Category Archives: The Web

“Snowden Treaty” proposed to curtail mass surveillance and protect whistleblowers

Glynn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

A “Snowden Treaty” designed to counter mass surveillance and protect whistleblowers around the world has been proposed by Edward Snowden, and three of the people most closely associated with his leaks: the documentary film-maker Laura Poitras; David Miranda, who was detained at Heathrow airport, and is the Brazilian coordinator of the campaign to give asylum to Snowden in Brazil; and his partner, the journalist Glenn Greenwald. The “International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers,” to give it its full title, was launched yesterday in New York by Miranda, with Snowden and Greenwald speaking via video.

The treaty’s proponents say that Snowden’s leaks, and the treatment he received as a whistleblower, have “revealed the need for greater rights protections for citizens globally.” In order to achieve that, they write: “We are campaigning for governments to sign up to the Snowden Treaty, a proposed treaty that would curtail mass surveillance and protect the rights of whistleblowers.”


Profiled: From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users’ Online Identities

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

There was a simple aim at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.”

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear.


Drowned Syrian boy photo: Social media at its most hollow and hypocritical?

Max Fisher writes for Vox:

Migrants disembark from a bus near Athens, Greece (Dan Kitwood/Getty)Looking at the same photo that everyone is looking at this week, of a young Syrian refugee boy whose body had washed up on a Turkish beach, and reading about the boy’s brief and difficult life, I found myself torn between two conflicting reactions. On the one hand, I was saddened by the needless death of this young child, and outraged by the many factors that contributed to it: the Syrian war, European hostility to migration, and the world’s callous indifference to the ever-worsening refugee crisis. Those factors are important, so the photograph’s ability to call the world’s attention to them makes it a powerful journalistic tool.

But I am also uncomfortable with the way those images have been converted into just another piece of viral currency. There is a line between compassion and voyeurism. And as that photo was shared and retweeted over and over again, converted into listicles and social-friendly packages, it felt more and more like the latter.

I am reminded of a 2012 article by the novelist Teju Cole, “The White-Savior Industrial Complex,” responding to what was the social media caring experience of that moment, a web video called “Kony 2012” that asked the world to combat Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony by “making him go viral.”

Cole wrote about the cycle of internet outrage and compassion that, often, ends up doing little more than providing entertainment and validation for Western audiences. Those audiences, rather than being compelled to ask themselves whether they had a hand in the faraway tragedy they are sharing to Facebook, get to pat themselves on the back for being part of the solution.

But social media voyeurism is no solution. It doesn’t help that child, or others like him. It just exploits his tragic death as a source of maudlin but oh-so-shareable emotional thrills.


PostCapitalism: The end of capitalism has begun

Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews), author of PostCapitalism, writes for The Guardian:

The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.

Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.

If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.


Digital surveillance in Britain ‘worse than Orwell’, says new UN privacy chief

Adam Alexander reports for The Guardian:

The first UN privacy chief has said the world needs a Geneva convention style law for the internet to safeguard data and combat the threat of massive clandestine digital surveillance.

Speaking to the Guardian weeks after his appointment as the UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci described British surveillance oversight as being “a joke”, and said the situation is worse than anything George Orwell could have foreseen.

He added that he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter, and said it was regrettable that vast numbers of people sign away their digital rights without thinking about it.

“Some people were complaining because they couldn’t find me on Facebook. They couldn’t find me on Twitter. But since I believe in privacy, I’ve never felt the need for it,” Cannataci, a professor of technology law at University of Groningen in the Netherlands and head of the department of Information Policy & Governance at the University of Malta, said.


China plans security offices inside internet firms to stop ‘illegal behaviour’

Reuters reports:

China is planning to set up “network security offices” in major internet companies and for websites so authorities can move more quickly against illegal online behaviour, the ministry of public security said in a statement.

Police should take a leading role in online security and work closely with internet regulators, the deputy minister, Chen Zhimin, told a conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

“We will set up network security offices inside important website and internet firms, so that we can catch criminal behaviour online at the earliest possible point,” Chen said, according to the statement.


