Global Digital Download - Global News
The Global Digital Download is a weekly publication that aggregates resources on Internet freedom, highlighting trends in digital and social media that intersect with freedom of expression, policy, privacy, censorship and new technologies. The GDD includes information about relevant events, news, and research. To find past articles and research, search the archive database.
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A group of security researchers in Germany found some suspicious traffic on their web servers after a Skype instant messaging session. After a single experiment, they concluded that Microsoft is snooping on its customers. But a closer look at the facts suggests that this is a well-documented security feature at work.
It’s a big week for digital freedom and internet governance, with two key summits taking place in Geneva ahead of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day on Friday, May 17, Brian Pellot reports. The week-long World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum bills itself as the “largest annual gathering of the ‘information and communication technologies for development’ community”. This multi-stakeholder UN forum brings together government, business and civil society to discuss internet policy and governance issues.
Here we go again. The United Nations is trying to take over the Internet! Or maybe it isn’t. Only five months ago, at a treaty conference convened by a U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union, the U.S. delegation stormed out, refusing to sign the proposed document, saying it posed a threat to the current, decentralized Internet governance system. Several dozen other countries joined the boycott. The telecommunication union has always insisted that the treaty, which it is still lobbying holdout governments to sign, had nothing to do with the Internet, even though pretty much everyone else in Dubai seemed to think it did.
Mozilla Fights Back Against Surveillance Malware Sold To Governments, As New Report Shows It's Spreading
Last week, Mozilla took an important step in the fight against the proliferation of pervasive surveillance technologies by sending a cease and desist letter to Gamma International, demanding Gamma stop using Mozilla’s trademark. Gamma makes the notorious Finspy and Finfisher malware that has ended up in the hands of authoritarian regimes. Citizen Lab’s Morgan Marquis-Boire has spearheaded research showing that Finspy tries to trick users by using the Mozilla Firefox name to masquerade as legitimate software.
On 3 May 2013, at the UNESCO World Press Freedom International Conference 2013, ARTICLE 19 launched The Right to Blog - a new policy paper that calls for lawmakers to better promote and protect the rights of bloggers domestically and internationally. The Right to Blog also gives practical advice to bloggers about their rights and explains how - and in what situations - they can invoke some of the privileges and defences that traditional journalists have found vital to the integrity of their work.
In this policy paper, ARTICLE 19 proposes a set of recommendations to state actors and policy makers about what they should do to promote and protect the rights of bloggers domestically and internationally. It also gives practical advice to bloggers about their rights and explains how - and in what situations - they can invoke some of the privileges and defences that traditional journalists have found vital to the integrity of their work.
May 3 was World Press Freedom Day, a day to celebrate the fundamental principles of independent media. But WPFD is also an opportunity to pay attention to where press freedom is under attack around the world--and the increasing tendency of those attacks to occur online. Bloggers and citizen journalists are arrested, jailed, and murdered for the words they write and the images they share; citizens are cut off from each other and from the information they seek because of what governments or companies deem appropriate for society.
We typically focus on the positive aspects of online social networks - but what about their negative aspects? As we’re seeing in the investigation into the Boston Bombers, online social networks can rapidly transform into participatory surveillance networks, in which everyone participates, at least indirectly, in the creation of a digital surveillance state. Suddenly, our friendships on Facebook or our followers on Twitter can link us to people or content we'd rather not be linked to. The more we share online, the more likely that this will happen. In some cases, the videos you've watched on YouTube or the photos you've posted on Instagram could become the basis for a criminal investigation.
In this report Citizen Lab Security Researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak provide analysis of several pieces of malware targeting Bahraini dissidents, shared with us by Bloomberg News. The analysis suggests that the malware used is “FinSpy,” part of the commercial intrusion kit, Finfisher, distributed by the United Kingdom-based company, Gamma International.
Fast and reliable infrastructure of any kind is good for business. That it's debatable for the Internet shows we still don't understand what the Internet is — or how, compared to what it costs to build and maintain other forms of infrastructure, it's damned cheap, with economic and social leverage in the extreme. Here's a thought exercise… Imagine no Internet: no data on phones, no ethernet or wi-fi connections at home — or anywhere. No email, no Google, no Facebook, no Amazon, no Skype. That's what we would have if designing the Internet had been left up to phone and cable companies, and not to geeks whose names most people don't know.
When you use the Internet, you entrust your conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook. But what do these companies do when the government demands your private information? Do they stand with you? Do they let you know what’s going on? In this annual report, the Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of major Internet companies — including ISPs, email providers, cloud storage providers, location-based services, blogging platforms, and social networking sites — to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data.
The Delete Squad: Google, Twitter, Facebook And The New Global Battle Over The Future Of Free Speech
A year ago this month, Stanford Law School hosted a little-noticed meeting that may help decide the future of free speech online. It took place in the faculty lounge, where participants were sustained in their deliberations by bagels and fruit platters. Among the roughly two-dozen attendees, the most important were a group of fresh-faced tech executives, some of them in t-shirts and unusual footwear, who are in charge of their companies’ content policies. Their positions give these young people more power over who gets heard around the globe than any politician or bureaucrat—more power, in fact, than any president or judge.
Recent reports all point to the same fact: despite the different motives of the attackers, DDoS attack have become more frequent and more intense. So what are businesses and organizations to do? For one, you should have a plan ready to respond to such an attack even before it happens. You should know who to contact, what information to gather, what mitigation strategies to employ.
Google released its semi-annual transparency report today, indicating an increase in government requests for content removal worldwide--although more than half came from a handful of countries. At the same time, the report also revealed that government requests for user data have plateaued, and for the first time, both the proportion and raw number of user accounts whose data was turned over in response to requests decreased, leading to the question: Is this a turning point for privacy?
Last month, the Global Network Initiative (GNI) - a multi-stakeholder coalition of ICT companies, civil society organisations, investors and academics - signed a cooperation agreement with another body called Industry Dialogue, or, to give it its full name, Telecommunications Industry Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. Why should journalism and media policy people care about this?
Instead of polemical cowboy columns, a systematic approach around key concepts and underlying traditions (such as libertarianism) could have a more devastating effect on the study of the internet and its political and social potential. In March 2013 the Belarusian-American wunderkind Evgeny Morozov published his second book, not long after his bestselling The Net Delusion from 2011.
Remember all the businesses, internet techies and NGOs who were screaming about an “ITU takeover of the Internet” a year ago? Where are they now? Because this time, we actually need them. May 14 – 21 is Internet governance week in Geneva. We have declared it so because there will be three events in that week for the global community concerned with global internet governance. From 14-16 May the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) holds its World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF). This year it is devoted to internet policy issues.
The “quantity v. quality” debate around global digital access seldom gets the attention it deserves. Here I define “quantity” as the spread of internet access to remote and marginalised communities and “quality” as the extent to which these connections are free from corporate or government restrictions and surveillance. With more than four billion people yet to come online around the world, basic connectivity is an obvious and necessary prerequisite for digital access. But handing out one laptop per child and selling low-cost smartphones does not solve the quality problem, and can in fact worsen it.
The Internet has created an extraordinary new democratic forum for people around the world to express their opinions. It is revolutionizing global access to information: Today, more than 1 billion people worldwide have access to the Internet, and at current growth rates, 5 billion people -- about 70 percent of the world's population -- will be connected in five years. But this growth trajectory is not inevitable, and threats are mounting to the global spread of an open and truly "worldwide" web. The expansion of the open Internet must be allowed to continue: The mobile and social media revolutions are critical not only for democratic institutions' ability to solve the collective problems of a shrinking world, but also to a dynamic and innovative global economy that depends on financial transparency and the free flow of information.
"For every person online, there are two who are not. By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected. #NewDigitalAge" The above statement was tweeted by Google chairman Eric Schmidt on Saturday, April 13. Given Schmidt’s prominence and the boldness of his claim, it naturally sparked a lively discussion as to whether it would be possible (and desirable) for the entire world population to be online by 2020. Considering the fact that, as of 2012, only a good third of the world’s 7 billion people were online, it seems unlikely that Schmidt’s prediction will come true. What’s more important, millions of those 7 billion people are suffering from malnourishment and lacking access to clean drinking water, so providing them with internet access shouldn’t and probably won’t be a priority in the next few years.
CIMA announces the release of its most recent report, The New Gatekeepers: Controlling Information in the Internet Age, by veteran journalist and media development trainer Bill Ristow. The report traces how the technological revolution of the past few decades has created a new corporate world of Internet-based companies that have become the new gatekeepers of information–and their data-parsing algorithms the twenty-first century equivalent of the stereotypical editor with the green eyeshade who filtered the news before passing it along to readers.
Everybody in the world will be on the Internet within seven years. That's what Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said this weekend in public comments that inspired everything from excitement to incredulity. "For every person online, there are two who are not," Schmidt wrote Saturday on his Google+ account. "By the end of the decade, everyone on Earth will be connected."
The next chapter in the struggle over global internet governance is just weeks away with the start of the World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) in Geneva, Switzerland. Though WTPF will not result in a binding international treaty like the controversial World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), its outcome documents--known as opinions--will help shape the direction of global internet governance in the coming years.
iDCLOAK Technologies Releases A Proxy Servers List Designed Specifically For Web Censorship Circumvention
This month sees iDCLOAK Technologies’ first major service release of 2013: a fully customizable Proxy Servers List that has been compiled and developed as a free tool for bypassing internet censorship. What is unique about iDCLOAK's unblock proxy list is that it is fully user configurable. By constantly updating it with fresh proxies, it is specifically designed for censorship circumvention.
At a United Nations conference on telecommunications governance in Dubai last December representatives of most of the world’s countries argued furiously over the way the internet should be managed. The debate established a clear divide over how much control a country should have over its own internet. On one side were America, the European Union and other developed countries that broadly back internet freedom; on the other were China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and a number of other authoritarian states. A significant majority of these seem to favour China’s approach to control (or a Russian variant), which involves allowing more access to the internet and reaping the economic benefits, but at the same time monitoring, filtering, censoring and criminalising free speech online.
As we noted in an earlier post, Microsoft released its first-ever transparency report, the 2012 Law Enforcement Requests Report, the other week, explaining its approach to criminal law enforcement data requests around the globe. The report includes detailed information and data about the communications platform Skype, making it the first official public clarification of the company’s legal standing and jurisdiction since Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011.
Most of us face such decisions daily. We are hurried and distracted and don’t pay close attention to what we are doing. Often, we turn over our data in exchange for a deal we can’t refuse. Alessandro Acquisti, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, studies how we make these choices. In a series of provocative experiments, he has shown that despite how much we say we value our privacy — and we do, again and again — we tend to act inconsistently.
As much as we would rather not report on yet another Android malware scare (we think security issues are overblown and that any platform is vulnerable, anyway), this one seems to be a first in the Android ecosystem. Security researchers have discovered what may be the first targeted Android malware attack, which is basically a smartly-crafted social engineering attack that specifically targeted a Tibetan activist, with the intent of spreading itself through the target’s contacts, thereby gaining access to their devices and information.
Microsoft disclosed for the first time on Thursday the number of requests it had received from government law enforcement agencies for data on its hundreds of millions of customers around the world, joining the ranks of Google, Twitter and other Web businesses that publish so-called transparency reports. The report, which Microsoft said it planned to update every six months, showed that law enforcement agencies in five countries — Britain, France, Germany, Turkey and the United States — accounted for 69 percent of the 70,665 requests the company received last year.
We all know YouTube is the biggest video sharing site around, but how big is it, exactly, when compared to sites such as Facebook or Twitter? Here's a hint: YouTube has just hit one billion monthly unique users. For comparison, Facebook hit that milestone in October 2012. It took the social network eight years to reach one billion active users — almost the exact amount of time as YouTube, which was founded in February 2005. Twitter, which has been around since March 2006, has more than 200 million monthly active users.
Visualizing Google's Transparency Report, Part 3: What Countries Ask For The Biggest Share Of Netizen Data?
Google's Transparency Report gives country-by-country statistics on the state requests it receives for personal private records. Below, EFF and SHARE Defense ranked the top countries requesting data—not by the total numbers of requests, but by how many accounts are requested relative to the total number of Internet users in each country. We believe this chart is fairer for countries that have a large Internet user population, but who make a smaller percentage of surveillance requests. These results are not a perfect measure, but we can still see the disproportionate activities of some small nations who make relatively relative high numbers of data requests.
After Google unceremoniously announced it would be killing Reader later this year, much of the outraged response focused on its use in the U.S. But there's a whole other aspect to the service: for thousands of users around the world, it's one of the few ways they can get around their country's censors. A "save Google Reader" petition hosted by Change.org has received 125,000 signatures so far. And as Change.org revealed to Mashable Monday, 75% of those signatures come from users outside the U.S. — and 12% of them total say they live in countries that Reporters Without Borders or the OpenNet Initiative report say have active Internet censorship by government forces.
The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.
Special Report on Internet Surveillance: Focusing On Internet Surveillance, Focusing On 5 Governments and 5 Companies "Enemies Of The Internet"
On March 12, World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders is releasing a Special report on Internet surveillance, available at surveillance.rsf.org/en. It looks at the way governments are increasingly using technology that monitors online activity and intercepts electronic communication in order to arrest journalists, citizen-journalists and dissidents. Around 180 netizens worldwide are currently in prison for providing news and information online.
The recommendations from the OSCE conference Internet 2013 – Shaping policies to advance media freedom were published on 13 March 2013. The conference took place in Vienna in February and brought together more than 400 participants who discussed a wide range of Internet freedom related matters, from Internet governance and self-regulation to social media and hate speech. The recommendations drawn from the conference relate to an inclusive dialogue and knowledge-sharing among participants from governments, private sector, civil society and academia.
Last May, two security researchers volunteered to look at a few suspicious e-mails sent to some Bahraini activists. Almost one year later, the two have uncovered evidence that some 25 governments, many with questionable records on human rights, may be using off-the-shelf surveillance software to spy on their own citizens. Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security researcher at Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, and Bill Marczak, a computer science doctoral student at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the e-mails contained surveillance software that could grab images off computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes.
“My computer was arrested before I was.” This perceptive comment was made by a Syrian activist who had been arrested and tortured by the Assad regime. Caught by means of online surveillance, Karim Taymour told a Bloomberg journalist that, during interrogation, he was shown a stack of hundreds of pages of printouts of his Skype chats and files downloaded remotely from his computer hard drive. His torturers clearly knew as much as if they had been with him in his room, or more precisely, in his computer.
Threats to digital freedom are growing just as the number of people accessing the internet is taking off, with millions more likely to join the digital world through mobiles and smartphones in the coming years. The range of challenges is wide: from state censorship, including firewalls and the imposition of network or country-wide filters, to increasing numbers of takedown requests from governments, companies and individuals, corporate hoovering up of private data, growing surveillance of electronic communications, and criminalisation of speech on social media.
Information and communications technology (ICT) companies—from search engines and software providers to network operators and equipment vendors—enable access to information and the exchange of ideas around the world. But the more we depend on technology in every part of our lives, the more that company business decisions can impact human rights, particularly free expression and privacy.
After the death of Hugo Chavez was announced this week, individuals across the globe -- from everyday Venezuelans to Barack Obama to Billy Bragg -- took to the Twitterverse to comment on the late Latin American leader's passing. Some mourned his death, while others expressed vehement support or outright rejection of his political ideologies. This mixed bag of reactions was evident among the tweets of U.S. politicians alone.
Freedom of expression needs championing online as much as off. The internet and social media have opened up debate and interaction within and across countries, and transformed how we access and share information. But governments and companies are intervening in a mixture of ways to limit or even directly block, censor and monitor what we can do and see on the web.
Facebook users became much more protective about who sees sensitive information about them, even as they were urged to share more about themselves on the social network, according to an unusual seven-year study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The study followed the privacy settings of roughly 5,000 Facebook users who were part of the university network on Facebook between 2005 and 2011. It is among the first longitudinal efforts aimed at gauging how Facebook users try to protect their information.
