The GovLab SCAN – Issue 70

This is our 70th edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at SCAN@thegovlab.org.

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.

Highlights:

  • At the Turkish government’s request, Twitter and Google complied with blocking URLs relating to an Istanbul prosecutor being killed, including tweets and YouTube videos
  • The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Johannes Casper, ordered Google to “comply with German data protection law and give users more control over their data”
  • A new report analyzes a new tool of attack termed “China’s great cannon” that  is “separate from, but co-located with, the Great Firewall of China” and involves weaponizing users to enforce censorship

ICANN and IANA

Internet naming body moves to crack down on ‘.sucks’. Associated Press. April 09, 2015.

  • Vox Populi, a Canadian company, has been accused of “using the new ‘.sucks’ domain name to extract exorbitant sums from celebrities and companies seeking to protect their public brands.” The Intellectual Property Constituency, an advisory panel made up of industry groups and companies such as Microsoft, has made a complaint requesting ICANN to “halt the rollout of ‘.sucks,’ calling it a ‘shakedown scheme’ and ‘predatory.’” The company’s CEO has stated that his business is “well within the lines of ICANN rules and the law”, and ICANN has sent a letter to the US Federal Trade Commission to determine whether Vox Populi’s actions are illegal.

Kuerbis, Brenden. Legal Separation of IANA Gains Steam. Internet Governance Project. April 07, 2015.

  • This article covers the “whirlwind of activity regarding the IANA transition” in the past two weeks. In Istanbul, “the Community Working Group on IANA Stewardship Transition (CWG) winnowed down the models it was considering to an IANA that was either legally or functionally separated from ICANN.” The legal counsel for the group has developed a discussion draft of an initial analysis of these alternatives, and former Congressman Rick Boucher has “advised the CWG that legal separation would be the preferable option, both for accountability reasons and to improve the plan’s prospects for acceptance by the U.S. Congress.”

Internet Governance

Essers, Loek. Google ordered by German authority to change privacy practices. IT World. April 8, 2015.

  • The Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Johannes Casper, ordered Google to “comply with German data protection law and give users more control over their data.”  According to Casper, Google must comply with the order by obtaining “additional informed and explicit consent from its users to combine personal data from different Google services or limit the combination and processing of that data if such consent is not given.” Although Google did not immediately respond, the company Google has indicated that it will change its policies to meet the country’s requirements.

Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo. Twitter and YouTube Are Back, But Turkey Won the Censorship Battle. Motherboard. April 7, 2015.

  • In this article, Franceschi-Bicchierai argues that major internet companies like Twitter and Google jeopardized the future of freedom of expression in this region when they removed content at the Turkish government’s request. Earlier this week, an Istanbul prosecutor was held hostage at gunpoint and eventually killed during a raid. An Istanbul court ordered “the block of 166 URLS that hosted footage of the incident, such as tweets, YouTube videos, and several blogs and sites.” The author argues that while these Internet companies managed to avoid entire blockages by removing the controversial content, they violated the trust of the Turkish people and supported the government’s ongoing internet censorship efforts.

Ingraham, Nathan. Snapchat cuts off third-party apps, releases its first transparency report. The Verge. April 02, 2015.

  • This week, Snapchat announced “a number of initiatives to show that it takes its users data and privacy seriously” including blocking all access from third party apps. The company also published its first transparency report, which will now be updated biannually. The report showed that Snapchat “received 375 requests from the US government covering 666 separate accounts from November 1st, 2014 through February 28th, 2015.”

Kleinwächter, Wolfgang. From Connecting Computers to Connecting Stakeholders: Stanford Univ. Hosts NetMundial Initiative. CircleID. April 08, 2015.

  • In this article, Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus, member of the ICANN Board and Special Ambassador for the NetMundial Initiative, outlines his opinion on the NETmundial Initiative’s mission and scope following the first working meeting of the new Coordination Council of the NetMundial Initiative at Stanford University on March 31. He points out three misunderstandings that were cleared up during the meeting: the fact that NMI is not an alternative to the Internet Governance Forum, it will not be a policy making body, and that while the council includes representatives from business and government, it also includes civil society and the technical community.

Kobie, Nicole. Facebook Admits to Tracking People Who Don’t Use Facebook, Blames a Bug. Vice. April 10, 2015.

  • Last month, Belgian researchers “reported that Facebook drops a long-lasting cookie onto your machine, tracking you across pages with its social plugins, even if you’ve opted into a do-not-track system or aren’t a registered user of the site.” Facebook had stated that the Belgian report was inaccurate, and has now issued a response titled Setting the Record Straight addressing the claims of the report. However, Facebook has also admitted that “its social plugins add tracking cookies to some people’s computers, even if they are non-Facebook users,” stating that it is an unintended “bug.”

Lardinois, Frederic. Microsoft Will Remove “Do Not Track” As The Default Setting In Its New Browsers. TechCrunch. April 3, 2015.

