Category Archives: Link Digest

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

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
OpenCorporates.com 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.

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.

Too much information: links for week ending 25 May

Pakistan: Twitter goes through weekend of censorship
Global Voices reports on a Twitter blackout in Pakistan last weekend, established by Pakistani Internet Service Providers at the behest of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. Twitter service was restored nine hours later, seemingly in response to public outcry.

European Commission urges Google to change search practices
The New York Times reports that the European Commission have warned Google to change its search practices or face possible antitrust proceedings: “In issuing the ultimatum, European regulators sent their strongest signal yet that they believe Google, which has long said its search results are neutral, tips the scales in its favour”.

Facebook users force vote on privacy changes
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) reports that Facebook will be forced to allow its users to vote on a new privacy policy, after more than the required 7,000 users lodged comments on the proposed changes. The vote will only be binding if more than 30% of Facebook’s users participate.

Open Access advocates issue call to action on US research funding policy
Open Access advocates have issued a call to action, asking those who favour public access to publicly funded research in the US to sign a petition calling for President Obama “to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research”. The groups hope to raise 25,000 signatures in under 30 days. The Chronicle of Higher Education provides useful background to the story.
Call to action | Petition | Background

Civil Society groups protest ITU process over internet governance fears
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that more than thirty civil society organisations have signed a letter of protest calling on the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a secretive UN agency, to open up the planning process around this December’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). Civil society groups fear the conference, from which they are currently broadly excluded, will be used to re-open negotiations on an international telecommunications treaty in order to allow greater government control of the internet. Global Voices provide background to the story.
EFF | Global Voices

Exporting copyright: Inside the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership
This long report by Ars Technica from the Dallas round of negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), throws the spotlight on the secret new treaty critics fear contains draconian intellectual property enforcement measures, and the organised resistance that has sprung up to face it.

“Exit, stage left some of the Masters of the Universe”
Russel Southwood analyses how telecoms business models are evolving in Africa.

“Private: some search engines make money by not tracking users”
Ars Technica profiles three new search businesses that make a virtue out of protecting their users’ privacy.

“The rise of Europe’s private internet police”
Rebecca MacKinnon puts the spotlight on the increasing role of private internet companies in policing their users’ behaviour, in this feature for Foreign Policy magazine.

Newspapers: building a “print edition” for the web
British designer and programmer Phil Gyford explains in this blog post what inspired him to use the Guardian’s content API to make a “print edition for the web”, and details the design choices he made during the project.

“Universities that offer the elite to all”
The Financial Times profile Coursera, a for-profit online educational resources platform.

Book: Accelerating development using the web
Tim Unwin promotes a new volume edited by George Sadowsky and supported by the Rockerfeller Foundation, the World Wide Web Foundation and the UNDP, which explores “ways through which the Web can be used by some of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people to enhance their lives”.

Video: Howard Rheingold on web literacy
This video from the MIT Media Lab features a lecture by Howard Rheingold on the five essential survival skills he thinks we all need in today’s connected world.

Silence is a Commons
This 1983 address by Ivan Illich argues that “Computers are doing to communication what fences did to pastures and cars did to streets”.

Too much information: links for week ending 11 May 2012

Brazil: Lawmakers approve forensic DNA database regulations
Genewatch UK and The Center for Technology and Society, at Rio de Janeiro’s Fundação Getulio Vargas have written to Brazil’s president asking him to reject a proposed law regulating the collection of forensic DNA, following its approval last week in Congress. They have expressed concerns that the regulations do not mandate the destruction of biological samples, or provide enough clarity about the timescale for retention of innocent people’s records.

US: FBI demand “wiretap-ready” websites
CNET reports on discussions between the FBI and various social network, VoIP and email providers about new proposals that would require them to build security backdoors into their products, in order to provide access to their users’ communications to FBI agents.

UK: Proposed libel reform makes Parliamentary timetable
A long-awaited proposed law to reform the UK’s draconian libel provisions has finally made it onto the Parliamentary timetable. Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN, who have led the campaign for reform, welcomed the news: “Over the past three years, the Libel Reform Campaign has shown how our unfair libel laws are causing legitimate books to be pulped and publishers to engage in unnecessary self-censorship”.

Avaaz President answers cyber attack doubters
Last week, online campaigns group Avaaz announced it had been the victim of intense cyber-attacks, and launched a fundraising campaign to beef up its security. The move was greeted with some scepticism by the security community, and requests for more information on the attacks. Ricken Patel, the president of Avaaz, has spoken to Teck Week Europe to answer some of the criticisms levelled at the campaign.

