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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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.
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.
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.
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.
If all of the known National Security Agency surveillance wasn't enough, the organization infected 50,000 computer networks with malware that could "steal sensitive information" according to new slides published by the Danish paper, NRC. The information published this weekend is another revelation courtesy of leaker Edward Snowden. The 50,000-figure comes from a 2012 presentation slide explaining how the NSA acquired information worldwide. It described an initiative called "Computer Network Exploitation" (CNE), which NRC reports as "the secret infiltration of computer systems achieved by installing malware." The slide shows CNE's reach spans five continents worldwide.
Online surveillance is undermining people's confidence in the internet, warns Sir Tim Berners-Lee – though he predicts that its outcome will be to enshrine users' rights in the longer term. But he added that whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, who triggered a raft of disclosures against the US National Security Agency and the UK's GCHQ surveillance agencies, were important: "I think we must protect them and respect them," he said at the launch of a new index showing web freedoms around the world. Berners-Lee, 58, the British inventor of the world wide web, said: "One of the most encouraging findings of this year's Web Index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world. But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy". He also said that those who have revealed secret surveillance deserved praise: "Countries owe a lot to whistleblowers – there's a series of whistleblowers who have been involved. Snowden is the latest. Because there was no way we could have had that conversation without them.
Google Inc (GOOG.O) Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has a bold prediction: Censorship around the world could end in a decade, and better use of encryption will help people overcome government surveillance. In a lecture at Johns Hopkins University on Wednesday, the executive of the world's biggest web search company made a pitch for ending censorship in China and other countries with restricted freedom of speech by connecting everyone to the Internet and protecting their communication from spying. "First they try to block you; second, they try to infiltrate you; and third, you win. I really think that's how it works. Because the power is shifted," he said. "I believe there's a real chance that we can eliminate censorship and the possibility of censorship in a decade." Schmidt has long spoken out against limitations to the freedom of expression and restricted Internet access around the world. Earlier this year, he traveled to North Korea, a country disconnected from the rest of the world, to promote the cause. "It's clear that we failed. But we'll try again. We have not been invited back," he said of the personal trip, the timing of which was later criticized by the U.S. State Department as being not helpful because it came shortly after North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket.
The UN General Assembly Should Pass Strong Privacy Resolution On The Right To Privacy In The Digital Age
After heated negotiations, the draft resolution on digital privacy initiated by Brazil and Germany emerged on November 20 relatively undamaged, despite efforts by the United States and other members of the “Five Eyes” group to weaken its language. Although a compromise avoided naming mass extraterritorial surveillance explicitly as a “human rights violation,” the resolution directs the UN high commissioner for human rights to report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on the protection and promotion of privacy “in the context of domestic and extraterritorial surveillance... including on a mass scale.” The resolution will ensure that this issue stays on the front burner at the UN. A vote on the resolution is expected in the next week. The resolution would be the first major statement by the UN on privacy in 25 years, crucially reiterating the importance of protecting privacy and free expression in the face of technological advancements and encroaching state power.
Argentines use the word "quilombo" to describe "a real mess", which is what I feared was awaiting us at the outset of ICANN's meeting in Buenos Aires this week. Since then, ICANN President Fadi Chehade has done a good job cleaning-up the internal process quilombo he and the board created. But ICANN's leadership has left the ICANN community struggling to answer deep and ongoing questions about the future of the Internet and the multistakeholder model. Coming into this week's meeting, ICANN stakeholders had a lot of questions about why and under what authority Fadi ventured aggressively into Internet governance waters, beginning with the Montevideo Statement and then the organization of a Brazilian Internet Governance conference next Spring. Fadi answered those questions. The answers may not satisfy everyone, but they essentially close the debate over ICANN's decision-making process over the past few months. The result of those actions, however, leaves us with substantive quilombo that makes the internal process quilombo look trivial. The continuing globalization of ICANN and its processes, including the IANA function, is a noble goal — and one we are already achieving through the continued internationalization of ICANN participants and the rising role of governments in ICANN's Government Advisory Committee. But globalization means different things to different organizations. And in the wrong hands, an effort to "globalize" ICANN and IANA could undermine ICANN's sovereignty and the future of the multistakeholder model.
Privacy International is pleased to announce the Surveillance Industry Index, the most comprehensive publicly available database on the private surveillance sector. Over the last four years, Privacy International has been gathering information from various sources that details how the sector sells its technologies, what the technologies are capable of and in some cases, which governments a technology has been sold to. Through our collection of materials and brochures at surveillance trade shows around the world, and by incorporating certain information provided by Wikileaks and Omega Research Foundation, this collection of documents represents the largest single index on the private surveillance sector ever assembled. All told, there are 1,203 documents detailing 97 surveillance technologies contained within the database. The Index features 338 companies that develop these technologies in 36 countries around the world. This research was conducted as part of our Big Brother Incorporated project, an investigation into the international surveillance trade that focuses on the sale of technologies by Western companies to repressive regimes intent on using them as tools of political control.
Digital media have enabled writers to reach new audiences around the globe, but the promise of these technologies can come at a terrible cost: governments are increasingly imprisoning and persecuting writers for what they write, blog, and post online. Below are revealing statistics from PEN's case lists over the past 12 years.
Traffic interception has certainly been a hot topic in 2013. The world has been focused on interception carried out the old fashioned way, by getting into the right buildings and listening to the right cables. But there’s actually been a significant uptick this year in a completely different kind of attack, one that can be carried out by anybody, at a distance, using Internet route hijacking. After consultations with many of the affected parties, we’re coming forth with some details in the hope that we can make this particular vulnerability obsolete.
Fight for the Future was one of the most important grass-roots organizations that rallied opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act, culminating in the defeat of the legislation in January 2012. Since then, SOPA has become a potent symbol of copyright excesses, and copyright reformers routinely invoke it to rally opposition to policies they oppose. Fight for the Future does just that in a petition page opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secret trade treaty whose "intellectual property" chapters was released by WikiLeaks last week. The FFTF Web site warns of an "extreme SOPA-like Internet Censorship Plan. WikiLeaks has released documents exposing an extreme internet censorship plan called the Trans-Pacific Partnership," the group says. "We know from the leaked drafts that the TPP will make the Internet more expensive, censored, and policed." Yet the blog post FFTF links to to back up that claim doesn't say anything about an "extreme internet censorship plan." Indeed, that blog post is an analysis of a 2-year-old version of the TPP, not the more recent one released by WikiLeaks. And it doesn't mention any provisions that could be plausibly described as an Internet censorship plan, unless you consider copyright itself a form of censorship.
ICANN comes in for a lot of criticism. That's because people care very deeply about it. The multi-stakeholder model, of which ICANN is the exemplar, is such a radical and revolutionary departure from how global affairs have been managed in the past that many of us are constantly on guard lest ICANN degrade into the command-and-control structure that characterizes other global regulatory bodies. At ICANN, it's the volunteers, those who care (as well as, yes, those who are paid to pretend to care) who set policy. Governments, corporations, and the rest of the usual movers and shakers are given an important but not a fundamental role. That's worth protecting. Until recently, I'd been watching Fadi Chehadé, ICANN's CEO, with growing bemusement. Because I'm trying to start a new gTLD registry, I've been frustrated by delays in the ICANN new gTLD program. But with new gTLD contracts being signed almost daily, with pre-delegation testing taking much less time than expected, and with IANA doing the actual delegations with such efficiency that I'm beginning to think I actually work on the Internet, things have definitely improved. The act of introducing new gTLDs, instead of talking about introducing them, seems to have enlivened ICANN, and the recent lack of major snafus from their hard-working staff must be recognized and applauded.
Susan Sell is a professor of political science at George Washington University, who has carried out landmark research on international negotiations over intellectual property. Below is her response to five questions about the intellectual property chapter of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which the Obama administration has been negotiating with trading partners behind closed doors. A draft of the chapter was leaked to WikiLeaks two days ago.
Like other technology and communications companies, Google regularly receives requests from governments and courts around the world to hand over user data. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive from each government in six-month periods with certain limitations. Usage of our services have increased every year, and so have the user data request numbers. We continue to look for new ways to organize information and provide more detail. For example, starting with the July–December 2010 reporting period, we began to disclose the percentages of user data requests we comply with in whole or in part. And starting with the January–June 2011 reporting period, we began to disclose the number of users or accounts about which data was requested. Our FAQ about legal process provides information about how we aim to put users first when we receive user data requests. To learn more about the laws governing our disclosure of user data and reforms to those laws that we think are important, visit http://digitaldueprocess.org/. We hope this report will shine some light on the appropriate scope and authority of government requests to obtain user data around the globe.
After three days of intensive discussion the UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) ended its second meeting last week in Geneva. It discussed the results of a questionnaire, which was send out after the 1st meeting of the WGEC (May 2013) and agreed on procedures how to move forward. The WGEC has to report to the forthcoming UNCSTD meeting in May 2014 in Geneva. The mystic discussion around the so-called "enhanced cooperation" cannot be understood without the knowledge of its history. Internet Governance became a controversial issue in the Geneva Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003. One group of governments wanted to bring the oversight over the management of the so-called "critical Internet resources" (domain names, IP addresses, root servers, Internet protocols) under an intergovernmental regime, as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Another group of governments argued that the existing system with ICANN, IETF, W3C, RIRs etc. works well and there is no need for change. "If isn't broken, don't fix it" argued the father of Internet, Vint Cerf, at this time chair of the ICANN Board of Directors. The conflict was overshadowed by the fact, that there was no agreed definition, what Internet Governance means and how public policy issues, related to the Internet, should be handled in global negotiations.
The Geneva summit could not agree and asked the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to establish a "Working Group on Internet Governance" (WGIG) with a mandate to define Internet Governance and to identify related public policy issues. After two years of work, the WGIG agreed on a broad definition which made clear that Internet Governance a) is more than Internet names and numbers, b) needs the involvement of all stakeholders in their respective roles and c) requires a philosophy of "sharing" both in policy development as in decision making among all involved stakeholders.
