Monthly Archives: June 2012

Too much information: links for week ending 29 June 2012

EU: Final committee joins chorus recommending rejection of ACTA; full vote next week
IPWatch reports that the EU Committee on International Trade has recommended that members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reject the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) when they vote on the issue in next week’s plenary session. The committee vote represents a key victory for citizens, who have been contacting their elected representatives en masse to express their concerns that ACTA – a treaty negotiated in secret, which introduces intellectual property enforcement measures that go beyond norms established by the World Trade Organization – threatens fundamental rights like free expression, privacy, and the right to due process. La Quadrature du Net, who have spearheaded the campaign against ACTA, urges citizens to maintain pressure on their MEPs ahead of next week’s plenary vote. European Digital Rights (EDRi) publishes a translation of an interview with pro-ACTA MEP Marielle Gallo, in which she characterizes the upswell of public protest against the treaty as “a soft form of terrorism”.
IPWatch | La Quadrature du Net | EDRi

Google launches endangered languages project
Ars Technica reports on the launch of new website designed for people to find and share information about endangered languages. The project, developed by Google in partnership with the Alliance for Language Diversity, aims to track and document the over 3,000 endangered languages that may well be extinct by the turn of the century.
Report | Website

UK: Regulator moves forward with “three strikes” plan
IPWatch reports that the UK telecommunications regulator OfCom has published a draft code requiring internet service providers to notify customers suspected of using their accounts to infringe copyright, and to cooperate with copyright owners in order to allow them to focus legal action on the most persistent infringers.

UNESCO releases declaration on Open Educational Resources
Last week the UNESCO OER Congress in Paris adopted the Paris Declaration on Open Educational Resources (OER), which encourages public access to publicly funded educational materials.

UK: Report on academic publishing does not go far enough
The UK research community have offered a cautious welcome to last week’s publication of the Finch report, an independent report into scholarly publishing commissioned by the UK government, praising its broad support of public access to publicly-funded research, but expressing disappointment its recommendations did not go further. Cameron Neylon of the Science and Technology Facilities Council calls it “maddeningly vague” on key issues like the role of digital repositories, while scientist and blogger Stephen Curry highlights the various concessions the report makes to traditional academic publishers and concludes that it is the result of a committee “wily enough to read the runes and push just hard enough at a door that is opening”.
Report | Neylon | Curry

The four pillars of security in grant-making
Elizabeth Eagen shares the knowledge she has gained from her work protecting human rights organizations from physical – and digital – security threats, and argues that grant-makers need to take a central role in ensuring the security of the organizations they support.

Should machines have a constitutional right to free speech?
Tim Wu argues against classifying the computer algorithms behind such things as Google search results, Microsoft spellchecks and Amazon book recommendations as “speech”, warning that assigning such algorithms constitutional protections will limit antitrust regulator’s abilities to protect consumers from future monopolistic practices.

A head-scratching look at online privacy and the law
TechPresident uses the recent hearing in the US Congress examining issues of online privacy to explore current thinking around the issue in the United States: “In a world where people share what they had for breakfast on Twitter… one might ask whether such a thing as a ‘reasonable’ expectation of privacy still exists”.

The insidious power of “brand content”
Using examples from France, Frédéric Filloux details for Monday Note how big companies such as the bank BNP-Paribas are becoming adept at producing quality content that mimics traditional editorial content, warning of the risk this trend poses to public trust.

Syllabus: NSA “Center of Academic Excellence” in Cyber Operations
Published on the website of the US National Security Agency (NSA), this syllabus outlines the mandatory and optional program content required from American universities wishing to qualify as “Centers of Academic Excellence” (CAEs) in cyber operations, with modules including “Reverse Engineering” and “Cyber Operations Planning”. According to the NSA website, four universities currently qualify as CAEs. The goal of the NSA CAE program is “broadening the pipeline of skilled workers capable of supporting a cyber-secure nation”.
Syllabus | CAEs

Phishing email cites Digital Economy Act

And so it begins…

Image of phishing email received this afternoon

Image of phishing email received this afternoon, citing the Digital Economy Act

I received this email this afternoon, accusing me of copyright infringement and demanding £50. The Open Rights Group have published the full text of the email. Note that this happens only three days after OfCom publish their plans to notify users suspected of copyright infringement. I wonder how many people will be taken in by similar scams?