Online education developments roundup
The New York Times reports on two recent developments in online learning in the US. The first is a partnership – edX – between Harvard and MIT, and the second is a major cash investment in an online education startup called Coursera.
edX | Coursera

Spotlight: Facebook
Ahead of their stock market launch in a few weeks’ time, Facebook have released a video showcasing their company and outlining their future ambitions. In his essay “The economics of digital sharecropping”, Nicholas Carr outlines from where most of that value derives: us. And in a long feature for Politico, Michelle Quinn details the concerted political investments Facebook are making in Washington, to make sure privacy regulation doesn’t curb their ambitions for “frictionless sharing” of our personal data.
Video | Carr | Quinn

Everything you know about Anonymous is wrong
In this feature for Al Jazeera, Gabriella Coleman addresses recent essays on Anonymous by Yochai Benkler and Evgeny Morozov (both featured in previous digests) and argues that both the utopian and the dismissive view of the online rabble-rousing group are misguided.
Coleman | Benkler | Morozov

“Why the open data movement is a joke” – follow up
Tom Slee’s blog post criticising the open data movement (featured in the digest last week) drew a lot of attention. This new, more considered, follow-up post, has attracted engagement from top names in the movement, including John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation, and Tim O’Reilly.

Is Stanford too close to Silicon Valley?
This long feature in the New Yorker examines how Stanford University “has established itself as the intellectual nexus of the information economy”, and scrutinises the ethics and consequences of its close ties to Silicon Valley.

Paper: Political Activism 2.0
This paper by Mohammed El-Nawawy and Sahar Khamis compares the role of social media in the 2011 Egyptian revolution and the “Green movement” uprising following the elections in Iran in 2009.

Audio: The digital human
The BBC has begun airing a new series investigating the social effects of digital technology. The latest episode – Control – explores the psychological effects of maintaining separate online and offline lives.

Too much information: links for week ending 4 May

Austria: Thousands stand up against data retention
European Digital Rights (EDRI) reports on a complaint against Austria’s implementation of Europe’s Data Retention Directive that has been filed with the Austrian Constitutional Court and joined by 7,000 Austrian citizens. The Austrian government had resisted implementing the directive until a European Commission infringement procedure was brought against them. The constitutional complaint looks set to be the biggest complaint in Austria’s history.

US: Controversial “cybersecurity” law approved by legislators
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports on the decision of US legislators to approve the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), “a bill that would allow companies to bypass all existing privacy law to spy on communications and pass sensitive user data to the government”. Their campaign to stop the damaging legislation will now move on to the next stage of the legislative process. President Obama has already indicated that he disapproves of the proposed law.

UK: British ISPs ordered to block the Pirate Bay
Wired Threat Level reports that the UK High Court has ruled that five UK internet service providers (ISPs) must block their users from accessing the Pirate Bay, a popular torrenting site, on the basis that the website assists copyright infringement.

US releases Special 301 report
The office of the United States Trade Representative has released its annual report (known as the “Special 301 report”) naming countries it claims do not meet adequate standards to safeguard intellectual property. As Knowledge Ecology International observes, the choices of countries named “are largely driven by lobbying efforts of right holders, and often bear no real relationship of more objective standards regarding intellectual property policies”. Michael Geist analyses the report, concluding that it does not stand up to even passing scrutiny, and observing “perhaps the most shameful inclusion in this year’s report are a series of countries whose primarily fault is being poor”.
KEI | Geist

Google Wifi data harvesting “was not a rogue act”
The New York Times reports that, according to new details from the full text of a regulatory report, “Google’s harvesting of e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information from unsuspecting households… was neither a mistake nor the work of a rogue engineer, as the company long maintained, but a program that supervisors knew about”.

Spotlight: Digital rights in India
The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) uses a recent visit from Privacy International to reflect on growing concerns around online privacy in India. Meanwhile, a report in India’s FirstPost.com details the various laws that mean “there are more ways to ban content online than there are to ban physical books and other forms of media” in the country. Global Voices details grassroots and civil society responses to India’s encroaching online censorship: “Indian Netizens are not sitting idle”.
CIS | FirstPost | Global Voices

“Why the open data movement is a joke”
Tom Slee attacks the Open Data movement for its corporate sensibilities and ability to provide cover for governments that are anything but transparent. Meanwhile, the FierceGovernmentIT blog reports on a recent research paper detailing the usability failings of several government open data portals.
Slee | Research

“Why Hillary Clinton should join Anonymous”
Evgeny Morozov’s thought-provoking column for Slate shows how both the US State Department’s Internet Freedom agenda and the activities of Anonymous may end up significantly reducing our online rights.

The rise of electronic monitoring in criminal justice
This short piece for Counterpunch details how “prison overcrowding and state budget crises have made electronic monitoring an alternative of choice”, observing the complex issues that arise from the fact that “electronic monitoring is not only a policy device, but an industry”.

“I spy, with my big eye”
The Economist detail developments in facial recognition technology, and their application in mass surveillance projects around the world.

The Data Journalism Handbook
Last weekend saw the launch of the Data Journalism Handbook, a joint initiative of the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF). The handbook includes contributions from dozens of data journalism’s leading advocates and best practitioners, and is available for free download.

The Land Matrix
The Land Matrix is a public database of large-scale land deals worldwide. A joint project of Tactical Tech and the Land Coalition Partnership, it documents over 2,300 large-scale land acquisitions over the past 15 years. There are three different ways to view the information: big picture summaries that give insights in to the content of the database, more in-depth views that pick out major trends, and direct access to the data in map and table format for more in-depth exploration and analysis”.