Free football streaming: How illegal sites keep outpacing broadcasters

Howard Swains reports for The Guardian:

[…] On any game day in any sports league across the world, thousands of people do precisely what I have flown to Scandinavia to witness, and broadcast untold numbers of sporting events online. Meanwhile, in living rooms across the world, people are watching more live sport than ever, whether or not they have paid for it. The audience of unauthorised streams is estimated in the millions. As Sunday’s Community Shield heralds the start of another Premier League season, it’s a safe bet that more people than ever will be watching it illicitly. And as the idealists who first took on football’s behemoths find themselves increasingly hijacked by commercial operations with their eye on a quick buck, football’s black market will grow.

On 1 January, a site named Wiziwig – by far the most popular aggregation platform through which users could access thousands of streams – closed under the threat of legal action in Spain, where it was based. But other sites quickly stepped in to fill its role. Moreover, a senior Wiziwig moderator told me that they have no intention of remaining in the wilderness.

“All the Wiziwig moderators are still dedicated to our mission of a free and open internet, with free-to-air-programming for all,” the moderator said. He spoke on condition of anonymity – no one associated with Wiziwig has agreed to a mainstream press interview before – and used the language of the renegade that is familiar among internet libertarians: “All we have done and will do in the future is for sports fans anywhere in the world.”

The contention is that broadcasters are holding sport fans to ransom, and it means that this season, football stadiums will again host more than just the on-pitch duels between the nation’s top teams. The Premier League, among numerous other sports organisations the world over, will once again be forced to war against the online streamers. But if recent history offers much indication, they can hope to secure a score draw at best.


U.S. Secret Service seeks sarcasm-spotting software

Gemma Karstens-Smith reports for the Toronto Star:

Of course Secret Service agents need a hand separating wisecracks from security threats.

Instead of searching for their sense of humour, however, the U.S. agency is looking for software to help them understand sarcastic remarks on social media.

It’s no secret that governments keep track of what’s happening on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, but Canadian experts are wary about whether or not sarcasm-detecting software will help security agencies keep citizens safe.

“I’m skeptical,” said Tamir Israel, a lawyer for Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa. “There’s a limit to what an algorithm can do, I think, is really what it comes down to.”

A tender document posted Monday shows the Secret Service wants to buy software that has the ability to “detect sarcasm.”’


Online pirates could face 10 years in jail under plans being considered by UK government

BBC News reports:

Piracy keyOnline pirates could face jail terms of up to 10 years under plans being considered by the government.

Online copyright infringement currently carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Ministers have launched a consultation on increasing it to 10 years – bringing it into line with copyright infringement of physical goods.

The government said tougher sentences would act as a “significant deterrent”.’


The Rise of the New Crypto War

Eric Geller reports for The Daily Dot:

James B. Comey, Jr., the seventh director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is afraid of the dark.

“The law hasn’t kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public safety problem,” Comey said in an Oct. 16, 2014, speech at the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington, D.C., think tank. He called the problem “going dark.”

As more and more criminals presumably “go dark” by encrypting their phones and email accounts, federal agents are finding it increasingly difficult to intercept their communications. The spread of easy-to-use encryption software and the eagerness with which tech companies promote it have deeply troubled the FBI. But on that unusually warm October day, Comey also wanted to vent about another frustration: He felt that the bureau’s proposed solution was being distorted.

“There is a misconception that building a lawful intercept solution into a system requires a so-called ‘backdoor,’ one that foreign adversaries and hackers may try to exploit,” Comey said. “But that isn’t true. We aren’t seeking a backdoor approach. We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law.”

He only used the word twice, but by strenuously denying that he wanted one, Comey had set off a fierce debate about the secret law-enforcement data-access portals known as backdoors. In the months that followed, Comey, his deputies at the FBI, and his counterparts at other agencies would face relentless questioning and criticism from skeptical members of Congress, exasperated security researchers, and outraged privacy groups. Despite Comey’s protestations, many feared that the agency once known for its disturbing reach and systemic abuses of power in the era of J. Edgar Hoover was seeking a return to that fearsome omniscience in the digital age.

The debate over backdoors has pitted Comey and other national-security officials against America’s biggest tech companies, which have fired off letter after letter warning the government not to undermine encryption and the increasingly powerful security tools built into their products. It has strained relations between an obscure but important government technical body and the security industry that used to consider it a trusted partner. And it has infuriated the cryptography experts and civil-liberties activists who have spent decades beating back government efforts to weaken the encryption that is now vital to all aspects of online life.’