Over a few weeks' worth of bedtimes in the summer of 1984, my dad read me Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Though the dystopian context would have been lost on nine-year old me, the pervasive malevolence and the futility of the struggle was not. References to Orwell are never far off today, whether to Big Brother and the surveillance society, or doublethink and Room 101. The Orwellian dystopia is so familiar now to us – and so astonishingly real – that we might need a new cultural reference, a new literary vision to warn of what lies ahead. It's the relentless creep of progress and development that inevitably makes our worst nightmares and most brilliant visions a reality. Fifty years ago, security expert Eugene Kaspersky told a conference last week, the public would have been protesting on the streets at the idea that cameras would be surveilling every public placeacross the country, all day, every day. Today, we just accept it.
This week saw some movement in the debate over NSA and GCHQ surveillance, and a court case that could have very serious consequences. The court case first. One Wednesday and Thursday, the court of Appeal held a judicial review into the use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act taken by David Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald. Miranda was detained in transit at Heathrow airport under Schedule 7 while carrying encrypted documents that had emanated, ultimately, from whistleblower Edward Snowden. The question was whether the authorities, knowing who Miranda was, what he was likely to be carrying, and his purpose for holding the documents, had a right to detain him under that particular piece of law. It’s quite technical, but it comes down to whether carrying the documents Miranda was carrying could be seen as an act of terrorism or an act that could potentially aid terrorism (as the government and police argue) or as part of a journalistic enterprise (in essence, what Miranda is arguing). Index and other organisations have weighed in in support of the argument put forward by Miranda’s team, as we worry that a ruling against Miranda could have serious implications. Journalism can often operate in dubious areas: whether material “leaked” or “stolen” for example, is a question that can have very different answers depending on who you ask.
The 8th annual U.N. Internet Governance Forum wrapped up late last month in Bali, Indonesia. This year’s official main theme was “Building Bridges – Enhancing Multi-stakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development”; however, mass online surveillance and a recently announced 2014 world summit on internet governance dominated many discussions at the IGF. The political landscape around global internet governance has changed dramatically since last year’s IGF held in Baku, Azerbaijan, when discussions centered around the upcoming, controversial the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). In Baku, the U.S., the European Union, and allies were warning of attempts by authoritarian governments to regulate, censor, and surveil the internet through an international telecommunications treaty being negotiated at WCIT. By way of contrast, this year, ongoing revelations of mass surveillance primarily by the U.S. National Security Agency, have meant that many of the same governments have lost their moral authority as leaders in “internet freedom.” The IGF, which brings together civil society, companies, the technical community, governments and all interested stakeholders to discuss internet policy, afforded the opportunity to raise concerns on surveillance in both a public and private way with the governments and companies that are at the center of the scandal. While criticized by some participants as being too much of a polite UN-style meeting, the IGF provided an inclusive venue to share perspectives on how to reach a proper balance between security concerns and human rights, to address the lack of trust in the technical institutions and companies that play a key role in the functioning of the internet, and perhaps most importantly, to strategize on how to rein in mass surveillance.
Internet censorship comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. We often think of it as the "Great Firewall of China," which blocks access to websites with banned content. But internet censorship takes many other forms. It ranges from physical assaults on journalists who publish exposes of corruption online to cyber-attacks on the websites of human rights groups and prosecution of webmasters for comments that other users post on their platform. In the face of ongoing revelations about extensive snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), censorship abroad may seem like yesterday's problem. These revelations are troubling, but there is a broader array of threats to internet freedom around the world, and those threats are extensive and are growing, as documented in Freedom House's report Freedom on the Net 2013.
The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to the breakup of the internet as countries scramble to protect private or commercially sensitive emails and phone records from UK and US security services, according to experts and academics. They say moves by countries, such as Brazil and Germany, to encourage regional online traffic to be routed locally rather than through the US are likely to be the first steps in a fundamental shift in the way the internet works. The change could potentially hinder economic growth. "States may have few other options than to follow in Brazil's path," said Ian Brown, from the Oxford Internet Institute. "This would be expensive, and likely to reduce the rapid rate of innovation that has driven the development of the internet to date … But if states cannot trust that their citizens' personal data – as well as sensitive commercial and government information – will not otherwise be swept up in giant surveillance operations, this may be a price they are willing to pay."
What a week this was. It has seen David Cameron's former communications director, Andy Coulson, going on trial in connection with phone hacking by journalists during his time as editor of the News of the World, German officials storming off to Washington to read the riot act about the bugging of Angela Merkel's phone, the medieval mumbo-jumbo of the Queen accepting a royal charter underpinning a system of press self-regulation that much of the press doesn't accept, and the EU threatening internet giants like Google and Facebook with a data protection directive that could end up splitting the internet into separate US and European clouds. One thing unites these apparently disparate stories: the revolutionary development of technologies that massively increase our power to communicate with each other, and as massively erode our privacy. "Privacy is dead. Get over it," a Silicon Valley boss once reportedly remarked. Some of us don't accept that. We still want to keep a few clothes on. We believe that preserving individual privacy is essential, not just to basic human dignity but also to freedom and security.
It's been a busy week for the Internet. More famous for its golden beaches, Bali recently hosted the eighth Internet Governance Forum which delivered waves of constructive discussion and debate. Over the past few days, the Internet governance community has exchanged best practices and debated a wide range of key topics that will continue to pose questions for policy as the Internet evolves — questions extending from infrastructure deployment and its intersection with mobile innovation, to the role of government, security and data protection. All these topics have a place at the IGF and the business community is a firm believer that the forum provides a unique environment to discuss them across stakeholders. Even early on in the week, this year's IGF was notable for it's a more open and candid atmosphere than usual. No items have been left off the agenda and the pervading issue of surveillance and data use has been talked about openly in discussions, as these topics naturally have a direct impact on trust issues surrounding the Internet.
When Edward Snowden leaked documents revealing widespread National Security Agency surveillance of phone and digital communication in June, he also thrust Rebecca MacKinnon's Ranking Digital Rights project into overdrive. The project aims to rank the world's internet and telecommunications companies on how well they respect users' rights of privacy and free expression. MacKinnon is working to determine the baseline standards of corporate policy and practice and to educate internet users, advocacy groups, policymakers and companies on the current state of affairs. "The Snowden leaks have drawn public attention to how government surveillance systems leverage commercial internet and telecommunications platforms – all over the world – in a way that no other investigative reporting, activism, or other whistle blowing had succeeded in doing previously," MacKinnon, author of Consent of the Network, said in an email. "A lot of research institutions, foundations and their boards are now waking up and saying: 'We need to understand this better. We need to figure out what can be done about this and try to support or be part of some solutions.'"
Surveillance dominates this year’s Internet Governance Forum in Indonesia, raising questions on the moral authority of China and the United States following allegations of spying. It’s a unique venue for a unique forum. Over 2,000 delegates from all over the world head to Bali, Indonesia for the United Nations’ 8th Internet Governance Forum. It’s the first time the forum is held in Southeast Asia but revelations of mass surveillance in the US and Europe steal the show. US officials are on the defensive over allegations the US spied on its own citizens and world leaders. Activists question the moral authority of America and China as they point fingers at each other’s spying.
Away from traditional free trade agreement negotiations with secret chapters on stricter intellectual property protection, perceptions are slowly evolving about the need to make IP systems work better. One of 100+ sessions at the 8th United Nations Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Bali, Indonesia last week featured “intellectual property exchanges” as marketplaces for knowledge. But IP policy did not take centre stage and neither did other access topics in Bali, which instead was overshadowed by the recent revelations of mass surveillance by US intelligence services. A the IGF, the 10-person US delegation faced stern warnings about lost trust. Brazil’s announcement to hold a summit on a new internet governance model in the end was cautiously welcomed by many. The chief economist of the UK Intellectual Property Office, Tony Clayton, underlined the need for changes in the IP system, and said legislative reform is being prepared for 2014. “The key principles of the UK reform are to use basic principles of copyright, but to make markets work in terms of creation and leaving room in the IP system for innovation and investment,” he said.
Last year, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute published The Cost of Connectivity, a first-of-its-kind study of the cost of consumer broadband services in 22 cities around the world. The results showed that, in comparison to their international peers, Americans in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC are paying higher prices for slower Internet service. While the plans and prices have been updated in the intervening year, the 2013 data shows little progress, reflecting remarkably similar trends to what we observed in 2012.
One of the trends we've seen is how, as the word of the NSA's spying has spread, more and more ordinary people want to know how (or if) they can defend themselves from surveillance online. But where to start? The bad news is: if you're being personally targeted by a powerful intelligence agency like the NSA, it's very, very difficult to defend yourself. The good news, if you can call it that, is that much of what the NSA is doing is mass surveillance on everybody. With a few small steps, you can make that kind of surveillance a lot more difficult and expensive, both against you individually, and more generally against everyone. Here are ten steps you can take to make your own devices secure. This isn't a complete list, and it won't make you completely safe from spying. But every step you take will make you a little bit safer than average. And it will make your attackers, whether they're the NSA or a local criminal, have to work that much harder.
Last year’s Internet Governance Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan proved controversial due to the choice of host. This year’s event, in Bali, Indonesia was bound to be contentious, after Edward Snowden’s leaks on the US’s PRISM programme. PRISM and TEMPORA (the UK system of mass surveillance) were a lightening rod for general discontent from activists who feel an increasing sense of ill ease over the state of internet freedom. Many of the sessions were bad-tempered affairs with civil society rounding on the perceived complacency of government officials from democracies who refused to state their opposition to mass state surveillance in clear enough terms.
Ever since Google issued its first transparency report in early 2010, EFF has called on other companies to follow suit and disclose statistics about the number of government requests for user data, whether the request they receive is an official demand (such as a warrant) or an unofficial request. After all, users make decisions every day about which companies they trust with their data, therefore companies owe it to their customers to be transparent about when they hand data over to governments and law enforcement. Since 2010, other companies have risen to the challenge, including Microsoft, Internet service provider Sonic.Net, cloud storage providers SpiderOak and DropBox, as well as social media companies such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Now, two more companies have joined the movement: In the past couple of months, both Yahoo and Facebook issued their first transparency reports, covering the period of January-June 2013. While we wish they had not taken this long, the two companies deserve kudos for taking this important step. Companies are under no legal obligation to inform their customers aggregate data about government requests for their data—this is a voluntary step. Both companies are members of the Global Network Initiative, however, which counts transparency among its core principles.
