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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  • (The Daily Dot, Tuesday, March 25, 2014)

    Facebook and Google are both on the cusp of changing the way facial recognition technology is used. Facebook debuted its incredibly accurate facial recognition project, DeepFace, in a paper earlier this month. Though the project remains in research mode, it’s highly likely the social media company will put its 97.25 percent accuracy level to use in the future. And even though Google doesn’t allow facial recognition apps in its ecosystem, developers are readying sophisticated programs and databases that could make facial scanning and identification simple for Glass wearers. According to Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, both Facebook and Google turned down the opportunity to discuss those projects at a National Telecommunications & Information Administration stakeholder meeting that focused on the facial recognition topic.

  • (New America Foundation, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    In 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported “the annual value of the retail market for surveillance tools has increased from ‘nearly zero’ in 2001 to around $5 billion a year.” The Arab Uprising and the fallen regimes’ documents that became public in the aftermath shed light on this growing industry. Some authorities employed this technology for political control and to facilitate internal repression, the suppression of the media and civil society, and other violations of fundamental human rights. Technologies were found to have been exported to authoritarian governments, such as Assad’s Syria and Gadhafi’s Libya with companies in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom facing legal challenges subsequently. It became clear that, while surveillance technology can have legitimate uses, it can also be abused for nefarious purposes and become a powerful facilitator of oppression.

  • (ArsTechnica, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    Three researchers from IBM have developed an algorithm that can predict a Twitter user's location without needing so much as a single geotag from them. According to the Arxiv paper on the subject, the location prediction comes largely from assessing the similarity of the content of a user's tweets to other users' tweets who do use geotags, which turns out to be a decent predictor. While geotags are the most definitive location information a tweet can have, tweets can also have plenty more salient information: hashtags, FourSquare check-ins, or text references to certain cities or states, to name a few. The authors of the paper created their algorithm by analyzing the content of tweets that did have geotags and then searching for similarities in content in tweets without geotags to assess where they might have originated from. Of a body of 1.5 million tweets, 90 percent were used to train the algorithm, and 10 percent were used to test it.

  • (Index on Censorship, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    For many years, the Indian public in particular, had very little interest in who controlled the internet and decisions taken at a structural level that shaped its future. Over the last few years, however, as the Indian experience with the internet has matured, questions of governance, both internally and externally have started making headlines. Allegations of mass surveillance have hogged all headlines. Another factor cannot be missed: the Indian digital economy is growing rapidly, and while internet governance is nowhere close to being an election issue in India, domestically, access, freedom of expression, cyber crime and cyber security are growing concerns. There also the reality that as India’s population gets increasingly connected, it will host one of the biggest online demographies in the world. Therefore, India’s views and actions in terms of how the internet should grow and be governed is crucial to the future of the internet itself.

  • (The Daily Dot, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    A zealous government board in Italy has granted itself the power of judge, jury, and executioner of any site it deems a copyright violator.That is, unless one intellectual property lawyer can convince a court to stop it, but the clock is ticking.Fulvio Sarzana of Rome's Sarzana & Partners Law Firm is the author of a book on Internet commerce, and he's representing a host of activist groups and consumer associations against AGCOM, an Italian acronym for an independent government body called the Communication Authority. In late 2013, AGCOM proposed, then granted to itself, a controversial means of enforcing copyright.

  • (The Guardian, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    The UK government will unveil its lead cyber emergency response unit on 31 March, after delays had put the digital squadron on hold, the Guardian has learned.The UK Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UK) will work on developing the UK’s cyber resilience to state-sponsored and criminal attacks on critical systems, including those controlling the national energy supply and within government departments, according to the Cabinet Office.Launch day, considered by the Cabinet Office as “a key milestone in the development of the UK’s cyber security capabilities”, will initiate a “first phase”, as part of an incremental rollout.

  • (Reporters Without Borders, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Osama Najjar, a netizen and activist held since 17 March, and voices concern about his state of health, as he was arrested the day after an operation and does not have his medicine with him. No official reason has been given for his arrest and it is still not known where he is being detained.

  • (The New York Times, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    The Chinese government called on the United States on Monday to explain its actions and halt the practice of cyberespionage after news reports said that the National Security Agency had hacked its way into the computer systems of China’s largest telecommunications company. The reports, based on documents provided by the former security contractor Edward J. Snowden, related how the spy agency penetrated servers owned by the company, Huawei, and monitored communications by its senior executives in an effort to discover whether the executives had links to the Chinese military. The operation also sought to exploit the company’s technology and gain access to the communications of customers who use Huawei cellphones, fiber optic cables and network hubs.

  • (ArsTechnica, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    A recent article by The Intercept showed how US and UK intelligence agencies have been impersonating the servers of companies like Facebook. In November, Der Spiegel noted that agencies created "bogus versions" of sites like Slashdot and LinkedIn to plant malware in targets' machines. "We are not happy that our intellectual property is being used in that way," LinkedIn's general counsel told Wired when asked about the techniques. If whole-cloth copies of websites were used by competitors or scammers, they'd be—at a minimum—buried in lawsuits. But what, if anything, can companies do against government agencies about such impersonations? Turns out, there are avenues available to those who may be bold enough to use them. 

  • (BBC, Monday, March 24, 2014)

    Net freedom could suffer after the US steps back from its role as ultimate overseer of the global network, former US President Bill Clinton has said.Many of the governments keen to help oversee the net just wanted to use it to silence dissent, he said. Mr Clinton made his comments during a debate sponsored by his charitable foundation, Clinton Global Initiative. The US had been a good steward of the net and had helped keep it open and accessible, he said.