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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(Electronic Frontier Foundation, Monday, March 3, 2014)
President Obama has nominated former SOPA lobbyist Robert Holleyman to join the team of U.S. negotiators leading the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. If confirmed by the Senate, the former chief executive officer of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) would serve as a Deputy to the U.S. Trade Representative. Coincidentally, the current head of the BSA is former White House IP Czar Victoria Espinel. Holleyman is an interesting choice for the Obama administration, given the current standstill in TPP negotiations. Reports from the TPP ministerial meeting last weekend said that nothing substantive came out of those talks and that an end date for this sprawling deal is growing increasingly uncertain. One of the many topics of contention is the copyright enforcement sections. On these, the U.S. refuses to agree to provisions that would allow signatory countries flexibility in their copyright regimes.
(The New York Times, Monday, March 3, 2014)
Last year, I spent more than $2,200 and countless hours trying to protect my privacy. Some of the items I bought — a $230 service that encrypted my data in the Internet cloud; a $35 privacy filter to shield my laptop screen from coffee-shop voyeurs; and a $420 subscription to a portable Internet service to bypass untrusted connections — protect me from criminals and hackers. Other products, like a $5-a-month service that provides me with disposable email addresses and phone numbers, protect me against the legal (but, to me, unfair) mining and sale of my personal data. In our data-saturated economy, privacy is becoming a luxury good. After all, as the saying goes, if you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. And currently, we aren’t paying for very much of our technology.
(Nieman Journalism Lab, Monday, March 3, 2014)
Some people who scrape and publish information from the Internet go to jail. Others produce great journalism. It’s easy to understand why you might want to know which person you are — and whether or not you’re protected from prosecution or not — but that can be a difficult task. Issac Wolf is a Scripps News reporter who garnered some attention last spring when he reported on a major security breach at a company called TerraCom. In the course of a typical PDF search, Wolf discovered that personal information including Social Security numbers, addresses, and other account information had been left vulnerable. Publishing his findings led Wolf and his colleagues to be branded as “hackers.” Sarah Laskow wrote in CJR that the Scripps case may well be the first time a journalist was threatened under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
(Reporters Without Borders, Friday, February 28, 2014)
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Cuban Angel Santiesteban-Prats, a writer who completes a year in detention today and who began a blog in 2008 called Los hijos que nadie quisothat was openly critical of the government. Santiesteban-Prats was arrested on 28 February 2013 to begin serving the five-year jail sentence on trumped-up charges of “home violation” and “injuries” that he received at the end of a hasty and arbitrary trial on 8 December 2012. No hard evidence was produced in support of the charges.
(UPI, Friday, February 28, 2014)
Ukrtelecom, Ukraine's largest telecom provider, reported Friday that there was almost no phone or internet service across the Crimea region following sabotage by unknown elements. Ukrtelecom, the country's only land-line provider, said that unidentified people seized telecommunications nodes and destroyed cables, effectively severing data and voice connectivity between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine. The telecom disruption follows other incidents in Crimea concerning unidentified pro-Russian groups, some of whom were suspected by the Ukrainian government of being sent by Russia.
(Pew Research, Thursday, February 27, 2014)
This report is the first part of a sustained effort through 2014 by the Pew Research Center to mark the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Lee wrote a paper on March 12, 1989 proposing an “information management” system that became the conceptual and architectural structure for the Web. He eventually released the code for his system—for free—to the world on Christmas Day in 1990. It became a milestone in easing the way for ordinary people to access documents and interact over a network of computers called the internet—a system that linked computers and that had been around for years. The Web became especially appealing after Web browsers were perfected in the early 1990s to facilitate graphical displays of pages on those linked computers.
(Neiman Journalism Lab, Thursday, February 27, 2014)
The Knight Foundation wants to delay the death of the Internet as we know it — at least for a little while longer.Today Knight is launching the latest installment of its Knight News Challenge, and this round will focus on a subject on many minds these days: how best to support a free and open Internet. Specifically, Knight is asking people how they would answer this question: “How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation?” Those who come up with a good answer — or at least an idea that can pass muster with Knight’s experts and advisers — will get a share of $2.75 million.
(The Guardian, Thursday, February 27, 2014)
Increasingly, we are watched not by people but by algorithms. Amazon and Netflix track the books we buy and the movies we stream, and suggest other books and movies based on our habits. Google and Facebook watch what we do and what we say, and show us advertisements based on our behavior. Documents provided by Edwards Snowden and revealed by the Guardian today show that the UK spy agency GHCQ, with help from the NSA, has been collecting millions of webcam images from innocent Yahoo users. And that speaks to a key distinction in the age of algorithmic surveillance: is it really okay for a computer to monitor you online, and for that data collection and analysis only to count as a potential privacy invasion when a person sees it? I say it’s not, and the latest Snowden leaks only make more clear how important this distinction is.
(Poynter, Thursday, February 27, 2014)
In Wednesday’s decision on Garcia v. Google Inc., a three-judge panel for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered YouTube to remove the video “Innocence of Muslims” from its platform. It also reinstated Cindy Lee Garcia’s copyright lawsuit against Google. The 2012 video, created by filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef, led to riots and deaths throughout the Middle East. The 13-minute film depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a “fool and a sexual deviant.” President Obama and other world leaders had asked YouTube to take down the video, but YouTube resisted due to “unwarranted government censorship” that “would violate the Google-owned company’s free speech protections.”
(Electronic Frontier Foundation, Thursday, February 27, 2014)
It's time for Congress to follow the Sixth Circuit's lead and update one of the main online privacy laws—the Electronic Privacy Communications Act (ECPA). In the past, the Department of Justice has used the archaic law to obtain private online communications without obtaining a probable cause warrant as the Fourth Amendment requires. A bill co-sponsored by Reps. Kevin Yoder, Tom Graves, and Jared Polis—HR 1852, The Email Privacy Act—seeks to update ECPA by requiring a probable cause warrant whenever the government wants to access your online private messages. ECPA must be updated because the government has used the law to obtain private online messages—like personal email accounts or our social media messages—older than 180 days without a probable cause warrant. The government would have to obtain a warrant if those same messages were printed out on your desk. This difference shouldn't exist. By cosponsoring The Email Privacy Act, the government can no longer neglect the fact that Fourth Amendment protections do not whither with age.