Who is most evil on the internet? If we're to believe the latest coverage surrounding Facebook, then we'd probably have to say Mark Zuckerberg and associates, who have decided that graphic video footage of beheadings on the social network are AOK with them, so long as they come with content warnings. Bet you're missing that wanton youthful abandon of Myspace now. Facebook's explanation for allowing executions galore on your timeline seems to be that the site has morphed over the years from mere social network into noble protector of freedom of information, no matter how disturbing the content. That's right: it's basically WikiLeaks, but with a constant stream of updates about what your old school frenemies' babies weigh. Get rid of all those boundary-pushing, controversial beheadings, and it's a slippery slope to an endlessly banal stream of boring people who spend hours carefully constructing online facades in order to convince "friends" they don't even know in real life that they go to better parties than them. Oh wait.
Google hopes a little browser tool will help change the world. The company that revolutionized Internet search is now unveiling a sort of online underground tunnel — a way for people in restrictive countries like Iran and Syria to get around digital censorship and surveillance. The idea behind the tool — essentially a button for browsers — called uProxy, is simple: People in countries such as the United States provide their trusted friends a secure connection so that they can see and use the unrestricted Internet. Google showed it off earlier this week at a conference called “Conflict in a Connected World.” Google also rolled out technology to map cyberattacks around the world, including by repressive governments. The innovations, from a division of the company called Google Ideas, come at a time when the Internet, and social media in particular, is playing an increasing role in popular upheaval around the world, most notably in the Middle East.
The Internet Governance Forum in Bali is not without excitement as usual. There is a rumour about a power grab by the technical community. If the "power grab" is true, then I am assuming that this is a response to threats of institutional frameworks governing or interfering with the current status quo. Personally, I feel that this is anti thesis to "enhanced cooperation". If for some reason, ICANN or the US Government is behind the scenes in instigating this move, then I would suggest that it is very bad strategy and will cause more damage than harm to the current status quo. [I am curious as to whether this is a response because of analysis that the demand by the Brazil Government for greater international oversight of ICANN is a real and emerging threat. I have heard that one individual was denied a visa to attend the ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires and that this would be the case for all those applying for visas in Buenos Aires for this meeting. Before we get our feathers ruffled, I would point out that even for this 8th IGF, which almost very nearly did not take place because of funding and other issues, was a temporary hurdle and the organisers through the IGF Secretariat, sponsors were able to address and save the day. I have also asked a friend of mine who is a lawyer in Argentina to find out more. In the meantime, we both feel that this is over exaggeration.
A lot of people (including me) are pretty upset at revelations of the breadth and scale of NSA spying on the Internet, which has created a great deal of ill will toward the US government? Will this be a turning point in Internet Governance? No, smoke will continue to be blown and nothing will happen. Governments are not monolithic. What people call Internet governance is mostly at the DNS application level, and perhaps the IP address allocation. The NSA is snooping down in the tubes, the underlying networks, and servers located in the U.S., where none of this matters. They do have a few DNS based attacks, but they'd work the same way regardless of who was running the real DNS servers.
Facebook is facing a backlash from campaigners after announcing it will allow millions of teenagers to open up their profiles to strangers. The social networking site announced that users aged from 13 to 17 would now be able to switch their settings to share posts with anyone on the internet, rather than just their "friends" or "friends of friends". Children's groups and internet safety experts denounced the move, saying it could leave young people more vulnerable to cyberbullying. Anthony Smythe, the managing director of BeatBullying, told the Times: "We have concerns that this age group can now share information in the public domain. Something they think might not be harmful now may come back to haunt them later. This is a move in the wrong direction." The newspaper said Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), had also expressed concern that the move could make youngsters more vulnerable.
We are becoming increasingly more dependent on the internet to help run our lives. But much of the planet is outside the web, zones that are without web coverage. Ordinarily, this is more of a nuisance than a calamity. But in the aftermath of disasters, restoring internet coverage can be the difference between life and death. Web giant Google has been working on a project that could bring the web where it's needed – be that remote rural farmsteads or areas recovering from a disaster. A series of balloons, flying in the stratosphere at a height twice that of commercial airliners, could be used to connect people to a network. Google's Rich DeVaul talks to BBC Future about the Loon project, and how it could bring the internet to communities that might never otherwise be connected.
Next week, the 8th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) kicks off in Bali, Indonesia. Matthew Shears, Director of CDT’s Global Internet Policy & Human Rights Project, and I are headed to Bali for a full week of meetings and workshops on pressing issues of Internet governance and policy. The IGF brings together human rights advocates, Internet policy experts, academics, engineers, governments, and members of industry from around the world to share information and expertise on a wide range of Internet policy topics. CDT will be busy during IGF (which runs from 22-25 October) and three days of pre-events. We’ll be highlighting several CDT policy papers, including our paper on Unpacking Cybersecurity, our thoughts on Network Neutrality and Human Rights, and an upcoming paper on Network Shutdowns. And we’re looking forward to convening with our civil society colleagues through the BestBits meeting on the 19th and 20th of October. (Remote participation registration for BestBits is still available.) See our IGF Resources page for more on our schedule of workshops and events.
The tech industry, facing a backlash over an ongoing surveillance scandal, is making up for lost time. In recent months, companies like Facebook have clamored into court waving civil liberties banners in the hopes of persuading the media — and their users — that they’re serious about transparency and standing up to surveillance. While this is good news for privacy advocates, the companies’ push to include more data in so-called “transparency reports” has also become a public relations exercise, and led more companies to put out a mish-mash of data that makes it harder to tell signal from noise. Sources at several tech firms, meanwhile, have acknowledged that the transparency push has become politicized. Here’s a history that shows the tech industry’s recent transparency efforts — and why it’s time for those companies to set a standard for the way they publish data.
Historically, surveillance was difficult and expensive. Over the decades, as technology advanced, surveillance became easier and easier. Today, we find ourselves in a world of ubiquitous surveillance, where everything is collected, saved, searched, correlated and analyzed. But while technology allowed for an increase in both corporate and government surveillance, the private and public sectors took very different paths to get there. The former always collected information about everyone, but over time, collected more and more of it, while the latter always collected maximal information, but over time, collected it on more and more people. Corporate surveillance has been on a path from minimal to maximal information. Corporations always collected information on everyone they could, but in the past they didn't collect very much of it and only held it as long as necessary. When surveillance information was expensive to collect and store, companies made do with as little as possible. Telephone companies collected long-distance calling information because they needed it for billing purposes. Credit cards collected only the information about their customers' transactions that they needed for billing. Stores hardly ever collected information about their customers, maybe some personal preferences, or name-and-address for advertising purposes. Even Google, back in the beginning, collected far less information about its users than it does today.
Many governments around the world have expressed outrage over the National Security Agency's use of the Internet as a spying platform. But the possible response may have an unforeseen consequence: It may actually lead to more online surveillance, according to Internet experts. Some governments, led most recently by Brazil, have reacted to recent disclosures about NSA surveillance by proposing a redesign of Internet architecture. The goal would be to give governments more control over how the Internet operates within their own borders. But privacy advocates warn that some of the changes under consideration could actually undermine Internet freedom, not strengthen it. "Unfortunately, there is enormous blowback," says Bruce Schneier, a cybersecurity expert who has worked closely with Britain's Guardian newspaper in reporting on NSA surveillance activities. Schneier says some of those who advocate changes in Internet governance are acting unwisely, though he blames the NSA for having undermined global confidence in the Internet and prompting ill-advised reform moves.
The reality of the modern world is that governments – both of our own countries, and of foreign states – have greater capabilities to carry out invasive surveillance of citizens, no matter where they reside or what flag they pledge to. And caught in the cross-fire of the expanding surveillance state is freedom of expression, which is underpinned by the right to privacy. For a long time there have been legitimate fears of a pervasive surveillance state, and those fears continue to be confirmed by the Edward Snowden leaks, which week after week provide a progressively more terrifying glimpse into international spying regimes. It is now clear that the US and UK governments perceive broad-scale and real-time surveillance, once the reserve of repressive regimes, to be a legitimate tool of democratic states.
Without a doubt this issue will be front and center next week in Bali, as civil society, government officials, and experts from the security and technology sector gather for the Internet Governance Forum 2013 (IGF), just as it was at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in mid-September.
I once interviewed a Cuban blogger who described the Internet as a place where Cubans (the few who were online) could experience a form of citizenship—an active, participatory democratic experience—that they couldn't have in real life. As she put it, “we are learning to be citizens in cyberspace.” Although her focus was on the particular limitations on public expression and debate in Cuba, I took her point broadly, thinking of my Internet activist colleagues who often describe themselves as being citizens or residents “of the Internet.” As online movements have grown in scope and impact, many of us have developed a do-it-yourself, participatory sense of citizenship that is more strongly tied to a global collective than to a transactional agreement with a particular nation state. We have not only fought hard to uphold some policies and strike down others, but we've actually started to develop international standards for the exercise and protection of rights online. Countries, borders, and nationalities remain dominant and important in many ways, but they do not feel as sharply defined or as binding as before.
That’s the time left before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could become a finalized agreement. For those who are drawing blank looks -- and understandably so -- the TPP is a highly secretive trade deal involving 12 nations around the Pacific Rim. Described by experts Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy of Public Citizen as “one of the most significant international commercial agreements since the creation of WTO”, the TPP is more than a trade agreement - it’s an underhanded attempt by old industry interests to censor the Internet. The lack of general awareness about the TPP is exactly what unelected trade officials and lobbyists hope for; the more covert the negotiations, the easier it is to usher in extreme new Internet censorship rules.