The 16th round of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) began in Singapore today, as trade delegates and private stakeholders from 11 participating countries gather to discuss this the contours of Pacific trade. EFF and many others are deeply concerned about TPP, because it appears to contain an intellectual property (IP) chapter that would ratchet up IP enforcement at the expense of digital rights. The TPP could turn Internet Service Providers into copyright cops, prompt ever-higher criminal and civil penalties for sharing content, and expand protections for Digital Rights Management. The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) has announced that they plan to complete the TPP by the fall of this year.
CANN CEO Fadi Chehadé was already 2 hours into his flight from Singapore to Paris when the pilot's voice interrupted the in-flight entertainment. A tech problem meant turning back, landing in Singapore, waiting for another plane and starting the long haul again! Half a day later, Chehadé landed in Paris. He'd already missed a lunch appointment but was still in time to make a reception organised at French ICANN board member Sébastien Bachollet's initiative. Chehadé gave a speech there to help spread the word about ICANN to the local community, before speeding off to the Unesco building in the center of Paris.
With Internet censorship on the rise around the world, organizations and researchers have developed and distributed a variety of tools to assist Internet users to both monitor and circumvent such censorship.In this talk, Jon Penney—Research Fellow at the Citizen Lab and Berkman Fellow—examines some of the international law and politics of such censorship resistance activities through three case studies involving past global communications censorship and information conflicts—telegraph cable cutting and suppression, high frequency radio jamming, and direct broadcast satellite blocking—and the world community's response to these conflicts.
This week, Internet governance experts and advocates gather in Paris to start preparing for the ten-year review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2015. This week’s meeting is hosted by the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); CDT’s Leslie Harris and Matthew Shears will be appearing on several panels addressing questions of privacy, free expression, and cybersecurity – key issues in Internet policy that will shape governance debates over the next few years. The WSIS+10 event will give government, industry, civil society, academics, and the technical community an opportunity to continue conversations about Internet governance and policy that were features of the WCIT debates.
More than three out of every 10 smartphone owners don't have a password on the device that could give easy access to their e-mail, bank account, credit card information and other sensitive info. That's one of the findings of a recent worldwide survey by Web security company McAfee. On top of that, 15% of people surveyed said they save password information on their phones to apps and websites they use and more than half (55%) who do have passwords said they've shared those passwords with others.
As the European Parliament debates new data protection reforms,US technology companies have arrived in Brussels to commence an unprecedented lobbying effort aimed at preventing strong regulation and weakening existing standards. Most troublingly, some of the draft legislative proposals have been copied and pasted directly from lobbying documents, evidence of the immense influence of US giants like Google and Amazon on European policy. In response, the advocacy group Europe vs. Facebook recently launched the LobbyPlag initiative, publishing a side-by-side comparison of language proposed by lobbyists and the actual text of European Parliamentary proposals.
Recently, the network research and analytics company Renesys tried to assess how hard it would be to take the world offline. They assessed disconnection risk based on the number of national service providers in every country, finding that 61 countries are at severe risk for disconnection, with another 72 at significant risk. That makes 133 countries where network control is so centralized that the Internet could be turned off with not much more than a phone call.
Since the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) discharged delegates from an atmosphere of restrained acidity last December, ITU habitués have wondered how that outcome will affect the rhythms of their regular work in Geneva. This is no less true for governments that approved of the WCIT treaty as it is for those which did not, though the immediate anxiety may be greatest for the latter — for those whom we can call, with sloppy shorthand, the G8. Such high stakes present the best reason to take time in deciding on the right next step.
With three months remaining until the World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) still has an opportunity to facilitate meaningful civil society participation in the event. This is the message that civil society groups worldwide are delivering in a letter to Secretary General Touré this week. CDT strongly supports the letter and encourages other civil society organizations to sign on.
With WICT-12 over, and now the preparation for the forthcoming WTPF underway, and of course also we have the WTDC and WTISD coming up, one could be excused for thinking that that world famous, but hopelessly unintelligible, cartoon character from the 80's and 90's, Bill the Cat, has come out of retirement to work as head of Acronym Engineering at the ITU. However, no matter how unintelligible the acronyms of these meetings can get, the issue of how we come to terms with a technology-dense world is a serious matter. Too often we appear to use yesterday's tools and techniques to address tomorrow's issues, and take the view that if it worked in the past it should work now. I'd like to look at this approach in a little more detail here, and try and understand why WCIT was such a comprehensive failure and why the prospects for the next round of telecommunications sector meetings are not exactly looking rosy.
Although the WCIT is over, international debate about Internet governance and policy continue, full speed ahead. December’s treaty conference closed with a complex set of national positions and reservations, with 55 countries opting not to sign the new draft of the International Telecommunication Regulations. Many have attempted to piece together a coherent story of what happened during the WCIT. The not-so-subtle subtext running through all these accounts is that many of the policy issues and concerns raised at that conference will be on the agenda for the ITU’s next big meeting, the World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF).
A late 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that young adults are more likely than others to use major social media. At the same time, other groups are interested in different sites and services. Internet users under 50 are particularly likely to use a social networking site of any kind, and those 18-29 are the most likely of any demographic cohort to do so (83%). Women are more likely than men to be on these sites. Those living in urban settings are also significantly more likely than rural internet users to use social networking.
States around the world are faced daily with the challenge of protecting their populations from potential and real threats. To detect and respond to them, many governments surveil communication networks, physical movements, and transactional records. Though surveillance by its nature compromises individual privacy, there are exceptional situations where state surveillance is justified. Yet, if state surveillance is unnecessary or overreaching, with weak legal safeguards and a failure to follow due process, it can become disproportionate to the threat—infringing on people's privacy rights.
Separating paranoia from healthy caution in the 21st century is only getting harder, as it gets easier and easier for governments and corporations to track our online behaviour. The latest development, revealed by the Guardian, is that defence giant Raytheon has created software capable of tracking people based on information posted to social networks. Its capabilities are impressively creepy: by extracting location information from Facebook, check-ins, and even latitude and longitude details from photographs in which targets are tagged (did you know cameras stored that?), it builds a picture of where someone's been, who they've been there with, and where they might go next.
In his commentary The Internet Yalta, Alexander Klimburg, Fellow and Senior Adviser at the Austrian Institute for International Affairs, argues that the December 2012 meeting of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) may be the digital equivalent of the February 1945 meeting of the Allied powers in Yalta: the beginning of a long Internet Cold War between authoritarian and liberal-democratic countries. Klimburg contends that the battles over Internet governance that surfaced at WCIT are not just about competing visions of the Internet: They are also about two different visions of political power.
British anthropologist Jack Goody posed this question in ‘The Domestication of the Savage Mind’, his 1997 publication covering new forms of communication within society. According to his study a culture which transmits its knowledge orally does not think in the same way as a writing-based culture. Today, this is compounded by a new method of knowledge transmission – digital technology. We communicate on the internet by combining oral and written forms. Thanks to this technology, still new on the scale of human history, the transmission of knowledge – that is, data – is continually expanding as in a interconnected matrix.
On Thursday, Microsoft plans to unveil a new print, television and online advertising campaign that attacks Google on an issue that Microsoft believes is one of its great vulnerabilities: privacy. The ads will showcase research that shows most people don’t know that Web e-mail providers like Google scan the contents of their e-mail messages to deliver personalized ads to them — and when they do find out, they don’t like it. If Gmail was a physical product, Microsoft’s actions would amount to putting a sticker on it that said, “Warning: Google is creepy.”
With the recent announcement of the new Silent Text product arriving in Apple’s App Store soon, the renewed scrutiny has also upped the pressure for the Silent Circle team to release its application source code. While some of the deployed protocols are in the public domain, the source code for particular applications have not been released yet making it difficult for security researchers to render an informed opinion on its implementation.
When you use the Internet, you entrust your thoughts, experiences, photos, and location data to intermediaries — companies like AT&T, Google, and Facebook. But when the government requests that data, users are usually left in the dark. In the United States, companies are not required by law to alert their users when they receive a government request for their data. In some circumstances, they are explicitly prohibited from doing so. As part of our ongoing Who Has Your Back campaign, EFF has called on companies to be transparent by publishing their law enforcement guidelines and statistics on government requests for user data.
Facebook is the most popular social network in America — roughly two-thirds of adults in the country use it on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick of it. A new survey by the Pew Research Center‘s Internet and American Life Project, conducted in December, found that 61 percent of current Facebook users admitted that they had voluntarily taken breaks from the site, for as many as several weeks at a time. The main reasons for their social media sabbaticals were not having enough time to dedicate to pruning their profiles, an overall decrease in their interest in the site, and the general sentiment that Facebook was a major waste of time.
For the past few months, some of the world’s leading cryptographers have been keeping a closely guarded secret about a pioneering new invention. Today, they’ve decided it’s time to tell all. Back in October, the startup tech firm Silent Circle ruffled governments’ feathers with a “surveillance-proof” smartphone app to allow people to make secure phone calls and send texts easily. Now, the company is pushing things even further—with a groundbreaking encrypted data transfer app that will enable people to send files securely from a smartphone or tablet at the touch of a button. (For now, it’s just being released for iPhones and iPads, though Android versions should come soon.) That means photographs, videos, spreadsheets, you name it—sent scrambled from one person to another in a matter of seconds.
Internet engineers and legal scholars are worried that amendments to a U.N. telecommunications treaty will give repressive governments more control of the Internet in their countries and could begin to undermine international sanctions against pariah states such as Iran. Current and former U.S. and foreign officials, scientists and scholars will testify about their concerns Tuesday before a joint hearing of the House Foreign Affairs and the House Energy and Commerce committees. According to prepared testimony and other documents made available by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the witnesses will report on the outcome of December’s World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai, where some countries agreed to revisions to the International Telecommunications Regulations, a 1998 treaty that governs telephone services across national borders.
The world is in the midst of an unprecedented technological transition, characterized by growth in the volume and diversity of people, devices, and data connected to the Internet. Across the globe, billions of people are using information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure to conduct business, interact with governments and each other. The World Economic Forum recently observed that “more than 70 percent of the world’s citizens live in societies that have just begun their digitization journeys. 1” With so many people moving towards an increasingly digital lifestyle, the world that emerges at the conclusion of this transition will likely be very different than the world we know today.
Who should control the Internet? That's the question that gets discussed every year at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a UN initiative created in 2005. The IGF brings together all of the key parties with a stake in the Internet governance debate – from governments, the private sector and civil society. Last November at the seventh annual forum in Baku, Azerbaijan, leaders of the Pirate Party faced off against Internet giants like Google and Facebook, while bloggers had the opportunity to rub shoulders with big names, including Vint Cerf, one of the "fathers of the Internet", and Larry Strickling, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information.
All disruptive technologies upset traditional power balances, and the Internet is no exception. The standard story is that it empowers the powerless, but that's only half the story. The Internet empowers everyone. Powerful institutions might be slow to make use of that new power, but since they are powerful, they can use it more effectively. Governments and corporations have woken up to the fact that not only can they use the Internet, they can control it for their interests. Unless we start deliberately debating the future we want to live in, and information technology in enabling that world, we will end up with an Internet that benefits existing power structures and not society in general.
On International Data Privacy Day, [28 January], it is important that we all ask ourselves: who has access to our personal information? Who can find out where we've been and who we've called, who can read our emails and our text messages? Who can find which websites we access and which files we download? Statistics released by Google and Twitter over the past week are a sobering reminder that it is not only the corporations to which we consensually provide this information which are able to access it. Governments regularly approach these and other internet companies seeking the opportunity to delve into our personal lives.
January 28 marks International Privacy Day. Different countries are celebrating this day calling attention to their own events and campaigns. This year, EFF is honoring the day by sharing some advocacy strategies utilized by human rights advocates and activists from Argentina, the UK, Canada, and the United States, that have helped to defeat overreaching surveillance proposals that threaten civil liberties.
Facebook's Graph Search has certainly caused quite a stir since it was first announced two weeks ago. We wrote earlier about how Graph Search, still in beta, presents new privacy problems by making shared information discoverable when previously it was hard—if not impossible—to find at a large scale. We also put out a call to action—and even created a handy how-to guide—urging people to reassess their privacy settings.
Twitter’s New Transparency Report Shows Increase In Government Demands, Sheds Light On Copyright Takedowns
Yesterday, Twitter released its second semi-annual transparency report, which details the numbers behind every user data demand, censorship order and copyright takedown request that the micro-blogging site received in the second half of 2012. As with Google’s transparency report last week, there was a clear increase in government demands for user data, with the United States leading the way by far. Censorship requests from around the world also increased. In addition, the report shed valuable light on the copyright takedown procedure that also often results in undue censorship.
“LOIC Will Tear Us Apart”: The Impact Of Tool Design And Media Portrayals In The Success Of Activist DDOS Actions
This talk explores the role of tool design and media coverage in the relative success of Operation Payback and earlier activist Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) actions. Through a close reading of changes in the tool’s interface and functionality over several iterations, the talk considers the evolution of the Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) DDOS tool from one which appealed to a small, inwardly-focused community to one which engaged with a larger population. The talk further considers Anonymous’s contribution to the reframing of DDOS actions from a tool of direct action to a tool of media manipulation and identity construction, as well as the news media’s role in encouraging individuals to participate in the Operation PayBack actions.
Today (January 28) is Data Privacy Day, an international holiday that marks the 32nd anniversary of the signing of the Council of Europe’s Data Protection Convention 108. Data Privacy Day, which is celebrated all over Europe, Canada, and the US, recognises our fundamental right under human rights law and the importance of privacy to the maintenance of democratic societies, the advancement of human dignity, and the flourishing of other rights such as freedom of expression and association.
In December 2012, EFF organized a Surveillance and Human Rights Camp in Brazil that brought together the expertise of a diverse group of people concerned about state electronic surveillance in Latin American and other countries. Among other concerns, participants spotlighted the many ways in which the private sector is increasingly playing a role in state surveillance.
Google Inc. (GOOG), which says it gets about 1,400 requests a month from U.S. authorities for users’ e- mails and documents, is organizing an effort to press for limits on government access to digital communications. The company has been talking to advocacy groups and companies about joining a lobbying effort to change the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, said Chris Gaither, a Google spokesman. He declined to elaborate. “Given the realities of how people live and where things are going in the digital world, it’s an important time for government to act” to update the law, David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer, said in an interview. “It’s a bipartisan issue and I think the momentum is going to build because citizens are expecting this.” Google officials say changes in the law are needed to prevent law enforcement from obtaining certain e-mails and other content without search warrants, and to give documents stored on cloud services the same legal protections as paper documents stored in a desk drawer. Cloud services, which didn’t exist when the privacy law was passed, let users store and process data on remote servers via the Internet.
Just walking down a city street these days leaves behind enough digital bread crumbs to make Hansel and Gretel envious. Surveillance cameras capture your image, your mobile phone is playing its self-identified part as a personal tracking device every time it "pings" the nearest cell tower. That awesome picture of the street musician you snapped with your camera phone and just sent to Instagram likely contains enough GPS and meta data to point-point your location with dazzling accuracy. What happens to all those digital "bread crumbs"? Where does it all go? Who has access to it? And can you control any of that? Enter Data Privacy Day.
The Internet turned 30 earlier this month. On Jan. 1, 1983, engineers launched the basic protocol for sharing bits between computers, setting in motion the networked world we live in today. It’s during anniversaries like these that we have a chance to take stock of this remarkable network and the people who make it what it is.
France has been uncommonly busy lately. In the past week it seems to have lost its rights to Pong while producing both Le Pong and Le Best News Ever. The latter being a government report confirming widespread suspicions that time spent mucking about on Facebook is actually "work" you should be getting paid for.Commissioned by the minister for innovation and the economy, the Colin and Collin Report essentially classifies users of sites like Facebook and Google as unpaid labourers.
Microsoft needs to open up about the trustworthiness of its Skype software for confidential conversations, according to an open letter to the company posted today. The letter, from an array of privacy advocates, Internet activists, journalists, and others, calls on Microsoft to provide public documentation about the security and privacy practices around Skype, which facilitates video and voice communications over the Internet. Microsoft completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype in October 2011.