A Look at the Inner Workings of NSA’s XKEYSCORE

Micah Lee, Glenn Greenwald and Morgan Marquis-Boire report for The Intercept:

The sheer quantity of communications that XKEYSCORE processes, filters and queries is stunning. Around the world, when a person gets online to do anything — write an email, post to a social network, browse the web or play a video game — there’s a decent chance that the Internet traffic her device sends and receives is getting collected and processed by one of XKEYSCORE’s hundreds of servers scattered across the globe.

In order to make sense of such a massive and steady flow of information, analysts working for the National Security Agency, as well as partner spy agencies, have written thousands of snippets of code to detect different types of traffic and extract useful information from each type, according to documents dating up to 2013. For example, the system automatically detects if a given piece of traffic is an email. If it is, the system tags if it’s from Yahoo or Gmail, if it contains an airline itinerary, if it’s encrypted with PGP, or if the sender’s language is set to Arabic, along with myriad other details.

This global Internet surveillance network is powered by a somewhat clunky piece of software running on clusters of Linux servers. Analysts access XKEYSCORE’s web interface to search its wealth of private information, similar to how ordinary people can search Google for public information.

Based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept is shedding light on the inner workings of XKEYSCORE, one of the most extensive programs of mass surveillance in human history.’


XKEYSCORE: NSA’s Google for the World’s Private Communications

Morgan Marquis-Boire, Glenn Greenwald, and Micah Lee report for The Intercept:

‘One of the National Security Agency’s most powerful tools of mass surveillance makes tracking someone’s Internet usage as easy as entering an email address, and provides no built-in technology to prevent abuse. Today, The Intercept is publishing 48 top-secret and other classified documents about XKEYSCORE dated up to 2013, which shed new light on the breadth, depth and functionality of this critical spy system — one of the largest releases yet of documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA’s XKEYSCORE program, first revealed by The Guardian, sweeps up countless people’s Internet searches, emails, documents, usernames and passwords, and other private communications. XKEYSCORE is fed a constant flow of Internet traffic from fiber optic cables that make up the backbone of the world’s communication network, among other sources, for processing. As of 2008, the surveillance system boasted approximately 150 field sites in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, as well as many other countries, consisting of over 700 servers.’


British PM reaffirms there will be no “safe spaces” from UK government snooping

Glyn Moody reports for Ars Technica:

The UK’s prime minister, David Cameron, has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to “leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other.” This confirms remarks he made earlier this year about encryption, when he said: “The question is are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read. My answer to that question is: no, we must not.”

David Cameron was replying in the House of Commons on Monday to a question from the Conservative MP David Bellingham, who asked him whether he agreed that the “time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?” To which Cameron replied: “we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.”‘


The Iran I Saw

Christopher Schroeder, author of Startup Rising, writes for Politico:

[…] This is a tale of two Irans. This is, specifically, the tale of the other Iran.

The tale we hear most often focuses on natural resources like oil as their greatest asset or nuclear power as their greatest threat—a narrative frozen in time, stretching back decades with remembered pain on both sides. For many Americans, the reference point for Iran is still centered on the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran over 35 years ago; for others, it has focused on Iranian support for destabilizing regional actors against our interests and costing lives.

At the same time, of course, Iranians have their own version of this tale: Many remember well U.S. support for a coup of their elected leadership, our support for a dictatorial regime and later encouragement of a war in Iraq that cost nearly a half-million Iranian lives.

Politics, power, mistrust: This is one version of how the media frames discussion of Iran. It’s very real, and it has much caution and evidence to support it.

But there’s another tale, one I saw repeatedly in my trip there last month. It was my second visit within the year, travelling with a group of senior global business executives to explore this remarkable and controversial nation.’


Orwell’s Triumph: Joshua Cohen and Novels of Surveillance

Sam Frank writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Orwell’s Triumph: How Novels Tell the Truth of SurveillanceWhen government agencies and private companies access and synthesize our data, they take on the power to novelize our lives. Their profiles of our behavior are semi-fictional stories, pieced together from the digital traces we leave as we go about our days. No matter how many articles we read about this process, grasping its significance is no easy thing. It turns out that to understand the weird experience of being the target of all this surveillance — how we are characters in semi-true narratives constructed by algorithms and data analysts — an actual novel can be the best medium.