In 2001, a pair of Italian programmers wrote a program called Ettercap, a "comprehensive suite for man-in-the-middle attacks" — in other words, a set of tools for eavesdropping, sniffing passwords, and remotely manipulating someone’s computer. Ettercap was free, open source, and quickly became the weapon of choice for analysts testing the security of their networks as well as hackers who wanted to spy on people. One user called it "sort of the Swiss army knife" of this type of hacking. Ettercap was so powerful that its authors, ALoR and NaGA, eventually got a call from the Milan police department. But the cops didn’t want to bust the programmers for enabling hacker attacks. They wanted to use Ettercap to spy on citizens. Specifically, they wanted ALoR and NaGA to write a Windows driver that would enable them to listen in to a target’s Skype calls. That’s how a small tech security consultancy ended up transforming into one of the first sellers of commercial hacking software to the police. ALoR’s real name is Alberto Ornaghi and NaGA is Marco Valleri. Their Milan-based company, Hacking Team, now has 40 employees and sells commercial hacking software to law enforcement in "several dozen countries" on "six continents."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today withdrew from the Global Network Initiative (GNI), citing a fundamental breakdown in confidence that the group's corporate members are able to speak freely about their own internal privacy and security systems in the wake of the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance revelations. EFF has been a civil society member of the multi-stakeholder human rights group since GNI was founded in 2008 to advance freedom of expression and privacy in the global information and communication technologies sector. While much has been accomplished in these five years, EFF can no longer sign its name on joint statements knowing now that GNI's corporate members have been blocked from sharing crucial information about how the US government has meddled with these companies' security practices through programs such as PRISM and BULLRUN.
In 2030, you can forget about Comcast, 3G and trying to come up with funny names for your wireless connection ( so long Abraham Linksys, ItHurtsWhenIP, and Pretty Fly For a WiFi). WiFi will be free and ubiquitous. Or at least that’s the vision of a global group that gathered recently in Berlin. They convened for the International Summit of Community Wireless Networks – a community that includes New America’s Open Technology Institute and its Commotion Wireless project. Today, organizations like OTI around the globe are creating community wireless networks that create free, local signals. But what will the world of mesh networking look like in 2025? Or 2050? We asked a few Berlin participants to paint a picture of the future.
A new report by the United Nations says some 2.7 billion people are expected to be connected to the internet by the end of this year. That is 40 percent of the world's population. But is the world aware of what is at stake? The internet has grown to become a vast information and communications network, used as much by the state as businesses and individuals and all manner of groups and organisations. It has a global reach growing steadily by the day, but there are growing concerns too about state surveillance, security, privacy and exploitation. Events have moved as fast as the internet itself. In 1995, there were just 16 million users, or 0.4 percent of the global population. By the end of 2013, 40 percent of the population will be online - according to the UN. But access is far from universal. The UN report says 4.4 billion people still have no access to the internet and 90 percent of those who are not online live in developing countries.
For most of this year governments from outside the G8 have not wavered from their essential themes on the Internet: they regard it as a shared resource that works in part as a result of their own investment in infrastructure, they want to be included in its governance through a decision-making process that is transparent, accessible and, in broad character, multilateral, and they want to be able to trust it and know that as much as it is a tool of growth for others, it can also be for them. Perhaps unfairly, these governments also nurture a sense that the multi-stakeholder idiom remains code for an only marginally-expanded status quo, one which still involves a disproportionate role for the private sector and for the United States.
The MIS report, which has been published annually since 2009, features two benchmarking tools to measure the information society: the ICT Development Index (IDI) and the ICT Price Basket (IPB). The 2012 IDI captures the level of ICT developments in 157 economies worldwide and compares progress made during the last year. The 2012 IPB combines the consumer prices for (fixed and mobile) telephone and Internet broadband services for 161 economies into one measure and compares these across countries, and over time. The 5th edition of the ITU Measuring the Information Society (MIS) report was launched on 7 October 2013, at ITU headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland. Click here to watch the webcast of the launch. Launch events also took place in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Brasilia, Cairo, Geneva, Moscow and New York
Freedom on the Net 2013 is the fourth report in a series of comprehensive studies of internet freedom around the globe and covers developments in 60 countries that occurred between May 2012 and April 2013. Over 60 researchers, nearly all based in the countries they analyzed, contributed to the project by researching laws and practices relevant to the digital media, testing the accessibility of select websites, and interviewing a wide range of sources, among other research activities. This edition's findings indicate that internet freedom worldwide is in decline, with 34 out of 60 countries assessed in the report experiencing a negative trajectory during the coverage period. Broad surveillance, new laws controlling web content, and growing arrests of social-media users drove this overall decline in internet freedom in the past year. Nonetheless, Freedom on the Net 2013 also found that activists are becoming more effective at raising awareness of emerging threats and, in several cases, have helped forestall new repressive measures.
Products used for managing network traffic and restricting access to Web content represent a dual-use technology. While they were originally designed to improve performance and protect users from inappropriate content, these products are also used to censor Web content by authoritarian regimes around the globe. This dual use has not gone unnoticed, with Western governments placing restrictions on their export. Our contribution with this study is to present a method for identifying installations of URL filtering products and confirming their use for censorship. We first present a methodology for identifying externally visible installations of URL filtering products in ISPs around the globe. Further, we leverage the fact that many of these products accept user-submitted sites for blocking to confirm that a URL filtering product is being used for censorship. Using this method, we are able to confirm the use of McAfee SmartFilter in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Netsweeper in Qatar, the UAE and Yemen. Our results show that these products are being used to block a range of content, including oppositional political speech, religious discussion and gay and lesbian material, speech generally protected by international human rights norms.
Two-thirds of the world's population doesn't have access to the Internet, and this is something Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and a coalition of tech companies want to change. Their goal: Bring the Internet to every single person on Earth. While the partnership between the companies, dubbed Internet.org, was announced last month, Zuckerberg released a video on Monday explaining how the coalition aims to bring the Web to nearly 5 billion new people. "Our plan is to make basic Internet services affordable so that everyone with a phone can join the knowledge economy," Zuckerberg said. "In order for this to be economically feasible we need to make the Internet 100 times more affordable."
On Tuesday, I, along with my colleague Greg Nojeim, had the opportunity to testify before the European Parliament on behalf of CDT’s President Leslie Harris. CDT was invited to testify in front of the LIBE Committee as part of its inquiry on electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens. We shared information about privacy gaps in U.S. security laws, as well as our call for reform in the U.S. Our focus, however, was on the obligation of the U.S. and EU to work together to find a global solution. CDT was clear in our message – digital surveillance is a human rights issue, and the EU and U.S. must work together to develop clear, workable parameters that balance security with privacy.
In the following joint statement, Privacy International and Bytes for All express concern about a discussion on Internet surveillance at the UN Human Rights Council that threatens privacy rights and freedom of expression. This Friday, 27 September 2013, marks the conclusion of the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, a session which has, for the first time, seen issues of internet surveillance in the spotlight. Privacy International and Bytes for All welcome the attention given at the Human Rights Council to this issue. However, we are concerned about developments which took place that threaten privacy rights and freedom of expression, especially because these alarming suggestions are masked as solutions to address the increase in State surveillance.
Following initial revelations in The Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden, reports by international media organisations, including the New York Times and Washington Post, have revealed that the US, UK and other countries’ governments have been carrying out mass surveillance of both meta data and content by tapping into communications cables. This means that governments are gathering and storing data about your phone calls, emails, texts and search and browsing history. They have the ability to access passwords as well as the actual content of emails, text messages and online chats. It is still not known how long this data is being stored for. Gathering and storing information in this way and on this scale is an attack on our right to privacy and a threat to our right to free speech.
Affordable broadband connectivity, services and applications are essential to modern society, offering widely recognized social and economic benefits. 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 for achieving social progress. In
its work, the Commission has not defined ‘broadband’ in terms of specific minimum transmission speeds, in recognition of the range of market definitions in different countries. Rather, the Commission views broadband as a cluster of concepts: always- on, high-capacity connectivity enabling combined provision of multiple services simultaneously.
ICANN is beginning to look more and more like a government. It assesses taxes, it has amassed an enormous treasury, it passes laws with international effect, and it has developed an ad hoc judiciary system to enforce its laws. This paper will take a look at that judiciary system and ICANN as dispenser of Internet justice. ICANN has a well founded aversion to being involved in litigation. It has managed to fend off attacks from the operators of alternative roots and attacks based on the United States antitrust laws. By its very nature, however, it could find itself making judgments about violations of its rules or resolving conflicting claims to domain names. Any or all of these judgments are invitations, especially in the United States, to litigation. As a result, ICANN has developed an extensive system of referring them to outside parties.
At the 24th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, six major privacy NGOs, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), warned nations of the urgent need comply with international human rights law to protect their citizens from the dangers posed by mass digital surveillance. The groups launched the "International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance" at a side event on privacy hosted by the governments of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The text is available in 30 languages at http://necessaryandproportionate.org.
Governments around the world should aggressively protect online privacy through stronger laws and policies as pervasive electronic surveillance increases. There is an urgent need to overhaul national surveillance practices to protect everyone’s privacy, or risk severely limiting the potential of the Internet. Global growth in digital communications, coupled with increased government computing powers, have fueled expansive, new surveillance practices. Justifying the use of these tactics under outdated legal frameworks has permitted overbroad and highly invasive intrusions on the right to privacy. To guide countries in modernizing privacy protections, Human Rights Watch has endorsed a set of International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, released on September 20, 2013, by a broad group of civil society organizations in Geneva.
In the past week, two senior U.S. officials, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai and
Republican Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) were quoted as saying the United States should pull funding from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), at least as a last resort, if the U.N. telecommunications body persists in its attempts to regulate the Internet. What's the ITU? Why do people want to defund it? And what would it take to do so? Read on to find out.
The 24th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) opened last Monday, with internet-related human rights issues highlighted as areas of concern repeatedly by governments, civil society, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. With the international community still reeling from the revelations of mass surveillance sparked by Edward Snowden’s leaks, much of the discussion of internet issues focused on how to protect human rights, in particular privacy, in the digital age.
