Category Archives: Link Digest

Too much information: links for week ending 7 June

U.S.: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily
The Guardian reports on a court order it has obtained which requires leading U.S. mobile operator Verizon to hand over call records and location data of millions of U.S. citizens to the U.S. National Security Agency: “The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.” According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose public suspicions about the conduct of routine dragnet communications surveillance are confirmed by this development, “There is no indication that this order to Verizon was unique or novel. It is very likely that business records orders like this exist for every major American telecommunication company, meaning that, if you make calls in the United States, the NSA has those records. And this has been going on for at least 7 years, and probably longer.”
Guardian | EFF

UN free speech expert calls for scrutiny of government wiretapping
In a separate but related development, the Washington Post details a new report produced by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Free Expression Frank La Rue, which calls for closer scrutiny of government wiretapping efforts around the world. The report makes several suggestions for how states can ensure use of communications surveillance was proportionate and respected due process.

Iran: Authorities accused of censorship and hacking to sway presidential poll
This report for the Guardian details the website– and SMS–blocking, denial–of–service and malware attacks that are skewing the information landscape in the run–up to Iran’s presidential elections, showing how the color of the censorship reflects the country’s internal divisions.

U.S.: Supreme Court rules against genetic privacy
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) report on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision this week to allow “warrantless DNA searches”—the collecting and logging of DNA samples of individuals arrested, but not yet convicted of crimes. In a statement, the Council for Responsible Genetics (CRG) said the decision “fails to protect the privacy of Americans’ DNA and is a serious blow to human rights in the United States.” Writing for Bloomberg, Noah Feldman argues the decision—on which the Supreme Court judges were split 5–4—brings the country one step closer to the stratified and authoritarian society portrayed in the sci–fi film Gattaca.
EPIC | CRG | Feldman

Taiwan: Authorities back away from web blocking plans following netizen protests
Focus Taiwan reports that “Taiwan’s authorities in charge of intellectual property protection have decided to give up a plan to block overseas internet services that violate copyright laws amid opposition to the plan from free–speech advocates.” Groups opposed to the plans included Wikimedia Taiwan, who planned to stage a web black–out day. Public comparisons of the proposed blocking to China’s Great Firewall were thought to have swayed the opinion of the authorities.

U.S.: Publishers propose public–private partnership to support “access” to research
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a “distributed”, “clearing house”–style public–private research access partnership that “seems like very much of a restatement of the status quo” and is being put forward by the American publishing industry in response to the recent Obama administration executive order that all publicly–funded research should be publicly available. As Open Access advocate Heather Joseph of SPARC states in the article, the initiative, which has yet to be outlined in detail: “doesn’t offer a solution for a stable, sustainable long–term archive, or do much of anything to facilitate reuse of the full corpus of publicly–funded research.”

Singapore: Popular websites forced to operate under license from government
The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that Singapore’s press oversight agency now require websites with more than 50,000 readers publishing news about Singapore to register for a license, paying a reported 40,000 USD registration fee.

WIPO urged to “Stand with the Blind” are hosting a petition urging delegates to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s diplomatic conference later this month to defy last–minute copyright industry lobbying and support a Treaty for the Visually Impaired that “make[s] it easy to share books in formats designed for blind and visually impaired readers with minimal barriers.” The U.S. petitions site We The People is hosting a similar petition asking the U.S. President “to compel U.S. negotiators to fight for a strong Treaty that gives blind people equal access to books and doesn’t burden those who want to provide them.”
Avaaz | We The People

Obama’s covert trade deal
In this Op–Ed for the New York Times Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy demand that the U.S. administration open up the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) process, secretive trade negotiations they warn “would set new rules for everything from food safety and financial markets to medicine prices and internet freedom.” Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson asks what the TPP (and other “free trade” agreements such as TAFTA) do for ordinary American citizens, and argues against the extension of “fast track” provisions that would prevent U.S. legislators from scrutinizing such treaties on behalf of U.S. citizens’ interests. Aside from the U.S., the TPP’s negotiating parties include Chile and Mexico: Chile’s ONG Derechos Digitales have launched a new platform this week for tracking the progress and implications of the TPP from a Latin American perspective.
NYTimes | WaPo | TPP Abierto

WeChat: Learning from the Chinese internet
Ethan Zuckerman highlights a new paper examining clusters of audiences online that argues that culture is a more powerful force in internet balkanization than government regulation. He goes on to detail his encounter with a Chinese social networking platform outside of his “cultural cluster.”

