The GovLab SCAN – Issue 72

This is our 72nd 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:

  • German newspapers Der Spiegel and Die Zeit reported that German intelligence (the BND) allowed the National Security Agency (NSA)  “to spy on European — and German — companies and citizens.”
  • The French government and five major technology companies reached an agreement to “help speed the removal of extremist content from the Internet, and set up a permanent working group that will meet to discuss further cooperation.”

ICANN and IANA

Wright, Joseph. ICANN Compliance, Domain Registrars Clash on New Whois, Abuse Report Language. Bloomberg BNA. April 22, 2015.

  • This article details the ongoing contention between domain name registrars and ICANN’s compliance office, particularly surrounding the issue of fighting online abuses. The newly appointed Chief Compliance Officer Allen Grogan has taken a lead on this issue, and has stated that his goal is to “clarify for the community the interpretation and enforcement of key provisions of the contracts and try to consistently enforce those provisions so that everybody can have a predictable and understandable way of doing business.” Managing these complaints has become a much bigger job, multiplying from “a handful to hundreds” due to the new gTLD program.

Internet Governance

Broussard, Meredith. When Cops Check Facebook. The Atlantic. April 19, 2015.

  • This article examines the increasing use of social media by police and prosecutors in the US to track criminals. According to the author, this practice “raises troubling questions” as “social media can produce evidence in some cases, but it also fails to capture the complexity of human relationships—and can sometimes distort them.” Broussard argues that social relationships cannot be described using computational logic, and thus, using this data in policing “misrepresents what social networks actually look like on the ground.”

Cohen, Harriet. Another Blow to Privacy: Internet Explorer Turns Off “Do Not Track” Default Setting. Digital Guardian. April 20, 2015.

  • This month, Microsoft changed the default “Do Not Track” setting on its Internet Explorer browser. Do Not Track is a specification issued by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 2011 “through which a user can specify their preferences: allow tracking or don’t allow tracking. When the user turns on DNT, the browser sends a “Do Not Track” request when a user browses to a web site.” After this specification was published, Microsoft had set the user preference setting to not allow tracking by default in its Internet browser. With the change in default, Microsoft has stated that it will continue to inform users how to turn off tracking by opting into DNT, by providing this information when the PC is set up and when the browser is upgraded.

Farrell, Henry. The new German spying scandal is a big deal. The Washington Post. April 23, 2015.

  • This week, Der Spiegel and Die Zeit reported on new information regarding the relationship between the German intelligence service (the BND) and the NSA. The Committee of Inquiry revealed that German intelligence handed over information that allowed the NSA “to spy on European — and German — companies and citizens.” According to Farrell, “the result is that it (the BND) apparently put its relationship with the NSA ahead of its obligations to inform its superiors in the German government.” The author suggests that in the long run these revelations will hurt U.S.- German relations.

Lomas, Natasha. French Senate Backs Bid To Force Google To Disclose Search Algorithm Workings. TechCrunch. April 17, 2015.

  • Last week, the upper house of the French parliament “voted to support an amendment to a draft economy bill that would require search engines to display at least three rivals on their homepage”. The amendment would also require search engines to “reveal the workings of their search ranking algorithms to ensure they deliver fair and non-discriminatory results.” An additional amendment included the requirement that at least one of the alternative search engines should be a French product, and if passed these amendments would permit France’s Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts (Arcep) to impose a fine of up to 10% of global revenue. It is still unclear if these laws will pass.

Mass surveillance is counter-productive and ‘endangers human rights’. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). April 21, 2015.

  • This week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) issued a draft resolution about mass surveillance practices. According to the resolution, “Mass surveillance does not appear to have contributed to the prevention of terrorist attacks, contrary to earlier assertions made by senior intelligence officials. Instead, resources that might prevent attacks are diverted to mass surveillance, leaving potentially dangerous persons free to act.” The resolution ends with a call to action, asking the Secretary General to use powers in the European Convention on Human Rights to ask state parties to disclose “how their surveillance activities comply with the Convention’s human rights standards.”

Mitnick, Drew. This week: U.S. Congress tees up five cyber-surveillance proposals. Access. April 21, 2015.

