Category Archives: Link Digest

Too much information: links for week ending 27 January 2012

European Member States sign ACTA amid widespread protest reports that representatives from the European Union and from twenty of its members states signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) this week, a controversial treaty that has the potential to mandate intellectual property enforcement measures that go beyond international norms. News that member states were about to sign led to protests across Europe online and off: street protests in Poland attracted thousands of participants, and the European Parliament’s website was taken down in a suspected DDoS attack. Campaigners against the treaty, including Panoptykon, La Quadrature du Net and the Open Rights Group, are advising EU citizens to contact their representatives in the European Parliament, who still have a chance to stop the treaty in a vote scheduled to take place later this year.
Wired | Polish protests | Panoptykon | La Quadrature du Net | Open Rights Group

“The internet spoke and, finally, Congress listened!”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) celebrates the halt to progress of SOPA and PIPA, two controversial proposed intellectual property enforcement laws with traits very similar to ACTA (see above), through the US legislative system. An internet blackout, led by Wikipedia last week, is thought to have directly influenced the decision of US legislators to rethink the two proposed laws.

Iran arrests wave of bloggers, writers and programmers
Deutsche Welle reports on a wave of arrests in Iran, thought to be timed ahead of Parliamentary elections to be held in early March.

Apple enters US textbook market
CNET TV reports on Apple’s announcement last week that it would be entering the US K-12 market for textbooks, offering them through the iPad, and releasing a free app – iBook Author – that allows anyone to create a textbook for the platform. Philipp Schmidt, co-founder of the Peer 2 Peer University, analyses the impact the endeavour will have on the Open Educational Resources movement.
News | Analysis

EU proposes revisions to Data Protection law
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding announced proposed revisions to Europe’s Data Protection laws this week, including tough penalties for firms which break the law, a data breach notification requirement, and the right of citizens to demand that data held on them be deleted if there are no legitimate grounds to keep it (“the right to be forgotten”). The European consumer organisation BEUC welcomed the new proposals.
News | BEUC statement

US Supreme Court issues important privacy judgement
In a case originally brought to dispute the warrantless use of a GPS tracking device on the car of a man suspected by police of involvement in drug-dealing, justices at the US Supreme Court have issued an overlapping set of opinions which, the New York Times reports, indicate that they “are prepared to apply broad privacy principles to bring the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches into the digital age”. The case is of particular interest given the increasing use of sophisticated, privacy-invasive technologies by law enforcement.

ITU Member States urged to guarantee free flow of information
As a meeting of the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) begins this week in Geneva, Reporters Without Borders have issued a statement urging the ITU “to firmly condemn countries that do not respect the fundamental principles of the free flow of information”.

Google user data to be merged across all sites under contentious plan
The Guardian reports on an announcement this week by Google that it intends change its privacy policies to allow the company to merge data it collects about a user across several different services, creating a single profile that will be used to refine search results and target advertising: “Users will have no way to opt out of being tracked across the board.” The Atlantic carries a good article about what the changes will mean for Google’s users.
Guardian | Atlantic

DDoS attacks: protest? direct action? terrorism?
Gabriella Coleman kicks off an engaging debate on the Concurring Opinions blog that explores how to interpret and respond to politically-motivated DDoS attacks.

Should the World Bank be partnering with Google?
The New York Times publishes an editorial by the World Bank’s Caroline Anstey that argues that their recent partnership with Google – which gives World Bank partners free access to Google’s Map Maker platform – is a step towards plugging crucial information gaps about public infrastructure in the developing world. Ushahidi’s Patrick Meier is less optimistic about the partnership, fearing most of its benefits will accrue to Google.
Anstey | Meier

Book review: Standards
Evgeny Morozov precises Lawrence Busch’s new book “Standards: Recipes for Reality”, in which the author sees standards as “complex technical and moral devices that can be abused as easily as they can be put to noble causes”.

Video: Beth Kolko on Hackademia
In this video from the Berkman Luncheon series, Beth Kolko examines the conflict between expertise and innovation, and what it has to teach those in academia.

