Too much information: Links for week ending 9 November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 2 November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 26 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 19 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 12 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 5 October 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: Links for week ending 28 September 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: links for week ending 21 September 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: links for week ending 14 September 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too much information: links for week ending 7 September 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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