At this week's State of the Net conference, an annual event of the bipartisan Congressional Internet Caucus, members of Congress, staffers, and technology policy junkies gathered once again to explore the government's Internet-related priorities for the new year. A few themes emerged, including possible legislation over cybersecurity, a rewrite of the 1996 Communications Act, reforming federal electronic-surveillance laws, and the continuing threat of both national governments and the United Nations trying to wrest control of Internet governance from engineering-driven groups.
Even before the World Conference on International Telecommunications took place last month in Dubai, Internet activists anticipated trouble. So did Congress, which issued a resolution calling it “essential” that the Internet remain “stable, secure and free from governmental control.” The worries proved prescient. The conference, which supposedly was going to modernize some ancient regulations, instead offered a treaty that in the eyes of some critics would have given repressive states permission to crack down on dissent. The United States delegate refused to sign it. Fifty-four other countries, including Canada, Peru, Japan and most of Western Europe, voted no as well.
Five years ago, a few forward-looking members of the GV community, led by Sami ben Gharbia, began Global Voices Advocacy. They understood that rights to free expression and privacy of netizens were being challenged by governments, companies, and other powerful actors — and they recognized that GV was uniquely positioned to do something about it. The site has since become a critical information and activism center for netizens whose work and lives are at risk, and I’m thrilled to be taking on a full-time role in this effort.
The famed technology writer Steven Levy starts his long-form history of Facebook's newest product—Graph Search—by describing it as a feature that "promises to transform its user experience, threaten its competitors, and torment privacy activists." Though it takes quite a lot to torment us these days, Graph Search does raise a few eyebrows. The new feature allows users to use structured searches to more thoroughly filter through friends, friends of friends, and the general public. Now one can more easily search for "My friends who like Downton Abbey" or "People in San Francisco, California who work at Facebook." Facebook then returns a list of individuals whose public or shared aspects of their profile match the search terms.
Index on Censorship, in partnership with The Editors Guild of India, hosted a debate in New Delhi on Tuesday (15 January) asking, “Is freedom of expression under threat in the digital age?” Discussing the topic were Ajit Balakrishnan (founder and Chief Executive of rediff.com), Index on Censorship CEO Kirsty Hughes, Sunil Abraham (Executive Director of the centre for Internet and Society), Professor Timothy Garton Ash, Director of the Free Speech Debate project, and Lokman Tsui, Policy Advisor for Google Asia-Pacific.
Here in the United States, if you whip out a clamshell flip phone, chances are you’ll be called a caveman or Luddite. But elsewhere, there are still some emerging countries where the old-school cellphone has yet to become passé. In India, Russia and Brazil, the older types of cellphone are still the most popular, according to a study published Thursday by Nielsen, the research firm. In India, 80 percent of phone users own an old-style feature phone, and only 10 percent have a smartphone, according to Nielsen’s estimates. In Brazil and Russia, feature phones account for roughly half the market.
As the global reach of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook expands, important questions of Digital Freedom and free expression arise. In France, a group of Jewish students have taken Twitter to court over anti-Semitic postings that erupted on the hashtag #unbonjuif (#a good jew). Twitter already removed the offending Tweets, yet the Paris branch of the French Union of Jewish Students argues that removing the content does not go far enough - the content of the Tweets themselves violate French criminal law against hate speech and Twitter should reveal the real names of the Tweeters so that the French police can conduct appropriate investigations. A decision from the French high court is expected this week.
One year ago, U.S. lawmakers discovered what happens when you mess with the internet, as Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, and millions of ordinary users helped “black out” the net on January 18 to protest SOPA and PIPA—two controversial pieces of legislation that were designed to fight online piracy, but threatened instead to censor the internet and disrupt the way it functions. Since that day, there has been a rise in new laws around the world that restrict free speech online and prompt arrests of internet users, a key trend identified in Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom on the Net report.
Nokia has confirmed reports that its Xpress Browser decrypts data that flows through HTTPS connections – that includes the connections set up for banking sessions, encrypted email and more. However, it insists that there’s no need for users to panic because it would never access customers’ encrypted data. The confirmation-slash-denial comes after security researcher Gaurang Pandya, who works for Unisys Global Services in India, detailed on his personal blog how browser traffic from his Series 40 ‘Asha’ phone was getting routed via Nokia’s servers.
Last month, a majority of the members of the International Telecommunications Union voted for a murky proposal, suggesting that the ITU has the power to regulate the Internet. The proposal was passed despite vociferous objections by the US and other developed countries. In the end, 55 countries refused to sign on, while 89 did sign the resolution. That was seen as a success for the US and its allies, but anyone celebrating the outcome might be doing so too soon.
The range of social media research produced in 2012 has been wide and diverse: from what works on Twitter to explorations of meme “virality”; from Facebook’s power to motivate to the hidden dynamics of friend networks; from SMS power in the Arab uprising to the questionable creep of social “Big Data.” We offer this list with the usual disclaimer: Our selection is meant to be useful, not definitive. Missing from this list is a lot of great scholarship, including analysis of bullying in a networked world, as well as much more on how social media is changing the way we participate in politics.
Last week, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) published an information note from Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré dated December 14 in which he reports to ITU Members on the ITU’s “ongoing and constructive dialogue with Civil Society.” The information note responds point by point to concerns raised in a December 9 letter from members of civil society and provides an account of a December 10 meeting between Touré and members of civil society present in Dubai for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).
In August , the 58-year-old actor and writer Chris Langham was found guilty of downloading 15 videos and pictures of child pornography (graphic and violent enough to fit the characterisation of all child pornography as child abuse). Two weeks earlier, five young British-Asian men — one was a school-leaver from London, four were students at Bradford University — were sentenced to various prison terms. They had been found guilty of possessing material for terrorist purposes (mostly downloaded from websites) that glorified Islamic terrorism, martyrdom and holy war.
When dozens of countries refused to sign a new global treaty on internet governance in late 2012, a wide range of activists rejoiced. They saw the treaty, crafted under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), as giving governments pernicious powers to meddle with and censor the internet. For months groups with names like Access Now and Fight for the Future had campaigned against the treaty. Their lobbying was sometimes hyperbolic. But it was also part of the reason the treaty was rejected by many countries, including America, and thus in effect rendered void.
The application of Deep Packet Inspection technologies which allow evaluation of the data being communicated online has always been a controversial subject. Here, Professor Milton Mueller explains how his team has looked into the role of such tools in governing the internet.
Access is encouraged to see that Yahoo! is now supporting HTTPS globally for its mail and messaging services, an important and overdue step for the security and privacy of its users. Pending technical analysis of its implementation, we believe this decision by Yahoo! responds to some of the concerns raised by civil society and security experts, and signals a continuing strengthening of their services’ privacy protections.
Shortly after the end of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) members of civil society issued a statement regarding the new International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) and the future of multi-stakeholder engagement with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). On December 28, the statement was sent to the ITU, which has communicated that it will respond in full.
Internet recently turned 30, but it could be easily dubbed as 13 going on 30 looking at the ways in which it’s being dealt with by government authorities who are attempting to clamp the freedom of the online world—much like parents try to restrict their wayward teenagers. The very open and free nature of Internet was threatened in the 2012 as government around the world tried to clamp the service. While these attempts were met with protests from netizens, we can’t afford to let the guard down in the coming year or our Internet freedom will be seriously affected.
At the very beginning, Tor was just a socks proxy that protected the origin and/or destination of your TCP flows. Now the broader Tor ecosystem includes a diverse set of projects -- browser extensions to patch Firefox and Thunderbird's privacy issues, Tor controller libraries to let you interface with the Tor client in your favorite language, network scanners to measure relay performance and look for misbehaving exit relays, LiveCDs, support for the way Android applications expect Tor to behave, full-network simulators and testing frameworks, plugins to make Tor's traffic look like Skype or other protocols, and metrics and measurement tools to keep track of how well everything's working.
While Internet access to certain sites is blocked in some parts of the world, these restrictions are often circumvented using proxies outside the censored region. Often these proxies are blocked as soon as they are discovered. In this paper we propose a browser-based proxy creation system that generates a large number of short-lived proxies. Clients using the system seamlessly hop from one proxy to the next as these browser-based proxies appear and disappear. We discuss a number of technical challenges that had to be overcome for this system to work and report on its performance and security. We show that browser-based short-lived proxies provide adequate bandwidth for video delivery and argue that blocking them can be challenging.
As the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2012 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series. Given the alarming expansion of state-sponsored surveillance, it can be hard to find reasons to be optimistic about individuals' ability to avoid being watched on the web. Yet the continued rise of HTTPS is a beacon of hope for thwarting many types of surveillance, and we are pleased that the positive trend of HTTPS adoption continues apace with some big steps forward in 2012.
At Global Voices Advocacy (GVA), we are dedicated to defending freedom of expression online. We have always been keen on publishing guides and tools to help our fellow netizens navigate the internet safely, circumvent censorship and protect themselves online. That is why, in 2013, we are committed to continue to defend your rights as netizens by publishing original reports and a new series of guides covering areas as diverse as circumvention, anonymity, surveillance, privacy, citizen journalism, visualization, online activism and advocacy.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the United Nations agency specializing in information and communication technologies - ICTs. From December 3 to 14, 2012, the ITU organized the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) in order to review the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). The Vía Libre Foundation analyzes the issues of this important conference in the article entitled Después de la WCIT y más allá (After the WCIT and Beyond), the first part of which we present below.
Reactions to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) and its resulting treaty have painted a dramatic picture of a world divided into two camps fighting over the future of the Internet. The decision of many countries not to sign the treaty, or to return home without signing in order to further deliberate over its meaning, has fed the bi-polar image. Without question, the new treaty did nudge the text further in the direction of impacting privacy and free expression, and the Internet-focused Resolution from the conference makes it clear that treaty-signers envision a larger role for the ITU in global Internet policymaking moving forward.
In early December, I found myself in an odd position: touching down in Dubai with credentials to attend a 12-day closed-door meeting of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). It's a meeting I spent the last six months trying to expose. Though the world had been assured that WCIT would not attempt to mount a “UN takeover of the Internet,” that was in many ways what happened. As the conference ended, I watched US Ambassador Terry Kramer abandon months of preparatory work and almost two weeks of intense negotiations to announce, as his words echoed through hundreds of headsets in six languages, that the US simply would not sign the resulting deal.
The credibility of the Internet depends on how much civil society – the broad label given to worldwide activism outside government – is able to take part in its evolution, a United Nations independent expert said today. “Civil society participation is essential to ensure legitimacy of global discussions on the future of (the) Internet,” the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, said in comments on a recent global telecommunications conference that aimed to update a world treaty containing general principles for assuring the free flow of information worldwide.
In December, international negotiators halfway around the world from each other debated provisions that would impact the free flow of information online and trade. The US has pushed for provisions to boost Internet openness in the Trans Pacific Partnership under negotiation in New Zealand. Meanwhile, in Dubai, the US fought against measures to give governments more control over the Internet at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).
When the history of early 21st century Internet politicking is written, the meltdown of a United Nations summit last week will mark the date a virtual Cold War began. In retrospect, the implosion of the Dubai summit was all but foreordained: it pitted nations with little tolerance for human rights against Western democracies which, at least in theory, uphold those principles. And it capped nearly a decade of behind-the-scenes jockeying by a U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union, created in 1865 to coordinate telegraph connectivity, to gain more authority over how the Internet is managed.
The Internet Cold War just turned hot. That’s the key take-away following collapse of two weeks of intense negotiations in Dubai, where representatives of over 150 countries met under the auspices of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union to agree on updates to a 1988 treaty on international telecommunications. The World Conference on International Communications (WCIT) ended last Friday in abject failure, with only 89 countries signing the final document. Others, including the U.S., Canada and several European nations, rejected the document outright, with the remaining member states still undecided or in some cases ineligible to sign for failure to pay ITU dues.
For most of its almost-150-year history, the meetings of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations' communications standards body, have been rather predictable affairs. Representatives of the world's governments regularly gather to sign off on technical recommendations drafted by the technocrats of telephone companies and government bureaucrats. The diplomats would then return home to encode the minutiae of the regulations into their governments' communications policies.
An agreement to update 24-year-old United Nations telecommunications rules was approved against the opposition of countries including the U.S. and the U.K., whose officials walked out on the talks on concerns about Internet regulation and censorship. The new pact includes measures that would give countries a right to access international telecommunications services and the ability to block spam, which delegations declining to sign the amended text argued would pave the way for government censorship and control over the Web.
The world’s governments have just concluded the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), where they updated the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a binding international treaty on telecommunications provision and interoperability. While the ITRs were certainly in need of updating, the government-controlled conference produced a text that crossed the red lines of several states, who have either said that they will not sign or that they need to consult their capitals. Still, many of the most problematic proposals failed to make it into the final draft.
Article 5B, which now states that “Member States should endeavour to take necessary measures to prevent the propagation of unsolicited bulk electronic communications and minimize its impact on international telecommunication services,” had one significant change from the Chairman’s initial compromise proposal. “Communications” replaced the term “messages.” Like “electronic messages,” “electronic communications” is not defined in the ITU Constitution, and is therefore open to interpretation.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai failed to reach consensus today, leaving many delegates frustrated after nearly two weeks of intense deliberations. The United States, joined by a growing list of countries, has declared that it will not sign the revised International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs). Many of those rejecting the treaty text, which included the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Australia, and the Czech Republic, cited concern about treaty provisions on the Internet-related issues of security and spam, as well as a Resolution explicitly addressing future ITU involvement in Internet policy.
Confusion reigned as the 10th day of WCIT debate staggered to a close (at 1:29AM local time on Day 11), with Conference Chairman Mohammed Nasser Al Ghanim muscling a contentious resolution on the Internet through a “temperature-taking” process that left some bewildered delegates feeling feverish. At issue was the “Resolution to foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet,” a measure proposed by the WCIT Chairman himself, which pushes for a much greater role for the ITU in Internet governance.
Facebook is to make sweeping changes to its privacy controls, making them easier to find and offering people the means to review every publicly available picture of them on the site. The move follows repeated criticism that the site made it too hard to keep information private, and kept shifting default settings to open up more data. The change is the biggest overhaul to its privacy settings in more than a year, and will begin appearing to the site's 1 billion registered users over the next few weeks. The most visible change will be "privacy shortcuts" which will show up as a tiny lock at the right-hand side of the screen, at the top of the "news feed", with a menu offering answers to questions such as "Who can see my stuff?" and "Who can contact me?"
Before autocratic regimes fully grasped the democratic nature of the internet, netizens basked in the sunshine of global intercommunication. But in a backlash against digitally driven uprisings, such as those of the Arab Spring, tyrants are now maneuvering to bring users’ online and mobile activities under the shadow of outdated and arbitrary legal restrictions. One sign of this crackdown is the alarming number of digital activists behind bars around the world.
Since Friday’s plenary session, the big question at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) has been whether or not the joint Russia, UAE, China, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan (RUCASS) proposal would see the light of day and change the course of the conference. Although the RUCASS proposal turned out to be dead on arrival, it may have still been a game changer. Seeing the potential that the proposal had to disrupt negotiations, WCIT Chairman Mohammad Al-Ghanim managed to suppress it altogether, and decided instead to work with the heads of regional groups to draft a new consensus text based off the work of Committee 5, which may be the base treaty text for negotiation.
December 10 marked Human Rights Day, the 64th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). As we approach 2013, digital threats are eroding these well-established human rights far beyond what the authors of this Declaration could have possibly imagined in 1948. Government intrusion into the lives of individuals is remote and hidden from view, understood only by the few who possess specialized technical expertise, and justified by a calculated and often persuasive narrative that holds the goals of national security above all else. Because our modes of communication have been revolutionized in the digital era, we often cannot help but leave hefty volumes of personal information in our wake as a result of day-to-day online activities.