Too much information – links for week ending 20 January 2012

Wikipedia leads web blackout to protest proposed US law
The Wikipedia community blocked access to the English version of Wikipedia on Wednesday this week, as part of a wider online protest against two draft laws being discussed in the United States to enforce intellectual property online. Google, Wired, Reddit, WordPress and many, many others joined the protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), which both have the potential to usher in a new age of online censorship. Also this week, President Obama indicated he would veto SOPA, a move which drew sharp criticism from Rupert Murdoch.
Statement of Wikimedia Foundation | Gallery of protest pages | Obama v Murdoch | MIT Oped: The “Trojan Horse” of a controlling state?

Publishers speak out against Research Works Act
The Scientist magazine details emerging dissent from academic publishers including MIT Press, Rockefeller University Press, the University of California Press and the Pennsylvania State University Press, aimed at draft legislation – the Research Works Act – that could jeopardise public access to publicly-funded research. This week Nature Publishing Group (NPG) also spoke out against the bill, which is being supported by the American Association of Publishers.
The Scientist | NPG

US: Supreme Court rules against public domain
The US Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a 1994 law extending the term of copyright protection on foreign works, which took works that had entered the public domain and put them back under copyright protection. The case had been brought on free speech grounds by a coalition that included orchestra conductors, educators and performers. The ruling marks an unhappy ending to a ten-year campaign.

Europe: Leaked documents show Data Retention Directive in sorry state
European Digital Rights (EDRI) reports on a leaked document which “shows that the [European] Commission can neither prove necessity nor proportionality of the Data Retention Directive – but still wants to keep the it”. The legislation – brought forward in response to the London bombings of 2005, has been found unconstitutional, on privacy grounds, in several EU member states.

Our weirdness is free: the story of Anonymous
Triple Canopy publish an essay by Gabriella Coleman on the history of Anonymous, who have captured the attention of an incredible variety of admirers and skeptics “by unpredictably fusing conventional activism with transgression and tricksterism”.

Argentina: Mass surveillance as a state policy
Katitza Rodriguez warns of the threats to civil liberty posed by Argentina’s plan to expand its national identity database in this piece for Global Voices: “Argentinean law enforcement will have access to mass repositories of citizen information and be able to leverage existing facial recognition and fingerprint matching technologies in order to identify any citizen anywhere”.

The prospects of Facebook activism in Uzbekistan
Transitions Online’s East of Center blog identifies the potential social and political pressures that affect online participation in political discussion in Uzbekistan.

Study: Open Data Kenya
The World Bank has published its evaluation of the ongoing development of Open Data Kenya, “one of the first Open Data initiatives in Africa”.

Towards an internet free of censorship: Proposals for Latin America
The Centre for the Study of Free Expression and Access to Information at the University of Palermo has published a study of several laws proposed in Latin America to regulate the internet, examining the responsibility of intermediaries, the management of private data, content filtering, and situations of applicable jurisdiction.

Cracking open the scientific process
The New York Times publishes a long feature charting the evolution of the open science movement, and the threat posed to it by the Research Works Act.

Book Review: “The Digital Origins of Dictatorships and Democracy”
Evgeny Morozov praises Philip Howard’s nuanced and “meticulously-researched” approach to the effects of digital technology on dissent in Muslim countries, in this review for Perspectives on Politics of Howard’s new book “The Digital Origins of Dictatorships and Democracy”.

Interview: Professor Anita Allen
The Concurring Opinions blog interviews Professor Allen about her new book “Unpopular Privacy”, which poses the question “How can a society enthralled by technology-aided revelatory communication give privacy its ethical due?”

Video: “Network”
This short animation by graphic designer Michael Rigley eloquently articulates the role internet users are playing in creating a future of information distortion, control and surveillance.

Video: “The machine is us/ing us”
The optimism of this animation about the web and the role users play in creating it, made just five years ago by cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch, stands in stark contrast to the pessimism expressed in “Network” (see above), even as it makes almost exactly the same point.

Too much information: links for week ending 13 January 2012

South Korea: online identity policy phased out
Major online platforms in South Korea are taking the first steps towards ending their mandatory registration requirements following serious privacy concerns and phishing crimes, The Korea Times reports. They will also delete existing data of they have, about users’ official resident registration numbers.