Book of Numbers, released earlier this month, is the latest exhibit. Written by Joshua Cohen, the book has received enthusiastic notices from the New York Times and other outlets as an ambitious “Internet novel,” embedding the history of Silicon Valley in a dense narrative about a search engine called Tetration. Book of Numbers was written mostly in the wake of the emergence of WikiLeaks and was finished as a trove of NSA documents from Edward Snowden was coming to light. Cohen even adjusted last-minute details to better match XKeyscore, a secret NSA computer system that collects massive amounts of email and web data; in Book of Numbers,Tetration has a function secreted within it that automatically reports searches to the government. As Tetration’s founder puts it, “All who read us are read.”’


Think it’s cool Facebook can auto-tag you in pics? So does the government

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology, which had been the stuff of hypothetical privacy nightmares for years, is becoming a startling reality. It is increasingly being deployed all around the United States by giant tech companies, shady advertisers and the FBI – with few if any rules to stop it.

In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google launched facial recognition to mine the photos on your phone, with both impressive and disturbing results. Facebook’s Moments app can recognize you even if you cover your face. Google Photos can identify grown adults from decades-old childhood pictures.

Some people might find it neat when it’s only restricted to photos on their phone. But advertisers, security companies and just plain creepy authority figures have also set up their own systems at music festivals, sporting events and even some churches to monitor attendees, which is bound to disturb even those who don’t give a second thought to issues like the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.’


Net Of Insecurity: A Disaster Foretold — And Ignored

Craig Timberg writes for The Washington Post:

The seven young men sitting before some of Capitol Hill’s most powerful lawmakers weren’t graduate students or junior analysts from some think tank. No, Space Rogue, Kingpin, Mudge and the others were hackers who had come from the mysterious environs of cyberspace to deliver a terrifying warning to the world.

Your computers, they told the panel of senators in May 1998, are not safe — not the software, not the hardware, not the networks that link them together. The companies that build these things don’t care, the hackers continued, and they have no reason to care because failure costs them nothing. And the federal government has neither the skill nor the will to do anything about it.

“If you’re looking for computer security, then the Internet is not the place to be,” said Mudge, then 27 and looking like a biblical prophet with long brown hair flowing past his shoulders. The Internet itself, he added, could be taken down “by any of the seven individuals seated before you” with 30 minutes of well-choreographed keystrokes.

The senators — a bipartisan group including John Glenn, Joseph I. Lieberman and Fred D. Thompson — nodded gravely, making clear that they understood the gravity of the situation. “We’re going to have to do something about it,” Thompson said.

What happened instead was a tragedy of missed opportunity, and 17 years later the world is still paying the price in rampant insecurity.’


AT&T fined $100 million for internet speed cap on “unlimited” data plans

Brian Fund reports for The Independent:

The Federal Communications Commission slapped AT&T with a $100 million fine Wednesday, accusing the country’s second-largest cellular carrier of improperly slowing down Internet speeds for customers who had signed up for “unlimited” data plans.

The FCC found that when customers used up a certain amount of data watching movies or browsing the Web, AT&T “throttled” their Internet speeds so that they were much slower than normal. Millions of AT&T customers were affected by the practice, according to the FCC.

The fine, which AT&T says it will fight, is the largest ever levied by the agency.

AT&T implemented the practice in 2011, prompting thousands of customers to complain to the FCC, according to an agency statement.

By not properly disclosing the policy to consumers who thought they were getting “unlimited” data, the company violated the FCC’s rules on corporate transparency, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.’


Alan Rusbridger steps down after 20 years as Guardian editor

Dominic Ponsford and William Turvill report for Press Gazette:

Alan Rusbridger steps down today after 20 years as Guardian editor, handing over the reins to deputy editor Katharine Viner.

Under Rusbridger, The Guardian won newspaper of the year four times at the British Press Awards and last year it became the first UK newspaper to win the Pulitzer Prize for the Edward Snowden revelations about US state surveillance.

Rusbridger took over from Peter Preston at a time when the paper’s print circulation was solidly above 400,000 and it did not yet have a website.

He leaves with less than half the daily print sales (176,157, according ABC) but with a digital footprint of more than 7m daily browsers. Some 63 per cent of The Guardian’s web readership now comes from outside the UK.

According to the National Readership Survey, The Guardian is the fourth most-read national newspaper brand in the UK (in print and online) with 16.3m readers a month. This puts it ahead of The Sun and a whisker behind The Daily Telegraph.

As editor-in-chief of Guardian News and Media, which includes The Observer, Rusbridger has led an “open journalism” approach, committing to free online access while raising the daily print cover price to £1.80. He took GNM “digital-first” in 2011, ruling that from that point on digital rather than print was The Guardian’s main priority.’