Terrorists are on the Internet. It’s just a fact. Just like you and I, members of radical fringe groups use the Internet to communicate ideas and spread information. It’s hard to combat the message when it’s online due to the nature of the Internet, but some countries have proposed methods that outright censor anything that remotely looks like terrorism. A new report argues that such censorship methods won’t accomplish a thing.
Friday’s surprise announcement of a new proposal from the United Arab Emirates, the host country of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), added an air of anticipation and frustration to this weekend’s work. Though there was still no official proposal in the ITU’s system, a leaked version reveals the text of a fully revised International Telecommunications Treaty (ITRs) with sign on from Russia, UAE, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, and Egypt, though Egypt later announced via Twitter that it never supported the proposal.
Just as delegates started to agree on something in Friday’s plenary--that they were frustrated that negotiations were not leading anywhere--the UAE made a surprise announcement. There is a new multi-regional proposal containing a fully revised treaty that no one has seen. The delegates were visibly and understandably shaken. Both Iran and the U.S. took the floor to suppress the mystery proposal on procedural grounds and a number of other delegations made strong statements condemning it as disruptive to ongoing negotiations.
The ITU has stated multiple times, specifically in relation to human rights and freedom of expression concerns of civil society, that it is impossible for the ITRs to contravene the ITU Constitution. Considering the state of conflict of treaty law, or lack thereof, that may not be the case. It may just create an impossible world where states have to correctly follow two conflicting agreements. The ITU constitution states in Article 33 that all content, services, and security “shall be the same for all users in each category of correspondence without any priority or preference” which basically requires the ITU, and by extension the ITRs signatories, to not filter through public correspondence.
As the ITU's World Conference on International Telecommunications ("WCIT") gets underway, it's clear that the efforts by global civil society groups on behalf of transparency and free expression have had at least something of an impact. Most importantly for those wanting to follow the discussions at home, the ITU agreed to webcast is plenary sessions and the meetings of the "Review Committee," which is the committee that will be discussing proposed changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations ("ITRs").
Nearly a week into a global conference to draft a treaty on the future of international telecommunications, delegates remain divided on a fundamental question: should the Internet feature in the discussions? The United States says no, arguing that including it in an intergovernmental agreement could result in regulations that would hamper its development, which has been led by the private sector.
Note: The ITU website was down for much of Day 3 (December 5) and the ITU issued a press release regretting that the incident “blocked civil society, media and other interested parties from following the proceedings, and prevented access to the wealth of online information”. This blog post attempts to make up for this outage, covering the key developments, as appropriate. Days three and four of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) have seen a number of key issues debated, mostly in closed meetings, with little resolution.
Last week’s jarring shutdown of the entire Syrian Internet raised a number of questions, some of them scary: How does this even happen? How could an entire country be pulled offline so quickly? Who else is vulnerable?
"Freedom of expression" was the phrase of the day on Day 2 of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), as delegates debated Tunisia's proposal to include in the treaty an explicit reference to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With delegates from China, to Europe, to the US all opposing the measure, the language was ultimately not adopted into the treaty. But was Member States' commitment to free expression really driving this decision?
Two thousand delegates from 193 countries are meeting for the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai this week to negotiate a treaty on telecoms regulation that has not been updated since 1988 - before the internet was in mainstream use. Up for negotiation at WCIT are the International Telecommunications Regulations, or ITRs, which cover everything from improving internet access for the elderly and disabled, to enabling access for the 4.6bn people in the world with no access at all, improving cybersecurity and, most controversially, discussing the "sender pays" economic model of delivering web content.
Today in Dubai, the world’s governments gathered for the opening of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). Over the course of the next two weeks, they will update a major international telecommunications treaty, the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), and in doing so, decide whether or not to put the internet under this international regulatory framework.
In September 2012, the trailer for the film The Innocence of Muslims shot to infamy after spending the summer as a mercifully obscure video in one of YouTube’s more putrid backwaters. Since then, there has been much handwringing amongst American intellectual, journalistic, and political elites over whether the US Constitution’s First Amendment protections of freedom of expression should protect this sort of incendiary speech, or whether Google, YouTube’s parent company, acted irresponsibly and endangered national security by failing to remove or restrict the video before provocateurs across the Islamic world could use it as an excuse to riot and even kill.
At the end of the 20th century, an incredible revolution took place. Barriers to the free flow of information were knocked down and a powerful cycle of technological innovation was set in motion, transforming the economy, first in the United States and then around the world. No, I am not talking about the internet. I am referring to the liberalisation of the telecommunications industry, which led to a huge economic revolution in the 1980s and 1990s. It started with a big bang: the breakup of the AT&T monopoly. As early as the mid- 1960s, policy-makers knew they didn’t want the emerging information services industry to be dominated and stifled by an enormous monopoly.
The decentralised, ungovernable nature of the early internet was an intentional design feature and not a bug. As a result, today’s internet is an open network, where unprecedented creative and economic innovation, art, commentary and citizen journalism flourish. But child pornography, hate speech and copyright infringement have also thrived, leading to mounting pressures to bring online activity under government control. As nations push for these changes, global interconnectivity and freedom of expression are at risk.
WCIT begins tomorrow (December 3) and lasts for two weeks. This is where the much-discussed International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) treaty will be renegotiated and discussed for the first time since 1988. The ITU was founded in the 1860s as a single place in which telephone and telegraph standardisation could take place across multiple countries and territories with differing standards and payment systems. The ITRs as a treaty was one way in which this could be achieved through the ITU process, and the 1988 ITRs focused on telephone exchanging and payments.
VoIP is a widely used, simple and inexpensive way to communicate. But how safe is it? The most widely used platform, Skype is advertised as an encrypted end-to-end software that cannot be intercepted. It’s therefore likely that many social activists using it feel more safe while using it than when using, for example, Gchat or SMS. But Skype is owned by a commercial company, so interested software engineers cannot investigate the security of its protocol for them selves without owners' consent. That said, there is no evidence Skype has been cracked, so it's definitely safer than unencrypted Gtalk or SMS.
First, it was Egypt. At the height of the protest against the Mubarak regime in 2011, authorities shut the Internet down. This week, it was Syria. Just as rebel forces there were making big gains, someone pulled the plug on the Internet, and Syria went dark. Service was restored on Saturday, but Andrew McLaughlin, former White House adviser on technology policy, expects we'll see more of this.
December 1st marks the beginning of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai. Fussing about the threat to the Internet posed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is reaching that state of critical mass where media outlets write about it mainly because other media outlets are writing about it. The tacit assumption behind much of this fussing is that the status quo, exemplified by ICANN and other “multi-stakeholder institutions,” is doing a wonderful job and we should strive to preserve them.
How hard is it to disconnect a country from the Internet, really? That's the number one question we've received about our analysis of the Egyptian and Syrian Internet blackouts, and it's a reasonable question. If the Internet is so famously resilient, designed to survive wars and calamities, how can it fail so abruptly and completely at the national level?
Behind closed doors, decisions will be made next week that could threaten the global, open internet. This isn’t a sky-is-falling cry: There could be very real consequences both in how we use the internet and how it’s governed. A relatively unknown United Nations agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is hosting the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) from Dec. 3 to 14. And it’s an opaque, government-controlled event.
Today, Internet rights advocates are urging their governments to vote for openness at the conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Beginning Monday, Member States of the UN agency will decide whether the ITU should expand its regulatory authority to the Internet — a move that could threaten privacy, free expression, and access to information for Internet users around the globe.
The Internet is often seen as a place of chaos and disorder, a borderless world in which anonymous trolls roam free and vigilante hackers wreak havoc. But as a crucial United Nations conference on the future of telecommunications looms next week, there are fears governments are secretly maneuvering to restructure and rein in the anarchic Web we have come to know and love, perhaps even ushering in a new era of pervasive surveillance. So just how real is the threat of change and what might it mean?
Government requests for so-called “lawful access” to user data are trending in both democratic and non-democratic nations, presenting one of the greatest challenges for the protection of fundamental rights. From recent allegations involving Skype handing over user data without a warrant to TeliaSonera’s permitting abusive regimes in Belarus, Azerbaijan and elsewhere to access its very networks, the threats to privacy are only increasing.
The telecommunications standards arm of the U.N. has quietly endorsed the standardization of technologies that could give governments and companies the ability to sift through all of an Internet user’s traffic – including emails, banking transactions, and voice calls – without adequate privacy safeguards. The move suggests that some governments hope for a world where even encrypted communications may not be safe from prying eyes.
On 27 November, Reporters Without Borders will launch a website called WeFightCensorship (WeFC) on which it will post content that has been censored or banned or has given rise to reprisals against its creator. This original website's aim is to make censorship obsolete. It is an unprecedented initiative that will enable Reporters Without Borders to complement all of its other activities in defence of freedom of information, which include advocacy, lobbying and assistance.
A commercial and ideological clash is set for next week, when representatives of more than 190 governments, along with telecommunications companies and Internet groups, gather in Dubai for a once-in-a-generation meeting. The subject: Control of the Internet, politically and commercially. The stated purpose of the World Conference on International Telecommunications is to update a global treaty on technical standards needed to, say, connect a telephone call from Tokyo to Timbuktu. The previous conference took place in 1988, when the Internet was in its infancy and telecommunications remained a highly regulated, mostly analog-technology business.
If you live in the West the answer to the question ‘How much freedom do you really have online?’ is probably ‘quite a lot’. But this month I learned that the freedom TO speak doesn’t always lead to being free AFTER you speak, when I met journalists and campaigners at the 7th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF), held in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Scientists at Toshiba and Cambridge University have perfected a technique that offers a less expensive way to ensure the security of the high-speed fiber optic cables that are the backbone of the modern Internet. The research, which will be published Tuesday in the science journal Physical Review X, describes a technique for making infinitesimally short time measurements needed to capture pulses of quantum light hidden in streams of billions of photons transmitted each second in data networks. Scientists used an advanced photodetector to extract weak photons from the torrents of light pulses carried by fiber optic cables, making it possible to safely distribute secret keys necessary to scramble data over distances up to 56 miles.
Some things change, but others stay the same. While the types of threats facing Internet users worldwide have diversified over the past few years, from targeted malware to distributed denial of service attacks, one thing has remained constant: governments seeking to exert control over their populations still remain the biggest threat to the open Internet.
Over the next seven days, Global Voices Lingua volunteers will be translating a public online petition that supports the protection of human rights online and urges government members of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to preserve Internet openness at the upcoming conference of the ITU.
According to law enforcement agencies, the rising popularity of Internet chat services like Skype has made it difficult to eavesdrop on suspects’ communications. But now a California businessman is weighing in with what he claims is a revolutionary solution—a next-generation surveillance technology designed to covertly intercept online chats and video calls in real time.
The Internet Society paper "Some Perspectives on Cybersecurity: 2012" is intended to help anyone concerned about the healthy evolution of the Internet with an introduction to an important topic. Cybersecurity is widely debated by users, by researchers and engineers, and by network operators, all interested in making the Internet a safer place. It is the subject of discussion and negotiation by governments, the private sector and others in a range of international organizations. It is the subject of conferences, symposiums and action plans. But do all of these parties mean the same thing when they talk about cybersecurity?
Digital and online tools are irreversibly changing the way professional and citizen media access, consume, produce, and share information. Whether researching stories using a shared computer in a newsroom along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border or talking to contacts in the refugee camps in Africa using mobile phones, journalists and media producers need to understand not just how to use these devices, but also how to protect themselves and the sources they rely on for information. SpeakSafe is dedicated to journalists and media workers in the business of information. It is produced through Internews’ Global Human Rights Program, which works to strengthen the capacity of media to report safely on human rights issues.
Digital rights advocates around the world are working to make their voices heard at the upcoming treaty conference of the International Telecommunication Union. Leaked documents include proposed treaty revisions that could place limitations on online privacy, free expression, access to information, and ICT use around the world.
A new security hole has been discovered in Microsoft’s Skype that allows anyone to change your password and thus take over your account. The issue was first posted on a Russian forum two months ago and has been confirmed by The Next Web (we have not linked to any of the blogs or posts detailing the exploit because it is very easy to reproduce).
We think it’s important to shine a light on how government actions could affect our users. When we first launched the Transparency Report in early 2010, there wasn’t much data out there about how governments sometimes hamper the free flow of information on the web. So we took our first step toward greater transparency by disclosing the number of government requests we received. At the time, we weren’t sure how things would look beyond that first snapshot, so we pledged to release numbers twice a year. Today we’re updating the Transparency Report with data about government requests from January to June 2012.
As the annual United Nations-run Internet Governance Forum (IGF) convenes in Baku, Azerbaijan this week, it is a bitter irony that a multi-stakeholder conference to discuss the Internet’s future is being held in a country where the government has no qualms aboutlocking up its online critics. And the IGF itself has, according to the Expression Online Initiative, even prevented the consortium of Azeri freedom of expression groups from distributing copies of two reports: Searching for Freedom: Online Expression in Azerbaijan and The Right to Remain Silent: Freedom of Expression in Azerbaijan ahead of the 7th Internet Governance Forum.
In the secretive world of surveillance technology, he goes just by his initials: MJM. His mystique is such that other security professionals avoid using wireless Internet near him. MJM himself suggests that those he meets allay their paranoia by taking batteries out of their mobile phones. MJM -- Martin J. Muench -- is the developer of Andover, U.K.-based Gamma Group’s FinFisher intrusion software, which he sells to police and spy agencies around the world for monitoring computers and smartphones to intercept Skype calls, peer through Web cameras and record keystrokes.
The United Nations agency which deals with freedom of expression on the Internet today warned that restrictions directly limiting Internet access appear to be on the rise, and called on governments to implement policies that facilitate broadband connectivity instead of putting up barriers particularly during political developments.
With over 90 percent of the world’s people now within reach of mobile phones, the challenge today is bringing internet access to the two-thirds of the world’s population that is still offline. This challenge is compounded by the need to ensure connectivity is affordable and safe for all. If we can achieve this, all the world’s citizens will have the potential to access unlimited knowledge, to express themselves freely, and to contribute to and enjoy the benefits of the knowledge society.
An international training institute to teach online tactics for human rights campaigners is being set up in the Italian city of Florence. The first students, starting in the new year, will be drawn from human rights activists around the world - with the aim of arming them with the latest tools for digital dissent. As the Arab spring showed, protests are as likely to be about individuals using social networking as much as public demonstrations. Street protests have become Tweet protests.
Next month, the world’s governments will meet in Dubai to decide whether to expand the scope of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) treaty to include regulating the Internet, a move that would mark a significant shift from the current status quo of global Internet governance.
If members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)—a UN agency known for its non-transparent, government-centric structure—vote to expand ITU authority to cover Internet policy and technical standards, Internet openness, affordability, and functionality could be at risk. This shadow of uncertainty has propelled CDT’s recent advocacy ahead of the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December, where governments will update the agency’s treaty and decide whether or not the ITU should expand its authority to areas of Internet governance.
You’ve probably heard of the Great Firewall of China, which scrubs the web of any potentially subversive content for half a billion internet users. And you’ve definitely heard about the Egyptian government’s decision to switch off all internet and mobile-phone networks at the height of the uprising in 2011. But there are a host of lesser-known threats to internet freedom, some of which endanger the very nature of the net as we know it.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and a coalition of nine other groups launched the Open Wireless Movement today – a new project to promote a landscape of shared, wireless Internet. "We envision a world where sharing one's Internet connection is the norm," said EFF Activist Adi Kamdar. "A world of open wireless would encourage privacy, promote innovation, and benefit the public good, giving us network access whenever we need it. And everyone – users, businesses, developers, and Internet service providers – can get involved to help make it happen."
The more we live our lives online, the greater the temptation for governments and private companies to spy on us. News Editor Padraig Reidy highlights the dark side of our increasing dependence on digital communications. While the internet offers opportunities for mass communication and social interaction unprecedented in human history, the chances for governments to monitor and control how we communicate are also ample.