At LinkedIn, our members come first. Consistent with this core value, we are deeply committed to acting in a manner that is transparent to our members and to the public. This is why we issue a Transparency Report twice a year. The Transparency Report provides information about the numbers and types of government requests for data that we receive, as well as our responses. Our commitment to transparency is also the reason why, when we receive requests for member data, we attempt to notify the affected member of the request, including providing a copy of the legal process, prior to releasing the information to the government (so the member has an opportunity to object), unless we are prohibited from doing so by the law or under emergency circumstances. Similar to other technology companies, LinkedIn receives requests from governments around the world for member data. There can be many reasons that a government would request data. For example, a federal or state officer such as an FBI agent or police detective may be investigating a crime and is seeking information and evidence that could be helpful in identifying or locating the perpetrators, or bringing them to justice. For the six-month period between January 1 and June 30, 2013, LinkedIn received, on a global basis, government requests for data for less than .00005% (half of one ten-thousandth of a percent) of LinkedIn's member accounts.
The Internet has become a new battleground between governments that censor online content and those who advocate freedom to browse, post, and share information online for all, regardless of their place of residence. This report examines whether and how furthering Internet freedom can empower civil society vis-à-vis public officials, make the government more accountable to its citizens, and integrate citizens into the policymaking process. Using case studies of events in 2011 in Egypt, Syria, China, and Russia, researchers focus on the impact of Internet freedom on freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and the right to cast a meaningful vote, all of which are the key pillars of political space. Researchers analyze the mechanisms by which Internet freedom can enhance the opportunities to enjoy these freedoms, how different political contexts can alter the opportunities for online mobilization, and how, subsequently, online activism can grow out into offline mobilization leading to visible policy changes. To provide historical context, researchers also draw parallels between the effects of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty programs in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and the ongoing efforts to expand Internet freedom for all. The report concludes by discussing implications for the design of Internet freedom programs and other measures to protect "freedom to connect."
In the early days of the Internet, the United States established a near monopoly over Internet protocol and everything that flows from it -- code, regulation, policy and an unthinkably powerful Internet technology industry. The NSA leaks provide a chilling example of the consequences that this degree of dominance can have for the world. Today, most of the ICT private sector is based geographically in the U.S. This has made it possible for the US government to develop some of the most influential policies and practices that affect the exercise of human rights, like the right to privacy, on the global Internet. Foreign governments have little ability to influence or regulate the actions of companies like Google or Facebook beyond their national borders. Even within their jurisdictions, this can prove difficult. Why should we assume that these policies will work for the rest of the world?
New startups looking for ways to keep their users secure should know one thing, a top Google security executive said Tuesday: "Passwords are dead." Speaking on a TechCrunch Disrupt panel called "Spies Like Us," Heather Adkins, Google's manager of information security, told moderator Greg Ferenstein that in the future, the "game is over for" any startup that relies on passwords as its chief method to secure users and their data. Adkins, speaking alongside Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers managing partner Ted Schlein and author James Bamford, said that looking ahead, "our relationship with passwords are done," and that "passwords are done at Google."
This weekend Jari Arkko, Chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and Stephen Farrell, IETF Security Area Director, published a joint statement on the IETF blog titled: "Security and Pervasive Monitoring”. They begin: The Internet community and the IETF care deeply about how much we can trust commonly used Internet services and the protocols that these services use. So the reports about large-scale monitoring of Internet traffic and users disturbs us greatly. We knew of interception of targeted individuals and other monitoring activities, but the scale of recently reported monitoring is surprising. Such scale was not envisaged during the design of many Internet protocols, but we are considering the consequence of these kinds of attacks.
The more we learn about the breadth and depth of the NSA and GCHQ's programmes of spying on the general public, the more alarming it all becomes. The most recent stories about the deliberate sabotage of security technology are the full stop at the end of a sentence that started on 8 August, when the founder of Lavabit (the privacy oriented email provider used by whistleblower Edward Snowden) abruptly shut down, with its founder, Ladar Levison, obliquely implying that he'd been ordered to secretly subvert his own system to compromise his users' privacy.
At Yahoo, we take user privacy seriously and appreciate our role as a global company in promoting freedom of expression wherever we do business. That’s why we’re issuing our first global transparency report, which details government data requests from January 1, 2013 through June 30, 2013. We include national security requests within the scope of our aggregate statistics. For each country in this Transparency Report, we show the number of government data requests that we received during the reporting period and how we handled such requests. The total number of accounts specified in these government data requests during the reporting period comprised less than one one-hundredth of one percent of Yahoo users worldwide. We plan to publish additional transparency reports every six months, and our team will continually evaluate ways in which we can enhance their utility.
Early in Alan Pearce‘s book on web security, Deep Web for Journalists, a series of statistics appears that tell a striking story about the spread of surveillance in just one country. 199 is the first: the number of data mining programs in the US in 2004 when 16 Federal agencies were “on the look-out for suspicious activity”. Just six years later there were 1,200 government agencies working on domestic intelligence programs, and 1,900 private companies working on domestic intelligence programs in the same year. As a result of this spread there are, notes Pearce, 4.8m people with security clearance “that allows them to access all kinds of personal information”. 1.4m have Top Secret clearance. But the most sobering figure comes at the end: 1,600 - the number of names added to the FBI’s terrorism watchlist each day.
Two of the world's biggest technology companies, Microsoft and Yahoo, expressed deep concern on Friday about widespread attempts by the US and UK intelligence services to circumvent the online security systems that protect the privacy of millions of people online. Microsoft said it had "significant concerns" about reports that the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, had succeeded in cracking most of the codes that protect the privacy of internet users. Yahoo said it feared "substantial potential for abuse". Google said it was not aware of any covert attempts to compromise its systems. However, according to a report in the Washington Post on Saturday, the company said that it had accelerated the encryption of information in its data centres in a bid to prevent snooping by the NSA and the intelligence agencies of other governments.
Almost everyone's outraged to one degree or another by the latest Edward Snowden revelations. I have my problems with some of the claims, but others are clearly disturbing. What are we to do about it? Bruce Schneier is a famous and respected cryptographer and analyst of security more generally. He has been working with Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian and has his own advice for how people should protect themselves in light of the news. Some of this seems a bit overwrought to me, but it's all meant to be practical advice. His other essay yesterday was less practical. In fact, it's anything but practical. His idea that we, by whom he means engineers, should redesign the Internet so that it is less amenable to the sorts of abusive surveillance we are seeing from the US government. And it's the US government he calls out. I guess any features of the Internet abused by China don't concern him as much.
The main threat to the future of the Internet lies in attempts to control the internet through governance policy, according to Google executive and 'god-father' of the Internet, Vint Cerf. Speaking at the Campus Party event at the O2 in London, Cerf said that technical issues such as the the rollout of IPv6 across networks by ISPs and introduction of DNSSEC protection provide less of a threat to the continued development and freedom of the web than the "tension" around introducing rules for how the web is run. "I want to point out that, despite all the interesting and hard technical problems associated with the expanding internet, the harder problems have to do with policy," he said.
Researchers have found a new theory to explain the sudden spike in computers using the Tor anonymity network: a massive botnet that was recently updated to use Tor to communicate with its mothership. Mevade.A, a network of infected computers dating back to at least 2009, has mainly used standard Web-based protocols to send and receive data to command and control (C&C) servers, according to researchers at security firm Fox-IT. Around the same time that Tor Project leaders began observing an unexplained doubling in Tor clients, Mevade overhauled its communication mechanism to use anonymized Tor addresses ending in .onion. In the week that has passed since Tor reported the uptick, the number of users has continued to mushroom.
A handful of civil liberties groups are claiming that while Facebook's new Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use policy is supposed to give users more privacy, it's actually giving them less. And, these groups have taken their complaints to the US Federal Trade Commission. Six organizations, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy, penned a letter to the FTC on Wednesday claiming that Facebook's new policy allows the social network "to routinely use the images and names of Facebook users for commercial advertising without consent."
Last week, the 50th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech was marked with much fanfare. Well, I too had a dream the other day, almost two weeks ago. I dreamt I was in a conference. Which is no news. The conference was an ICANN-sponsored conference. No news there either; I've been to many ICANN meetings. And it was on food security! An ICANN-sponsored conference on food security? Yes, it takes a fertile mind to link food security to DNSSEC, but as I recall my dream, everyone at the conference was happy to be there, and thanked ICANN for it. Following my dream, I thought I might as well write this article on why ICANN should support developing countries, something I've always advocated for, and an issue I've been thinking about and turning in my head for a long time now.
One IP address is much the same as another — right? There's hardly a difference between 192.0.2.45 and 192.0.2.46 is there? They are just encoded integer values, and aside from numerological considerations, one address value is as good or bad as any other — right? So IP addresses are much the same as each other and an after-market in IP addresses should be like many other markets in undistinguished commodity goods. Right? So one would've thought. But it seems that this is really not the case. When it comes to IP addresses, not all addresses are the same. IP addresses have a certain amount of history, and this history alters its utility value in some ways.
During the "GNSO Discussion with the CEO" at the recent ICANN meeting in Durban, I stated that ICANN talks a lot about the importance of supporting the public interest, but in reality the organization's first priority is protecting itself and therefore it avoids accountability and works very hard at transferring risks to others. In response to my comments, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé asked me to provide him examples of where ICANN can be more accountable. Copied below is my response letter to Chehadé, which provides six examples.
Civil society organizations and human rights defenders have some of the most sophisticated, relentless, and well-resourced adversaries attempting to surveil and hinder their work. The threat of these adversaries to the operations of civil society groups is compounded by the low capacity of such groups to focus on and mitigate such threats. The situation is even more dire when compared to the growing corporate understanding of digital threats. In the corporate world, many companies periodically report and analyze digital threats to businesses – McAfee, PandaLabs, Secunia, Symantec, Verizon, to name only a few. But just as the number and sophistication of attacks targeting corporations have increased over time, so too have the threats faced by civil society organizations to their operations.
