Too much information: Links for week ending 30 March

EU: Parliament will vote on ACTA without delay
The European Parliament has resolved not to refer the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to the European Court of Justice, but to instead vote on whether to sign the treaty in June as planned. La Quadrature du Net cautiously welcomed the move, which follows a referral to the ECJ from the European Commission: “The Commission’s technocratic manoeuvres have not stopped the Parliament, and the door remains open to a swift rejection of ACTA.”

Pakistan: Will IT ministry shelve plan to install online censorship system?
The International Herald Tribune reports on signs that the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority may withdraw its plans to construct a nationwide website-blocking system. The news comes following a public campaign encouraging global technology corporations to boycott a bidding process to build the system. This week, the BBC ran an informative piece on “Pakistan’s quiet erosion of internet freedom”.

US: Supreme Court deals blow to gene patenting
Intellectual Property Watch reports that “The United States Supreme Court yesterday threw out a high-profile case that had allowed a private company’s patents on two human genes associated with cancer”. The Supreme Court is asking the court that ruled in favour of gene patents to reconsider its position in light of another recent judgement on the subject.

Tunisia: Local journalism collectives reclaim media space
Nawaat reports on their joint initiative with the Tunisian Ministry of Youth and Sports to foster six local citizen media collectives in locations around the country: “The goal is to have a national network of alternative and citizen media, using simple blogging platforms, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts as the collectives’ technical support”.

South Korea: Digital textbook rethink
The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss highlights reports from South Korea that indicate the government may be rethinking its plan for digital textbooks to be used in every classroom by 2015, amid fears that young people are becoming “addicted” to the internet.

New version of Stuxnet-related cyber weapon discovered
ABC News details reports of a new version of a computer virus called the Duqu worm “designed to gather intelligence on industrial control systems”.

China: Twitter-Spam war against pro-Tibet activists
The Atlantic reports on a new “weapon of mass distraction” – hundreds of automated Twitter accounts which flood the hashtags #tibet and #freetibet with meaningless, spam tweets.

The NSA, US citizens, and the data centre that is bigger than the Capitol
Wired magazine published an extensive feature last week on the new data centre being built by the US’s National Security Agency in Utah. The piece, authored by one of the world’s leading authorities on the NSA, James Bamford, shows how “for the first time since Watergate and the other scandals of the Nixon administration, the NSA has turned its surveillance apparatus on the US and its citizens”. This week, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, US Attorney General Eric Holder signed expansive new guidelines allowing the US National Counter Terrorism Center to mirror and mine entire federal databases for information that could help identify terrorists. NSA chief General Keith Alexander was called in front of Congress last week to answer questions prompted by the Wired feature.
Bamford | EFF | NSA before Congress

Forensic genetics: A global human rights challenge
This post on the blog highlights the human rights challenges posed by the growing deployment of forensic DNA databases and outlines how the Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative, a collaboration between GeneWatch UK, Privacy International and the Council for Responsible Genetics, hopes to have a direct impact on the human rights standards adopted for DNA databases across the world.

Why WikiLeaks’ bid for radical transparency failed summarise new research published in the International Review of Administrative Sciences that suggests that, far from challenging “increasing authoritarian tendencies in government and the growth of unaccountable corporate power”, WikiLeaks’ activities merely served to highlight the barriers to increasing levels of transparency in the digital age.

Reflections on Fear in a Networked Society
danah boyd shares some nascent ideas on how fear operates in a networked society.

Words by the millions, sorted by software
This short feature for the New York Times outlines one project which hopes to automate some of the work traditionally done by librarians, “teaching computers to sift through the digital pages of books and articles and categorise the contents by subject, even when that subject isn’t stated explicitly”.

The shift from search to social, and web to apps
The Monday Note highlights the fact that many news websites are now getting the majority of their traffic from people clicking through from social networking sites, as opposed to people using search engines. Meanwhile, MSNBC reports on a new study from Pew that suggests that Apps could be overtaking the web, which may not be good news considering Susan’s Crawford’s view that “Apps are like cable channels – closed, proprietary, and cleaned-up experiences”.
Monday Note | MSNBC

Tools: DIY mySociety
UK civic hackers mySociety are releasing short, non-technical guides explaining how they built their key accountability and transparency sites. They’ve already released guides for people hoping to copy their FOI portal and local problem-reporting website, and expect to publish guides to their Parliamentary monitoring site and elected-representative contacting site later this year. The guides offer “a deep look at all the conceptual issues you need to think about when building these sorts of sites, no matter what technical platform you use.”

Video: Rufus Pollock on Open Data
Open Knowledge Foundation co-founder Rufus Pollock introduces the LIFT conference to the idea of Open Data, and argues that we need data to be open in order to cope with exploding information complexity.

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