India: Memo suggesting Western firms supplied intelligence backdoors is probably fake
ZDNet reports that “A US government body is investigating allegations that mobile device manufacturers Apple, RIM and Nokia allowed Indian military intelligence backdoor access to communications in exchange for Indian market presence”. The allegations follow the release by Indian hackers of an Indian Ministry of Defence memo outlining the country’s communications interception programme. The Times of India conclude the memo is probably fake, and speculate about who might be behind this “elaborate hoax”.
ZDNet | Times of India

US: Campaign against Research Works Act continues
The Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a campaign of the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), has issued a call for action against the Research Works Act, a proposed bill in the US that could reverse progress towards public access to publicly-funded research. Writing in the New York Times, Public Library of Science (PLoS) co-founder Michael B Eisen makes the case against the bill.
Call to action | Eisen Op-ed

Uganda: SIM card registration starting in March
The Uganda Communications Commission has announced that it will begin its program of mandatory mobile phone SIM card registration in March. SIM cards that have not been registered by 1 March 2013 will be cut off from the network.

Spain: Freedom of Information site hits crowd-funding target
A project to implement a Spanish version of MySociety’s Freedom of Information portal, Alaveteli, has raised €6,000 from 150 funders on the Spanish “open” crowd-funding platform, The project, “” (“Your Right to Know”), is being run jointly by Access Info Europe and a new foundation called Civio. The project team will be led by data journalist Mar Cabra.

US: Drones at home and abroad
The Atlantic invite philosopher Patrick Lin to share his presentation to the CIA’s venture-capital arm, In-Q-Tel, on the ethics of drones, looking at current and future scenarios involving the military use of robotics. The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the US Federal Aviation Authority this week to reveal how drones are being used domestically, for example to patrol remote areas and borders.
Ethics briefing | EFF lawsuit

In search of serendipity
The Economist Intelligent Life magazine examines how the web might be narrowing our horizons: “The internet has become so good at meeting our desires that we spend less time discovering new ones.”

The limits of “cute cats”
Tom Slee and Sarah Kendzior engage with Ethan Zuckerman’s 2011 Vancouver Human Rights Lecture entitled “Cute Cats and the Arab Spring”, which emphasises the role politically-motivated shutdowns of general-purpose social media sites like YouTube and Twitter played in fomenting civil unrest in the Arab world. While Slee cautions Zuckerman not to forget the role of disruption to other institutions for public networking, such as mosques and football stadia, Kendzior emphasises the crucial missing element in the Central Asian context, public trust in dissident voices being suppressed.
Zuckerman | Slee | Kendzior

Audio: The business of lobbying
Former lobbyist Jack Abramoff reveals all the influence money can buy in the world of US politics.

Interview with Steve Jobs, CEO of NeXT Computer
Evgeny Morozov republishes Red Herring magazine’s 1996 interview with the late Steve Jobs, during his hiatus in between stints as Apple co-founder and CEO: “One way to view the Web is as the ultimate direct-to-customer distribution channel”.

Too much information: links for week ending 6 January 2012

US: Proposed law would damage open access
Open Access advocates in the United States are organising against a proposed law that would block federal research funding agencies in the United States from having open access policies, effectively denying public access to publicly-funded research. The Atlantic have published a critique of the proposed law.

Spain adopts web blocking law
The BBC reports that the Spanish government has approved anti-piracy legislation that would allow for an expedited takedown process of websites accused by rightsholders of hosting copyright-infringing material. The so-called “Sinde Law” had previously been stalled after the extent of US diplomatic pressure on Spain to enact the law was revealed by leaked diplomatic cables in late 2010.

Public domain day celebrated
The entrance of new works into the public domain was celebrated on 1 January this year. In Europe and the US, where copyright term is life of the author plus seventy years, works by James Joyce, Louis Brandeis and Virginia Woolf were welcomed into the public domain. Canada, where the term of copyright protection is twenty years shorter, welcomed works by Hemingway and Jung into its public domain.
US and Europe | Canada

US: Deadline for public access and digital data RFIs extended
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has extended the deadline to January 12 for its Request for Information (RFI) from stakeholders in the debate over public access to publicly-funded scholarly research. Non-US organisations with experience of open access policies are also invited to contribute. The original deadline was 2 January 2012.

When science is hidden behind a smokescreen
The Guardian publishes a feature which originally appeared in Le Monde, examining the study of agnotology, or the spread of misinformation: “The advocates of ignorance have gained a new ally in the form of the internet”.

10 main internet governance developments in 2011
Internet infrastructure community website Circle ID publish a collaboratively-produced review of the year, highlighting trends such as the politicisation of internet infrastructure and the rise of cybersecurity as a narrative.