Data protection in the EU: the certainty of uncertainty
Cory Doctorow calls on the best computer science research to debunk the idea that data can ever be truly “anonymized.” The article takes as its starting point the “feeding frenzy of lobbying” happening in the EU over new data protection legislation—the LobbyPlag tool tracks the influence this lobbying is having on the actions of individual European Parliament members in respect of the legislation.
Doctorow | LobbyPlag

Not impossible: The story of Daniel and his six completed Coursera courses
The father of a severely autistic child tells the story of the role massive open online courses (MOOCs) have played in educating his son in this post on the Coursera blog. Family friend Wendy M Grossman placed Daniel’s story in a wider context in one of her regular net.wars columns last year.
Coursera | Grossman

Data Expedition: Why garment retailers need to do more in Bangladesh
The Open Knowledge Foundation and School of Data staged their first “Data Expedition” at the end of last month, an online data wrangling weekend to explore issues in the garment industry. In this blog post Data Journalist Anders Pederson reports on the process, and reveals some of the findings: “The team used a crowdsourced database on garment factories to expose questionable standards and highlight the need for open supplier lists from all retailers.”

Interview: Alek Tarkowski
Richard Poynder talks to Alek Tarkowski, director of Centrum Cyfrowe Projekt: Polska and project lead of Creative Commons Poland about Poland’s Open Public Resources Act.

Audio: Ron Deibert on “Black Code”
Nora Young talks to Ron Deibert about his new book “Black Code”, which draws on his experience as director of Canada’s Citizen Lab, to explore issues in the control and exploitation of cyberspace, including industrial espionage and politically–deployed malware

Too much information: links for week ending 31 May

Google investing in connectivity in emerging markets
The Wall Street Journal quotes unnamed sources who reveal Google’s long–term strategy to invest in wireless networks in emerging markets in sub–Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia: “The drive to be a vertical player starts at the top of Google. Chief Executive Larry Page for years has spearheaded secret research on alternative methods to provide more people with internet access, and has become more active in thinking about providing wireless internet access to consumers, said people familiar with the matter.”

UK: Politicians rush to capitalize on atrocity to revive surveillance bill
The LINX Public Affairs blog names and shames the UK politicians who took to the media to call for the revival of a proposed law to monitor the communications of British citizens just hours after the violent murder of a British soldier by two Muslim men took place in London last week. As the Independent reports, the UK intelligence agency MI5 has intimated that the powers granted by the Communications Data Bill, which was shelved just a few weeks ago due to human rights concerns, would not have helped them prevent the attack.
LINX | Independent

South Africa: Forensic DNA database receives criticism
The Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative has submitted comments to the South African Parliament criticizing a proposed law that would sanction the creation of a forensic DNA database in the country: “Considering the immense weight of information that DNA carries, allowing law enforcement to seize demonstrably innocent persons DNA, DNA from individuals who have yet [to be] proven guilty of any crime, and DNA from persons convicted of… minor crimes for which DNA evidence is not even relevant is to give law enforcement uncontrolled and unprecedented access to the private lives of the citizens of South Africa.”

Europe: Parliament calls for removal of conditions from Treaty for the Visually Impaired
IP Watch reports that the European Parliament has voted to urge the European Commission to cease negotiating for concessions for rights–holder groups in the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Treaty for the Visually Impaired: “MEPs also pushed for access to the negotiating mandate, which has been made a classified document. They have asked for access to the document for over a month now.”

Facebook joins Global Network Initiative
TechPresident reports on Facebook’s announcement that it will become a full member of the Global Network Initiative (GNI)—a self–regulatory group set up “to address the challenges technology companies face when dealing with governments about issues like freedom of expression and data privacy”, whose corporate members include Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

US: Silicon Valley uses growing clout to kill a digital privacy bill
The Los Angeles Times reports on how lobbying by California’s tech firms, including Facebook, has led to the shelving of a proposed law that would have given citizens access to the data being collected on them online.

Nobody puts data in the corner
Alix Dunn puts out a request on the Engine Room for solutions to a perpetual problem: how to make sure resources that are vital to a large group of advocates but produced by small and often precarious organizations do not one day disappear from public view because a web hosting invoice goes unpaid.

Interview: Sunil Abraham
Sunil Abraham of India’s Centre for Internet and Society talks to TechPresident about successful—and not so successful—attempts to tackle corruption in India using technological tools.

