Monthly Archives: October 2012

Too much information: Links for week ending 26 October

Germany: Twitter blocks access to neo–Nazi group
The New York Times reports that Twitter have blocked access for their German users to the account of a neo–Nazi group banned by Germany’s government: “The move was the first time that Twitter acted on a policy known as ‘country–withheld content,’ announced in January.”

India: Draft law to establish DNA database
The Hindu reports on India’s Human DNA Profiling Bill, a proposed law to store the DNA profiles of people accused of serious crimes, and the civil liberties concerns it is arousing.

Petition calls for Pan–African Intellectual Property Organization rethink
A petition to be delivered at the 5th African Union Ministerial Conference on Science & Technology next month is seeking to delay the formation of a new Pan–African Intellectual Property Organization (PAIPO) in order to rethink the body’s founding principles. Signatories to the petition argue that PAIPO’s draft statute, due to be adopted at the conference, “reflects a narrow vision of intellectual property that runs contrary to the aspirations of Africans to devise more balanced intellectual property regimes that effectively promote innovation while also being supportive of public policy objectives in areas such as public health and access to knowledge.” The petition is open to new signatories until November 10.

Netherlands: Government proposes new powers to break into foreign computers
Bits of Freedom highlight draft proposals from the Dutch Ministry of Justice to allow police to seek court orders to remotely search for and destroy data and install spyware on computers, even if the computers are located outside the Netherlands. The group are calling for international opposition to the proposals.

Canada: Provincial government supports open educational resources
–Creative Commons reports that “the government of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, has announced its support for the creation of open textbooks for the 40 most popular first– and second–year courses in the province’s public post–secondary system.”

Philippines: Legislative crowdsourcing law proposed
TechPresident reports that Filipino Senator Teofisto D. Guingona III, a vocal critic of the country’s recently suspended Cybercrime Law, has put forward a new law, the “Crowdsourcing Act of 2012”, that calls for several measures to enable participative law–making, including allowing the public to comment online on the text of proposed laws: “When people are allowed to participate, we have better laws.”

Megaupload reveal details of new cloud storage service
The Wired Threat Level blog reports details of a new service to be offered by two of the founders of Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortmann, which they describe as “a unique tool that will solve the liability problems faced by cloud storage services.” Dotcom and Ortmann, along with two other Megaupload executives, are facing extradition to the US on criminal copyright infringement charges.

International Open Access Week: Setting the default to open
This year’s International Open Access (OA) Week is themed “Setting the Default to Open” and began with an event and webcast hosted by SPARC and the World Bank. Meanwhile, OA journal BioMed Central (BMC), an OA Week sponsor, published research that attempts to quantify the rapid rise of OA approaches to scholarly publishing from 2000–2011. The report, according to the Guardian, shows that “academic publishing is changing faster than anyone has realized.” The Irish government chose this week to launch a national policy on Open Access, agreed by all Irish research funding councils and research institutes.
SPARC/World Bank webcast | BMC Research | Guardian Report | Irish mandate | Open Access Week

Report: Privacy in the developing world
Privacy International have launched a series of reports on the state of privacy protections across countries in the developing world. Their series of country reports includes Thailand, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Communities at risk of losing their land speak
ActionAid blog their recent online action to give those dispossessed of land in Africa a voice on World Food Day. The project used Frontline SMS to connect farmers from five countries to the Twittersphere, kickstarting a global conversation they intend to use to “lobby governments to improve, reform and implement better land laws.”

Getting it right:
Writing for TechPresident’s WeGov blog, David Eaves celebrates the design, technology and data decisions that have made the UK’s new e–government portal,, comparable to Facebook and Google in its simplicity and ease of use.

Fablabs and the US military
A short report in the New Scientist on the use by the US military of mobile hackerspace–like labs equipped with 3D printers, plasma cutters and jigsaws. The labs allow US military units deployed in remote regions to meet their own equipment needs better than centralized equipment distribution, and have even led to innovations made by individual units being shared back up the chain.

Interview: Justin Isaf on communities at scale
The Poynter Institute blog interviews Huffington Post Community Director Justin Isaf about the manpower and technology behind keeping meaningful conversation going on a website that has attracted more than 70 million comments this year alone.