Too much information: links for week ending 22 June 2012

Ethiopia: Government bans VoIP, while deep packet inspection of all internet traffic begins
TechCrunch reports that the government of Ethiopia has criminalised the use of Voice Over IP (VoIP) services such as Skype and Google Talk. The law, passed last month, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Meanwhile, the TOR blog reports that the sole telecommunications provider in the country, the Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation, has begun to deploy deep packet inspection of all internet traffic.
Techcrunch | TOR blog

Ukraine: Interior minister wants to “adjust” access to the internet
Ukraine’s interior minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko has spoken of his desire to “adjust” access to information online, following revelations that suspects in April’s bombing in Dnipropetrovsk found out how to make the bombs from sources on the internet.

South Africa: Crunch time for DNA database
The Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative reports on developments towards a proposed new law that would allow for the expansion of South Africa’s forensic DNA database.

Europe: New report shows little access to company data has released a new report into the availability of company data across EU member states. The reports found that levels of access to basic company information were relatively poor, and, moreover, that several EU directives and initiatives “positively hinder access to company data”.

UNCTAD report sees sustainable African growth in IP flexibilities
IP Watch reports on findings published by the United Nations trade and development agency (UNCTAD) in their Economic Development in Africa report for 2012 “that the region’s sustainable future depends on using flexibilities in intellectual property rights”.

Facebook: 0.038% of users vote on data use policy change
Ars Technica reports on the poor turnout for the user vote on Facebook’s new data privacy policy earlier this month. The low turnout means that the vote will not be binding. The report observes that “Facebook made no material effort to make users aware of the vote beyond posting to its Site Governance page”.

Digital freedoms in international law
This new report authored by Ian Brown and Douwe Korff for the Global Network Initiative makes recommendations for how governments, companies, and other stakeholders can collaborate to protect rights to freedom of expression and privacy online.

You, for sale
The New York Times investigates the “quiet giant” of consumer data mining, the Acxiom Corporation: “Few consumers have ever heard of Acxiom. But analysts say it has amassed the world’s largest commercial database on consumers… Its database now contains information about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person — and it wants to know much, much more.”

An Eye without an “I”
Ross Andersen charts the rise of automated surveillance and underlines the ethical questions that surround it.

Filesharing and the Greek Crisis
This guest post on the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies blog from Dr. Petros Petridis of Panteio University in Athens details his research into the political and cultural factors at play in Greek filesharing practices, arguing that “P2P networks have played a part in the growth of an alternative public sphere”.

All songs considered
This well-written but one-sided and occasionally inflammatory piece is a quality example of the emotions and arguments that are often levelled at those who campaign against repressive copyright enforcement proposals like ACTA, SOPA and PIPA. The post has attracted a lot of attention online, and it appears that its authors are posting comments mostly by readers who support their views.

OER and education policy in Poland
This post on the Creative Commons blog gives details of Poland’s new “Digital School” education program, which includes the development of Open Education Resources as a central strategy.

The problems with algorithms: User-generated censorship and non-objective filters
Chris Peterson sets out the case that, as web platforms have deployed tools that incorporate “social” feedback into quality assurance algorithms, users have begun to strategically repurpose these tools in order to silence speech they don’t like. Meanwhile, Jonathan Stray outlines the challenges that face news organisations trying to design meaningful filters in the age of information abundance.
Peterson | Stray

Book: Open access
Peter Suber’s new book for MIT Press, “Open Access” is “a concise introduction to the basics of open access, describing what it is (and isn’t) and showing that it is easy, fast, inexpensive, legal, and beneficial”.

Audio: The art and science of working together
John Palfrey and Urs Gasser discuss the ideas in their new book “Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems” in this Radio Berkman podcast.

My piece on James Joyce and the public domain in the Atlantic Wire

Update: The piece has been picked up by Techdirt, where it is being discussed at some length.

I’ve written a short piece for Atlantic Wire celebrating the first Bloomsday since James Joyce entered the public domain. In it, I bemoan the extension of copyright terms.