Data visualisation: Three years of Kickstarter projects
The New York Times charts the history of the Kickstarter crowd-sourced funding platform in numbers.

Audio: The Library of the Future
Matthew Battles and David Weinberger talk about approaches to information management in the 21st century, in this recorded conversation for Radio Berkman.

When Funny Goes Viral
This weekend sees the third instalment of ROFLCon, a conference exploring net culture hosted in Boston, US. This memorable essay from the New York Times about a previous ROFLCon makes the case that some of the weird and offensive aspects of internet culture such as trolling, micro-celebrity and satirical internet memes need to be taken seriously as part of public discourse.

Too much information: Links for week ending 27 April

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

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

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

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

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

Consumers International launch IP Watchlist 2012: Israel top, Jordan bottom
Consumers International (CI) released their annual “IP Watchlist” this week. Although rankings of the thirty countries surveyed for the way their IP (intellectual property) laws treat consumers have not changed dramatically since 2012, CI note that “IP is now a political issue like never before”, detailing initiatives that could see substantial, positive changes in the coming years.

Avaaz.org launches Do It Yourself campaign tool
Online campaign group Avaaz.org this week launched a website which helps members of their 14m-strong community launch their own petition-based campaigns, on any issue they choose. The site is currently in beta, experimental, mode.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 20 April

News special: Hackers and internet freedom
Four stories from the world of hackers and internet freedom this week. The French investigative news platform OWNI.eu has published a detailed story about controversies in the hacker community arising from the decision of Maker Faire, a key annual hackerspace conference, to take sponsorship from the US military research agency DARPA. Meanwhile, TOR developer Jacob Applebaum has published a report on security vulnerabilities in the Ultrasurf censorship circumvention software produced by Ultrareach, a US-government backed company that was founded by Chinese dissidents, allegations to which the company has responded. Applebaum sits on the Advisory Board of a new company profiled by CNet this week, which offers privacy-friendly internet and mobile connectivity and was founded by a man who spent several years fighting a request from the FBI to disclose information about its customers. Finally, the New York Times profiled a young Lebanese man on a visit to New York to meet like-minded hackers to help him improve his encrypted chatroom software, Cryptocat.
Maker Faire controversy | Ultrasurf vulnerabilities report | Ultrareach response | Privacy friendly connectivity | Cryptocat

New research shows South African mobile prices among the highest in Africa
Research ICT Africa released a research report this week ranking countries in Africa according to the affordability of mobile telephones. Several news outlets picked up on the fact that South Africa’s regulatory regime has allowed it to slip to 30th place in the 46 countries studied. In a stirring op-ed reacting to the report, Steve Song condemns the South African government for its failures of vision and leadership in telecommunications policy.
News | Full Report | Op-ed

EU: Key legislator recommends rejection of ACTA
IPWatch.org reports that the rapporteur of the lead European Parliament committee on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), David Martin, has recommended that the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement be rejected, stating that “while the problems ACTA seeks to address are real, the unintended consequences [of the proposals] are too grave”.

US: Concerns mount over proposed cyber-security law
The Obama administration has expressed concern over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a proposed law currently being discussed by legislators in the US, stating “legislation that would sacrifice the privacy of our citizens in the name of security, will not meet our nation’s urgent needs”. Digital Journal has more details on the bill, including a long interview from Russia Today with the Campaign for Democracy and Technology’s Kendall Burman. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and others declared this week “Stop Cyber-Spying Week”, encouraging their supporters to contact elected representatives with their concerns about CISPA.
News | More details | Stop Cyber-Spying Week

The Economist: “When research is funded by the taxpayer or by charities, the results should be available to all without charge”
The Economist declares itself firmly in the open access camp in this week’s editorial arguing for public access to publicly-funded research.

The coming book wars
In this feature for the Atlantic, independent publisher Peter Osnos takes a snapshot of the various controversies surrounding digital books, including the recent United States Department of Justice anti-trust lawsuit against several major publishers and Apple.

Guardian series: The battle for the internet
All this week the UK Guardian has been publishing in-depth reports on internet issues, including articles on the militarisation of cyberspace, the intellectual property “wars” and the end of privacy. On Wednesday Tim Berners Lee, the godfather of the worldwide web, spoke to the newspaper about his concerns that online surveillance legislation being put forward by the UK government will undermine human rights.
Series | Berners Lee

Reflections on building a Chinese censorship program
Global Voices publishes an English translation of a pseudonymous posting by a Chinese computer programmer about his experiences developing a program for keyword filtering on mobile devices.

Debate: When it comes to politics, is the internet closing our minds?
TechPresident precis a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared in New York this week on whether today’s worldwide web can be blamed for the polarisation of American political debate. Eli Pariser of MoveOn.org, together with Siva Vaidhyanathan, spoke for the motion, with Evgeny Morozov and Slate.com’s Jacob Weisberg speaking against. You can watch the full debate online.
Precis | Full Debate