The ITU’s upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) could have dire implications for global economic growth and development. Proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) could fundamentally change the way the Internet works, diminishing the positive impact of the Internet on economies around the globe. Certain treaty proposals would exacerbate the global digital divide by increasing the cost of sending traffic over the network and inhibiting nations from adopting network neutrality rules. Such extreme revisions to the treaty could change the economics of the Internet by shackling the Internet to the rules and operating principles of twentieth-century telecommunications systems.
Twenty years ago Phil Zimmermann released encryption software called Pretty Good Privacy (PGP). His aim was to offer free tools to help human-rights advocates exchange data securely. The program was better than pretty good; it fell afoul of munitions export rules of the day that classified sufficiently strong scrambling as a weapon, leading to a three-year investigation by American authorities. Charges were never filed, however, and PGP popularised the use of public-key cryptography to allow parties who may never have met to communicate without fear of snooping.
A recent UN report from the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force reads like a primer on Internet control and censorship. Entitled “Use Of The Internet For Terrorist Purposes,” the document, which discusses the dangers of “open Wi-Fi” and suggests ISPs maintain retention standards, focuses on the possibility of “terrorists” using the “Internet” to terrorize, a problem akin to trying to solve the problem of “criminals” walking in “parks.”
In less than 10 minutes, you can drastically improve your privacy online and protect yourself against unwanted and invisible tracking.Note that these privacy safeguards will also be blocking some ads. EFF is working with online advertisers to try to convince them to provide real privacy protections for users, but until they agree to meaningful standards about online tracking, these steps will be necessary for users to safeguard their browsing privacy. Aside from removing ads, these changes won't affect your browsing experience on the vast majority of websites. It's possible, however, that a tiny fraction of websites may behave differently or break, in which case the easiest solution is to temporarily use a "private browsing" mode without the settings enabled, or a fresh browser profile/user with default settings.
The more we live our lives online, the greater the temptation for governments and private companies to spy on us. Padraig Reidy highlights the dark side of our increasing dependence on digital communications. While the internet offers opportunities for mass communication and social interaction unprecedented in human history, the chances for governments to monitor and control how we communicate are also ample.
U.S.-funded programs to beat back online censorship are increasingly finding a ready audience in repressive countries, with more than 1 million people a day using online tools to get past extensive blocking programs and government surveillance. But the popularity of those initiatives has become a liability.
Security is not just about strong encryption, good anti-virus software, or techniques like two-factor authentication. It’s also about the “fuzzy” things … involving people. That’s where the security game is often won or lost. Just ask Mat Honan. We – the users – are supposed to be responsible, and are told what to do to stay secure. For example: “Don’t use the same password on different sites.”
Have you ever noticed that wherever you are in the world, every telephone keypad looks the same? Or wondered why satellites don't crash into each other? Or why you dial 64 to reach New Zealand, but 65 for Singapore? These are some of the mundane but essential logistical achievements of the International Telecommunication Union, a specialist UN agency that dates back to 1865.
Internet Censorship Circumvention Technology Use In Human Rights Organizations: An Exploratory Analysis
Using an organizational informatics approach, this study explores the implications of human rights organizations’ use of censorship circumvention technologies. Through qualitative analyses of data collected through in-depth interviews, the research examines
the factors influencing the use of circumvention technologies and the organizational effects of their use. The outcomes include a revised model of censorship circumvention technology use as well as a new model situating human rights organizations and their audiences in bidirectional information flows. The research provides recommendations for practice as well as insight for organizational informatics and information systems security research in the areas of protective technologies, awareness, detection, and physical security.
Earlier this week, the ITU Secretariat hosted a briefing for civil society organizations interested in the ITU's upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications. Although the Secretariat's official aim was to "provide an overview of the conference, the preparatory process, and some of the main principles and issues being discussed," concrete answers to these questions were few and far between.
But the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) highlighted huge disparities in the cost of services, with the poorer parts of the world tending to pay the most. "On the back of the increase in broadband services worldwide, the number of people using the Internet grew by 11 percent over the past year ... ie, 2.3 billion people," the ITU said in its 2012 report on information and communication technologies (ICT). In terms of affordability, Macau, Norway and Singapore topped the list of 161 countries featured in the report.
It is the "most important meeting you've never heard of" — a behind-closed-doors battle for control of the internet that one of the web's founders fears may "put government handcuffs on the net". The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations organisation representing 193 countries, is reviewing international agreements governing telecommunications with a view to expanding its regulatory authority over the internet.
On October 26, Microsoft is planning to launch a new version of Internet Explorer that has privacy baked in. It will have a “Do Not Track” signal turned on by default, so that those people who still use Internet Explorer and who actually take the time to upgrade to the new version will be automatically telling websites and advertisers that they don’t want data about them to be collected or used to target them with ads while they browse the Internet. (If that is in fact what “Do Not Track” turns out to mean.)
EFF has a long-term mission to encrypt as much of the Web as possible — in fact, to encrypt all of it. We have been making quite a lot of progress. HTTPS Everywhere, the browser extension we produce in collaboration with the Tor Project and an awesome community of volunteers, is now used by more than 2.5 million people around the world.
The arrest of a senior executive rarely brings helpful headlines. But when Brazilian authorities briefly detained Google’s country boss on September 26th—for refusing to remove videos from its YouTube subsidiary that appeared to breach electoral laws—they helped the firm repair its image as a defender of free speech.Two weeks earlier those credentials looked tarnished. Google blocked net users in eight countries from viewing a film trailer that had incensed Muslims. In six states, including India and Saudi Arabia, local courts banned the footage. In Egypt and Libya, where protesters attacked American embassies and killed several people, Google took the video down of its own accord.
When supporters of a group of right wing Colombian militants didn’t like a website that criticized their activities in 2001, they sent a threat to the home address of activist Anriette Esterhuysen, using the public Whois database that compiles the name, address, email and phone number of everyone with registered to manage a domain name for a website. This particular website was hosted by a member of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) advocacy group, and had a domain name ending with APC.org.
This December in Dubai, world governments will gather to renegotiate a key treaty under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency that specializes in global telecommunications. The meeting, known as the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), has been billed as a mortal threat to Internet freedom, a rare opportunity to fix inequitable flaws in the existing global economic framework for communications infrastructure, and all or none of the above.
High-speed affordable broadband connectivity to the Internet is essential to modern society, offering widely recognized economic and
social benefits (Annex 1). The Broadband Commission for Digital Development promotes the adoption of broadband-friendly practices and policies for all, so everyone can take advantage of the benefits offered by broadband. With this Report, the Broadband Commission expands awareness and understanding of the importance of broadband networks, services, and applications for generating economic growth and achieving social progress. It has been written collaboratively, drawing on insightful and thoughtprovoking contributions from our leading array of Commissioners and their organizations, foremost in their fields.
While Internet access to certain sites is blocked in some parts of the world, these restrictions are often circumvented using proxies out-
side the censored region. Often these proxies are blocked as soon as they are discovered. In this paper we propose a browser-based proxy creation system that generates a large number of short-lived proxies. Clients using the system seamlessly hop from one proxy to the next as these browser-based proxies appear and disappear. We discuss a number of technical challenges that had to be overcome for this system to work and report on its performance and security. We show that browser-based short-lived proxies provide adequate bandwidth for video delivery and argue that blocking them can be challenging.
Surveillance of your activities – and those of most Americans – is now just a fact of everyday life. People are monitored when they browse the Web, when they use their cellphones, when they drive and when they use their credit cards, among other things. The Wall Street Journal analyzed a variety of everyday situations and found more than 20 different ways that people’s information is regularly recorded. That number does not include special situations such as border crossings or surveillance that occurs only when someone is suspected of a crime.
Infrastructure resources are the subject of many contentious public policy debates, including what to do about crumbling roads and bridges, whether and how to protect our natural environment, energy policy, even patent law reform, universal health care, network neutrality regulation and the future of the Internet. Each of these involves a battle to control infrastructure resources, to establish the terms and conditions under which the public receives access, and to determine how the infrastructure and various dependent systems evolve over time.
We’ve been seeing a range of reports about Facebook partnering up with marketing company Datalogix to assess whether users go to stores in the physical world and buy the products they saw in Facebook advertisements. A lot of the reports aren’t getting into the nitty gritty of what data is actually shared between Facebook and Datalogix, so the goal of this blog post is to dive into the details. We’re glad to see that Facebook is taking a number of steps to avoid sharing sensitive data with Datalogix, but users who are uncomfortable with the program should opt out.
Brutal attacks against bloggers, politically motivated surveillance, proactive manipulation of web content, and restrictive laws regulating speech online are among the diverse threats to internet freedom emerging over the past two years, according to a new study released today by Freedom House. Despite these threats, Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media found that increased pushback by civil society, technology companies, and independent courts resulted in several notable victories.
For at least a decade, there's been talk of the balkanization of the Internet and, to be honest, it seems that no one has done anything to prevent it. I'm talking about the possibility of a country going beyond Internet censorship and literally closing itself off completely. Iran will probably be the first to finally do it. After that, who knows who will follow.
More repressive regimes are combating online critics by paying pro-government bloggers to “tout the official point of view, discredit opposition activists, or disseminate false information” in online comment streams and on social media, according to an international watchdog report released Monday. This practice was once mostly limited to China and Russia, according to Freedom House’s Freedom on the Net 2012 report, but it has cropped up during the past year in 14 of the 47 nations studied.
Facebook is seeking informants. For several months, the company has been asking users about their friends usernames, trying to wheedle out people using false names. It’s the latest step in the rise of the social network Stasi and towards a society where everyone is an informant. A spokesperson for Facebook told Talking Points Memo that the surveys aren’t “used for any enforcement action” and that survey data is anonymised. That’s an comforting phrase isn’t it? “Enforcement action”. If web services were nation states, Facebook would be most likely to mimic China – a surveillance state where personal freedom is banished for “the greater good”.
If you want to go hunting for it, you'll find pictures of the Arab Spring uprising across YouTube, uploaded by participants or onlookers on their mobile phones. Years ago, that wouldn't have been possible, because (a) there weren't too many phones, and (b) smartphones weren't that easy to use. You could also add (c) many countries had lousy data capabilities. Now that's changed. Let's take Egypt as an example. According to data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), there were 18 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 inhabitants of Egypt in 2005.
Brutal attacks against bloggers, politically motivated surveillance, proactive manipulation of web content, and restrictive laws regulating speech online are among the diverse threats to internet freedom emerging over the past two years, according to a new study released today by Freedom House. Despite these threats, Freedom on the Net 2012: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media found that increased pushback by civil society, technology companies, and independent courts resulted in several notable victories. “The findings clearly show that threats to internet freedom are becoming more diverse. As authoritarian rulers see that blocked websites and high-profile arrests draw local and international condemnation, they are turning to murkier—but no less dangerous—methods for controlling online conversations,” said Sanja Kelly, project director for Freedom on the Net at Freedom House.
Disturbing online censorship and self-censorship measures have been taken in an attempt to prevent the circulation of "Innocence of Muslims," a US-produced video that denigrates Islam, and to defuse the resulting violence. Access to the video and/or platform hosting it has been blocked on the initiative of the authorities in some countries. In other countries, it is Google, the company that owns YouTube, that has suspended access to the video’s online links (see below for details of the blocking methods).
We Use The Internet To Save The Internet: An Interview With Steve Anderson About The Stop The Trap Campaign
While US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who oversees the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP), continues to declare that the trade negotiations are “the most open, transparent process ever,” we are confounded as to what he defines to be "open" or "transparent." They have yet to even provide the public — civil society organizations and policy makers — with any official documents relating to the text of the agreement. We are fighting for real transparency, which means access to the current draft documents or country proposals for provisions to into the agreement.
It is hard to look at the international protests surrounding the Innocence of Muslims video and the contemporaneous (though seemingly unrelated) fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya and not feel as though we are witnessing an important moment in the Internet's development. Of course, posting material online has lead to drastic, even fatal, consequences in the past. But it is hard to think of another time where a single piece of online content has brought about such an overwhelmingly serious and negative reaction. And given that the creator's initial anonymity led news reports to declare the video as coming "from the Internet," it's quite possible that this will remain a video whose origin is attributed primarily by where it was published rather than who made it. In the minds of many, this will remain an action of the Internet – and an action with very serious consequences.
The organizing ethos of the Internet founders was that of a boundless space enabling everyone to connect with everything, everywhere. his governing principle did not relect laws or national borders. Indeed, everyone was equal. A brave new world emerged where the meek are powerful enough to challenge the strong. Perhaps the best articulation of these sentiments is found in “A Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace.” Addressing world governments and corporations online, John Perry Barlow proclaimed, “Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us.
Secret negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) continued this week in a golf resort outside Washington DC, and the process continues to be as secret and undemocratic as ever. TPP is yet another example of how the US entertainment and pharma industry are pressuring lawmakers to push forward overprotective intellectual property laws that will also put the Internet and its users at risk. Last Sunday, EFF was at the negotiations to participate in the “stakeholder” events hosted by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). There were noticeably more organizations and companies present at the three-hour stakeholder tabling session than the last round of negotiations in San Diego.
Privacy rights face a crisis. Governments around the world have been taking overreaching, fear-based surveillance measures against essential online freedoms. Organizing an international resistance demands a complex understanding of both the latest online surveillance trends and of long-standing threats to privacy. Every year, Freedom Not Fear continues to organize a broad international protest against these threats to our civil liberties, and challenge the hyperbolic rhetoric of fear that permeates the security and privacy debate.
In a joint statement, civil society groups voice concerns about proposals made by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that would threaten the openness of the Internet. To Member States and Government Delegations of the International Telecommunication Union: In the interests of promoting and protecting global Internet openness and the exercise of human rights online, we write to urge International Telecommunication Union (ITU) member states and their delegates to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to refrain from expanding the scope of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) treaty to include the Internet.
This December in Dubai, the International Telecommunication Union—a UN agency—will decide whether it should have regulatory authority over the Internet. This move could pose grave risks to the exercise of human rights online. Until now, the ITU has been dedicated to setting technical standards for interoperability of international telecommunications, radio, and satellite systems, in addition to promoting access to ICT. But some member states have proposed extending the ITU’s mandate to cover Internet-related technical and policy matters that could place limitations on online privacy, free expression, access to information and ICT use around the world.
On Sept. 14 – 17, activists with the Freedom not Fear movement will stage an international week of action to oppose surveillance measures from Europe to Australia. To support this effort, EFF is examining surveillance trends and spotlighting international grassroots activism launched in response. David Lyon is a prominent sociologist, author, and director of the Surveillance Studies Center at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. His most recent book, co-authored with Zygmunt Bauman, is titled Liquid Surveillance. Lyon spent an hour talking with EFF about contemporary surveillance trends such as biometrics, CCTV cameras and legislative proposals for broadened online spying powers for law enforcement.
Index joins civil society groups in voicing concerns about proposals made by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that would threaten the openness of the internet. To Member States and Government Delegations of the International Telecommunication Union: In the interests of promoting and protecting global Internet openness and the exercise of human rights online, we write to urge International Telecommunication Union (ITU) member states and their delegates to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to refrain from expanding the scope of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) treaty to include the Internet.
Black Lotus is pulling the wraps of a distributed denial-of-service-mitigation service that uses behavioural factors to pick up on low-volume botnet attacks that nevertheless can cripple Web servers. Called Protection for Services, the offering runs customer traffic through proxies that employ human behavior analysis to discover and temporarily block offending IP addresses, says the Black Lotus President Jeff Lyon.
Internet censorship has evolved. In Version 1.0, censorship was impossible; in Version 2.0, it was a characteristic of repressive regimes; and in Version 3.0, it spread to democracies who desired to use technology to restrain unwanted information. Its latest iteration, Version 3.1, involves near-ubiquitous censorship by democratic and authoritarian countries alike. This Article argues that the new censorship model involves four changes: a shift in implementation to private parties; a hybrid approach mixing promotion of favored viewpoints with suppression of disfavored ones; a blend of formal mandates with informal pressures; and a framing of censorship using uncontroversial labels.