This weekend I am traveling to a dual celebration, of a great Irish writer and of copyright freedom. For June 16 is Bloomsday, the day in 1904 captured through the eyes of Leopold Bloom by James Joyce in his epic novel Ulysses. Each year in Dublin fans of Joyce gather to celebrate the work in a day of public readings conducted at locations across the city that are featured in the book.

2012 is a special year for these Joyceans. The 71st since Joyce’s death, it marks the first — across the EU at any rate — that his work may be shared freely among them, without needing permission — for public readings, performances, or re-interpretations — from his estate. This is no small matter: since inheriting the estate in 1982, Joyce’s grandson Stephen Joyce has gained a reputation as the most controlling literary executor in history.

Read the rest here.

Marilyn Monroe reads Ulysses

Too much information: Links for week ending 15 June 2012

UK: Websites to gain libel immunity in exchange for revealing user identities
The BBC reports on new proposals put forward by the UK government that would grant website operators immunity from prosecution if they reveal the identities of users accused of posting defamatory comments. The proposals are part of wider reforms to the UK’s notorious libel laws. Campaigners are worried the measures threaten people’s privacy and will have a chilling effect on free expression.

India: Copyright amendments “bad but could have been much worse”
The Business Standard reports on amendments to India’s copyright law that provide for new rights for disabled people such as the visually impaired to access copyrighted works. Other provisions provide cause for concern.

Tajikistan: leading independent news website blocked
KyivPost reports that internet service providers in Tajikistan have been required by the state Telecommunications agency to block access to the country’s leading local independent news source, Asia-Plus.

UK: Internet surveillance proposals published
The text of a draft law that would mandate draconian levels of internet surveillance in the UK was published this week, the BBC reports. The proposals face significant political opposition.

ITU: Internet Governance Project release analysis of leaked documents
The Internet Governance Project blog publishes an analysis of proposed amendments to the International Telecommunication Regulations, which were leaked last week. The Regulations are an important international treaty governing global telecommunications, which activists fear will be redrafted at December’s meeting of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in order to grant governments greater control of the internet. The analysis concludes that the most worrying of the new proposals would attempt to change international economic arrangements around internet connectivity in a way that “could be damaging to the internet’s status as a relatively open platform for new services”.

New “Cyber Stewards” programme announced
The Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and Citizen Lab have announced a new research programme to support cybersecurity experts in the global South, and are inviting candidates from Central America, the Caribbean, South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, and Asia to submit project proposals “to articulate a vision of cyber security in which rights and openness are protected”.

Journal offers flat fee for “all you can publish”
Nature reports on the launch of a new open access science-publishing venture, “PeerJ”, which charges a one-off fee for a lifetime “membership” allowing them to publish peer-reviewed research papers without charge. The model was conceived by PLoS ONE’s Peter Binfield and Mendeley’s Jason Hoyt, and is being funded by O’Reilly Alpha­TechVentures.

Keep the library open after graduation
The Washington Post celebrate the success of the 25,000-strong petition to the Obama administration (promoted by the Right to Research Coalition and others) to grant public access to publicly-funded research with this editorial calling for learning to be allowed to flourish beyond the walls of the institution: “Although the bulk of published research is publicly funded, the journals that publish such crucial resources are often prohibitively expensive”. The Hill covers the escalating battle for publicly-funded research in Washington.
WaPost | The Hill

A Downward Spiral for Freedom of Expression in Ethiopia
Katrina Kaiser of the Electronic Frontier Foundation casts the spotlight on increasing online repression in Ethiopia: “While Ethiopian Internet penetration is only about 1%, there is still a vibrant, tightly-knit community of bloggers whose websites, blogs, and Facebook pages have been blocked by the government.”

Creating room on radio spectrum
This New York Times feature outlines innovative responses to spectrum scarcity, which focuses on promoting efficiency.

Obama’s data advantage
Politico carry a long feature outlining the scale of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation, and how it may give them the advantage come election time.

Book review: Tubes
Evgeny Morozov reviews “Tubes”, Andrew Blum’s new book about the physical realities of the internet, told in the style of a travelogue.