Too much information: Links for week ending 19 October

US: Supreme Court terminates warrantless wiretapping case
Wired reports that the United States Supreme Court have ended the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)’s bid to hold telecoms provider AT&T to account for allegedly cooperating with the United States government in the illegal surveillance of US citizens after 9/11, upholding a lower court decision that the company enjoyed “retroactive immunity” from prosecution thanks to a law passed by Congress two years after the EFF first filed suit. The EFF’s fight against warrantless wiretapping will continue in the form of a class action lawsuit it is helping to bring against the US National Security Agency (NSA) on behalf of AT&T customers.
Wired | Jewel vs. NSA

Malawi: E—Bill puts online freedom of expression in cross—hairs
Malawi’s Nyasa Times reports on a proposed law to regulate and control online communications in the country that media commentators are arguing will have a negative impact on freedom of expression.

Canada—EU Trade Agreement contains same “outrageous” criminal sanctions as ACTA
La Quadrature du Net expresses outrage at the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) currently being negotiated between Canada and the European Union. The treaty contains provisions on copyright infringement including criminal sanctions, private enforcement by internet service providers and punitive damages, which have been directly lifted from another controversial treaty — the Anti—Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) — that was ultimately rejected by the European Parliament earlier this year in response to widespread public opposition.

Portugal: Court declares filesharing legal
TechWeek Europe reports that prosecutors in Portugal have ruled that sharing copyrighted files for personal use is legal: “Prosecutors added that the right to culture, education and freedom of expression on the internet should not be restricted in cases where copyright infringements are clearly non—commercial.”

Project on surveillance in Russia launched
Privacy International and Agentura.Ru, the Russian secret services watchdog, have announced a joint project “to undertake research and investigation into surveillance practices in Russia, including the trade in and use of surveillance technologies.”

Debate: Should industry face more cybersecurity mandates?
 “Is the threat of cyber attacks on crucial industries as serious as the government has claimed?”: Panellists drawn from industry, government and civil society — including noted security expert Bruce Schneier — discuss appropriate responses to rising fears about cybersecurity in this US—focussed New York Times “Room for Debate” special.

The Google Civic Information API
On the eve of the US elections, Google has launched a freely available and reusable data resource (otherwise know as an API) to help anyone developing websites and services that rely on civic information like candidate data and polling places. Google hope to eventually extend the service to other countries.

Report: Hacking Team and the Targeting of Dissent
This Citizen Lab report examines Italian company Hacking Team’s role in supplying backdoor surveillance products that were “used to compromise a high—profile dissident residing in the United Arab Emirates.”

A Data Journalist’s Life: Interview with Sarah Cohen
The Data—Driven Journalism blog publishes an interview with Pulitzer Prize—winning data journalist Sarah Cohen: “Pay attention to your gut feelings and critically question the data. The big risk is that, when you go back to the government with something they don’t know, they have to believe you.”

Interview: Bill Maris, Google Ventures
The Wall Street Journal interviews Bill Maris, head of Silicon Valley venture capitalists Google Ventures, about the state of start—up funding and his next big investments.

Too much information: Links for week ending 12 October

WIPO assembly moves to fast–track copyright exceptions for visually impaired
IPWatch reports that the WIPO General Assembly has approved the scheduling of high–level negotiations in 2013 for a binding treaty that would introduce vital provisions in international copyright law to secure broad access to adapted reading materials for the visually impaired.

Philippines: High Court suspends contentious internet law
The New York Times reports that the High Court in the Philippines has suspended a controversial new law, the Cybercrime Prevention Act, for 120 days. The move follows the submission to the court of fifteen petitions opposing the law, together with mass online protests, and statements from international NGOs including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the law contained last–minute provisions that would harm online speech.
Report | EFF statement | HRW statement

Brazil: Judge orders Google executive to be taken into custody
The Huffington Post reports that the President of Google Brazil, Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, was arrested and held for two days following the discovery on YouTube of videos that ran counter to the country’s strict pre–election media rules.

US: Publishers’ Association reach deal with Google on book digitization
The New York Times reports on the announcement from Google and the American Association of Publishers that they had reached a deal on book digitization “to allow publishers to choose whether Google digitizes their books and journals”. The commercial deal follows seven years of litigation, which other stakeholders in the case – most notably libraries—had initially hoped would set a new precedent for fair use rights.

