a certain website has “extremist” content, the site is given three days to remove it and, in case of non-compliance, is sent two more warnings and then is closed down”.

US: First phase of Open Course Library launched
The Washington State community and technical college system launched its Open Course Library this week, a repository of open educational resources that anyone can download, use and adapt, free-of-charge. Inside Higher Ed reports: “More than half of the first 42 course modules use only open content, which students can access for free. Other courses refer students to textbooks published by Flat World Knowledge, which offers a choice of free digital textbooks or inexpensive print editions.”

Iran: Cyber police cite US threat
The Washington Post reports on Iran’s latest PR campaign to convince its citizens that the Iranian cyber-police is on their side, by linking Western internet firms to US foreign policy: “At this month’s Digital Media Fair in Tehran… portraits of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs hung next to posters showing the Google logo replacing the field of stars on the American flag”.

Russia: The data leak war and other pre-election surprises
Global Voices reports on the rise of data leaks in Russia in the run-up to country’s elections.

Why parents are helping their children lie to Facebook
This First Monday paper by Danah Boyd, Eszter Hargittai, Jason Schiltz and John Palfrey details new survey data about parents’ attitudes to their younger children having Facebook accounts, and concludes that current US legislation intended to protect children’s privacy “inadvertently undermines parents’ ability to make choices and protect their children’s data”.

Digital age spawns big brother bosses investigates illegal monitoring of employees’ online activity in Romania and beyond.

Michael Nielsen on opening science to the network
Michael Nielsen outlines his vision for open science in this Wall Street Journal editorial, while the Financial Times reviews Nielsen’s new book, “Reinventing Discovery”.
Editorial | Review

Open Access vs academic publishing company profits
Techdirt highlights analysis from across the Open Access blogosphere showing that the amount of money it would cost to pay PLoS One’s per-article publication fee for the estimated 1.5 million scholarly research articles published each year is roughly equivalent to the total amount of money the top three for-profit scholarly publishers take out of the system as profit for their shareholders each year.

Three reasons why M4D may be bad for development
Steve Song cautions those seduced by stories of rapid mobile phone adoption in Africa to learn from the lesson of the “ICT4Dev” (ICTs for Development) movement.

Making the Open Government Partnership work
Matt Rosenberg, editor of Public Data Ferret, provides in-depth analysis of the Open Government Partnership for the Open Knowledge Foundation blog.

Tools for corporate transparency
The Sunlight Foundation have launched a new project “Six degrees of corporations”, which highlights how the lack of an effective unique identifier system for corporate bodies in the US and globally is hampering grassroots efforts to enhance corporate transparency. Another project,, is an attempt to fix the problem.
Six degrees | Open Corporates

Audio: Douglas Rushkoff – program or be programmed
The Spark podcasts Nora Young speaks to Douglas Rishkoff about his most recent book: “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age”.