  • Reversing its previous policy, Microsoft announced that it will not turn on “Do Not Track” as the default option in upcoming versions of Internet Explorer and Spartan. Currently, Chrome and Firefox still have “Do Not Track” as the default option. According to Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch, the company’s decision complies with the latest draft of the W3C standard, which notes that “the signal sent MUST reflect the user’s preference, not the choice of some vendor, institution, site or network-imposed mechanism outside of the user’s control; this applies equally to both the general preference and exceptions.” According to the author, since “Do Not Track” is actually voluntary, users should instead use effective tools and add-ons like Ghostery, uBlock and Privacy Badger.

Malcolm, Jeremy. Intermediary Liability in Thailand Done Right and Done Wrong. Electronic Frontier Foundation. April 3, 2015.

  • According to Malcolm, the new legal modifications to Thai copyright and computer law show positive improvements in a country with a history of blocking Internet content and restricting online freedom. The amendments to the 2007 Computer Crime Act relieve ISPs of some of the liability for offenses such as copyright infringement or insulting the Thai monarchy. This is important because currently ISPs take down over 90% of content that is accused of violating copyright. The principles in this legislation are “consistent with the Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability” but will only be effective if authorities follow the law.

Mullin, Joe. Amazon drops the hammer on website that sells 5-star reviews. Arstechnica. April 09, 2015.

  • Amazon has filed a lawsuit against Jay Gentile, a man in California “who Amazon says created websites offering to sell verified Amazon reviews for between $19 and $22 per review.” Posting fake reviews is against Amazon’s company policies, and according to the lawsuit, these fake reviews “threaten to undermine the trust that customers, and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers, place in Amazon.” According to Amazon, Gentile’s website violates the Washington state consumer protection act. The company has sued him for trademark violations, false advertising, and cybersquatting.

Russell, Jon. Bharti Airtel Fuels Net Neutrality Fire In India With Free Access To Partner Apps. TechCrunch. April 6, 2015.

  • This week, Indian telecommunications provider Bharti Airtel announced a new initiative called Airtel Zero that will “grant consumers free access to services run by developers who pay the operator for the privilege.” The e-commerce service Flipkart is rumored to be among the first partner in this program.The Airtel Zero initiative plays into a growing debate regarding net neutrality and the practice of zero rating in developing countries. According to Bharti Airtel representatives, “the initiative can reduce marketing costs for developers and raise awareness of services to new, or first-time internet users.”

Scally, Derek. Vienna court to hear Schrems’s civil suit against Facebook. The Irish Times. April 9, 2015.

  • This week, a Vienna district court will hear the first arguments of a civil suit filed against Facebook by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Shrems. In his consumer class-action lawsuit, Shrems argues that Facebook is operating “a business based on data collection practices that are in violation of Austrian and EU privacy law.” Over 50,000 people have expressed interest in joining the lawsuit, and the case calls for compensation of $10million. This civil suit fits into a broader regional struggle by European regulators to enforce right to privacy laws online.

Papers and Reports

Marczak, Bill, Weaver, Nicholas, et al. China’s Great Cannon. Marczak, Bill, Weaver, Nicholas, et al. Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. April 10, 2015.

  • In this report, researchers analyze a new tool of attack they call “China’s great cannon” that they “identify as separate from, but co-located with, the Great Firewall of China. The first known usage of the Great Cannon is in the recent large-scale novel DDoS attack on both GitHub and servers used by GreatFire.org.” The researchers state that “The operational deployment of the Great Cannon represents a significant escalation in state-level information control: the normalization of widespread use of an attack tool to enforce censorship by weaponizing users.”

Events

(The below includes both past and upcoming events. See The GovLab’s Master Events Calendar for more Internet Governance events)


ARIN 35. April 12-15, 2015.

  • This open, biannual convening provides “an opportunity for the entire Internet community to engage in policy discussions, network with colleagues, and attend workshops and tutorials.” ARIN also offers a webcast and live transcript of the full meeting for those who would like to participate remotely.

Global Conference on Cyberspace 2015. April 16-17, 2015.

  • This annual conference will take place in the Netherlands and bring together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds including governments, private sector and civil society “in order to promote practical cooperation in cyberspace, to enhance cyber capacity building, and to discuss norms for responsible behaviour in cyberspace.” The past three annual conferences “established a set of principles on internet governance.”

South School on Internet Governance. April 19-24, 2015.

  • The objective of this event “is to train new leaders of opinion in all aspects related with Internet Governance, from a global perspective and with focus on the Latin America and Caribbean Region.” Speakers include Vint Cerf and Fadi Chehade, and there are opportunities for remote participation.

Taking Back Power in the Age of Networks. Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. April 14, 2015.

  • In this in-person and webcasted event, filmmaker, writer, and political organizer, Astra Taylor will draw on her experiences and recent book to deliver a talk that “will address campaigns by musicians against streaming services and debtors against creditors to reflect on the larger question of how to organize and leverage change in an age of virtual networks—be they networks of cultural distribution or financial ones.”

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