The Silk Road: Who was the real Dread Pirate Roberts?

How we sold our souls – and more – to the internet giants

Bruce Schneier recently published an excerpt from his book Data and Goliath at the Guardian:

barbie‘[…] Surveillance is the business model of the internet for two primary reasons: people like free and people like convenient. The truth is, though, that people aren’t given much of a choice. It’s either surveillance or nothing and the surveillance is conveniently invisible so you don’t have to think about it. And it’s all possible because laws have failed to keep up with changes in business practices.

In general, privacy is something people tend to undervalue until they don’t have it anymore. Arguments such as “I have nothing to hide” are common, but aren’t really true. People living under constant surveillance quickly realise that privacy isn’t about having something to hide. It’s about individuality and personal autonomy. It’s about being able to decide who to reveal yourself to and under what terms. It’s about being free to be an individual and not having to constantly justify yourself to some overseer.

This tendency to undervalue privacy is exacerbated by companies deliberately making sure that privacy is not salient to users. When you log on to Facebook, you don’t think about how much personal information you’re revealing to the company; you chat with your friends. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t think about how you’re going to allow a bunch of companies to track you throughout the day; you just put your cell phone in your pocket.

But by accepting surveillance-based business models, we hand over even more power to the powerful. Google controls two-thirds of the US search market. Almost three-quarters of all internet users have Facebook accounts. Amazon controls about 30% of the US book market, and 70% of the ebook market. Comcast owns about 25% of the US broadband market. These companies have enormous power and control over us simply because of their economic position.’


The rise of the Internet police

Ian Sherr writes for CNET:

[…] Online harassment isn’t new. From the earliest message boards to the newest social apps, if there’s a way for people to say something, you can bet someone will say something awful. But it’s gotten even worse. Those operating in the shadows can now connect to billions of users through Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, and disseminate racist and hate-filled messages. Some publish disturbing images of murder, child exploitation and sexual abuse while others resort to so-called revenge porn to humiliate former lovers. Perhaps most distressing: A few threaten rape and other forms of violence, then release their victims’ addresses and phone numbers so strangers can terrorize their targets even further.

“Dangerous people are everywhere, but when they have the power of anonymity behind them and the power of distance, they become more dangerous,” says Karen Riggs, a professor of media arts and studies at Ohio University. “It’s part of human nature: We have people who will be abusive and lurid.”

The Internet just makes it that much easier.’


Snoopers’ charter set to return to law, Tory majority could lead to huge increase in surveillance powers

Andrew Griffin reports for The Independent:

The law, officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, is already back on the agenda according to Theresa May. It is expected to force British internet service providers to keep huge amounts of data on their customers, and to make that information available to the government and security services.

The snoopers’ charter received huge criticism from computing experts and civil liberties campaigners in the wake of introduction. It was set to come into law in 2014, but Nick Clegg withdrew his support for the bill and it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Theresa May, who led the legislation as home secretary, said shortly after the Conservatives’ election victory became clear that she will seek to re-introduce it to government. With the re-election of May and the likely majority of her party, the bill is likely to find success if the new government tries again.’


How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text

Dan Froomkin reports for The Intercept:

Most people realize that emails and other digital communications they once considered private can now become part of their permanent record.

But even as they increasingly use apps that understand what they say, most people don’t realize that the words they speak are not so private anymore, either.

Top-secret documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that can be easily searched and stored.

The documents show NSA analysts celebrating the development of what they called “Google for Voice” nearly a decade ago.

Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community’s “holy grail,” the Snowden documentsdescribe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and “extract” the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest.’


France passes new surveillance law in wake of Charlie Hebdo attack

Angelique Chrisafis reports for The Guardian:

Demonstrators hold placards reading "Stop to Mass Surveillance", and "Members of Parliament Protect our Freedom", during a gathering at Invalides, Paris, to protest against the emergency government surveillance lawThe French parliament has overwhelmingly approved sweeping new surveillance powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris.

The new bill, which allows intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge, sparked protests from rights groups who claimed it would legalise highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.

Protesters for civil liberties groups launched a last-ditch campaign against the bill under the banner “24 hours before 1984” in reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel about life under an all-knowing dictatorship. Groups including Amnesty International warned of “extremely large and intrusive powers” without judicial controls.