SOPA, misinformation and ignorance
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), legislation currently being considered in the US to address copyright infringement, has been met by a storm of protest from civil society, academia and business. These two feature articles examine what events surrounding SOPA have to tell us about the law-making process. A feature in Miller-McCune asks how much technical expertise we should expect from legislators, while analysis published on the Cato Institute blog picks apart figures supplied by pro-SOPA advocates that dramatically overstate the cost of copyright infringement.
Miller-McCune | Cato@Liberty

Book Review: The Information Diet
Forbes reviews The Information Diet, a book written by Blue State Digital founder Clay A. Johnson that urges readers to form good habits around the information they consume.

Book Review: Too Big to Know
Evgeny Morozov reviews David Weinberger’s book “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now that the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room”, finding the author “too incurious to interrogate the modern state of knowledge or explain which of our current attitudes toward it are driven by the Internet and which by other social dynamics”.

Is it OK to be a Luddite?
Thomas Pynchon uses a review of classic science fiction to assert the value of techno-skepticism in the computer age, in this essay published in the New York Times Book Review in 1984.

Too much information: Links for week ending 16 December 2011

Brazil: leaked copyright reform draft bill shows latest thinking
Pedro Paranaguá of the Fundação Getulio Vargas gives a detailed analysis for IP Watch of the latest draft of Brazil’s copyright reform bill. Though there is much to praise in the text, provisions for intermediary liability and anti-circumvention measures are cause for concern.

US: Wikipedians consider protest against SOPA
Wikipedians are considering whether to launch a protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act. Although the original draft bill was revised this week, according to Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel Geoff Brigham, the proposed legislation “continues to suffer from the same structural pitfalls, including its focus on blocking entire international sites based on US-based allegations of specific infringement”. In October this year, editors of Italian Wikipedia blocked access to the site in protest against draft legislation.

100 million Europeans don’t use the internet, 350 million Indians have never heard of it
Thanks to Evgeny Morozov for flagging these two reports indicating the extent of the digital divide.
EU | India

EU: Parliament looks at risks of outsourcing policing of internet
IP Watch report on a seminar held last week in the European Parliament on the slide from self-regulation to private policing of online content. European Digital Rights have produced a video report summary the seminar, which is also available to watch in full.
IP Watch report | Video summary | Full seminar

Russia: Vladimir Putin’s cyber-warriors
Following massive cyber-attacks against independent media during recent elections in Russia, Andrei Soldatov analyses the power of the Russian security services to control dissent on the web in this essay for Foreign Affairs magazine.

Paper: Recording Everything – Digital storage as an enabler of authoritarian governments
The Brookings Institute have published a new paper arguing that “the coming era of ubiquitous surveillance in authoritarian countries has important consequences for American foreign policy”.

Book: Learning, freedom and the web
The Mozilla Foundation have published a book on how the ideas of the open source movement can help foster learning, written by Anya Kamenetz and the participants of the 2010 Mozilla festival: “Part exhibition catalog, part manifesto, this is a concise, fun-to-read introduction to what Mozilla is doing to support learners everywhere”.

Audio: David Weinberger on LibraryCloud and ShelfLife
The Spark Podcast speaks to David Weinberger about two projects to come out of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, which Weinberger co-directs. Both projects focus on meta-data and “how it impacts the ways we find and navigate knowledge”.

Video: Ethan Zuckerman on the impact of social media on Africa
Russell Southwood speaks to Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman about the impact of social media in Africa, in a detailed interview which covers the strength and influence of Sub-Saharan African bloggers, the student protests in Gabon, and the response of governments in the region to the power of social media.

Too much information: links for week ending 9 December 2011

Russia: Massive DDoS attacks against independent websites on election day
Global Voices present a timeline of a “massive DDoS attack against most of the digital platforms seeking to provide independent coverage of the elections” in Russia, as well as detailing the arrest and detention of several key independent media figures.

WIPO session makes positive steps forward for limitations and exceptions to copyright
The 23rd session of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR 23) ended last week. Work on a Treaty for the Visually Impaired continued, with discussions focussed on the details of the text. Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) reports the conclusions of SCCR 23 to “agree and finalize a proposal on an international instrument” at SCCR 24. Meanwhile, Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL) welcome progress to create a new treaty to benefit libraries, archives and their users.

