UK: Government surveillance plans leaked
Government plans to monitor every email, text message, and phone call flowing through the UK were leaked to newspapers last weekend, prompting widespread criticism. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Open Rights Group (ORG) both provide details and context of the proposals. The measures described go far beyond Europe’s controversial Data Retention Directive, which was itself passed partly in response to UK pressure. Government efforts to play down the proposals in reaction to the outcry have been weak. The Financial Times carried an op-ed by Evgeny Morozov strongly opposing the plans: “Instead of granting intelligence services more power, we need to worry about the coming convergence of the data-gathering demands of the state and the business imperatives of internet companies”.
EFF | ORG | Government response | Morozov Op-Ed
US: Legislators approve Global Online Freedom Act
TechPresident reports on the progress of a proposed law that would promote the notion of global “internet freedom” by blocking the export of US online technologies to repressive regimes.
Australia: Huawei blocked from bidding on national broadband plan
Ars Technica reports that the Australian government has moved to block Chinese-owned Huawei from bidding to deliver its multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network project, citing cyber-security concerns.
Swaziland: Lese majeste law planned
Index on Censorship reports on a proposed law in Swaziland that would make it illegal to criticise the King Mswati III on social media networks: “Internet penetration is low in Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, but social networks have been used to organise public demonstrations, including a student protest last Monday against funding cuts”.
Polish government assigns $14m to pilot open textbooks program
Creative Commons reports on an announcement that as part of a wider program to raise ICT competencies in Polish schools, $14m has been assigned to develop digital textbooks for primary school pupils, with all material to be released under a Creative Commons licence. Information Program grantees Jaroslaw Lipszyc of the Modern Poland Foundation and Alek Tarkowski of Centrum Cyfrowe helped to draft the Digital School program. The Modern Poland Foundation dubbed the announcement: “a big win for the Open Educational Resources movement, ending several years of hard work”.
Creative Commons | Modern Poland Foundation
Open Knowledge Foundation announces Panton Fellows
The Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) announced their first “Panton Fellows” last week – innovative graduate students and career scientists who will receive support in spreading their passion for open science and open data. Sophie Kershaw is based in the Computational Biology group at the University of Oxford’s Department of Computer Science, and Ross Mounce is a PhD student at the University of Bath studying the impact of fossils in phylogenetics.
Research special: The networked public sphere
Two recent papers and one research presentation add to the growing body of scholarship on the so-called networked public sphere. “The Revolutions Were Tweeted” by Gilad Lotan and others examines the “symbiotic relationship between media outlets and individuals” during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings of 2011 using data gleaned from Twitter. Max Hanska-Ahy and Roxanna Shapour’s “Who’s Reporting the protests” shows how “journalistic literacy” increased among individual citizens reporting on the protests. And Yochai Benkler presents initial findings from research that has been conducted for the past two years at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society on the shape of the public sphere in the digital age.
Lotan et al | Hanska-Ahy/Shapour | Benkler
Profile: Helen Nissenbaum
The Atlantic profile New York University philosopher Helen Nissenbaum and show how her work on contextual privacy is leading to a new approach to the issue by US policymakers.
Feature: After GPS-tracking, warrantless phone tracking
In the context of a recent privacy-friendly court ruling against the use of warrantless GPS tracking, the Wired Threat Level blog and the New York Times both reported in depth last week on the extent that US police forces and other law enforcement agencies are using mobile phone tracking in their investigations.
New York Times | Wired
Book Review: “Our Biometric Future”
Evgeny Morozov reviews Kelly Gates’ history of the development of facial recognition technology, charting the economic and political forces that have shaped this still relatively unproven technology.
This project, a collaboration involving Sony, the Forum for the Future, the Economist’s Intelligence Unit and Wired magazine, explores the future social and political implications of technology and climate change by presenting video portraits of the world we may be confronted with in 2025.