How is Moore's Law and ever-cheaper computing and interconnectedness affecting our world? Activists, individuals, and governments are using digital technologies like social media as powerful forces for change. From 2009-2011, Andrew McLaughlin was a member of President Obama's senior White House staff, serving as Deputy Chief Technology Officer of the United States. In that role, Andrew was responsible for advising the President on Internet, technology, and innovation policy, including open government, cybersecurity, online privacy and free speech, spectrum policy, federal R&D priorities, entrepreneurship, and the creation of open technology standards and platforms for health care, energy efficiency, and education.
In a recent blog post, Sandra Fulton of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Washington Legislative Office, described the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) as the "biggest threat to free speech and intellectual property that you’ve never heard of." In her post, she reminds readers that the USTR is not only pushing for TPP and its proposed changes to intellectual property law, it is doing its best to avoid Congressional oversight. For instance, the USTR has recently rebuffed a request from the staff director on the Senate Finance Committee's International Trade Subcommittee to review documents pertaining to the negotiations.
Member States of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) are considering this year whether to extend the ITUʼs regulatory authority to the Internet. Several proposals have been made to revise the ITUʼs basic treaty to include provisions addressing the security of networks or information. These proposals have rightly raised controversy not only because of their implications for Internet freedom, but also because of concerns that ITU intervention could distract from or undermine other ongoing efforts by institutions better suited to address Internet security.
Filtering, denial of service attacks, withdrawal of content – censors use many different methods to silence news websites. In addition to drawing attention to these acts of censorship and providing the victims with legal, material and financial help, Reporters Without Borders has now decided to provide them with technical assistance as well.
Facebook is often invoked in popular discourse as a device for the potential exploitation of individual privacy. Facebook users invite surveillance, and personal information revealed by Facebook users is compiled into aggregated databases of linked information, preferences, and behaviors. In the interest of the ideals of individual empowerment, cultural integrity, social responsibility and equality, social networking communities are forming to interrogate networked surveillance. This article examines those communities of resistance in the form of “sousveillance” tactics that have emerged as a backlash to the surveilled environment. Sousveillance is “watching from below,” a form of inverse surveillance in which people monitor the surveillors.
"On condition of anonymity" is one of the most important phrases in journalism. At Tor, we are working on making that more than a promise. The good news: The Internet has made it possible for journalists to talk to sources, gather video and photos from citizens, and to publish despite efforts to censor the news. The bad news: People who were used to getting away with atrocities are aware that the Internet has made it possible for journalists to talk to sources, gather video and photos from citizens, and to publish despite efforts to censor the news.
In his interview with CNET, Luigi Gambardella, chairman of ETNO’s executive board, explains clearly the idea behind the proposed principle of ‘sender-party-pays’ for Internet traffic. In a nutshell Gambardella explains: ‘...the operators are free to negotiate commercial agreements beyond best effort. These commercial agreements are based on the value of the information, not the bits.’
Don't you just hate it when there's someone in the cinema taking photos, or talking on their phone? How unfair is it that 'they' cheated on their test because they could access the Web, and yet you only got half their marks? Isn't it a shame you can't take a photo of the police officer beating a man in the street because your oppressive government remotely disabled your smartphone camera? A new patent granted to Apple could do all of the above.
Alexander Macgillivray, Twitter’s chief lawyer, says that fighting for free speech is more than a good idea. He thinks it is a competitive advantage for his company. That conviction explains why he spends so much of Twitter’s time and money going toe to toe with officers and apparatchiks both here and abroad. Last week, his legal team was fighting a court order to extract an Occupy Wall Street protester’s Twitter posts.
Network professionals know that distributed denial-of-service attacks are an ever-growing danger. The recent assault on Twitter is just the latest evidence. Using a mushrooming array of advanced tools, including pay-per-use services and mobile devices, attackers are taking down websites, DNS and email servers, often using these tools to destroy a company's online revenue, customer service and brand reputation.
The thing that still blows my mind about the internet is that through all the dramatic changes over the last two or three decades, it remains a mostly open public commons that everyone can use. There are many land ownership battles happening all around it, but it has so far withstood challenges to its shape, size, governance and its role in all aspects of our lives.
Morgan Marquis-Boire works as a Google engineer and Bill Marczak is earning a Ph.D. in computer science. But this summer, the two men have been moonlighting as detectives, chasing an elusive surveillance tool from Bahrain across five continents. What they found was the widespread use of sophisticated, off-the-shelf computer espionage software by governments with questionable records on human rights.
In Dubai this December, the world's governments will decide whether the International Telecommunication Union – a UN agency – should expand its authority to cover Internet policy and technical standards, a move that could pose grave risks to the exercise of human rights online.
Spying on journalists has never been easier. A reporter covering the Syrian conflict is chatting on Skype with her editor back home about a story she just filed. Suddenly a message pops up offering access to a video of atrocities committed by government forces. All she has to do is click on the link. The moment she does, a malicious Trojan is downloaded, turning her computer into an espionage tool, logging all keystrokes, passwords and screenshots, and transmitting information back to whatever power controls it.
The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) is rapidly approaching and governments around the world are in the process of finalizing what their delegations will bring to the table when they arrive in Dubai for the start of the conference on December 3. Among the issues being debated at WCIT is whether or not to expand the mandate of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN specialized agency that is convening the conference, to include internet policy issues .
When Libyan rebels finally wrested control of the country last year away from its mercurial dictator, they discovered the Qaddafi regime had received an unusual gift from its allies: foreign firms had supplied technology that allowed security forces to track nearly all of the online activities of the country’s 100,000 Internet users. That technology, supplied by a subsidiary of the French IT firm Bull, used a technique called deep packet inspection (DPI) to capture e-mails, chat messages, and Web visits of Libyan citizens.
December will see the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialised UN agency that sets standards for international telephony. The Dubai-based conference will bring together 190 nations and, while members have been meeting behind closed doors, various policy proposals have been leaked by activists on the website WCITLeaks.
In December, the UN World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai will set out a broad framework of regulations for the internet – the global network of networks that links more than 2bn people, is gaining more than 500,000 users daily, and is the platform on which the web was founded. But the meeting’s goals are causing alarm.
India blocked 245 web pages for provocative content on Monday in an effort to prevent the spread of hate messages and lessen communal tensions in the country, and suggested via an official release on the website of the Press Information Bureau that more could follow. As was widely reported in the days that followed, most websites blocked were not related to the ethnic clashes in Assam.
The draft chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement on Intellectual Property—as of its current leaked version [PDF], article 16—insists that signatories provide legal incentives for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to privately enforce copyright protection rules. The TPP wants service providers to undertake the financial and administrative burdens of becoming copyright cops, serving a copyright maximalist agenda while disregarding the consequences for Internet freedom and innovation.
The Dictator's Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition is a wry little 45-page booklet that is, superfically, a book of practical advice for totalitarian, autocratic and theocratic dictators who are looking for advice on how to shape their countries' Internet policy to ensure that the network doesn't loosen their grip on power.
Creating, informing, and thinking differently have always been viewed with suspicion. Today, when the Internet and digital technologies multiply information channels and offer new ways to create, there are many arguments fueled by certain interests that seek to discourage the free use of these platforms.
In horror movies, the scariest moments usually come from the monster you can't see. So the same goes for real life, or at least online life. Over the past few years, largely out of sight, governments have been clawing back freedoms on the internet, turning an invention that was designed to emancipate the individual into a tool for surveillance and control. In the next few months, this process is set to be enshrined internationally, amid plans to put cyberspace under the authority of a largely secretive and obscure UN agency.
Technology plays an increasing role in policing and other aspects of the criminal justice process. This article will briefly outline the notion of a criminal justice ‘techno-fix’ as a potential attempt by criminal justice agencies to use technology as a source of legitimacy.
Denial of service (DoS) and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are increasingly common phenomena, used by a variety of actors—from activists to governments—to temporarily or indefinitely prevent a site from functioning efficiently. Often, the attack saturates the target with server requests designed to flood its bandwidth, leaving the server unable to respond to legitimate traffic.
I had intended to open this polemic with some version of this true story: earlier this summer, I was having dinner with friends and our conversation turned to the role of the veil in Islam, starting with how to explain a burkha to a son raised to believe that men and women are equal, before leading into the veil's potential as a form of oppression against women.
We never get tired of saying it. Freedom of expression and the Internet are related: if one is affected, the other will be also. However, in modern democracies it is sometimes difficult to detect threats to online freedom of expression. Therefore, at this stage of the “Don’t fear the Internet” [es] campaign we will focus on how some copyright laws and practices end up discouraging the use of the Internet for expression.
In our latest Netizen Report we focus on the busy week Google is having as the world’s biggest search engine seeks to manage concerns from governments, businesses and users. Google’s decision to punish copyright violators by lowering their rankings on the search engine’s algorithm is a reminder of the how search results have far-reaching effects. The move to decrease the page rankings of sites that have repeatedly received DMCA “takedown” notices of copyright infringement is a nod to Hollywood’s concern over content piracy, but some technologists argue it will do little to stem illegal downloads because the links on Google will merely be harder to find. Privacy advocates say the move threatens the reliability of search results.
The public consultation process for WCIT-12 opened today, with interested parties able to make their written contributions to the WCIT-12 discussions via ITU’s website in any of the six official UN languages. The site opened for contributions today at 15:00 CET.
It can be accessed at www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/public.aspx
The site is the result of a decision by ITU Council on 11 July 2012 to make a draft of the principal input document to the WCIT-12 conference publicly accessible, and to establish a website where all stakeholders can express their views and opinions on the content of that document or any other matter related to WCIT.
Alice And Bob In Cipherspace: A New Form Of Encryption Allows You To Compute With Data You Cannot Read
Homomorphic encryption is not quite ready for everyday use. The methods have been shown to work in principle, but they still impose a heavy penalty of inefficiency. If the system can be made more practical, however, there are applications ready and waiting for it. Many organizations are eager to outsource computation: Instead of maintaining their own hardware and software, they would like to run programs on servers “in the cloud,” a phrase meant to suggest that physical location is unimportant. But letting sensitive data float around in the cloud raises concerns about security and privacy. Practical homomorphic encryption would address those worries, protecting the data against eavesdroppers and intruders and even hiding it from the operators of the cloud service.
When Americans are displeased with their politicians, they like to threaten to move to Canada. But if you’re tempted to move north—or even further afield—to get away from plans for increased Internet surveillance by the government, think again. Controversial new surveillance laws proposed in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have quite a bit in common. And it’s no coincidence.
As Steve wrote last week, Small World News is developing a new mobile multimedia reporting app for Android. This app will also include an entire mobile multimedia reporting curriculum, including journalism and digital safety and security basics. We will be adapting our Guide to Safely Producing Media where appropriate and working with our colleagues John Smock and Mark Rendeiro to produce the photo and audio reporting lessons.
Earlier in August, a cyber-attack on Wired writer Mat Honan’s digital life attracted a good deal of media attention, much of it driven by his lengthy article on how the attackers gained access to his Google, Apple, Amazon, and Twitter accounts. Those attackers obtained the last four digits of Honan’s credit card number by engaging in a little social engineering with Amazon tech support. Armed with that bit of information, as well as the credit card’s billing address, they convinced AppleCare to issue a temporary password to Honan’s Apple ID. From there, wiped his MacBook, seized control of his Gmail and other identities, and humiliated him on Twitter.
Censorship is no longer limited to printed media and videos. Its impact is felt much more strongly with regard to Internet related resources of information and communication such as access to websites, email and social networking tools which is further enhanced by ubiquitous access through mobile phones and tablets. Some countries are marked by severe restrictions and enforcement, a variety of initiatives in enforcing censorship (pervasive as well as implied), as well as initiatives to counter censorship.
As one of people who built Martus, an encrypted database used by thousands of human rights activists around the world, I routinely confront the needs of users who are not in wealthy countries, as well as the difficult problem that creating real, easy-to-use security poses. My thoughts here are focused on the democracy activists, citizen journalists, and human rights workers in the world’s toughest political environments. These are our Martus users, and my colleagues and friends. These are people who need security more than just about anyone: it can be literally a question of life and death.
There is a need for drastic action to be taken to prevent young people being exposed to disturbing material on the internet. The majority of today's parents know less about technology than their own kids do, and have little control over the internet content their children can access. It's not just pornography that is a problem; the internet is full of inappropriate material, including material on self-harming, anorexia, bomb making sites and suicide sites.
In Facebook’s newest filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company estimated 83 million “fake” users, approximately 8.7 percent of the social network, did not file not under a real legal name. That’s up pretty significantly: Facebook estimated, in the registration statement filed to the SEC in April, that 5 percent to 6 percent of users were fake as of Dec. 31, 2011. Facebook admits these are just estimates, so the real number could be lower—or much higher.
Thanks very much and good morning. I’m gonna talk, or try and talk, about what real terrorists do with modern encryption tools in the 21st century, do they succeed in communicating securely, do they know how to, how they build their own effective methods. I’ll try to respond to these questions using evidence, including a strain of real terrorism cases in which specialists, including myself, have examined computers and Internet records. But first, throw out everything you’ve read in the press (that, by the way, is my other profession). In the real world the evidence is never going to be complete or perfect, we’ll look at some of that in a minute.
On Aug. 2, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging the White House to stop an obscure U.N. agency from asserting greater control over the Internet. It is the "consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States," the lawmakers affirmed, "to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet today."
We assembled execs from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Zynga who help not-for-profits and activists use their platforms. For the first time, they broke bread together to discuss the power of "slacktivism," breaking out of the viral-hits mind-set, and whether philanthropy is the future of marketing.
Wide-eyed internet visionaries told us technology would free its users from the iron grip of states, with the internet blind to borders and not respecting the dictats of bureaucrats. Instead technology is making dystopia not just possible, but cheap. Unthinkingly we’re sending our most private data across the internet thinking it a private space. Exploiting this weakness, Western technology companies have spotted a market for surveillance equipment that allows governments to hoover up data — and use it to spy on their citizens. Much of this technology has been exported to authoritarian states, but as we are discovering, if you allow British firms to flout human rights abroad, the rot begins to set in at home.
We've been reeling a bit ever since Mat Honan was the victim of that ruthless social hack that wiped all his devices. Sure, that was an extreme case. But it's also one that could happen to anyone, at any time. So we put together a list of the best ways to make sure your internet self—your accounts, your cash, and your information—stays secure.
On Monday we announced that the Global Voices-led “translathon” yielded a whopping 63 translations of the Declaration of Internet Freedom. Among the translated languages are K’iche’, Galician, Afghan Dari, Bengali, Estonian and Hebrew. Now a bunch of the translators involved in the effort are offering their take on the process and the importance of the fight for Internet freedom in their countries. These are some of the greatest testaments to the free and open Internet we’ve seen in a long time.
The capability of repressive governments to monitor users of mobile phones and block access to internet content is far beyond levels realized by users and presents significant risks for user privacy and safety, according to a new report released today by Freedom House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). This is a serious problem in countries that lack the rule of law and where civil liberties are not respected.
As I noted recently, net neutrality is back in the spotlight, so I thought it would be useful - and maybe entertaining - to look at an anti-net neutrality article for the insights it gives us about how the other side views things. It's called "Pick Up On One and Let The Other One Ride", and appears in the Huffington Post. Here's how it frames the discussion: One direction follows the lead of activists who worry that without "net neutrality," a non-competitive broadband world will lead the major broadband infrastructure companies to stifle the flow of Internet content and extract a pound of digital flesh from the content they do allow.
Android phones are ubiquitous. However, their ubiquity is creating amazing opportunities for bad guys. Over the past few months, criminals have come up with some ingenious Android-based trojans and malware... and more is on the way. The twist? The bulk of malware is in foreign markets, but the same tech used abroad is slowly making its way to the United States.
Defending networks from malicious hacking exploits depends in large part on the voluntary, cooperative efforts of network operators, device makers, and Internet users.Today the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG) -- a group of technical experts dedicated to building consensus about broadband network management -- has released a series of targeted, balanced recommendations to help stifle an emerging type of network attack.