Facebook is making changes to the two key documents that govern its service in part to settle a two-year legal battle around its practice of using member data in advertisements. The social network is proposing updates, some of which have been court-ordered, to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy legal documents to better inform members on how their data is used for advertising purposes, and provide additional clarity on its data collection practices.
Facebook is putting the changes up for review -- but not a vote -- and will collect feedback over the next seven days.
Facebook announced Thursday that it planned to enact changes to its privacy policies on Sept. 5. But the social network’s famously difficult privacy controls will not become any easier to navigate. Mostly, the new data use policy and statement of rights and responsibilities lay out more clearly the things that Facebook already does with your personal information, Ed Palmieri, the company’s associate general counsel for privacy, said in an interview. “The updates that we are showing in the red lines are our way to better explain the products that exist today,” he said.
Transparency and trust are core values at Facebook. We strive to embody them in all aspects of our services, including our approach to responding to government data requests. We want to make sure that the people who use our service understand the nature and extent of the requests we receive and the strict policies and processes we have in place to handle them.
Built for the most part during the Cold War, surveillance systems on a global scale were considered a vital necessity with the onset of nuclear weapons, if only to keep Mutually Assured Destruction at bay. Today, these systems are also used for domestic surveillance and universal data harvesting, including on one's own citizens. Should we still consider these systems with the same reverence as if we were, say, in the midst of some Cuban Missile Crisis? Internet specialists have addressed some of the questions posed by this blanket surveillance.
For the first time, the freely available password cracker ocl-Hashcat-plus is able to tackle passcodes with as many as 55 characters. It's an improvement that comes as more and more people are relying on long passcodes and phrases to protect their website accounts and other online assets. Until now, ocl-Hashcat-plus, the Hashcat version that can use dozens of graphics cards to simultaneously crack huge numbers of cryptographic hashes, has limited guesses to 15 or fewer characters. (oclHashcat-lite and Hashcat have supported longer passwords, but these programs frequently take much longer to work.) Released over the weekend, ocl-Hashcat-plus version 0.15 can generally accommodate passwords with lengths of 55 characters.
So the proprietor of the Huffington Post has decided to ban anonymous commenting from the site, starting in mid-September. Speaking to reporters after a conference in Boston, Arianna Huffington said: "Trolls are just getting more and more aggressive and uglier and I just came from London where there are rape and death threats. I feel that freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they say and [are] not hiding behind anonymity. We need to evolve a platform to meet the needs of the grown-up internet."
For four years now, most Dutch Internet users have had zero legal access to The Pirate Bay. (Other countries have since followed the Dutch example.) According to a new “working paper,” researchers have confirmed what most ISPs and Internet users figured out a long time ago: such bans are pretty pointless. Survey data of over 2,000 Netherlands-based Internet users shows that only a tiny portion have changed their ways as a result of the official ban. “Overall, between 4 to 6 percent of all consumers have decreased their downloading as a result of the blocking, whereas for 94 to 96 percent of the population the blocking has had no effect on their behavior,” the researchers wrote.
When the Syrian Electronic Army hacked the Associated Press Twitter account earlier this year, it signalled a new era in the need for login security. When hackers falsely tweeted claims of an attack on the White House to AP's 1.9 million followers, markets plummeted. The S&P 500 quickly lost $136bn in value as traders dumped stock in response. The breach showed in glorious Technicolor the potential real-world impact of our growing reliance on social platforms, and the impact from a single compromised login. Twitter has evolved far from its original roots as a relatively niche tool for the tech-savvy, and is now one of the major information sharing platforms in the world. Everyone from news organisations to large corporations and political figures trust the medium as a way for communicating with the outside world. The key word here is 'trust'.
You've had your fun: now we want the stuff back. With these words the British government embarked on the most bizarre act of state censorship of the internet age. In a Guardian basement, officials from GCHQ gazed with satisfaction on a pile of mangled hard drives like so many book burners sent by the Spanish Inquisition. They were unmoved by the fact that copies of the drives were lodged round the globe. They wanted their symbolic auto-da-fe. Had the Guardian refused this ritual they said they would have obtained a search and destroy order from a compliant British court.
In debates over Internet neutrality, “port blocking” may not be getting the headlines these days, but it was once a more common practice among Internet service providers (ISPs) and is still in use today. A new report from the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group (BITAG) , of which CDT is a member, makes a strong recommendation against the practice of port blocking unless no other reasonable alternatives exist. The report discusses alternatives to port blocking for ISPs to consider and other steps to minimize its impact when deployed.
About one of every seven people in the world uses Facebook. Now, Mark Zuckerberg, its co-founder and chief executive, wants to make a play for the rest — including the four billion or so who lack Internet access. On Wednesday, Facebook announced an effort aimed at drastically cutting the cost of delivering basic Internet services on mobile phones, particularly in developing countries, where Facebook and other tech companies need to find new users. Half a dozen of the world’s tech giants, including Samsung, Nokia, Qualcomm and Ericsson, have agreed to work with the company as partners on the initiative, which they call Internet.org.
US government surveillance programs pose real threats to the human rights of people across the globe, but this critical issue has yet to receive the attention it deserves in domestic debates about the NSA’s surveillance activities. Last week, CDT and other human rights organizations and advocates from 25 nations have come together to urge the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) to explicitly address the global human rights implications of the US government’s surveillance activity in the Board’s upcoming report.
The British government and the blogging site Tumblr are both cracking down on porn this summer. But their crackdowns are blocking more than porn, like social networking sites and posts about gay and lesbian issues. The filter in Britain is even being administered in part by a company with close ties to the Chinese government, known for political censorship. With the goal of being “family friendly,” is the Internet becoming too censored? Can efforts to filter the Internet be compatible with free speech, or will the two always be in conflict?
The term “port blocking” refers to the practice of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) identifying Internet traffic by the combination of port number and transport protocol, and blocking it entirely. Port blocking thus affects the traffic associated with a particular combination of port number and transport protocol on that ISP, regardless of source or destination IP address. The practice can potentially prevent the use of particular applications altogether by blocking the ports those applications use. Port blocks can be deployed in a range of network locations, from where the ISP connects with other networks to datacenters and customer locations. The Internet was built around the premise of an open and shared environment. Additionally, Internet standards assume all hosts on the global Internet can connect directly to each other, on any specified port number. The practical reality is that blocking of Internet port numbers, either in the short or long term, is a technique that has been used by both wireline and wireless network providers for various reasons for over a decade.
Ever left your laptop on the table in the coffee shop while you nip to the loo, or order another flat white? Google's Chrome browser, we now know, makes it pretty easy for someone who briefly gains access to your desktop to see your saved passwords - for email, social networks, auction sites and the rest. I set myself an experiment to see just how many passwords could a speedy attacker really get hold of. Here's how many: 52 passwords in 57 seconds. And I'm an amateur at this hacking stuff. This is a hack any amateur could do. Open Chrome, open settings, and a couple of clicks later you can show the passwords one by one. So unless you're able to perform your ablutions or fill your cup at an Usain Bolt-rivalling speed, you could be leaving yourself open to unscrupulous password thieves every time you step away from the computer.
The Pirate Bay's new anticensor browser has proven even more popular than the site expected. Launched on Saturday, PirateBrowser has sailed into the hands of more than 100,000 users via Pirate Bay's direct download link, says blog site TorrentFreak. The official torrent file itself has been shared by more than 5,000 people. The browser has reached over 1,000 downloads per hour, TorrentFreak added, a volume that prompted The Pirate Bay to upgrade the connection for its downlink link.
Green shows the countries you want to live in because they have little to no Internet censorship. Yellow reveals countries that you might not want to stay in too long because they might increase censorship in the future. And if you love the Internet, you should probably avoid every other color because they all have different degrees of censorship, with pink being the most pervasive (gray is not classified).
An internet milestone has just been reached: Pirate Bay has passed its 10th anniversary. The iconic/notorious site (pick your adjective) celebrated with a party just outside Stockholm. Who knows, perhaps entertainment bosses were simultaneously weeping into their champagne and plotting new action against their favourite enemy. The filesharing hub is arguably the most famous of all sites providing access to torrent files and magnet links to allow peer-to-peer sharing. If that means nothing to you, it's like being able to swap those tapes you made of Radio 1 chart shows with anyone in the world.
Who should decide what websites you can access online? The answer is obvious: You. We've all heard scary censorship stories, in which oppressive governments block access to information, and only allow residents of a nation to see, read, or watch what rulers permit. These stories usually start off slowly -- with justifiable censorship activities taking place for the supposed wellbeing of the nation--and escalate quickly.
The distributed nature of Internet infrastructure and relatively malleable user engagement with content can misleadingly create the impression that the Internet is not governed. At technologically concealed layers, coordinated and sometimes centralized governance of the Internet’s technical architecture is necessary to keep the network operational, secure and universally accessible. This paper, the second in the Internet Governance Paper Series, explains how the Internet’s core technical architecture is governed and how global public policy decisions are co-produced within this framework. Several open governance issues are raised, including proposed changes in interconnection agreements and architectural changes agonistic to universal interoperability.
We think of the internet as an endless expanse of data and interaction with big, bright points of focus, and a million dark corners. But more and more, your view of the web's vast spectrum depends a lot on where you live. In Vietnam, there's an extreme example of censorship. A new law there will make it illegal to post news or quote "general information" on the internet. What the heck does that mean? Hard to know, and that's on purpose, says Madeline Earp, of the advocacy group Freedom House. Earp has been working on a big report out next month called Freedom of the Net. She says Vietnam is a country that is going the China route in internet policy.
There’s much gnashing of teeth today over the discovery that Google Chrome lets you — or anyone using your computer — see the plaintext web passwords stored by your browser. This isn’t a security bug. It’s Chrome’s documented behavior, and has been all along. But an outraged blog post highlighting the issue yesterday by U.K. software developer Elliot Kember was picked up by Hacker News, thrusting Google’s security choices into the limelight. In a response on Hacker News, Google Chrome’s security chief Justin Schuh explained the company’s reasoning.