Central Asia: Internet freedom worsens
The Telegraph details a new report produced by a consortium of human rights groups that has found that internet freedom in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is amongst the worst in the world, with the situation in Kazakhstan also deteriorating rapidly. Security and trade relationships with the US and EU mean “Western powers have become more and more reluctant to apply pressure on Central Asian states”.

India: Investigation shows chilling effect of new online takedown rules
Legally India details a leaked report resulting from an undercover investigation led by the Centre for Internet and Society in India. A researcher for the centre sent “fraudulent” takedown notices to seven internet intermediaries, with six of the targets complying with the requests to remove material from the web despite the notices containing no evidence that the specified material violated provisions made under India’s new Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules: “The only response that was rejected outright was a facetious takedown request to a shopping portal that an ad for baby’s diapers ‘harmed minors’ by potentially causing babies’ rashes”.

UK: Government signals commitment for public access to publicly funded research
The UK government has signalled its commitment to public access to publicly funded research in a new strategy on scientific innovation and research published this week. They have commissioned an independent working group of academics and publishers to review the availability of published research, and to develop action plans for making this freely available. THe group will report in 2012.

Websense joins Global Network Initiative
The Global Network Initiative, a group of companies, civil society organisations investors and academics established to help protect and advance freedom of expression and privacy in the technology sector, has announced that Websense will become its fifth company member, joining Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and Evoca. The web filtering company “has a strict policy against selling to governments or internet service providers that engage in government-mandated censorship, except in the case of prohibiting minors from accessing pornography and prohibiting child pornography”.

How online learning companies bought America’s schools
This in-depth investigation for The Nation details the intense lobbying in the US education sector that is converting the K-12 education system into a “cash cow for Wall Street”.

Citizen Scientists
The Wall Street Journal details the rise of citizen science, focussing on a new project called “That’s My Data!”, which aims to “facilitate the flow of patients’ detailed genetic data to researchers in exchange for open access to the results for those who contributed samples”. Sharon Terry, who is helping to run “That’s My Data”, is a leader of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, an organisation established by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).

Hacktivists lend a hand in the Arab Spring
The Washington Post have published a short feature about a member of the cluster of internet activists known as Telecomix, and their work providing remote technical assistance to activists in the Middle East

“Same old song”
Joe Karganis takes a wry look at the evidence, past and present, put forward by the recording industry of the harm new technologies do to the music business in this post for the Media Piracy in Emerging Economies blog.

Audio/Video: Luis von Ahn
The Spark podcast speaks to Luis von Ahn, about his new project, Duolingo. Von Ahn invents “systems that combine humans and computers to solve large-scale problems”, and is responsible for the CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA spam prevention systems . Duolingo aims to help you “learn a language while translating the web”, and claims that “if one million people would use Duolingo to learn, the entirety of English Wikipedia could be translated to Spanish in just eighty hours”. Von Ahn has also presented his project at TED.
Spark | TED

Too much information: links for week ending 2 December 2011

“Big Brother Incorporated”: project to track surveillance manufacturers launched
Privacy International (PI) and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) launched a comprehensive database of companies that sell surveillance products this week. Big Brother Incorporated includes information about the types of equipment and software manufactured by each company, links to key company information, as well as promotional material about the products published by WikiLeaks. The launch prompted major international television and newspaper coverage of the issues behind the export of Western surveillance technology to repressive regimes.
Big Brother Incorporated | PI press release | WikiLeaks | Bloomberg Interview | Washington Post | The Hindu

Important victory for open internet at ECJ
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that a proposed measure ordering an internet service provider to install a filtering and blocking system in order to protect intellectual property rights was in breach of European law. The case – SABAM vs Scarlet – originated in Belgium. European Digital Rights (EDRi) have provided detailed FAQs about the ruling, stating: “this result is hugely important, as it protects the openness of the internet”.

Global Chokepoints project launched
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) this week announced the launch of a new initiative – the Global Censorship Chokepoints Project – to document how copyright enforcement is being used to censor online free expression in countries around the world.

Sri Lanka: Government blocks critical news websites
Reporters Without Borders reports that four leading Sri Lankan news websites have been blocked from access by citizens inside Sri Lanka since 6 November, just a day after the government announced that news websites with “any content relating to Sri Lanka” needed to register with the country’s media and information ministry.