“Safety on the Line: Exposing the Myth of Mobile Communications Security” analyzes market data and mobile use habits, and tests popular mobile technologies prevalent in each of 12 countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Egypt, Iran, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The report calls for greater cooperation among the mobile phone and operating system industries, funders of anti-censorship technologies, and mobile security app developers. It also recognizes a need to enhance awareness of the security risks among users of mobile devices in repressive and undemocratic regimes.
Sachin Pilot, minister of state for communications and information technology, believes countries like India, with growing internet users, should have far more share in the running of the internet. Speaking with Monobina Gupta, Pilot discusses how managing the global internet currently lies within the purview of very few nations, why this must change - and how he is against any form of online censorship.
Wickr, a free application that launched in the iPhone app store Wednesday, aims to encrypt text, picture and video messages to prevent their interception by men-in-the-middle. But then, as the app’s name implies, those messages also delete themselves after just minutes or even seconds like a burning wick, leaving no trace behind even for forensic investigators.
The recent acquisition of Skype by Microsoft, coupled with a series of infrastructural changes, has resulted in a flurry of responses, concerns and analysis of exactly what kind of assistance Skype can provide to law enforcement agencies. Under this heightened scrutiny, Skype released a statement on their blog on 26th July, purporting to re-affirm their commitment to the privacy of their users.
This week, Morgan Marquis-Boire and Bill Marczak of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab provided a disturbing look into the likely use of a commercial surveillance program, FinFisher, to remotely invade and control the computers of Bahraini activists. After the software installs itself onto unsuspecting users' computer, it can record and relay emails, screenshots, and Skype audio conversations. It was deployed against Bahraini users after being concealed in seemingly innocent emails.
When he's not working on DNSSEC, Dan Kaminsky is taking on censors, both in government and in private industry, with plans for a series of user-friendly tools that will map out where information is being deleted or blocked online.
It’s one of the world’s best-known and elusive cyber weapons: FinFisher, a spyware sold by U.K.- based Gamma Group, which can secretly take remote control of a computer, copying files, intercepting Skype calls and logging every keystroke. For the past year, human rights advocates and virus hunters have scrutinized FinFisher, seeking to uncover potential abuses.
Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes.
The video calling service Skype recently made a change to how it routes calls. Hackers and bloggers are saying the changes, which push some of the video calling process onto Skype's own computers instead of onto random machines on the Internet, could help the app spy on users' calls, presumably at the request of a court or government.
Out Of Shape: The Rules On What Data Governments Can Demand From Communications Companies Need Tightening
Snooping, like so many things in life, is going mobile and online. In 2011 Google received 12,271 requests for data from the American government and acceded to all but a few of them. American mobile-phone carriers together fielded more than 1.3m such requests.
This week, YouTube announced a feature that should catch the eye of video journalists and bloggers working in dangerous conditions. After uploading a video to YouTube, you can now deploy a "blur faces" post-production tool that, in theory, should disguise the visual identity of everyone on the screen. Face-blurring can be an important security tool for journalists working in regions where witnesses are punished simply for talking to the media. Documenting events in the manner they occur remains the common professional mandate, but in certain instances, such as protecting a vulnerable news source providing sensitive information, blurring a facial image can serve an important purpose.
New surveillance laws being proposed in countries from the United States to Australia would force makers of online chat software to build in backdoors for wiretapping. For years, the popular video chat service Skype has resisted taking part in online surveillance—but that may have changed. And if it has, Skype’s not telling.
Saying it wanted to help to protect dissidents who appear in videos shared on YouTube, Google launched a tool Wednesday that can blur their faces in footage uploaded to its servers. Google hopes the tool will encourage more people speaking out, though it was careful to call it only a “first step” towards providing safety to people who could face harsh repercussions from governments or drug cartel if they were identified in a video.
We begin this week’s Netizen Report with South Korea’s net neutrality advocates and telecommunications companies, who are at odds after the Korean Communications Commission allowed three domestic mobile carriers to block access or add surcharges for mobile voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) services. The decision, which would also affect peer to peer apps such as Skype, emerged after Korean mobile telecoms SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ claimed their data networks would be degraded by the expanding use of applications such as KaKao Talk, which is used by 36 million Koreans. Net neutrality advocates protesting restricted access include several civil society groups and Google’s Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf, who told the Korea Times it would stifle innovation.
Google is attempting to turn the tables on criminals and terrorists who exploit the internet by using its search capabilities to expose and disrupt illicit activity. The internet giant has launched a campaign against the secrecy and impunity of drug cartels, organ harvesters, cyber-criminals, violent radicals and traffickers in arms and people. It has assembled victims, law enforcers, politicians, academics and technology experts to devise strategies in a two-day summit in Los Angeles, starting Tuesday, called Illicit Networks: Forces in Opposition.
On July 4, a group of digital rights and other advocacy organizations unleashed a set of rights and principles for the Internet dubbed the Declaration of Internet Freedom. Amongst its initial signatories were organizations such as Free Press, Access, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as Global Voices Advocacy. As it spreads, bloggers have begun to comment–and critique–the document and the process behind it. Here are just a few reactions.
Late last week, the ITU Council announced its decision to make public one of the summary documents of proposals to amend the ITRs. Notably, a prior version of this document was leaked weeks ago on WCITleaks, and CDT's welcome the release of an updated version. But it is hard to see how this limited release translates into meaningful transparency. The vast majority of documents related to the WCIT process, including specific positions governments are taking on behalf of their citizens, remain locked behind a password wall and are only available to Member States and Sector Members.
The past few weeks have seen promising developments in the use of online journalism to counter official narratives in countries under political upheaval. In this week’s Netizen Report, we cover more Internet innovations created by netizens to promote political and social change, alongside other developments related to the global struggle for freedom and control on the Internet.
In a new Pew Internet/Elon University survey of more than 1,000 Internet experts, researchers, observers and users, respondents were split when it came to imagining how they expect technology firms will perform between now and 2020 when confronted with situations in which some profits can be made only when they follow rules set by authoritarian governments. These experts say they hope the drive for corporate social responsibility (CSR) will have moved forward by 2020, but many expect this will not be the case.
In a ground-breaking vote on an issue that affects all of us, the United Nations Human Rights Council on Thursday endorsed a resolution upholding the principle of freedom of expression and information on the Internet. The broad support for the resolution demonstrated that maintaining the free flow of information on the Internet is a global call and not something pushed only by a few Western states.
Many forms of hacktivism exploit illegal access to networks for financial gain, and cause expensive damage. Other forms are used primarily to advocate for political or social change. Applicable law in most developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, generally prohibits hacktivism. However, these countries also protect the right to protest as an essential element of free speech. This Note argues that forms of hacktivism that are primarily expressive, that do not cause serious damage, and that do not exploit illegal access to networks or computers, sufficiently resemble traditional forms of protest to warrant protection from the application of anti-hacking laws under widely accepted principles of free speech.
Telstra, an Australian telco, has been accused of tracking its Next G mobile phone users’ Internet use without their consent, and then sending the data to a United States office of Netsweeper Inc., a Canadian company. A Telstra representative confirmed the practice in comments given to the press, saying the data was being collected “for a new tool to help parents and kids when they're surfing the net."
Following in Google's wake, Twitter has released for the first time data on government requests for user information. The table shows that the US government is significantly more interventionist in terms of the number of times it has asked Twitter to hand over information than any other government in the world. From 1 January 2012, the US made 679 user information requests out of a total of 849, compared with 98 requests from the Japanese government, 11 each from the Canadian and British governments and under 10 for a slew of other countries.
The United Nations Human Rights Council passed resolution L13 last week supporting Internet expression as a basic human right and promoting broadband deployment. In the resolution on "the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet," the UN council affirmed that "[T]he same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression." The resolution "calls upon all States to promote and facilitate access to the Internet and decides to continue its consideration of how the Internet can be an important tool for development and for exercising human rights."
It's been year-and-a-half since the outset of the Arab revolutions that brought down Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's longstanding regime in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak's in Egypt; three years since the beginning of the Iranian election protests of 2009-2010; and more than three years since the start of civil unrest in Moldova. It's widely accepted by now that these and other pro-democratic protest movements globally would have been impossible without smart phones and social media. But the significance of these technologies to democratization is still a matter of debate. If it occurred to you to wonder what the view on this issue looks like from the top of the tech industry, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg asked Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Hong Kong researchers have developed software able to identify censored posts on China's main microblog, they said Thursday. Called "WeiboScope", the program developed as a project at the University of Hong Kong is able to detect politically sensitive posts deleted by Chinese censors on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
Freedom of Speech and Censorship in the Internet Age -project was launched in January 2011. The main goal of the project is to research the status of censorship during the internet era. To reach this goal, the theme of internet censorship is divided to several subtopics e.g. internet culture, technologies, marketplace, privacy and anonymity in different articles. The outcomes of the project include a doctoral thesis, research articles, a web site as well as contents and tools for broader discussion on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Book club).
Long considered home to the worst commenters on the internet — racist, cruel, idiotic, nonsensical, and barely literate — YouTube is in the process of upgrading its comment system in order to better tame its most loathsome members.
As public awareness and debate about the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) widens, a point of contention has been whether “Internet governance” will be on the table. A number of regulators, industry, and civil society groups, including CDT, have raised concerns about the WCIT’s potential to stray into areas of Internet governance and policy, moving beyond mere technical interoperability issues. Others have dismissed these concerns as “rumors,” echoing the ITU Secretary General’s assurances that the ITU is just a technical body and there are no references to “Internet governance” in the preparation documents for the WCIT.
Several governments are pushing for proposals that seek to draw borders around the global Internet. With big decisions at stake, it’s critical that Internet users understand the threats and have a meaningful say in the final outcome. At a panel held in Washington, D.C. June 26 to highlight global threats to Internet governance, much of the discussion revolved around multistakeholder processes, or the involvement of all stakeholders in Internet policy making discussions on equal footing.
Disproportionate penalties for copyright violations have reached new heights in Japan with the passage of a new bill this month that will make downloading copyrighted material punishable by imprisonment or fines. Previously, imprisonment was possible for uploading files, but this bill expands the penalty to downloaders as well. The bill will go into effect on October 1.
This report looks at the work of some of the most-quoted academics in the field of media and governance, with the aim of presenting some key issues about the connection between mass media and democracy in a brief and accessible way.
Twitter is preparing to introduce new measures to reduce the visibility of “hate speech” or “trolling” on the site. But management faces a struggle to balance some Twitter users’ desire for anonymity and free speech – such as contributed to the Arab Spring protests – with the wish of others to be protected against abuse.
Algorithms and filters use data about you, such as your location, age, gender and preferences to deliver a set of results they think will you'll want to see. But is this a good thing? In this feature, we'll look at exactly what's happening and explain some of the steps you can take to avoid or disable these filters.
Social media is profoundly affecting the work of security and law enforcement, even more than the invention of the telephone over a century ago. As more of us transfer details of our lives -- our whereabouts, interests, political views, friends, and so on -- online, it inevitably involves and interests the agencies tasked with keeping us safe.
The Global Network Initiative urges the retention of the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance as global policy forums create policy for the future. Several important decisions are to be made around Internet governance in the coming year. The roles of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Telecom Policy Forum and proposals to the UN General Assembly on the future of Internet governance have not been top of mind for the billions of people around the world that increasingly rely on the internet as a means of providing social connection or an opportunity for political or economic engagement.But decisions to be made in the next 12 months may impact on the way users around the world connect to the Internet in the coming years.
Some journalists continue to receive the warning from Google about state-sponsored attacks. The message appears on top of logged-in services like Gmail. Occasionally it will disappear for a few hours and then reappear, but there is no way to remove it. The warning can be disturbing, especially as the company does not provide much information, such as why it suspects such an origin for a hacking attack. Instead, it gives a link to its support pages explaining some general ways to increase the security of your Google account. What follows is a little more explanation, based on CPJ's experiences with journalist information security, about what Google may be seeing, and how you might defend yourself.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit group that manages the Web's address system, named Fadi Chehadé as its new president on Friday. He will succeed Rod Beckstrom, who announced last year that he will leave the organization on July 1 when his contract ends. Chehadé was born in Lebanon to Egyptian parents and was educated in the United States. He has worked for IBM and founded RosettaNet, a nonprofit that establishes standards for the sharing of business information.
Internet users in less developed countries could find their access to the global Internet more limited or more costly if proposed changes to the International Telecommunication Union’s treaty are adopted. ITU Member States are meeting this December at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to decide whether and how to extend ITU regulations to the Internet. A group of European telecommunications companies (the European Telecommunications Network Operators or “ETNO”) is proposing radical changes to the ITU’s underlying treaty in an attempt to wrest more revenue from providers of Internet content and applications. Internet users should urge their governments to oppose the ETNO proposal and any similar proposals that may be considered by ITU Member States.
UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary General Hamadoun Touré today in Geneva announced he would propose to the ITU Council later this month to make the draft documents for the much-debated International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) publicly accessible. According to participants at today’s meeting, Touré said he would also recommend a public consultation on the draft ITR, to be held during the last preparatory meeting for the December World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) at which the ITR will be updated.
There has been an alarming rise in the number of times governments attempted to censor the internet in last six months, according to a report from Google. Since the search engine last published its bi-annual transparency report, it said it had seen a troubling increase in requests to remove political content. Many of these requests came from western democracies not typically associated with censorship.
The takeaway is simple: any attempt to regulate speech online — whether in service of “stopping piracy” or “defending against cyberattack” — must be ruthlessly interrogated for how it will be abused. Because it will be abused. Those with censorious impulses will push the four corners of the law as far as possible to silence speech they don’t like. It is depressingly common to see the mere threat of a lawsuit cause a withering of speech online. It’s vitally important that we recognize and call out the certainty that even well-intentioned laws that impact expression will be used as a bludgeon against the open expression of information and ideas online. In addition to opposing SOPA and its ilk, here are three areas where companies can take a stand to protect free speech on the Internet.
This report recommends practical measure that governments, corporations and other stakeholders can take to protect freedom of expression, privacy, and related rights in globally networked digital technologies. These are built on detailed analysis of international law, three workshops in London, Washington DC and Dehli, and extensive interviews with governments, civil society and corporate actors.
People around the world have come to rely on Facebook for political activism and discourse -- from the Green Movement in Iran, to revolutionaries in Egypt, to U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election campaign. Facebook is not a physical country, but with 900 million users, its "population" comes third after China and India. It may not be able to tax or jail its inhabitants, but its executives, programmers, and engineers do exercise a form of governance over people's online activities and identities.
Throughout this week's edition we highlight examples of government intervention to limit free speech online, ostensibly “for the greater good”. In Kuwait, a Shi’ite man has been sentenced to prison for ten years for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammad and Sunni Muslims via Twitter. Pleading innocent, Hamad Al-Naqi said the posts were written by someone who had hacked his Twitter account.
More than 1,000 new internet "top level domains" – such as .app, .kids, .love, .pizza and also .amazon and .google – could come online beginning early next year, with the potential to radically change the face of the web. But the move by Icann, the US-appointed company which decides what new domains can be added to the web, has been criticised by some as allowing a commercial landgrab of the internet.
Google has published sworn declarations from nine engineers, as the company tries to answer claims it orchestrated a cover-up of its collection of personal data from millions of internet users. Nine engineers involved in the controversial Street View project said they were unaware it had been designed to capture private data, including full emails, medical listings and passwords. Google published the written testimony late on Tuesday, hours after the UK information commissioner launched a fresh investigation into the data collection.
Proposed new top-level domains for internet addresses to rival .com and .uk will be revealed in London on Wednesday. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) received 1,930 proposals for 1,410 different internet suffixes by the 30 May deadline. There are already about 300 suffixes in use. The expansion will allow suffixes that represent hobbies, ethnic groups, corporate brand names and more. Icann has only revealed general trends so far and not specific details but some bidders have disclosed their ideas, including .lol, .bank, .baby, .music, .doctor, .YouTube and .Google.