Citizen Science: Launch of
The Open Knowledge Foundation blog reports on the launch of, an online project to monitor deforestation in the Amazon basin “based on the convergence of volunteer computing/thinking with free (or donated) catalogues of high–resolution Earth imagery”. The project is an international partnership between Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the Federal University of Sao Paulo, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre (CCC) and the Open Society Foundations.
Report | Project

Knight Foundation announces large investment in OpenStreetMap
The Knight Foundation has announced a $575,000 investment in the open source mapping platform OpenStreetMap. Development Seed and MapBox, the recipients of the grant, say their goals are to “make it easier to add data to OpenStreetMap, make more social to support the community as it continues its rapid growth, and make it easier for people to get data out of OpenStreetMap to make their own maps”.

Open government: Bids sought for “Making All Voices Count” tender
The Omidyar Network, together with a consortium of funders including development agencies from the UK and US, has announced a new $30–35m fund for “innovation, scaling–up and research in the use of technology to support open government and citizen engagement”. The program, which runs until 2016, is inviting bids.

The Trans–Pacific Partnership and the threat to hard–won consumer rights
Jeremy Malcolm of Consumers International provides a helpful overview of the various threats to consumer rights represented by the secretive Trans–Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP): “rather than being a race to the top, sometimes globalization can be a race to the bottom, in which national laws to protect the public interest are sacrificed on the altar of free trade”.

Unauthorized filesharing: is it wrong?
Joe Karaganis introduces new research in social attitudes towards unauthorized filesharing, expertly dissecting the policy debate around copyright enforcement along the way.

Three reasons why Ushahidi should not help users achieve social impact
Susannah Vila provides a useful counterpoint in the recent debate surrounding crowdsourced geo–platform Ushahidi: “Developing usable technology is a big enough job”.

Spotted: World’s first “real” commercial open data curation project!
Francis Irving uses a case emerging in the field of Open Access to Law to celebrate the progress of the open data movement, drawing interesting parallels between open data and the history of open source software.

Should the US Defense Department be funding hackerspaces?
This report for the New York Times examines the controversies brewing in the hacker community over the United States Defense Department’s funding program for hackerspaces in schools.

Too much information: Links for week ending 5 October 2012

Russia: The Kostin Report and the Trojan Horse of American ICT
Global Voices gathers reactions from around the Russian blogosphere to a draft report produced by an organization with ties to the Medvedev government on “foreign penetration of the Russian internet and the potential manipulation of the country’s future elections”.

Macedonia: New law on insult and defamation risks danger of censorship
The Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society reports on a draft law currently being considered by the Macedonian Parliament which contains insult and defamation provisions they say could encourage third party service providers to censor online content overzealously.

Japan: Penalties for illegal downloads introduced
The BBC reports that Japan has introduced criminal sanctions, including 2–year prison sentences or fines of up to 2 million yen ($25,700), for internet users who download copyright–infringing files: “In theory the new download punishments can be enforced if a user is found to have copied a single pirated file”.

US: Schools should move from print to digital content by 2017, says report
US education technology group the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) has issued a report arguing that schools should switch to digital educational materials by 2017. The report includes “a blueprint for states and districts looking to switch over to digital content”.

Global Integrity launch Innovation Fund “Testing 123”
Global Integrity are calling for “brand–new, half–crazy, never tried before ways of addressing the challenges of transparency and accountability” to be submitted by November 16, 2012 for a chance to win $10,000 to develop and test the ideas. Up to fifteen prizes are up for grabs.

Smartphone malware in the lab and in the wild
Two reports from Fast Company magazine on vulnerabilities in smartphone—and particularly Android—software. The first details an experimental smartphone Trojan called PlaceRaider, developed by security researchers to demonstrate how an Android phone’s camera, accelerometer, and gyroscope functionalities could be hijacked to remotely construct “3–D models of users’ apartments for burglars and assassins”. The second details a new report from McAfee that found nearly 4,500 pieces of mobile malware in the second quarter of 2012: “The vast majority of the new malware discoveries were for Android phones… Barely any iPhone or iPad malware was discovered”.
In the lab | In the wild

New Surveillance Frontier: Your license plates
This Wall Street Journal feature reports on an upsurge in routine, automated tracking of vehicle license plates, creating huge datasets on the physical movements of entire populations. “The rise of license–plate tracking is a case study in how storing and studying people’s everyday activities, even the seemingly mundane, has become the default rather than the exception. Cellphone–location data, online searches, credit–card purchases, social–network comments and more are gathered, mixed–and–matched, and stored in vast databases.”