Russia: the FSB will see you now
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan report for on the dubious role the FSB is playing in piloting biometric identification schemes in Russia.

Thailand: Government asks Facebook to remove “unlawful” content
The Next Web reports that the government of Thailand has contacted Facebook with a request to remove more than 10,000 of its pages deemed in breach of the country’s “lese majeste laws”, which proscribe criticism of the Thai royal family. The government has also warned Thai citizens that they should not comment on or use the Facebook “like” button to endorse messages that are in breach of this law.

Ghana: new report highlights uncontrollable flow of e-waste
Make IT fair have released a new report highlighting the local health and environmental consequences of processing the over 600 container-loads of scrap electronics that arrive in Ghana each month.

Why we chose Open Science
In this opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal, the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science (and co-founder of Microsoft) explains why “open” is the right path for them: “our mission was to spark breakthroughs, and we didn’t want to exclude underfunded neuroscientists who just might be the ones to make the next leap”.

The personal computer is dead
Jonathan Zittrain describes how “tethered appliances” are usurping programmable computers as the consumer choice for information consumption, and warns of a future of closed information systems that will result.

The #freemona perfect storm: dissent and the networked public sphere
Zeynep Tufekci draws lessons from the Twitter campaign launched to secure the release of Egyptian dissident Mona El Tahawy after her arrest and detention by Egyptian authorities last week.

Issue spotlight: Trade agreements, health and developing countries
A new issue paper published by the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) finds that after countries ratify trade agreements with the US and the EU they often face pressure to implement even stronger intellectual property provisions, with developing countries failing to take advantage of flexibilities available to them to secure access to medicines. Meanwhile, Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz argues in The Lancet that provisions in trade agreements are adversely affecting health and, further, that the orthodoxy that equates strong-IP protection with innovation in medicines needs to be questioned.
ICTSD | Lancet (pdf)

Audio: The life scientific
In this in-depth interview with the BBC, Sir John Sulston, UK lead of the human genome project, makes a strong case against patenting genetic information.

Too much information: links for week ending 25 November 2011

South Africa passes secrecy bill
The Telegraph report that the South African Parliament have passed a Protection of Information Bill to replace apartheid-era secrecy legislation, amid protests from journalists, businesses and civil society groups. The bill does not include exceptions for journalists who publish suppressed material exposing government wrongdoing or corruption, meaning that if they do so, they could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

Turkish authorities introduce internet filter
Deutsche Welle reports on the Turkish telecommunications authorities plans to switch on the country’s much-contested internet filter this week: “tens of thousands of Turks have held protests across the country under the motto ‘Hands off my Internet!’ Media outlets and Internet forums have also sharply criticised the plan.”

Most countries not following their own FOI laws
Associated Press reports the worrying results of their investigation – begun in January this year – into the practice of governments in 105 countries and the European Union when it comes to responding to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests: “Only 14 countries responded with the full information we asked for within their legal deadline. Most countries did not provide us with any of the information we asked for. Three out of 10 requests were completely ignored.”

China’s Great Firewall tests mysterious scans on encrypted connections
Forbes details reports from administrators of services with encrypted connections that indicate that China many be testing new software to detect and block censorship circumvention tools provided for Chinese citizens by the West.

Big plans for biometric data in Afghanistan
The New York Times reports on the rise of biometric data collection at Afghanistan’s airports, and at the country’s eight major border crossings. The data is being shared with the United States Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

Dutch MEP claims European politicians gagged over US data-sharing deal
Computerworld UK reports that a leading Member of the European Parliament (MEP) has revealed that MEPs have been banned from talking about the content of a deal to share information about European airline travellers with the United States, and may only read the contents of the deal in a “sealed room”.

Special: internet and privacy
In an essay for Slate, Evgeny Morozov attacks Facebook for its real names policy, calling it “part and parcel of Facebook’s noxious vision for the future of the internet, where privacy, rather than hard-earned cash, becomes the currency of the day”. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has published extracts from a debate between privacy commentators and experts Stewart Baker, danah boyd, Jeff Jarvis and Chris Soghoian about the value of online privacy. Also this week, Wired ran a feature on Soghoian and his work exposing companies’ poor privacy practice.
Morozov | Debate | Wired on Soghoian

#Occupy: The tech at the heart of the movement
This is the first in a series of essays to be published in the Atlantic about the tech at the heart of the Occupy movement: “a set of mobile technologies that didn’t exist ten years ago offered protesters new human capabilities that they used to record and disseminate information, as well as organise – or maybe more properly, design – the protests”.

