Monthly Archives: September 2012

Too much information: links for week ending 21 September 2012

Brazil: Internet Bill of Rights vote postponed again
Voting on the “Marco Civil”, Brazil’s proposed internet bill of rights, has been delayed for the third time since June, Global Voices reports. The vote, which was scheduled to take place this week, will now happen after October’s municipal elections.

UK: Twitter raises privacy concerns with UK communication surveillance proposals
Out–Law.com reports that Twitter has outlined its concerns with proposed new surveillance laws to the UK government, saying the draft Communications Data Bill could place it in a “legally untenable position”: “Twitter said that it may inadvertently collect information of non–UK users of its service during the process of complying with the requirement [breaking] privacy, data protection and data retention laws that apply in other jurisdictions”.

Philippines: New Cybercrime Prevention Act troubling for free expression
The Electronic Frontier Foundation raises concerns about libel provisions, inserted into a new law in the Philippines without public debate, that extend criminal penalties for libel to the online sphere: “The United Nations Human Rights Council has determined that the criminal sanctions imposed on those accused of libel are incompatible with Article 19, paragraph 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).”

Czech Republic: Police ordered to shred part of DNA database
Prague Monitor reports that “The Czech Office for Personal Data Protection (UOOU) has ordered the shredding of some data from the National Crime database of DNA Profiles whose storage does not reflect the gravity of a crime”.

35 reasons to worry about privacy in Africa
Steve Song tracks the growing trend for SIM card registration in Africa, which is already mandatory in 35 countries on the continent, raising concerns about data security and surveillance, as well as demanding evidence that the policy actually helps reduce crime.

Open Data and FOI Communities: signs of convergence
A long article on FreedomInfo.org that draws on interviews with activists and stakeholders from the Freedom of Information (FOI) and Open Data movements to detail and welcome the emergence of more cooperation between the two transparency communities.

Reflections on Google and the Innocence of Muslims video
The New York Times analyses Google’s decision to block access in Egypt and Libya to the “Innocence of Muslim” video inspiring violent protests across the Muslim world. “Google’s action raises fundamental questions about the control that internet companies have over online expression. Should the companies themselves decide what standards govern what is seen on the internet? How consistently should these policies be applied?”

ITU and threats to net neutrality: analysis
La Quadrature du Net summarize analysis and debate surrounding new proposals put forward by the telecommunications industry for discussion at this December’s controversial meeting of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU). They warn that the proposals are a danger to the principle of net neutrality and could hurt freedom of communication, undermine privacy, hamper innovation and competition and decrease incentives to invest in internet infrastructure.

Audio: Terms of Service activism
In this extra edition of CBC’s Spark podcast, Nora Young talks to blogging entrepreneur Anil Dash about the regulatory ramifications of the shift major technology companies are making away from producing gadgets towards providing services, and why we should all become “terms of service activists”.

Too much information: links for week ending 14 September 2012

Coalition unite around goal to make Open Access the norm by 2022
A coalition of scientists, foundations, libraries, universities and advocates this week issued a detailed set of recommendations with the aim of making it the norm for access to scholarly research material to be free and available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, in every field and every country, by 2022. The announcement comes ten years after the Budapest Open Access Initiative first defined Open Access, beginning a movement that has already significantly transformed the academic landscape.
Announcement | Recommendations | Coalition

UK: Government controlling exports of surveillance tools
Privacy International reports that further to questions they posed the UK government earlier in the year, they have received notification that a surveillance product originating in the UK and suspected to be used to target activists in Egypt, Turkmenistan, Bahrain, Dubai, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mongolia and Qatar is now the subject of export controls: “We welcome the government’s decision to start controlling exports of FinSpy, and it is certainly a step in the right direction. However, without swift further action to bring other unethical British companies under the export licensing regime, it’s just a sticking plaster on a bullet wound”.

Latin America and the Caribbean news roundup
Global Voices Advocacy produce news roundup “The Netizen Report” each week covering developments in human rights and technology across the globe. Last week they published the first in a series of occasional regional updates from Latin America and the Caribbean, including news of developments in legislative moves towards an internet bill of rights in Brazil, and a grassroots campaign in Chile “with the goal of empowering citizens by giving them tools to enjoy, without fear, freedom of expression online”.

Belarus: Journalists and cyber–dissidents hounded in run–up to election
Reporters Without Borders catalogues the harassment of opposition media taking place ahead of upcoming Parliamentary elections in Belarus. Targets include moderators of pro–opposition groups on the Russian social network VKontake. The authorities also succeeded in hacking two online discussion groups with a total of 52,000 members, obtaining the identities of administrators.

US: New law supporting OER passed
The Creative Commons blog reports on a new law passed in California that will allow state community colleges to integrate open education resources (OER) into their core curricula, creating and enabling access to high quality course materials and textbooks.

Apple moves one step closer to location–based camera disabling
The PetaPixel blog reports on their discovery of a patent filed by Apple on technology to allow the remote disabling of camera functionality based on a mobile phone’s location: “If this type of technology became widely adopted and baked into cameras, photography could be prevented by simply setting a “geofence” around a particular location, whether it’s a movie theatre, celebrity hangout spot [or] protest site”.

