Global Digital Download
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 rights group said an American expatriate who posted a parody video about youth culture in Dubai on YouTube has been imprisoned in the emirate, charged with endangering state security, and repeatedly denied bail. The London-based Emirates Centre for Human Rights said Wednesday that Sri Lankan-born Shezanne Cassim, 29, was arrested in April after posting a video in 2012. Cassim, a 29-year-old from Woodbury, Minn., was the first foreigner arrested under tough new measures governing Internet use in the United Arab Emirates. Until now, the 2012 cybercrimes decree had been used to prosecute Emirati activists who challenge the treatment of political activists in the country. "The video is a mock documentary in which Cassim profiles a fictional 'Satwa Combat School' in which students are taught to throw sandals as weapons and use social media for backup when under attack. The video begins with the caveat 'no offense was intended to the United Arab Emirates,'" the rights group said in a news release.
I awoke one morning to a disturbing email from the software giant Adobe. The message warned that thieves had hacked into the company’s servers, stolen the source code for some of its software products and almost three million passwords and credit card details, among which might be mine. It included a link to reset my password. But the link could have been an elaborate trap by criminals to infect my computer with malware and seize control of it. My first port of call was krebsonsecurity.com, the website of the tenacious cybercrime researcher Brian Krebs. Sure enough, he had posted details of the hack, and it was all true. I was instructed to click on that link and scrutinize my credit card bills for jewelry purchases in Djibouti or Moldova. Give credit to Adobe for ’fessing up to the hack so fast. But if a company like Adobe, whose products are a core communications medium for web users, can’t keep the hackers out, who can? The Internet has lost its innocence. Cybermalfeasance, or bad stuff happening on the web, is now so pervasive that if businesses and individuals fail to integrate security measures into their lives and operations, they are bound to regret it. And 2013 has been a momentous year for the extent and ingenuity of those launching attacks on networks around the world.
National Security Agency surveillance has gathered records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a plan to exploit the “personal vulnerabilities” of Muslims who the agency says are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, The Huffington Post reported Tuesday, citing what it said was a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by former government contractor Edward Snowden, reportedly explained how electronic surveillance can be used to damage someone’s credibility. “Some vulnerabilities, if exposed, would likely call into question a radicalizer’s devotion to the jihadist cause, leading to the degradation or loss of his authority,” the document, which was dated Oct. 3, 2012, said, according to The Huffington Post. The report identified exploitable behaviors as including “viewing sexually explicit material online or using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.” The originator of the document is listed as DIRNSA (director of the National Security Agency), the report said.
Today the U.N. General Assembly took a critical first step in addressing mass surveillance as a human rights violations with the passage of a resolution recognizing the right to privacy in the digital age. While it is unfortunate that an earlier draft of the resolution was watered down in negotiations, the fact that it was adopted by consensus with over 50 co-sponsors signals growing international agreement that unlawful or arbitrary surveillance, interception of communications, and collection of personal data are highly intrusive acts that violate the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and may contradic the tenets of a democratic society.
Tunisian activists fear that mass surveillance and Internet censorship may return to their country following the creation of a new “investigative” telecommunications agency. On November 6, the Tunisian government announced the establishment the Technical Telecommunication Agency (known by its French acronym ATT or A2T) by decree. Article 2 decree n° 2013-4506 summarizes the mandate of the agency.
In 2013, we learned digital surveillance by world governments knows no bounds. Their national intelligence and other investigative agencies can capture our phone calls, track our location, peer into our address books, and read our emails. They do this often in secret, without adequate public oversight, and in violation of our human rights. We won’t stand for this anymore. Over the past year, nearly 300 organizations have come together to support the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. These 13 Principles establish a clear set of guidelines that establish the human rights obligations of governments engaged in communications surveillance. These Principles were developed through months of consultation with technology, privacy, and human rights experts from around the world, and have the backing of hundreds of organizations from around the globe. But today, these Principles are about to receive their most important endorsement: the people’s.