Reports: Mapping Digital Media
The Open Society Foundations Media Program has released a series of detailed reports examining the impact of digitisation on media and journalism in several countries, and introducing specific issues related to free expression in the digital environment, including net neutrality and legal liability for content online.

What’s your DNA worth?
Forbes examines the possible implications of a patent application submitted by VISA relating to the collection of DNA data for marketing purposes.

Filtering and blocking closer to the core of the internet?
This in-depth report from IP Watch examines new policies and technologies to control the content that flows across the internet by intervening at the layer which controls how web domain names work.

Audio: the history of the mobile phone
Stephen Fry charts the early history of the mobile phone, in part two of his series on the history of phone communications for the BBC.

Audio: Were the Luddites right?
To mark the 200th anniversary of the Luddite movement, which began when artisans in the North of England started protesting against new machines that were destroying their way of life, the Free Thinking Festival invited participants including historian of the Luddites Katrina Navickas, BBC technology correspondent Bill Thompson and fellow of the New Economics Foundation Andrew Simms to explore what the Luddites can teach us in the digital age.

Video: Communication, power and the state in the network society
This is the first in a series of three lectures delivered over the last two weeks at Cambridge University by influential network communications scholar and social scientist Professor Manuel Castells.

Too much information: Links for week ending 18 November 2011

US: “An explosion of opposition to the internet blacklist bill”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports on the growing chorus of voices from business, policy-making, academia and civil society that are ranged against draconian legislation currently being proposed in the US to address online copyright infringement. Ars Technica publish legal analysis of the so-called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) from law professor and founder of the Chilling Effects project on online censorship, Wendy Seltzer, while the SSRC’s Joe Karganis publishes initial findings of his research into the scope of the problem the bill is attempting to address. Opponents of the bill dubbed this past Wednesday “American Censorship Day”, in recognition of SOPA’s assault on free speech rights. They are encouraging US citizens to take action by contacting their representative in Congress.
Report | Legal Analysis | Research | American Censorship Day

WIPO: World Blind Union urges US and EU governments to agree to “right to read”
A critical round of negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) for a binding Treaty for the Visually Impaired will begin next week. The treaty would oblige its signatories to remove copyright barriers which prevent blind, partially sighted, dyslexic and other “reading disabled” people from accessing books, but has so far been opposed by governments in the US and EU. The World Blind Union issued a statement directed at those governments urging them to support the treaty next week, and “help end the book famine” for blind and reading-disabled people. Frank la Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, has also issued a statement, urging all negotiating parties “to work assiduously to agree a binding WIPO treaty for blind and other reading disabled people, and to thereby open a door to reading, ideas and information for reading disabled people across the world”.

Brazil: Cybercrime law could restrict fundamental rights
Global Voices report on proposed legislation in Brazil that could criminalise many online activities and “would mark an abrupt shift in Brazil’s progressive digital policy environment”.

At Open Access meeting, advocates emphasise the impact of sharing knowledge
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the Berlin 9 Open Access meeting held last week in Washington DC, which “focused on the benefits of putting research… into the hands of scholars, students, innovators, and the general public”.

EU agency warns of voluntary surveillance society
The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) has published a report warning that “Europeans and others run the risk of creating a surveillance society that results in discrimination or the exclusion of some individuals, that lacks privacy and fosters paranoid behaviours by some in response to a sense of being constantly monitored, and that results in a loss of autonomy”, The Fierce Government blog reports.

Twitter ordered to yield data in WikiLeaks case
The New York Times reports on a federal court ruling that Twitter must hand over information to the US Justice Department about three of their account holders – Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp and Birgitta Jónsdóttir – under investigation for their involvement with WikiLeaks.

“The field [formerly known as?] ICT4D is messy”
Linda Raftree sums up “a flurry of sometimes harsh and pointed, always thoughtful posts” on the continuing relevance or otherwise of the ICT4D (Information Communication Technologies for Development) field.

China startup report
This short slideshow presentation is a good introduction to the Chinese internet market.