World Wide Web Foundation release first “web index”
The Worldwide Web Foundation has released its first “Web Index” report, a “multi–dimensional measure of the Web’s growth, utility and impact on people and nations”. Sweden tops the list of 61 countries surveyed. And, as First Post reports, India lags 13 places behind China. The methodology of the ranking looked at three parameters: “web readiness”, “web use” and “the impact of the web”.
Web Index | First Post report

Call for Proposals: ICT for democracy and freedom of expression
The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) has issued a call for proposals inviting civil society groups to apply for funding for initiatives where information communications technology is being used to support democracy and freedom of expression. The deadline for submissions is 18 October 2012.

Understanding digital civics
Ethan Zuckerman publishes the transcript of a lecture he delivered last month, which examines the internet’s role in changing modes of civic engagement. In the course of the lecture he interrogates four “born digital” movements: Tea Party, Occupy, Anonymous and WikiLeaks.

Lies, damned lies, and open data
In this feature for Slate, David Eaves describes how the battleground for government transparency will shift from open government data towards the role of evidence in public policy–making.

Report: Threats to freedom of expression online in Vietnam
The Open Net Initiative has published a new report into online censorship in Vietnam. It outlines new legal restrictions on speech being proposed in the country, and reports on the results of recent in–country testing to document and analyze state–level filtering.

Too much information: links for week ending 7 September 2012

India: Government to hold talks with stakeholders on Internet censorship
Following its recent response to growing ethnic unrest, which included the blocking of websites and network–level restrictions on mass SMS, the Indian government “has agreed to initiate dialogue on internet censorship with mega internet companies, social media giants such as Google and Facebook, members of civil society, technical community, media, ISPs and legal experts”, the Hindu reports. The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) provides detailed analysis of the blocks that took place, their legality, and the increasing national debate surrounding the government’s decision to act as it did.
The Hindu | CIS

Czech Republic: Extortionists suspected of using covert mobile surveillance tech
Slate reports on revelations from a senior police chief in the Czech Republic that unauthorized use of “IMSI catchers”—sophisticated computer hardware that collects information about mobile phones and their users and can track and intercept phones and calls—has been detected “across the country”. The police suspect the hardware may be being used for corporate espionage or criminal extortion. “The use of the technology by police — let alone criminals — is controversial”.

Apple rejects app that tracks US drone strikes
Wired reports on the Apple App Store’s decision to reject an app that can notify users each time a US drone strike occurs. The app, which draws its content from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ongoing project to map America’s increasing use of drones for targeted assassinations, was rejected on the basis that its content is “objectionable and crude”. As Alex Madrigal writes in the Atlantic, the move highlights how Apple’s control of the smartphone market threatens the free flow of information.
Wired | Atlantic

Donations rise for WikiLeaks to post Trans–Pacific Partnership text
IP Watch reports that nearly $25,000 has been collected to hand over to WikiLeaks if it leaks the text of the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a controversial and secretive multilateral treaty currently under negotiation that is thought to contain provisions that threaten privacy and free speech online and reduce access to medicines in the developing world.

Kenya: Blogger in court over airline safety post
Kenya’s Daily Nations reports on the case of blogger and journalist Dennis Itumbi, who has been charged with intercepting data without consent and publishing depraving electronic material, after he revealed emails between executives at Jetlink airlines that raised serious safety concerns.

You, robot?
The Economist reports on the RoboLaw project, a research project launched earlier this year to consider the legal and ethical issues raised by developments in robotics: “Is a prosthetic legally part of your body? When is it appropriate to amputate a limb and replace it with a robotic one? What are the legal rights of a person with ‘locked in’ syndrome who communicates via a brain–computer interface? Do brain implants and body-enhancement devices require changes to the definition of disability?”

New from CDT: ITU Resource Centre
Ahead of a controversial meeting of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) this December, where new proposals that have an impact on who governs the internet are scheduled to be discussed, the Campaign for Democracy and Technology (CDT) have launched its ITU resource center, aimed at providing documents, analysis and calls to action for advocates and activists.

Report: An overview of the patent trolls debate
The US Congressional Research Center have produced a new study on so–called “patent trolls”, companies whose business model “focuses not on developing or commercializing patented inventions but on buying and asserting patents” The report details the various factors that have led to their ascendance and the cost they pose to innovation.

A knight in digital armor
The Economist profiles security researcher Chris Soghoian: “With a series of… exploits that have exposed security flaws and privacy violations, he has demonstrated his ability to hack the media with just as much facility as he manipulates computers”.

I am Barack Obama, Ask Me Anything
In the run–up to the US election, President Barack Obama has ventured into the influential online community Reddit, participating in what is known there as an “AMA” (“Ask Me Anything”), where community members submit and vote on questions which are then answered (or ignored) by a prominent or interesting figure. The resulting discussion is as interesting for the questions the President ignored as for the answers he did give.