The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today’s conviction and sentencing of Russian opposition blogger Sergei Reznik to 18 months in prison in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. CPJ urges Russian authorities to scrap the verdict on appeal. The Pervomaiskiy District Court declared Reznik guilty on separate counts of insulting a public official, bribery, and deliberately misleading authorities, and ordered him imprisoned, the regional news website Kavkazsky Uzel reported. According to news reports, after the verdict was announced, authorities placed Reznik in state custody. Yuri Kastrubin, Reznik's defense attorney, told Kavkazsky Uzel that he will appeal the verdict. "Today's verdict muzzling blogger Sergei Reznik is a shameful reminder that critical journalism is not welcome in Russia despite the many high-level assurances and declared commitments to press freedom," said Nina Ognianova, CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. News reports said Reznik blogged on the popular platform Livejournal and that he also contributed reporting to regional news outlets, including the website Yuzhnyi Federalnyi. His articles for the website criticized municipal and regional authorities and alleged widespread corruption and abuses.
The Do Not Track Kids Act (DNTK) has resurfaced, bringing the debate over minors’ online privacy back to the federal level. Sponsored by now-Senator Markey and Representatives Barton and Rush, this year’s bill is largely the same as the Markey-Barton bill of 2011. As we noted in 2011, the DNTK bill’s use of the Fair Information Practice Principles framework is a good approach to protecting the privacy of users’ information – but extending those protections only to users in a certain age bracket raises significant complications for users and operators alike. The 2013 bill also brings back the “Eraser Button” concept (though it’s now simply called “Removal of Content”). Online ‘eraser buttons,’ or the European counterpart the ‘right to be forgotten,’ inherently raise critical questions about the interaction between one user’s privacy interest in data she’s shared and another’s free expression right to quote or comment on public information. I’ll discuss the challenges raised by ‘eraser buttons’ in more detail below, but one thing is clear: Piecemeal privacy regulations – whether it’s a state-by state approach or laws that only protect certain age groups – are not going to achieve the kind of comprehensive protection for personal data that Internet users deserve. Congress should focus its attention on developing and passing a baseline consumer privacy bill that recognizes the same privacy rights for everyone and avoids drawing operators into a tangled thicket of regulations.
In recent years, there has been an increase worldwide in government demands for data held by the private sector, driven by a variety of factors. This includes an expansion in government requests for “systematic access:” direct access by the government to private-sector databases or networks, or government access, whether or not mediated by a company, to large volumes of data. Recent revelations about systematic access programs conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries have dramatically illustrated the issue and brought it to the forefront of international debates. This report is the culmination of research, funded by The Privacy Projects, that began in 2011. In the first phase of the study, outside experts were commissioned to examine and write reports about laws, court decisions, and any available information about actual practices in thirteen countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Two roundtables were held with private-sector companies, civil society, and academics. Based on that research, a number of common themes were identified about the countries examined and a descriptive framework for analyzing and comparing national laws on surveillance and government access to data held by the private sector was developed. Also developed was a normative framework based on a series of factors that can be derived from the concept of “rule of law,” from constitutional principles, and from existing international human rights jurisprudence.
Like many Americans and people around the world, I was deeply disturbed to hear the revelations of Edward Snowden about N.S.A. surveillance, which is an affront to the United States Bill of Rights. But as a filmmaker who has made a number of documentaries about technology and online activism, I can’t say that Snowden’s revelations came as a surprise. Some concerned citizens have long understood that powerful digital technologies can be abused to carve away at civil liberties. I created this Op-Doc with excerpts from interviews that I filmed for an ongoing documentary about the programmer and online activist Aaron Swartz, who was concerned about surveillance issues long before Mr. Snowden’s disclosures. This short film addresses the most common arguments I’ve heard from people who are not concerned about online surveillance, such as: “I’m not doing anything wrong, so why should I care?” and “We need this to keep us safe.” The Internet has placed all of us firmly in a new and insecure world. Simultaneously, a perpetual “war on terror” has infused within that world a culture of fear and anxiety, along with surveillance policies that will have long-lasting implications. Now is the moment for a course correction, where civil liberties are written not just into our laws but also into our computer code.
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.