Book sprints and traditional publishing
O’Reilly Media Editor Andy Oram reports from a week-long “book sprint” held last month, which aimed to produce four manuals for four different free software projects. His postings analyse “the similarities and differences between conventional publishing and the intense community effort represented by book sprints”. The book sprint used the FLOSS Manuals platform.

Bibliography of digital resistance
This bibliography published by the University of Milan’s European Observatory on Digital Resistance, Liberation Technology and Human Rights contains key texts on the relationship between new technology and protest movements around the globe.

The next internet: netroots activists dream of global mesh network
This article on Ars Technica examines The Darknet Project, a new initiative to create “a decentralised web of interconnected wireless mesh networks that operate independently of each other and the conventional internet”.

Too much information: links for week ending 11 November 2011

UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning release OER policy document
Creative Commons reports that UNESCO and the Commonwealth of Learning have jointly released a policy document “to encourage decision makers in governments and institutions to invest in the systematic production, adaptation, and use of Open Educational Resources”.

United States faces questions on ACTA, IP enforcement and free expression
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a letter sent by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a US Representative “undertaking to explain the apparent contradiction in the strong enforcement of intellectual property rights and efforts to ensure freedom of expression on the internet”, a contradiction that was highlighted by the UN’s Frank la Rue earlier this year. Meanwhile, the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development reports that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a US-led treaty that threatens to take intellectual property enforcement laws beyond WTO-established standards, is being questioned by US authorities, at the European Parliament, and at the WTO. A video produced by La Quadrature du Net that encourages European citizens to write to their elected representatives at the European Parliament protesting ACTA has been viewed more than 1m times.
Clinton answers | ACTA questions | Video

Open Net Initiative releases data on global internet filtering
The Open Net Initiative have released the data they collect about global internet filtering, to enable reuse by researchers and developers: “The data provides an overview of the most recent ONI ratings of the breadth and depth of Internet censorship in seventy-four countries”.

Websites to generate FOI requests proliferate
Freedom Info reports on the recent launch of six new websites designed to make it easy to submit Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to authorities in the EU, Germany, Kosovo, Chile, Macedonia and Brazil. Many of them use the Alavateli platform developed by mySociety.

UK: Record industry body asks ISP to block the Pirate Bay
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a lobbyist group for the record industry, has asked major British Internet Service Provider (ISP) BT to block the BitTorrent site Pirate Bay. The request follows a recent court decision compelling BT to block another website, Newzbin. LINX reports that “BT has ruled out any extension of blocking any site without a court order”.

Selling our wireless future
In this editorial for the Huffington Post, Yochai Benkler defends unlicensed spectrum policies against those who would sell off spectrum to the highest bidder to plug the US’s budget deficit gap. Benkler has published a working paper in support of his analysis, examining demand for spectrum in eight different US markets including wireless healthcare and smart grid applications.
Editorial | Research

Free but not easy
This short feature for the Economist provides a good summary of the issues – such as international expansion, fundraising and stagnating editor numbers – that currently face Wikipedia.

Research: The adverse effects of sunshine
This research presents evidence that legislative transparency initiatives in Vietnam have potentially may have the effect of “curtailed participation and conformist behaviour”.

The discreet switch to Twitter
This analysis for the Monday Note identifies why looking at user figures alone might not give an accurate picture of the rising importance of Twitter, and the decline of Facebook, when it comes to social media marketing.

Tackling the high cost of textbooks
This editorial for the Seattle Times celebrates last week’s launch of the Open Course Library, a repository of open educational resources that anyone can download, use and adapt free-of-charge, developed by the Washington State community and technical college system.

With US tech, internet censorship continues in Syria and Burma
Digital Journal highlights a new report from the Toronto Citizen Lab about technology produced by US company Bluecoat that is used in Burma and Syria to suppress speech.

Interview: We are all Khaled Said
The Boston Review publishes an interview with the administrators of the Facebook page which helped fuel the Egyptian Revolution, “We are all Khaled Said”.

Interview: Academic publishing and zombies
Inside Higher Ed talks to Kathleen Fitzpatrick, a media studies academic and director of scholarly communication at the Modern Language Association
about her new book “Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy”.

Infographic: Google vs Facebook
The All Facebook blog republish an infographic produced by security vendor Veracode which compares privacy standards on Google and Facebook, arguing Facebook has fallen behind Google in how it protects its users’ privacy.