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.

Sign up here to receive the weekly Global Digital Download newsletter.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wednesday, February 19, 2014)

    The Intercept recently published an article and supporting documents indicating that the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ surveilled and even sought to have other countries prosecute the investigative journalism website WikiLeaks. GCHQ also surveilled the millions of people who merely read the WikiLeaks website. The article clarifies the lengths that these two spy organizations go to track their targets and confirms, once again, that they do not confine themselves to spying on those accused of terrorism. One document contains a summary of an internal discussion in which officials from two NSA offices discuss whether to categorize WikiLeaks as a "malicious foreign actor" for surveillance targeting purposes. This would be an important categorization because agents have significantly more authority to engage in surveillance of malicious foreign actors.

  • (Global Voices, Wednesday, February 19, 2014)

    Recent amendments to Brazil's pioneer bill of rights for Internet users, the “Marco Civil da Internet” (Internet Civil Rights Framework), put net neutrality and users’ privacy at stake. The bill is expected to be voted on by Congress during the last week of February 2014. Activists have launched an online campaign asking for the removal of one of the new provisions, Article 16, that mandates service providers to store personal data of their users. The hashtag in use is #16igualNSA (“Article 16 leans towards NSA surveillance”). Joana Varon, a Brazilian researcher from the Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, points to an article on the PrivacyLatam blog as the “most accurate post in English regarding changes on #privacy protection at #marcocivil".

  • (The Guardian, Wednesday, February 19, 2014)

    The Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who is fighting extradition from New Zealand to the US on internet piracy charges, has said he will appeal against a court ruling that a raid on his mansion was legal. The New Zealand court of appeal has thrown out a 2012 decision of the high court that the warrants used were invalid because they were not specific enough and did not properly describe his offences. The warrants preceded Dotcom’s arrest and were used to seize 135 electronic items including laptops, computers, hard drives, flash sticks and servers in January 2012. But the appeals court decided that while the warrants were defective in some respects it was not enough to declare them invalid.

  • (Slate, Wednesday, February 19, 2014)

    It’s the end of the Internet. That was the headline of the prominent Swiss newspaper NZZ on Feb. 9. And Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, recently called for a re-decentralization, declaring, “I want a Web that’s open, works internationally, works as well as possible, and is not nation-based.” These are the latest voices in the growing chorus over the “balkanization” of the Internet and the emergence of “splinternets”—networks that are walled off from the rest of the Web. This is an important debate, one that will affect the future of the Internet. And with a major global conference on this topic taking place in Brazil in April and the World Summit on the Information Society +10 scheduled for 2015, it is high time to bring more clarity and nuance to it. Unfortunately, the term balkanization itself creates problems. Depending on whom you ask, balkanization can be a positive or negative process. For some, the term represents a move toward freedom from oppression. For others, it is a reminder of centuries of bloody struggle to hold together a region that ultimately ended in violent fragmentation, which makes use of the word offensive to some. Fragmentation of the Internet is the term we’ll use, but maybe a creative mind somewhere will find a better, more evocative way to describe it.

  • (The New York Times, Tuesday, February 18, 2014)

    Obama administration officials said Tuesday that the president continues to support a free and open Internet but that he cannot order the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband service as a utility that is subject to the same rules and rate regulation as local telephone service. The statement was a response to an online petition that has attracted more than 105,000 signatures since Jan. 14, when a federal appeals court ruled that the F.C.C. had overstepped its authority in drafting rules requiring Internet service providers to treat equally all traffic that passes through their pipes, rather than giving priority to some traffic — presumably from companies willing to pay for the privilege. In a post on the White House blog, the officials said President Obama “strongly supports” the promised effort of the F.C.C. chairman, Tom Wheeler, “to use the authority granted by Congress to maintain a free and open Internet.”

  • (Internet Society, Tuesday, February 18, 2014)

    In view of major conferences taking place this year, the adoption of a formal policy position on Internet governance " Internet Policy and Governance - Europe's role in shaping the future of Internet governance" by the European Commission on 12 February is a major contribution. It is the first comprehensive position paper by a governmental stakeholder, in this case the Executive Branch of the European Union which takes the lead and comes up with a vision on the future of Internet governance. The role of governments in multistakeholder Internet governance arrangements is one of the key questions that needs clarification and any contribution by governments to this discussion is to be welcomed.

  • (The New York Times, Tuesday, February 18, 2014)

    Some European politicians want to keep Internet data closer to home. On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany will meet with President François Hollande of France to discuss plans to create telecommunications networks that keep individuals’ data inside European Union borders. The proposals could limit how companies like Google and Facebook share data between their operations in Europe and the United States. They also form part of a growing debate here over how consumers’ online information should be used by technology companies and government agencies. Many European policy makers, particularly in France and Germany, want to beef up data oversight in the wake of the revelations by the former National Security Agency analyst Edward J. Snowden about the surveillance activities of the United States and its allies in Europe.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tuesday, February 18, 2014)

    An American citizen living in Maryland sued the Ethiopian government today for infecting his computer with secret spyware, wiretapping his private Skype calls, and monitoring his entire family's every use of the computer for a period of months. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing the plaintiff in this case, who has asked the court to allow him to use the pseudonym Mr. Kidane – which he uses within the Ethiopian community – in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of his family both in the United States and in Ethiopia. "We have clear evidence of a foreign government secretly infiltrating an American's computer in America, listening to his calls, and obtaining access to a wide swath of his private life," said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. "The current Ethiopian government has a well-documented history of human rights violations against anyone it sees as political opponents. Here, it wiretapped a United States citizen on United States soil in an apparent attempt to obtain information about members of the Ethiopian diaspora who have been critical of their former government. U.S. laws protect Americans from this type of unauthorized electronic spying, regardless of who is responsible."

  • (The New York Times, Sunday, February 9, 2014)

    In his first 100 days as the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler persuaded mobile phone companies to agree on rules about unlocking consumers’ phones, cemented an effort to increase the reliability of calls to 911, proposed tests to do away with old-fashioned telephone networks and freed $2 billion to connect schools and libraries to the Internet. Those were the easy tasks. In the coming days, the telecommunications, media and Internet industries will be watching to see how Mr. Wheeler responds to last month’s federal appeals court decision that invalidated the rules created by the F.C.C. in 2011 to maintain an open Internet. Mr. Wheeler has said that he views the decision, which many people saw as a setback for the agency, as an opportunity. He contends he can use it to assert the commission’s broad legal authority to enforce equality and access throughout the networks on which Internet traffic travels — a concept known as net neutrality.

  • (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Sunday, February 9, 2014)

    In 2013, we learned digital surveillance by the world’s governments knows no bounds. The NSA and other investigative agencies are capturing our phone calls, tracking our location, peering into our address books, and collecting our emails. They do this in secret, without adequate public oversight, and in violation of our human rights. We won’t stand for this anymore. On Tuesday February 11, the world is fighting back. In anticipation of the first united, worldwide action against mass spying, we asked Katarzyna Szymielewicz, Executive Director of the digital rights organization, Panoptykon Foundation, a signatory to the 13 Principles against mass surveillance, to let the world know how her team is fighting back.