But despite opposition from green and hard-left MPs, the bill won the overwhelming backing of the majority of MPs from the Socialist and rightwing UMP parties, which said it was necessary to tackle the terrorist risk. The bill was passed in the national assembly by 438 votes to 86, with a handful of no votes from Socialist MPs.’


The Ars Technica guide to digital policy in the UK’s 2015 general election

Glyn Moody writes for Ars Technica:

As the passage of the UK’s technologically illiterate Digital Economy Act in 2010 demonstrated, many UK politicians are completely at sea when it comes to modern technology. But even they recognize that the digital world forms a crucial part of modern life, and that any political party hoping to enter government needs to have policies for issues the Internet raises. That said, the different political parties have very different views and priorities when it comes to legislating for the digital world.

Ahead of the UK’s General Election on May 7, Ars has put together a guide to what the manifestos say on a number of key topics: surveillance; privacy and data protection; copyright and patents; web blocking; freedom of speech; digital rights; and various forms of openness—open data, open standards and open government. The policies come from the following manifestos (in alphabetical order): Conservatives, Green Party of England and Wales, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Pirate Party,Scottish National Party, and UKIP. The Open Rights Group has usefully collected statements on these and a few other areas in the form of a single web page, organized by party.’


‘Democracy is about more than just a cross in a box every five years’: Interview with Loz Kaye of Pirate Party UK

Editor’s Note: This interview was recorded just over a month ago.

Loz Kaye, head of the UK branch of the Pirate Party, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the upcoming election, manifestos, and mass surveillance. The Pirate Party is ‘crowd sourcing’ their manifesto, allowing the public to vote on what policies they have, as ‘democracy is about more than just a cross in a box every five years.’ He says that whilst new movements like Syriza, Podemos and M5S have grown across Europe, in Britain even the supposed new kids on the block, UKIP and the Greens, are decades old, and what we need are new solutions for new problems. He plans to look at things like tax dodging, accusing no one else of looking at the root causes of the problem, tax loopholes for intellectual property. He also believes it’s important to stop the myth that piracy harms content-producers, saying that ‘so-called pirates are the best spenders online.’ He thinks that there has to be an end to warrantless blanket surveillance, by having ‘oversight with teeth.’ He also says they are the only party putting ‘big pharma gouging profits from the NHS’ on the agenda. And if you think it’s time for change, ‘the only way that they will get that message is if you think different and vote different.’’ (Going Underground)

The most concerning element of Facebook’s potential new power

Trevor Timm writes for Columbia Journalism Review about Facebook’s growing power over news content:

[…] What this discussion has missed is perhaps the most crucial element of Facebook’s new power: the right to chose between the free expression of ideas or to instead impose censorship when it deems content unworthy. That should worry the public, because when given that power in the past, Facebook has ruled with an iron fist.

The New Yorker was famously banned from Facebook for a short period in 2012 for posting a cartoon with a tiny bit of nudity in it. Breastfeeding photos have been the source of takedowns and controversy. And that’s even when they’re not censoring other photographs or news commentary by “mistake.”

Then there are the hostage negotiations country’s governments are increasingly engaging in. Turkey blocked Facebook and Twitter across the entire country just this week because users were sharing a photo that was clearly newsworthy, and vowed to continue blocking it unless the social networks removed it (which they did). Two weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Facebook began censoring images of prophet Muhammad after Turkey made yet more demands.

And what happens when Mark Zuckerberg brings Facebook to China? Will Facebook be just as quick to censor the New York Times posts at the whims of foreign governments as it does for individual users?’


Who’s Watching Your Baby?

‘A family in Minnesota was shocked to discover that someone else was controlling their “nanny cam” from a different country. CNN affiliate KTTC has more.’ (CNN)

French lawmaker mocked after draft law copied and pasted from Wikipedia

Rick Noack reports for The Washington Post:

French politician Valérie Boyer and her staff seem to like Wikipedia — too much, maybe. Their admiration for the online encyclopedia will now be forever documented in governmental transcripts, after the opposition politician presented a draft law which was allegedly  copied from the platform in large part. She and her assistants didn’t even remove Wikipedia’s footnotes, according to French newspaper Le Figaro.

On Tuesday, French media outlets exposed the plagiarism when they analyzed the law proposal which argues that France should recognize the Assyrian genocide during the World War I under the Ottoman Empire.’