Open Aid Data: 106,780 German development aid projects at a glance
Open Knowledge Foundation Germany (OKF–DE) have launched a new open data portal providing graphic representation and in depth analysis of the activities of the German state development cooperation over the last ten years.

History, as recorded on Twitter, is vanishing from the web
Technology Review reports on research highlighting how the loss of Tweets posted during key historical events such as the Egyptian uprising might affect our understanding of those events in the future.

Ireland: Closing the door to Open Government?
The Open Government Partnership blog accuses Ireland of closing the door on open government initiatives after it withdrew its support for open standards in the way it publishes the Irish National Parliament records: “when presented with the Open Government Partnership argument, [the] response was to challenge the cost of OGP rather than seek out the most beneficial advantage”.

Audio: Robotics
Podcast from the BBC’s Outrider’s series that examines issues in robotics including funding, ethics, language and humanity.

Too much information: Links for week ending 28 September 2012

EU: Leak reveals plans for large–scale communications surveillance
European Digital rights have published a document containing a worrying set of draft recommendations emerging from the European Commission’s CleanIT project discussions, originally established “to fight terrorism through voluntary self–regulatory measures that defend the rule of law”. The document details proposals that, far from defending the rule of law, include mass internet filtering and surveillance regimes, as well as dramatic, detrimental changes to legislation around liability and privacy.

Argentina: Two proposed laws spell good news for access to knowledge
Intellectual Property Watch reports on two laws being proposed in Argentina—one to extend exceptions and limitations to copyright law for the benefit of libraries, archives and museums, and one to mandate public access to publicly–funded scientific research.

UK: Public prosecutor to issue guidance following Twitter cases
Following several high–profile cases of criminal charges being brought against users of Twitter in the UK, the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions has issued a statement outlining his intentions to publish guidelines for such cases in the future, inviting contributions to the guidelines from stakeholders including civil society groups.

New research uncovers dramatic disclosures smartphones make about their users
The Register reports on new security research showing how easy it is to obtain a smartphone users’ home address simply by “passively listening” to the device’s attempts to join a wireless network: “Smartphones tend to keep a record of Wi–Fi base stations their users have previously connected to [which] makes it too easy for the researchers to link home addresses and other information to individually identifiable devices”.

Knight News Data Challenge winners announced
The Knight Foundation has announced the winners of its “Knight News Challenge: Data” competition. The six winners, who will share a funding pot of $2.22m consist of “ventures that make it easier to access and use information on local communities, air quality, elections, demographics and more”.

Traditional scholarly publishing: How do you recognize a catastrophe?
Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer at Duke University, has published an investor report produced by Bernstein Research analyzing “catastrophic” threats to Reed Elsevier from the rise of Open Access publishing. Smith argues that the key to survival for traditional publishers will be in reducing their costs.

Journalistic deficit disorder
Mainstream media often report dramatic scientific findings based on a single study, but systematically fail to note later studies which contradict or complicate the initial finding.  This piece in the Economist argues that popular reporting on science suffers from a widespread failure to appreciate a core value of scientific culture, namely that “the refutation of plausible hypotheses is the way that science progresses”.

The Open Government Partnership’s make or break year
This post on the Global Integrity blog details the challenges facing the Open Government Partnership in the next year, including its ability to fill a gap in its leadership, and to live up to its good governance ambitions.

Ushahidi in (sobering) numbers
The Democracy Spot blog summarizes an external evaluation of the crowd–sourced mapping platform Ushahidi conducted by Internews.

Infographic: Open Educational Resources
Created by the 20 Million Minds Foundation, this infographic provides details on and explanations for recent legislative developments in California that have paved the way for mass adoption of Open Educational Resources in colleges across the state.