A new Vietnamese law will make it illegal for citizens to post news or “general information” online, a restriction that sounds absurdly unenforceable but turns out to be more doable — and less of an outlier — than you might expect. According to analysis from the watchdog group Freedom House, Vietnam isn’t alone in its crackdown, even if its methods are particularly severe. Internet censorship is on the rise worldwide, and restrictive, one-party countries such as Vietnam aren’t the only ones legislating what people can post online.
The former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA speculated on Tuesday that hackers and transparency groups were likely to respond with cyber-terror attacks if the United States government apprehends whistleblower Edward Snowden. "If and when our government grabs Edward Snowden, and brings him back here to the United States for trial, what does this group do?" said retired air force general Michael Hayden, who from 1999 to 2009 ran the NSA and then the CIA, referring to "nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years".
Most people — mistakenly — believe that they are perfectly safe behind a firewall, network address translation (NAT) device or proxy. The fact is quite the opposite: if you can get out of your network, someone else can get in. Attackers often seek to compromise the weakest link in a network and then use that access to attack the network from the inside, commonly known as a "pivot-and-attack."
Around the world, there is confusion and alarm over the impact of the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program on human rights. In the U.S., the debate is focusing on the gross violations of privacy rights of Americans. Barely a word is being spoken about the human rights of people outside the country whose personal communications are being targeted, and whose communications content is collected, stored, analyzed and used with little legal protection. A growing group of international civil society groups and individuals wants that to change and is coming together to present the newly empowered U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) with a joint letter, asking the Board to make “recommendations and findings designed to protect the human rights not only of U.S. persons, but also of non-U.S. persons.” Before PCLOB’s mid-September deadline for public comments, I encourage global civil society to add their name to this powerful statement.
The privacy stories making headlines today generally focus on individual products or services, such as mobile apps, VoIP, or web-based email, and their associated privacy protections (or lack thereof). However, rarely noticed are the building blocks these Internet products and services are developed on – largely invisible but critically important technical standards, such as HTTP, IP and DNS. Can’t better privacy protections be built into these Internet protocols so that the applications developed on top of them have better inherent protections? With the publication of Privacy Considerations for Internet Protocols, Internet engineers have a new roadmap for achieving just that.
Blogging, once a trendy new phenomenon in the early days of the World Wide Web, is now almost two decades old. But bloggers continue to fill information voids in countries where free speech is constricted or forbidden. Some bloggers play the role of citizen journalist, once scorned by the mainstream media, but now more often welcomed as a source of raw information, photos, videos, and eyewitness accounts from places where news organizations have no reporters or photographers on the scene. Social media fanned the fires of the Arab Spring. Rebels in Libya and Syria with media skills used the Internet and social media to tell what was happening out of the world’s sight.
The Internet Society today announced the launch of a survey to gain greater insights into multistakeholder governance perceptions and processes at all levels — national, regional, and international. The questionnaire is open to all interested participants and is available until 30 September 2013. The survey is one component of the Internet Society's broader initiative focused on the open and sustainable Internet. While the Internet has proven its success from economic, development, technological, and societal perspectives, its continued growth as a multistakeholder platform cannot be taken for granted. The Internet Society strongly believes that to ensure a sustainable Internet, the Internet must maintain its core characteristics of open, global and interoperable technical standards for innovation; open access and freedom of expression for all users; openness for business and economic progress; based on a collaborative, inclusive, multistakeholder governance model.
The world of Internet threats has changed continually over the years. From the time that a "worm" first showed up in the wild, or whenever someone penetrated a system without authorization for the first time, various forms of attacks and malware have presented dangers to the system and those who use it. Different vectors have received varied focus over the years. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and botnets have received significant headlines recently. Many parts of the Internet community have been involved in addressing relevant issues and fostering efforts to combat them. Public Interest Registry has made it a priority to be part of those efforts. We have been active generally among the anti-abuse community, attending programs such as at the National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance in Pittsburgh, PA, and the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. We also sponsored and participated in a DDoS forum, Mitigating DDoS Attacks, A Global Challenge, in New York last December, as well as anti-botnet workshops conducted by the Online Trust Alliance.
For some time now there has been a need to update understandings of existing human rights law to reflect modern surveillance technologies and techniques. Nothing could demonstrate the urgency of this situation more than the recent revelations confirming the mass surveillance of innocent individuals around the world. To move toward that goal, today we’re pleased to announce the launch of the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance.
Facebook said Wednesday that https is now the default standard for everyone browsing its social network, meaning that almost all traffic to its Web site and a majority of traffic to its mobile site will be established through a secure connection. "We now use https by default for all Facebook users," Facebook infrastructure engineer Scott Renfro wrote in a blog post on the update. "This feature ... means that your browser is told to communicate with Facebook using a secure connection, as indicated by the 'https' rather than 'http' in https://www.facebook.com. This uses Transport Layer Security (TLS), formerly known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), and makes the communication between your browser and Facebook servers more secure."
A lot has happened in the data privacy space since the release of our last #transparency report back in January. As we’ve noted, we believe the open exchange of information can have a positive global impact. To that end, it is vital for us to be transparent about requests we receive from governments (including, and especially, our own government here in the U.S.) and other rights holders. We’ve just published our new #transparency report covering the last six months, which you can read in full here.
When events unfolded in Egypt two years ago, it was a historic moment both because political change was sweeping through the Middle East and because political revolution had finally entered the digital age. Citizens harnessed the power of the Internet and mobile communications to topple an authoritarian regime. But as the great promise of the Arab Spring turns into a much darker reality, it is increasingly clear that the United States is failing in its commitment to use technology to advance worldwide democracy.
This report was commissioned and funded by the Global Network Initiative (GNI) and written by Chris Tuppen. The report has been informed by a number of confidential, wide- ranging discussions with people associated with the telecommunications industry. The author would like to thank everyone who contributed their time, expertise and perspectives.
We are a ratings-obsessed culture. Critics award stars and points for films, books, restaurants, hotels, gadgets and a vast number of other products and services. Sometimes, a professional critic does the scoring, but increasingly, the public collectively creates averaged scores. Some ratings gathered with great detail, such as wine critics' commonly used 100pt scales. Others are as simple as Facebook's "like" button, purely a measure of marketing prowess. Some of the most useful ratings combine verifiable metrics. Consumer Reports, which has been an essential part of my reading for many years, comes up with what I consider highly trustworthy scores for automobiles and other products. A car goes through a variety of tests; the magazine then weights them according to its longstanding practices and comes up with a total score on a 100pt scale.
Russia does not have a functioning criminal justice system at all, in the sense of a trial mechanism aimed at determining innocence or guilt. Exactly as in Uzbekistan, the conviction rate in criminal trials is over 99%. If the prosecutors, who are inextricably an arm of the executive government, want to send you to jail, there is absolutely no judicial system to protect you. The judges are purely there for show. When critics of Putin like Alexei Navalny are convicted, therefore, we have absolutely no reassurance that the motivation behind the prosecution or the assessment of guilt was genuine.
Who hasn't bought something online, only to receive a torrent of marketing spam that follows you around like a rabid puppy? Abine's new MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app, debuting Monday, ensure that you can use the Web while avoiding the data stalkers by preventing you from giving out your contact info in the first place. MaskMe is a freemium add-on for Firefox (download for Windows | download for Mac) and Chrome (download for Windows | download for Mac) that creates and manages dummy accounts for your e-mail address, phone number, credit card, and Web site log-ins. Upgrading gets you some impressive extra features, not the least of which are an Android and iOS app that have some features specifically designed to keep you from over-sharing on your phone.
Skype has long claimed to be "end-to-end encrypted", an architectural category that suggests conversations over the service would be difficult or impossible to eavesdrop upon, even given control of users' Internet connections. But Skype's 2005 independent security review admits a caveat to this protection: "defeat of the security mechanisms at the Skype Central Server" could facilitate a "man-in-the-middle attack" (see section 3.4.1). Essentially, the Skype service plays the role of a certificate authority for its users and, like other certificate authorities, could facilitate eavesdropping by giving out the wrong keys.
In the past several weeks, EFF has received many requests for advice about privacy tools that provide technological shields against mass surveillance. We've been interested for many years in software tools that help people protect their own privacy; we've defended your right to develop and use cryptographic software, we've supported the development of the Tor software, and written privacy software of our own.
Let’s be clear. Your personal information online is not always yours to control. Thieves could grab a Social Security number stored unencrypted in a doctor’s computer; the National Security Agency could order an e-mail provider to unlock correspondence; even the phone company could supply the police with a map of your whereabouts for the last several months.
Here are three topics much in the news these days: Prism, the surveillance program of the national security agency; the death of Trayvon Martin; and Google Glass and the rise of wearable computers that record everything. Although these might not seem connected, they are part of a growing move for, or against, a surveillance society.
Mark Zuckerberg's former speechwriter has warned that Facebook users should be wary of sharing their personal data with the site, highlighting yet more privacy concerns as the site launches its social search tool graph search. Katherine Losse, who spent five years at Facebook until she left in 2010, told the Guardian that while the NSA revelations have left many social networking users concerned about government access to their personal information, employees at the fledgling social network had access to data including user passwords.
ICANN, the organization in charge of a major overhaul of Internet addresses, said it has signed agreements that will bring Chinese, Russian, and Arabic domain names to the Net. At its 47th meeting this week, in Durban, South Africa, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced that three companies signed registry agreements that will enable them to operate four generic top-level domains (GTLDs). The approval is a step in the controversial expansion of the Internet's addressing, from a small number of well-known, top-level domains -- such as .com -- to many more. A total of 1,092 applications have passed ICANN's approval process so far.
In light of recent controversies around the implementation of dotless domains, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) has released a statement calling the practice harmful.
Passwords are no longer sufficient to maintain an adequate level of security for business critical infrastructure and services. Two-factor authentication should be considered the minimum acceptable level of access control.
Back when I started working in this industry in 2001, ICANN was small, the industry was tight, and things moved slowly as interest groups negotiated a balance amongst the impacts of change. Change often meant added overhead and, at the very least, a one-time cost effort to implement on the commercial side.