Too much information: Links for week ending 8 June 2012

US: Obama order sped up wave of cyberattacks against Iran
The New York Times reports revelations about “Operation Olympic Games”, a US-sponsored cyberattack programme initiated under George Bush and accelerated by President Obama, which targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities. The programme included the development of the Stuxnet worm. Separately this week, Google have announced that it will issue a new warning to users of its email service if it suspects state-sponsored attackers are attempting to compromise their data or computers.
“Operation Olympic Games” | Google

Thailand: Court convicts newspaper director on computer crimes charge
Human Rights Watch reports on a court’s decision in Thailand last week to convict Chiranuch Premchaiporn (the director of online newspaper Prachatai) under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act, for publishing ten comments from anonymous readers which insulted the monarchy. Although the one year prison sentence was suspended, the case still “a criminal conviction for an internet intermediary in a lese majeste case marks a new low in Thailand’s intolerance of free speech”.

South Africa: Campaigners unite against secrecy bill
The Guardian reports on a new campaign to stop South Africa’s proposed new law the Protection of State Information Bill. The campaign has support from human rights lawyers, newspaper editors and Nobel prize-winning writers. The proposed law would impose heavy penalties on whistleblowers and journalists who “possess, leak or publish state secrets”.

ITU regulation reforms leaked
A compilation of all the proposals to amend the International Telecommunication Regulations, the international treaty which activists fear will be redrafted at December’s meeting of the International Telecommunications Union in order to grant governments greater control of the internet, has been leaked to the Internet Governance Project blog. Further analysis of the documents is promised by the coalition of academics who make up the project.

European Blind Union launch campaign for accessible reading materials treaty
Ahead of treaty negotiations to establish exceptions to copyright that would facilitate greater access to reading materials for the blind at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the European Blind Union have launched a campaign encouraging people to contact EU governments and ask them about their position on the issue.

The spy who came in from the code
This feature for Columbia Journalism Review explores how journalists working with dissidents in the Middle East have been slow to react to the growing sophistication of surveillance technology, putting their sources at risk by failing to adopt appropriate information security measures.

On Avaaz
Jillian York outlines why she does not donate to the campaigns group Avaaz, in this detailed post critiquing their position in the human rights and technology community.

The war for India’s internet
Writing for Foreign Policy magazine, Rebecca MacKinnon reports on the growing protests against efforts to censor the internet in India.

What data can and cannot do
A thought-provoking piece by the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Jonathan Gray that attempts to dampen some of the hype surrounding data-driven journalism: “The thought of tethering our reportage, analyses and reflection to chunks of data-given truth is certainly consoling. But the notion that data gives us special direct access to the way things are is – for the most part – a chimera.” The winners of the Global Editors Network and the European Journalism Centre’s Data Journalism Awards, announced last week, provide a glimpse of the state of the art.
Opinion | Awards

Young scientists embrace crowd-funding
A short feature from the New York Times profiling a new crowd-funding platform for scientists and some of the research projects that are emerging from it.

Ten top tools for cause campaigners
A US-focussed list of useful software tools for campaigners.

Video: How do credentials change as education goes online?
A debate between Stanford President John Hennessy and Khan Academy founder Salman Khan about the future of education, filmed at a recent conference in the US.

Video: Witness/Storyful Human Rights Channel
Witness and Storyful have partnered to launch a new human rights video channel on YouTube. The channel features a mix of breaking news, activism videos and under-covered investigations, curated around a selection of human rights stories.

Too much information: links for week ending 1 June

Spying Trojan targets Iranian and Syrian web dissidents
Sophos’s Naked Security blog reports on the discovery, by a researcher at Canada’s Citizen Lab, of a fake version of a popular censorship evasion tool called Simurgh, used by Iranian and Syrian dissidents. The fake version includes malicious spyware that “keeps a log of your username, machine name, every window clicked and keystroke entered [and] attempts to submit these logs to some servers located in the United States, but registered to an entity that appears to be based in Saudi Arabia”.
Naked Security | Citizen Lab

China: Sina Weibo’s unveils new censorship system
The Wall Street Journal reports that the popular Chinese micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo has introduced a new system of warnings and account suspensions enforcing rules preventing the spread of “untrue” and “sensitive” information. The new regulations will also reward users who link their accounts to their official ID numbers or mobile phone numbers, and punish those who publicly expose other people’s private information.