Victims of anonymous trolls on Twitter and other social media may soon have the power to discover their tormentors' identities, thanks to a new law. But what's the difference between a troll and somebody who just has very bad manners?
Back in the early days of the Web, we set up Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) status messages to let people know what was going on with a Web server. Today, we still use 401 error messages for pages you’re not authorized to see, 403 pages for pages you can’t see even with authentication, and the ever popular 404 for Web pages that can’t be found. Now, with the rise of Internet censorship, Tim Bray is proposing a new HTTP code: 451, for Web servers and pages that are being censored. Bray, a leading Google Android developer and co-creator of one of the first Web search engines, Open Text and XML, has proposed to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) that code 451 be used for, “when resource access is denied for legal reasons. This allows server operators to operate with greater transparency in circumstances where issues of law or public policy affect their operation. This transparency may be beneficial both to these operators and to end users.”
This just in from Geneva: The United Nations has no plans to seize control of the Internet. The Web-snatching black helicopters have not left the hangar. Internet conspiracy theorists will be disappointed. The latest one, fueled by “open Internet” groups, Internet companies like Google and some U.S. lawmakers, was that mouse-clicking bureaucrats at U.N. headquarters in Geneva, supported by governments suspicious of the United States, were scheming to take over the Internet itself.
There were a couple of interesting stories in ComputerWorld last week from the cyber guerrilla war front. According to this story, whoever is controlling the Flame virus has ordered it to self-destruct and erase all traces of itself to impede the forensic analysis of its code.
Over the past ten years, the debate over "network neutrality" has remained one of the central debates in Internet policy. Governments all over the world, including the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have been investigating whether legislative or regulatory action is needed to limit the ability of providers of Internet access services to interfere with the applications, content and services on their networks.
The last few weeks have offered the strongest indications yet that nation-states are using customized software to exploit security flaws on personal computers and consumer Internet services to spy on their users. The countries suspected include the United States, Israel, and China. Journalists should pay attention--not only because this is a growing story, but because if anyone is a vulnerable target, it's reporters.
The Canada Centre for Global Security Studies (Canada Centre) and the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto (with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) are pleased to announce the launch of the Cyber Stewards program. The Cyber Stewards program is designed to address the urgent need to support South-based cyber security scholars, advocates, and practitioners to articulate a vision of cyber security in which rights and openness are protected on the basis of shared research and empirical knowledge. Cyber Stewards will be selected from across the global South. They will work locally while networking globally through the auspices of the Canada Centre and Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
In countries whose governments disrespect free speech and privacy, the introduction of new telecommunications (telecoms) infrastructure generally creates a new layer of censorship and surveillance. One of the latest examples is Ethiopia. Last week Ethio Telecom, the sole telecommunication service provider in Ethiopia, announced a plan to relaunch its 3G wireless network to improve the quality and speed of Internet connections. However Tor, a project which supports anonymous online communication, recently found that Ethio Telecom has deployed or begun testing Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of all Internet traffic, and has also blocked Tor. The Tor team has since developed a workaround for users in Ethiopia.
Security breaches of mind-numbing size like those at LinkedIn and EHarmony.com set crypto- and security geeks to chattering about weak passwords and lazy users and the importance of non-alphanumeric characters to security. And insisting on a particular number of characters in a password is just pointless security-fetish control freakishness, right? Nope. The number and type of characters make a big difference.
A new Internet standard giving the global network more room to grow came into effect Wednesday, a move that users probably won't notice. The switch occurred at 0001 GMT Wednesday, when Internet operators switched to a new standard called IPv6 that allows for trillions of "IP" numbers or addresses, up from the current 4.3 billion.
Later today, the company will announce a new warning system that will alert Gmail users when Google believes their accounts are being targeted by state-sponsored attacks. The new system isn't a response to a specific event or directed at any one country, but is part and parcel of Google's recent set of policy changes meant to allow users to protect themselves from malicious activity brought on by state actors. It also has the effect of making it more difficult for authoritarian regimes to target political and social activists by hacking their private communications.
The formal mechanism for producing a consolidated input towards a revision of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) that shaped the ICT networks of today will see its final meeting June 20-22. The Council Working Group to prepare for the World Conference on International Telecommunications will meet for the last time, in Geneva, to produce a report that will be considered at the conference in Dubai, 3-14 December.
Even as Internet-control bills such as SOPA and PIPA were making their way through the Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year (only to be short-circuited by public opinion), another potential firestorm was brewing just beneath the surface—one that is expected to erupt in a matter of months in Dubai. That’s because the International Telecommunications Union, an arm of the United Nations, wants very much to take over management of the Internet, a plan that will be debated by member nations in Dubai. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of U.S. congressional officials said they will resist this attempt with everything they have. But will it be enough?
Galvanized through Twitter and Facebook, tens of thousands of protesters marched in Mexico's capital last week calling for more engaging issue campaigns by politicians and less biased reporting by Mexico's mainstream media of the upcoming July 1 presidential election. The Twitter campaigning under #YoSoy132 began with protests in reaction to a May 11 speech at Iberoamericana University in Mexico City by Enrique Peña Nieto, front-runner candidate for the Mexican presidency and member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (also known as the PRI), which ruled Mexico for seven decades before the last presidential election 2000.
Drawing on Couldry's fifteen years of work on media and social theory, this book explores how questions of power and ritual, capital and social order, and the conduct of political struggle, professional competition, and everyday life, are all transformed by today's complex combinations of traditional and 'new' media. In the concluding chapters Couldry develops a framework for global comparative research into media and for thinking collectively about the ethics and justice of our lives with media. The result is a book that is both a major intervention in the field and required reading for all students of media and sociology.
By 2016, global Internet traffic is expected to reach a staggering 1.3 zettabytes annually, according to a new report from Cisco. To put that into perspective, it's the equivalent of 38 million DVDs per hour. The network equipment maker predicts that monthly Internet traffic in 2016 will be four times the level seen in 2011.
This briefing document was developed as part of the Berkman Center's March 30th, 2012 workshop on "Public Networks for Public Safety: A Workshop on the Present and Future of Mesh Networking.” This workshop provided a starting point for conversation about whether mesh networks could be adopted within consumer technologies to enhance public safety communications and empower and connect the public while simultaneously improving public safety.
Last fall, “Kardokh,” a 25-year-old dissident and computer expert in the Syrian capital of Damascus, met with British journalist and filmmaker Sean McAllister. McAllister, who’s made award-winning films in conflict zones like Yemen and Iraq, explained that he was shooting a documentary for Britain’s Channel 4 about underground activists in Syria, and asked if Kardokh would help him. But some of McAllister’s practices made him uneasy, Kardokh said. He worried that the filmmaker didn’t realize how aggressive and pervasive the regime’s surveillance was. Kardokh and his fellow activists took elaborate measures with their digital security, encrypting their communications and using special software to hide their identities online. “I started to feel that Sean was careless,” Kardokh told me. He said he had urged McAllister to take more precautions in his communications and to encrypt his footage. “He was using his mobile and SMS, without any protections.”
The Internet stands at a crossroads. Built from the bottom up, powered by the people, it has become a powerful economic engine and a positive social force. But its success has generated a worrying backlash. Around the world, repressive regimes are putting in place or proposing measures that restrict free expression and affect fundamental rights. The number of governments that censor Internet content has grown to 40 today from about four in 2002. And this number is still growing, threatening to take away the Internet as you and I have known it.
Increasing Government Surveillance Around the World is Threatening the Freedoms Granted by Internet Access.
Azerbaijan is a classic example of how, even when people are free to connect to the global Internet, they can be subject to pervasive, unaccountable, and unconstrained surveillance. It is also a case of how, while western democratic governments have been quick to follow the lead of the United States and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in calling for a free and open global Internet, they are much more conflicted when it comes to surveillance. The democratic world has failed to address the freedom-eroding potential of government surveillance through commercial networks.
Alexis Ohanian, the 29-year old founder of social news site Reddit, has partnered with the online advocacy group Fight for the Future to create what they’re calling the “Internet Defense League.” Ohanian describes the project, which they plan to officially launch next month, as a “Bat-Signal for the Internet.” Any website owner can sign up on the group’s website to add a bit of code to his or her site–or receive that code by email at the time of a certain campaign–that can be triggered in the case of a political crisis like SOPA, adding an activist call-to-action to all the sites involved, such as a widget or banner asking users to sign petitions, call lawmakers, or boycott companies.
Today, Google expanded its transparency reports program by releasing a detailed report of content removal requests from copyright holders. The new copyright report joins its semi-annual government takedown transparency report, and covers more than 95% of the copyright takedown requests it has received for Search results since July 2011.
This book is a compendium of articles by recognized experts describing the real and potential effects of the World Wide Web in all major aspects of economic and social development. The book fills a gap in the current store of knowledge by taking a broad view, offering detailed commentary from fourteen experts who are deeply engaged in the field of ICTs for development, many with extensive experience in developing countries, and each able to emphasize the key questions, challenges, and successes unique to their field. The research unites themes of technological innovation, international development, economic growth, gender equality, linguistic and cultural diversity and community action, with special attention paid to the circumstances surrounding the poor and vulnerable members of the Global Information Society. Readers will be able to draw parallels across each field and see where similarities in the deployment of ICTs for development exist and where there are divergences.
Azerbaijan, host of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest, has faced a number of digital disruptions as it prepares to host the annual singing competition this week. The song contest websites www.eurovision.az and www.eurovision.tv have been the subject of a cyber attack by an unknown group, followed a day later by the shutdown of a major mobile network which affected more than a million Azeri users. The government has meanwhile, announced it is taking steps to expand broadband Internet infrastructure in the country, helping more of its citizens to stay connected.
Mobile operators are dealing with difficult questions and by no means get everything wrong. However, at present the filtering systems are too blunt an instrument and too poorly implemented. Mobile Internet filtering blocks too much content, and applies to too many people, meaning it effectively adds up to a system of censorship across UK networks.
Twitter says it will honour requests from users who do not want their online behaviour tracked, the company said on Thursday, in contrast with web companies such Google and Facebook whose business models rely heavily on collecting user data. Twitter announced that it will officially support "Do Not Track," a standardised privacy initiative that has been heavily promoted by the US Federal Trade Commission, online privacy advocates and Mozilla, the non-profit developer of the Firefox web browser.
In March, Vladimir Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency amidst accusations of fraud. A wave of protests prompted new attacks on media: at least 15 journalists have been arrested or beaten, and independent news organizations targeted by distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) in an attempt to limit coverage of the protests.
This page features a letter from academics and civil society groups from around the world to International Telecommunication Union Secretary-General Dr. Hamadoun Touré regarding the lack of opportunity for civil society participation in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) process.
This past weekend, Iran’s minister of telecommunications announced that domestic institutions including banks, telecom companies, insurance firms, and universities are now prohibited from dealing with emails that do not come from an “.ir” domain name. This means that customers who use foreign email clients such as Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail will have to switch to domestic Iranian accounts, which are subject to Iranian legal jurisdiction.
Facebook shareholders may be grumbling about the inordinate amount of control founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds under the company’s relatively unique corporate structure, but new privacy-policy explanations the company announced on Friday - and will explain in a conference call Monday - return some privacy control back to users.
The aim of this report is to provide a comprehensive mapping of the main issues arising from an understanding of the Internet as a human right, and to establish parameters within which future debate on human rights issues for the Internet can take place. It does not claim to provide a comprehensive analysis of all the issues it identifies, or political solutions to them.
In May 2011 UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue released a groundbreaking report on human rights on the Internet. The report, which was endorsed by 41 governments, detailed how established human rights principles apply to the internet and made recommendations for putting these principles into practice. After a year of inaction, the time has come for a concerted, collective effort by democratic countries to carry out the recommendations of the La Rue report.
Search for the term "international media development" and you won't find many university departments or publications. Nonetheless, the field is over 50 years old and has exerted a major influence on many regions of the world, accounting for a budget of half a billion dollars a year. The fundamental concepts of international media development are under review, however. At the same time its donors, architects and implementers are embracing change, they are struggling to define and maintain core values.
When repressive regimes, which restrict free expression and torture their critics, acquire internet censorship or surveillance capabilities, they are very likely to use them to commit human rights abuses. The security services of Bahrain, Iran, and Qaddafi's Libya are known to have employed Western surveillance technology to target dissidents. However, the U.S. and European governments have in fact taken few if any tangible steps to stem the flow of sophisticated technology for controlling the internet and mobile communications to repressive regimes. There are currently no effective measures in place to prevent a company like TeliaSonera or the dozen others that came before it from supplying dictators with the technological means to violate fundamental rights.
Here's a wake-up call for the world's two billion Web users, who take for granted the light regulation of the Internet: A group of 193 countries will meet in December to reregulate the Internet. Every country, including China, Russia and Iran, gets a vote. Can a majority of countries be trusted to keep their hands off the Web?
The Global Network Initiative (GNI) is pleased to announce that Facebook is the first company to gain observer status with GNI. Observer status is an opportunity for companies who are actively considering joining GNI to examine the initiative's programs as well as its principles on free expression and privacy. “Given Facebook’s influence in the industry and its importance to a growing global user base, we look forward to collaborating with them on the issues they are facing around the world," said GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan.
One big reason for the Internet's success is its role as a universal standard, interoperable across the world. But in CPJ's new report, the 10 Most Censored Nations, communications networks are constructed not to live up to that ideal, but to fit the limitations of press freedom in each country. The Internet and mobile phones may be transforming how the news is covered, but CPJ's list shows the extent to which controls on news-gatherers distort and hamper the growth of the Internet and cellphone use.
Empowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster a Free Press and an Open Internet Around the World
This report finds that U.S. efforts to bolster independent media and an open Internet overseas are having significant impact but face a lack of funding, growth in online censorship and surveillance, and rising attacks on journalists. It makes recommendations to strengthen independent media around the world, including: expand funding; increase coordination; build citizen journalist capacity; embed digital media and project evaluation into all programs; and put greater emphasis on business skills, legal issues, community radio, and investigative journalism.
Of the 197 countries and territories assessed during 2011, including the new country of South Sudan, a total of 66 (33.5 percent) were rated Free, 72 (36.5 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 59 (30 percent) were rated Not Free. This balance marks a shift toward the Partly Free category compared with the edition covering 2010, which featured 68 Free, 65 Partly Free, and 63 Not Free countries and territories.
U.S. efforts to bolster independent media and an open Internet overseas are having significant impact, but face a lack of funding, growth in online censorship and surveillance, and rising attacks on journalists, according to a new report by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), a special initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
For years, the non-profit Tor Project has offered Internet users the world’s most secure tool for dodging censorship and surveillance, used by tens of millions of people around the world. Now two of the project’s researchers aim to help users to not only bypass what they call the “filternet”–the choked, distorted and censored subset of the Internet–but to understand it and map it out, the better to eradicate its restrictions.
A summary of events worldwide concerning the practices and policies of Internet content filtering, surveillance, and information warfare.
Here's a rundown on some of the world's most invasive web monitoring regimes.
A guide for covering the news in a dangerous and changing world.
Mayan prophecy predicts that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, but Internet users should be more worried about what will happen just a few weeks before. The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) meets in Dubai Dec. 3-14 to consider proposals that would grant authority for Internet governance to the United Nations and impose new regulations on Web traffic. If adopted, these proposals could upend the Web as we know it, undermining it as an engine for growth and dynamism for the world.
The Global INET 2012 is a 3-day international forum that will celebrate the Internet Society’s 20th anniversary. The meeting will be held 22-24 April, 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference agenda features roundtable discussions and keynotes by Internet, technical, policy, and other thought leaders on issues critical to the health and vitality of the Internet.
The Guardian is taking stock of the new battlegrounds for the internet. From states stifling dissent to the new cyberwar front line, we look at the challenges facing the dream of an open internet
All content presented in the Global Digital Digest is aggregated from public news sources. This information does not reflect the opinions of Internews, and is not produced or verified by Internews.