Anatomy of a hack
This widely–circulated article from Ars Technica on the relative weakness of passwords contains a lot of technical details, but remains an enlightening, if frightening, read.

Book Review: “The New Digital Age”
Evgeny Morozov writes a damning review of Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s book “The New Digital Age” for The New Republic: “If you ever wondered what the gospel of modernization theory sounds like translated into Siliconese, this book is for you.”

Audio: Regulating Code
Along with technology pundit Bill Thompson, I interview Christopher T Marsden and Ian Brown about their new book “Regulating Code” for the podcast Little Atoms. The book presents an alternative, European–inspired vision for the role of the state in regulating technology.

Video: The Pirate Bay–Away From Keyboard (TPB–AFK)
This documentary by director Simon Klose charts the lives of peer–to–peer filesharing site the Pirate Bay’s founders during their trial in Sweden, and was released earlier this year. The film has recently been the subject of seemingly spurious copyright takedown requests sent to Google by the major Hollywood film studios, a development Torrent Freak speculates might be related to the its anti–Hollywood content. The film, an original production that was part–funded by a Kickstarter campaign and is available for free under a Creative Commons license, portrays the site’s founders as much gentler characters than they appeared to be in press reports at the time of the trial.
Film | Torrent Freak report

Y2K: Much Ado about nothing?
The New York Times uses archive footage to reconstruct the hype around the so–called Millennium bug of the late nineties, and concludes that the panic may not all have been for nought, as the more robust computer systems that emerged were able to recover quickly from disasters such as 9/11.

Too much information: Links for week ending 24 May

Each week, at the behest of the Open Society Foundations Information Program, I prepare a digest of links to the week’s most interesting stories and analysis online. Here’s the latest edition, which was prepared by Wendy M. Grossman, who has been minding my patch in the months I’ve been away. Thanks, Wendy!

The New Yorker releases Strongbox platform for safer news leaking
The New Yorker has announced Strongbox, a tool for anonymous communication between journalists and sources via Tor. Written by the late Aaron Swartz and hacker–turned security journalist Kevin Poulsen, the underlying code, DeadDrop, will be open source. The Source collects first reactions and responses, which are cautiously welcoming.
New Yorker | Source Pt 1 | Source Pt 2

Peru: Trans–Pacific Partnership negotiations
EFF reports that early arrival in Lima has enabled it to get ahead of the 17th round of negotiations of the Trans–Pacific Partnership treaty and discusses the backroom manoeuvrings to increase the term of copyright still further and regulate temporary reproductions of copyrighted files such as computer caches. EFF also reports on protests surrounding the meetings.

CDT reports that a group of leading security experts including Matt Blaze (University of Pennsylvania), Susan Landau, Roger Dingledine (TOR Project3), Ed Felten (Princeton), Bruce Schneier, and Philip Zimmermann (developer of PGP) have written a report explaining the fundamental security flaws in the FBI’s proposed CALEA II, which would require ISPs to modify their services to make them wiretap–friendly.

US: EPIC asks FTC to investigate SnapChat
EPIC has filed a complaint with the FTC regarding SnapChat, a mobile app publisher that encourages users to share intimate photos and videos on the basis that they can then be deleted permanently. According to the complaint, such material can be accessed by other users after it is supposed to have been deleted.

Pew report on “Teens, Social Media and Privacy”
The Pew Internet and American Life Project, together with the Berkman Center, issues a new report on how teenagers share information about themselves on social media sites.  Danah Boyd reflects on two conclusions, that “race is a factor in explaining differences in teen social media use” and “teens are sharing a lot of content, but they’re also quite savvy”.
Pew report | Danah Boyd commentary

Is ‘cyber war’ just a scare tactic?
“Officials warn of looming cyber–Armageddon. Critics say that’s a subterfuge to erode online privacy and accountability”. An interview with EFF’s Lee Tien.

Data Dealer
This sarcastic game about privacy (published under a Creative Commons license), created by a four–person team of Austrian game designers and activists, is based on research into the data broker market. Players start as small backroom data dealers and play to become data moguls running giant empires. Learn how to trick your users and make cash with their personal data! In the video clip, from TEDxVienna, team leader Wolfie Christl explains the background.
Game | Video

UK: Shakespeare review on open data
In this blog posting, the Open Knowledge Foundation analyses the newly published Shakespeare Review of public sector information. Among the highlights: the review recommends the speedy release of more data, the removal of restrictive licensing, open access to publicly funded research, and the establishment of the economics value of open data through research and auditing.