Europe: Important votes pave way for ACTA rejection; negotiation documents leaked; Dutch reject treaty
In the latest developments surrounding the flawed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, La Quadrature du Net reports that three of the four committees of the European Parliament tasked with investigating the treaty have voted to adopt opinions in favour of a “no” vote its ratification in Europe. Earlier, European Digital Rights had published analysis of leaked negotiating documents dating back to 2008 that show that the European Commission have been making false claims while trying to encourage Parliament to vote in favour of ACTA later this Summer. Meanwhile, the Register reports that “the Netherlands Parliament has decided that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement can be interpreted in ways that are inimical to privacy and internet freedom, and that it therefore should not be signed”.
La Quadrature | EDRi | Register

Europe: Commissioner resolves to act on net neutrality
Following a report from EU regulators highlighting the scale of internet service provider interference with internet traffic in Europe, Commissioner Neelie Kroes has announced she will make recommendations to the EU on preserving net neutrality, ZDNet reports. However, digital rights group La Quadrature du Net fear the recommendations will not do enough to truly protect the open internet, and are pushing for legislative intervention.
ZDNet | La Quadrature

Nigeria: Government invests in IXPs
This report for Nigeria’s Punch newspaper details developments in government support for Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), which are “crucial for the development of the internet in any country”.

US: Google releases new copyright enforcement transparency report
The Electronic Frontier Foundation covers a new report released by Google last week detailing the number and nature of requests it has acted upon to block websites that allegedly infringe copyright from featuring in its search results.

Big picture: Flame and Cyberwar
A newly-discovered piece of malware called Flame, detected on hundreds of computers in the Middle East, has made front-page news this week. The virus, which Ars Technica describes as an “engineering marvel to behold”, has the ability to destroy data, monitor conversations through the computer’s internal microphone and even scan the contact lists of nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices like mobile phones. Some in the security community have released skeptical statements, criticising the media for equating the size of the malware with its impact or importance (Naked Security). A commentator for CNN points out that the origins of the Flame discovery – it was revealed by a security firm working for the International Telecommunications Union, a UN body widely believed to be attempting to secure itself a bigger role in internet governance – are significant. Talking Points Memo publishes the views of some experts that claims Flame represents a new level of cyberwar are ill-informed, reflecting general misunderstandings about cyberwar that were explored recently by Evgeny Morozov for Slate.
Ars Technica | Naked Security | CNN | TPM | Slate

“In Praise of ProPublica”
The Atlantic profile the twice Pulitzer prize-winning non-profit operation now in its fifth year.

Can an algorithm be wrong?
In this essay for new open access journal LIMN, Tarleton Gillespie examines the politics of algorithms used by Twitter and other online platforms: “the criteria that animate the Trends algorithm also presume a shape and character to the public they intend to measure, and in doing so, help to construct publics in that image.”

Science blogging in sub-Saharan Africa
Global Voices’ Lova Rakotomalala publishes a round-up of posts from the sub-Saharan blogosphere addressing the continuing desire for more engagement between scientists and citizens in Africa.

An open letter to Hillary Clinton on Internet Freedom
Sunil Abraham of India’s Centre for Internet and Society posts an open letter to the US Secretary of State based on a recent presentation made at the Internet at Liberty conference last week. His message: recognise the value of access to knowledge and privacy, and “protect the plural foundation of our networked society”.

How crowdsourcing is transforming the science of psychology
This short feature for the Economist details how behavioural researchers are using crowdsourcing platforms like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in their research. Some classic experiments, once performed only on undergraduates in Western universities, turn out to have startlingly different results when they are run using a global pool of participants. “The ability to run experiments quickly, cheaply and globally promises to transform psychologists’ understanding of human behaviour”.

Electric Archaeology: reflections on losing a website
A “digital humanist” dissects the wreckage of a crowd-sourcing web project “annihilated” by technical failures, in this instructive blog post: “The hardest pill to swallow is when you know it’s your own damned fault”.

“Why TED is a massive, money-soaked orgy of self-congratulatory futurism”
Alex Pareene argues that the Technology, Education, Design conference franchise (TED) is just a “good video podcast with delusions of grandeur”, in this biting op-ed for Alternet.