Looking to develop a way to block the government and private companies from monitoring people's messages, Peter Sunde is working on an app called Hemlis "where no one can spy on you, not even us."
In this report, our third on Blue Coat Systems, we use a combination of network measurement and scanning methods and tools to identify instances of Blue Coat ProxySG and PacketShaper devices. This kind of equipment can be used to secure and maintain networks, but it can also be used to implement politically-motivated restrictions on access to information, and monitor and record private communications. We found Blue Coat devices on public networks of 83 countries (20 countries with both ProxySG and PacketShaper, 56 countries with PacketShaper only, and 7 countries with ProxySG only). Included in these countries are regimes with questionable human rights records, and three countries that are subject to US sanctions: Iran, Syria, and Sudan.
In examining the relationship between Internet use and governance across different regime types, the article emphasizes the Internet’s potential to improve governance. Through a pooled time-series analysis of more than 170 countries with annual or biannual data from 1996 to 2010, we establish that countries with higher Internet penetration rates generally enjoy better, more stable governance, regardless of regime type. Our finding has both practical and theoretical implications. More practically, our results strongly entertain the possibility that the Internet improves access to information, accommodates pluralistic sources of information, and produces platforms for political discourse. Our findings also suggest that the Internet’s concomitant facility for reporting and scrutiny in the public sphere may encourage leaders to improve transparency and accountability. More empirically, the article introduces an additional variable to the good governance function, which should be included in future analyses.
Is the PRISM revelation as surprising as the news coverage makes it seem? Privacy researcher and advocate Caspar Bowden tells Alexandra Kulikova how mishandling of privacy by governments and media has disrupted public engagement with the privacy debate.
UN's Millenium Development Goals Report released this week estimates that by the end of this year, 2.7 billion people (39 percent of the world's population) would be using the Internet.
Recent revelations about NSA surveillance and the demands placed on U.S. Internet and telecommunications companies have certainly highlighted a central theme of this book: How communications technology companies can serve as an opaque extension of state power if the public is not vigilant in holding both governments and companies accountable for how they collect and share our personal information.
Developments over the past few months — and especially the revelations about the spying work of the NSA on friendly governments and their people and businesses — show how important it is to try and establish some high-level strategies relating to managing the governance of the internet. While companies like Google have been lobbying hard against WCIT-12 — basically because they are opposed to any government interference in the internet — the reality is that, clearly without their knowledge, their own American government through the NSA is already directly interfering in their network.
Google’s transparency report visualized in an interactive format, detailing which governments asked for content to be removed from the web and why. The data for the last half year can be compared to the global internet accessibility. Surprisingly, there are some countries, which censors data even though the majority of the population does not have internet access and in other countries, many people are affected.
Assuring the security of private communications regardless of platform – email, VOIP, direct message – should be a top priority of the internet industry in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations that US and UK governments are tapping into the net's traffic. The industry needs to at least come together to offer encryption for private communications as protection against government surveillance.
As news of the alarmingly broad reach and scope of the U.S. surveillance program reverberates around the globe, we call for a global dialogue on the increased capacity of States around the world to conduct sweeping extra-territorial surveillance from domestic soil. While international public outrage has justifiably decried the scope and reach of U.S. broad surveillance on foreigners, the fact that the U.S. government has carte blanche surveillance powers over foreigners is not new.
Civil Society Calls For Human Rights To Underpin Surveillance At Freedom Online Coalition Conference
The Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a group of 21 governments committed to collaborating to advance internet freedom, convened in Tunis, Tunisia for their third annual meeting of governments, businesses, and civil society. While the conference had several programmatic tracks, recent revelations of sweeping state surveillance took center stage, including civil society's statement at the closing plenary (below) which pointed to a series of principles that should underlie communications surveillance policies and practices.
As I said a couple of posts ago, I began my trip to Europe at a conference on "The Internet and International Politics." It was a fascinating event, in part because it brought together two tribes that don't interact very often and have relatively few overlapping members. In one group were various foreign-policy or IR scholars (myself, Dan Drezner, Beth Simmons, Karl Kaiser, John Mearsheimer, Rob Paarlberg, etc.); in the other group was a diverse collection of computer science experts, Internet entrepreneurs, communications scholars, and experts on Internet governance (e.g., Susan Crawford, Adam Bye, Milton Mueller, Zeynep Tufekci, Terry Roberts, Ben Scott, etc.). There were also some journalists, business leaders, and other academics who don't fit neatly in either group.
News of unlawful surveillance, network throttling and shutdowns, and retaliation against users have brought telcos to the table to discuss the impacts of their operations. Revelations that the US government spied on Associated Press journalists through their Verizon phones and other accounts add to a series of incidents that expose how telco operations can have adverse human rights impacts. After Verizon and the AP, telcos in Malaysia censored content during election periods, and France finally admitted that kicking users off the internet for alleged piracy is not a good policy.
This CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force warns that "escalating attacks on countries, companies, and individuals, as well as pervasive criminal activity, threaten the security and safety of the Internet." The number of "state-backed operations continues to rise, and future attacks will become more sophisticated and disruptive," argues the Task Force report, Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet. With the ideal vision of an open and secure Internet increasingly at risk, the Task Force urges the United States, with its friends and allies, "to act quickly to encourage a global cyberspace that reflects shared values of free expression and free markets."
A newly released UN report warns that human rights standards have fallen behind rapid advances in surveillance technology, arguing that states have an obligation to “revise national laws regulating [surveillance] in line with human rights standards.” If the report is approved by the UN Human Rights Council, states may well be obligated to make those changes. The report was authored by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue, whose previous UN report declaring access to the internet as a fundamental human right greatly bolstered the cause of digital rights advocates around the globe. It comes after an eventful year in technology-enabled state surveillance, including the recent $2.8 million fine for Computerlinks AG by US Department of Commerce for the sale western surveillance tech to Syria.
Reporters Without Borders welcomes a report to the UN Human Rights Council on state internet surveillance, which makes clear the grave effects of government internet monitoring on human rights, especially freedom of information. The report was issued by Frank LaRue, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. A Council vote on the report is scheduled on 3 June. Reporters Without Borders asks that the Council’s member states approve the report. The document marks the international community’s first effort to address the issue of internet surveillance. A vote of approval would lay the groundwork for international and regional limitations on government internet monitoring.
Access welcomes the news that Facebook will join the Global Network Initiative (GNI), bolstering the group’s roster of some of the biggest firms in communications technology. Facebook began participating in GNI as an “observer” for a yearlong trial that began in May 2012, just before the social media company’s Initial Public Offering (IPO). Its observer status exempted Facebook from the GNI’s independent human rights audits, which it will now be subject to in line with GNI’s Governance, Accountability, & Learning Framework. A blog from a GNI member, the Committee to Protect Journalist, reports Facebook will begin assessments in 2015.
When most people think of a trade agreement, they're unlikely to think that it would have anything to do with regulating the Internet. For more than a decade however, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has included copyright enforcement in international trade deals. Such provisions empower countries to enact digital restrictions in the name of preventing illegal file sharing. In practice, these copyright measures strip Internet users of their rights to privacy, free speech, and access to knowledge and culture, and could even work to undermine their very purpose of enabling and promoting innovation and creativity.
Does surveillance and monitoring chill free expression? Is population-wide mass surveillance always a bad idea? Amongst many questions and debates at today’s Stockholm Internet Forum, the answers to these two questions are surely obvious – yes to both, writes Index on Censorship CEO Kirsty Hughes from Sweden. But not for Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, who made it clear at the conference that he thinks while surveillance invades privacy and needs proper judicial control, it is not a free speech issue.
For all the tranquility at the end of last week's World Technology/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF), E.B. White's words come to mind: "there is nothing more likely to start disagreement among people or countries than an agreement." One also has to wonder though what a literary stylist like White would think of the linguistic gyrations demanded by the compromises reached at the WTPF in Geneva, and what they portend.
If you think the private messages you send over Skype are protected by end-to-end encryption, think again. The Microsoft-owned service regularly scans message contents for signs of fraud, and company managers may log the results indefinitely, Ars has confirmed. And this can only happen if Microsoft can convert the messages into human-readable form at will.
Journalists everywhere need digital security skills more than ever; we will need them even more in the years to come. International correspondents have been subject to well-crafted, spear-phishing attacks in Asia. Foreign correspondents in the Middle East have had their emails intercepted leading to potentially fatal consequences for their sources in Syria. Within the United States, journalists covering the intelligence beat have had their own email traffic with different sources cited in federal government subpoenas; the journalists themselves have also been served with federal subpoenas themselves and have become targets of criminal investigations.
At the close of the World Telecommunications Policy Forum (WTPF), Matthew Shears, director of CDT's Project on Global Internet Policy and Human Rights, delivered a statement on behalf of a coalition of civil society members and organizations from around the world. Hailing from six continents, these members of civil society participated in the WTPF both in person and remotely, bringing critically important perspectives as governments gathered to debate a range of Internet governance issues.
Today EFF joins organizations from the around the world representing a diversity of interests in launching a new coalition to ask for A Fair Deal on intellectual property (IP) in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). The coalition has launched a website at www.OurFairDeal.org calling for TPP negotiators to “reject copyright proposals that restrict the open Internet, access to knowledge, economic opportunity and our fundamental rights.” The TPP meetings are taking place in Lima, Peru this week until May 25th, and EFF has been on the ground working with groups to fight those provisions and demand a seat at the table at these secretive negotiations.
Rather than trying to keep up with the threats posed by rapidly evolving malicious software, agencies can leverage the security features being built into hardware to ensure that computing devices are safe and remain uninfected, says Larry Hamid, chief architect for IronKey by Imation. Malware has gone from being a nuisance to a serious tool for crime, espionage and possibly terrorism, Hamid said during a presentation at the FOSE conference in Washington, D.C. Responding to these developments puts defenders in a perpetual game of catch-up in which the bad actors have the advantage. Moving away from software for security solutions could help shift the advantage to defense, he said.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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