World Health Assembly preview
In this blog posting, Intellectual Property Watch lays out its hopes for the UN World Health Assembly, taking place in Geneva May 20–28. IPW hopes to reopen the R&D Resolution in order to address the failures of the current system of incentives to generate the research and development needed to meet urgent healthcare needs in developing countries. Knowledge Ecology International’s Jamie Love has published his presentation on R&D and access to medicines in Europe, presented to the EU Parliament on May 16.
IPWatch | KEI

Civil society calls for openness in global telecoms policymaking
In this closing statement delivered to the World Telecommunications/ICT Policy Forum, a group of civil society organizations including CDT, Consumers International, and APC calls on the ITU to ensure openness, transparency, and inclusivity in policy processes.

Audio: The Digital Rights Movement
In this podcast, author and Temple University professor Hector Postigo discusses his new book, The Digital Rights Movement.


Too much information: Links for week ending 9 November

Burma: Online information controls “drastically reduced”
The Open Net Initiative reports on recent tests it conducted into changes in Burma’s online content filtering system in Burma: “Independent and foreign news sites, oppositional political content, and sites with content relating to human rights and political reform—all previously blocked—have recently become accessible.” The development comes amid wider political and economic liberalization in the historically repressive state.

Egypt: Non–profit media collective secures crowd–funding
Mosireen, a non–profit media collective in Downtown Cairo “born out of the explosion of citizen media and cultural activism in Egypt during the revolution” has used the crowd–funding platform IndieGoGo to secure $40,000 of funding from over 350 donors. The sum is a significant contribution to its $60,000/year running costs for providing workspaces, editing facilities and screenings for independent media producers. The money raised will be supplemented by membership fees from service users, collected on a pay–what–you–can basis.

Flat World Knowledge to drop free access to textbooks
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the surprise decision of digital publisher Flat World Knowledge to withdraw free access to its textbooks. The company, which has been a key partner in the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, is yet to release an official statement about the decision (their offices were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy).

UK: Google and Microsoft go on wifi offensive
The Sunday Telegraph reports that Google and Microsoft have expressed interest in controlling parts of UK spectrum that are unused (so–called “white spaces”) “prompting speculation that they are planning to build free wifi internet capability into their mobile handsets.”

Mozilla Foundation to pay $1.5m tax settlement
Gigaom reports that the Mozilla Foundation—which develops the popular open source web browser Firefox—has agreed to pay $1.5m in taxes to the US Internal Revenue Service. The agreement concludes an audit opened in 2008 of Mozilla’s accounts, including the large percentage of revenue it gains from Google each year in exchange for favoring its search service in the Firefox browser. Mozilla’s directors had originally earmarked $15m to resolve the issue, funds which they will now re–invest in the foundation’s work.

Africa: Top–Level Domain becomes object of bitter fight
IP Watch report on two companies battling for the right to control the registration of website domain names ending in “.africa” (as opposed to “.com,” “,” “.org” etc). The international body tasked with assigning such rights, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has received reports that the African Union Task Force on the .africa domain, which has endorsed one of the company’s application to control it, suffers from conflict of interest issues.

Russia: blogging conference draws criticism
Global Voices reports from a LiveJournal– and RIA Novosti–sponsored blogging conference in Moscow, where regional bloggers reacted critically to an announcement from the Russian news agency that it would share its wire content with bloggers in exchange for “active participation and exclusive content.”

What Tunisia did right
This article in Foreign Policy magazine, which draws on an empirical study of democracies across the world and argues that legislatures vested with the power to truly hold their executives to account form the strongest democracies, should be of interest to anyone following developments in parliamentary transparency technology.

Scientific fraud is rife: it’s time to stand up for good science
This opinion piece in the Guardian argues that “the entire way that we go about funding, researching and publishing science is flawed” and calls for more openness.

Syria’s digital proxy war
This report on the Syrian uprising for the Atlantic contrasts Iran’s supply of surveillance equipment to the Assad regime with the United States’ attempts to set–up alternative communication channels for opposition fighters: “The outcome of this proxy war will affect the lives of many Syrians and the credibility of the State Department’s efforts to promote digital freedom internationally.”

The Maker movement creates jobs
This short opinion piece calls for the US government to subsidize hacker spaces.

