Too much information: Links for week ending 27 April

“Internet heavyweights get behind free expression and privacy online”
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) has released its 2012 annual report, which includes “the world’s first independent assessment of technology companies’ policies and procedures for responding to government requests affecting free speech and privacy”. The independent assessment focusses on how Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are implementing the commitment to uphold free expression and privacy they made when they joined this multi-stakeholder initiative as founding members. The Center for Democracy and Technology analyse the report’s findings, while the GNI’s Communications Director David Sullivan writes about the process for the blog.
Report | CDT | Sullivan

US: Obama issues executive order curbing surveillance exports
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports on an executive order issued by President Obama this week “targeting people and companies facilitating human-rights abuses with technology”. The order provides for economic and other sanctions against a list of individuals and entities within Iran and Syria who are engaged in or linked to surveillance activities involving technology. The EFF welcomes the move, but indicates further steps that could be taken to protect and promote online freedoms in Iran, Syria and beyond.

Russia: Pro-Putin activists boost hacking attacks investigates the increasing use of hacker networks to suppress online dissent in Russia, noting the widespread use of cyberattacks to silence critics in the recent parliamentary elections.

Thailand: Online newspaper director faces lese majeste conviction
Human Rights Watch reports on the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn (known as “Jiew”), the director of online newspaper Prachatai who faces a prison sentence of up to twenty years under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act for publishing ten comments allegedly insulting the monarchy from anonymous readers, comments which Prachatai subsequently removed. A verdict on the case is expected next Monday.

US: Harvard University says it can’t afford journal publishers’ prices
The Guardian reports on a memo sent by Harvard Library to its 2,100 teaching and research staff encouraging them to publish in open access journals. The memo was sent in response to price increases imposed by large journal publishers, which bill the library around $3.5m a year.

Consumers International launch IP Watchlist 2012: Israel top, Jordan bottom
Consumers International (CI) released their annual “IP Watchlist” this week. Although rankings of the thirty countries surveyed for the way their IP (intellectual property) laws treat consumers have not changed dramatically since 2012, CI note that “IP is now a political issue like never before”, detailing initiatives that could see substantial, positive changes in the coming years. launches Do It Yourself campaign tool
Online campaign group this week launched a website which helps members of their 14m-strong community launch their own petition-based campaigns, on any issue they choose. The site is currently in beta, experimental, mode.

Spotlight: Open Government Partnership
Last week saw the first major meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) since the international initiative to spread transparency and accountability to governments across the globe was launched last year. The event sparked some lively online debate about the future of open government: David Eaves reflects on the tensions between different types of civil society groups at the meeting; Andrew di Maio points to evidence from the UK that Open Government is not terribly cost efficient; Rob Cronin warns that the hardest work – that of contextualising data to make it relevant to local populations – still lies ahead; and David Sasaki points to just how hard that work is likely to be in the context of fiscal data. Meanwhile, the Journal of Community Informatics have published a special issue on Open Government Data, OpenCorporates have launched a report timed with the conference ranking OGP countries for their performance on corporate transparency, and TechPresident have launched a new initiative called “WeGov”, supported by the Omidyar Network, that will track the successes and failures of Open Government on the ground.
Eaves | di Maio | Cronin | Sasaki | Community Informatics | WeGov | OpenCorporates

“A robot stole my Pulitzer”
Evgeny Morozov muses on the increasing sophistication of automated writing technologies, and makes a plea on behalf of the right to read anonymously in this short feature for

“You are Big Brother (but that isn’t so bad)”
A view of technological and regulatory developments in online behavioural tracking, as seen by Advertising Age.

Updated Africa undersea cable map
Steve Song has updated his Africa undersea cable map to reflect the “gob-stopping” announcement of an initiative to connect the BRICS countries: “I try not to be shocked any more at new announcements of undersea cable projects that are destined for African shores. But it’s no good.”
Map | BRICS cable

Open Net Initiative: Year in review
The Open Net Initiative has published a report listing key events in global online censorship and surveillance in 2011.

Going digital: Lessons from the New York Times
The Monday Note publishes a short analysis by Frédéric Filloux of the latest quarterly figures published by the New York Times, and what lessons they might have for the newspaper business.

Exhibition/video/visualisation – What the internet knows about you
The Ars Electronica Centre in Linz, Austria has launched a new exhibition called “Out of Control: What the internet knows about you”, exploring networked digital technology and the effect it has on our lives. The exhibition, which will run to the end of this year, includes a “Security/Privacy Check”, providing custom advice on ways to improve your online security, as well as Manu Luksch’s acclaimed film “faceless”, shot exclusively on CCTV cameras. Some of the exhibits can also be viewed online.
Exhibition | Video – “Did you know?” | Visualisation – “Twistori”

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