Internet Governance Forum: Preview
IPWatch lists some of the main agenda items for this week’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) taking place in Baku, Azerbaijan, including free expression, privacy and copyright and intellectual property online. Meanwhile, the Campaign for Democracy and Technology (CDT) marks out the event as “a key opportunity for civil society organizations to promote open, decentralized, multi–stakeholder approaches to internet governance” in anticipation of the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai next month, where critics fear the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which hosts the  event, will attempt to expand the scope of its remit to include regulating the internet.
IPWatch | CDT

Audio: Future Perfect—The case for progress in a networked age
Nora Young interviews Steven Johnson about his book “Future Perfect: The case for progress in a networked age” for the Spark podcast. The book is a “provocatively utopian” exploration of the possibilities of what he calls “peer–to–peer politics.” Ethan Zuckerman’s review of an event in which Johnson is joined by Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford and Lawrence Lessig on the night before the US election expands on these ideas.
Spark | Zuckerman

Too much information: Links for week ending 2 November

Russia: New internet surveillance plan goes live
The BBC reports that Russia’s internet blacklist law, passed in July, comes into effect this week. The law was passed in the name of protecting children from harmful content. In a special report for Wired, co–founders Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan analyse the technology that sits behind the new law and the bad news it spells for political speech on the Russian net.
Report | Analysis

France: Google threatens media ban
Google has threatened to exclude French media sites from its search results if French legislators pass a law that would make search engines pay to display news extracts in their search results. The BBC, New York Times and PaidContent supply background to the story, detailing similar developments in Germany, Italy, Belgium and Brazil.
BBC | New York Times | PaidContent

US: Supreme Court considers challenge to warrantless wiretapping law
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports from a hearing at the US Supreme Court, which this week began considering whether to permit a legal challenge to laws enacted in 2008 that enable government agencies to surveil US citizens without individual judicial warrant and grant retrospective immunity from prosecution to telecommunications firms who provided the US government with information about their customers’ communications. The case sparked an editorial in the New York Times this week. Background to the case is provided by ACLU.
EFF | New York Times | ACLU

Spain: Right to Information group to pay costs for failed request reports that Access Info Europe have been ordered by the Spanish Supreme Court to pay €3,000 to Spain’s Ministry of Justice to cover legal fees relating to a lengthy court case Access Info brought in 2007 to secure access to information about the Spanish government’s efforts to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption and the OECD Anti–Bribery Convention.

Bulgaria: Banks launch legal action against leaks website
Forbes reports on a legal case being brought against BalkanLeaks by four Bulgarian banks, following the whistle–blowing website’s publication of US diplomatic cables supplied by WikiLeaks that allege money laundering and corrupt practices in the Bulgarian finance industry.

Silencing SMS: The anatomy of “mCurfews” in India
In this post for the LSE blog, Vibodh Parthasarathi and Arshad Amanullah from New Delhi’s Centre for Culture, Media and Governance place the reaction of the Indian public to their government’s recent attempts to curb ethnic violence by imposing restrictions on SMS messaging (so–called “mCurfews”) in multiple contexts: the country’s media landscape, its regulatory history and its SMS culture.

The end of geography?
This week the Economist published a special report on Technology and Geography. Highlights include “Open–air computers,” a feature on smart cities and the rendering of urban spaces into vast data factories, and “The new local,” an examination of how the physical and digital world are becoming increasingly intertwined.
Introduction | Open–air computers | The new local

Facebook: I want my friends back!
Richard Metzger of the Dangerous Minds blog exposes what he calls “The biggest bait and switch in history”: Facebook’s new policy to limit the number of people it updates on a business’s activity to 15% of the people who have agreed to receive such updates, unless that business engages with the new, and expensive, “Promoted Posts” Facebook service.

How a tax–dodging clampdown will aid open–government commitments
Eric Gutierrez of Christian Aid argues that the open government movement should engage with longstanding efforts to unearth the details of multinational tax–dodging and globalised tax evasion.

Case study of the Kenya Open Data Initiative
Rushda Majeed’s case study of the cultural and legislative changes that took place in Kenya, resulting in the country’s first Open Data Initiative.

Book: Measuring the Networked Nonprofit
This book is a practical guide to the tools and techniques for measuring impact online in the nonprofit sector. It promises: “using these tools will not only improve a nonprofit’s decision making process but will produce results–driven metrics for staff and stakeholders.”

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 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.

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– 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 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”.