  • This blog post discusses a set of cybersecurity bills that will be sent to the U.S. Congress this week. According to the author, these bills “create brand new privacy-invasive surveillance powers” and would “reward companies that send user information to the government, including the NSA and FBI, without adequately protecting user privacy.” The article issues a call to action, asking readers to visit StopCyberSpying.com to “speak out and urge President Obama to veto these bills.”

Powles, Julia. Can the internet be saved without harming democracy? The Guardian. April 24, 2015.

  • This article covers the recent call for the protection of promotion of human rights online made by the Global Commission on Internet Governance at the Hague. The commission, “affirmed the need for strong encryption and other privacy-enhancing technologies, while completely rejecting government ‘backdoors’ on communications platforms.” The article covers the commissions 18-page report, and provides a positive analysis of the frameworks advanced and survey work completed. The authors add that “to make the content meaningful, there needs to be more consideration given to the premise and proposed mechanisms for action and reform.”

Schechner, Sam. Tech Firms, French Police Ally in Terrorism Fight. Wall Street Journal. April 22, 2015.

  • On Wednesday, the French government and five technology companies reached an agreement to “help speed the removal of extremist content from the Internet, and set up a permanent working group that will meet to discuss further cooperation.” The companies, which included Apple Inc., Twitter Inc. and Microsoft Corp., agreed to simplify the process of removing items that are flagged terrorist content by French authorities, and to help French investigators improve internal software to send judicial requests for user information. The agreement did not address demands by French officials to access encrypted communications or give “French intelligence services the right to demand user data without independent authorization.”

Soman, Sandhya. Net neutrality: Over 1 million emails leave Trai in a spot. The Times of India. April 24, 2015.

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) received over one million emails as part of the ‘savetheinternet’ email campaign. These emails were a response to the concern that Trai “might allow internet service providers to charge netizens discriminatory prices based on the websites and services they use”, violating the principles of net neutrality. The regulatory body is expected to post these responses on its website for counter comment by May 8.

Volz, Dustin. McConnell Introduces Bill to Reauthorize Patriot Act Until 2020. National Journal. April 21, 2015.

  • On Tuesday night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill that “would reauthorize a controversial surveillance authority of the Patriot Act until 2020.” Over the years, the National Security Agency (NSA) used a core provision of the Patriot Act to justify the bulk collection of U.S. phone records. Privacy advocates raised alarm to the reauthorization, and called for meaningful surveillance reforms.

York, Dan. Deadline of April 21 To Make Your Website “Mobile-Friendly” Or Drop In Google Search Results. CircleID. April 19, 2015.

  • In this blog post, York warns of Google’s new policy change in ranking search results. According to Google, on April 21 they will expand their use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. York provides a link to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Page. The author supports this move, because it provides “a very clear incentive for people to finally raise the priority on mobile websites and make them actually happen.”

Willhelm, Alex and Cat Zakrzewski. U.S. Secretary Of Homeland Security Warns About The Dangers Of Pervasive Encryption. TechCrunch. April 21, 2015.

  • At a cybersecurity conference held this week, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson discussed the government’s concern about the increasing availability of encryption technologies. According to Johnson, the “current course, toward deeper and deeper encryption in response to the demands of the marketplace, is one that presents real challenges for those in law enforcement and national security.” Technology companies argue that creating a back or front door for government officials will create entryways for possible bad actors.

Papers and Reports

Jordan, Tim. Information Politics: Liberation and Exploitation in the Digital Society. Pluto Press: April 15, 2015.

  • This book examines “the exploitations both facilitated by, and contested through, increases in information flows; the embedding of information technologies in daily life, and the intersection of network and control protocols.” The author identifies the “sites of struggle” for conflict over information, and situates them “within a field of power and rebellion that is populated by many interwoven social and political conflicts including gender, class and ecology.”

Events

 

Asia Internet Symposium, Seoul 2015. Internet Society. May 7, 2015.

  • The theme of this Internet Society event is “Policy and Technology Prospective on Internet of Things.” The Internet Society’s (ISOC) Asia Internet Symposium Seoul “will bring together leaders from Government, Business, Academia and End user communities to deliberate on technological and policy issues for IoT.” Part of this event will have a specific focus on the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the Republic of Korea.

The Internet as a global public resource. DiploFoundation. April 29-30, 2015.

  • This international conference is being held in Malta at the end of the month by the DiploFoundation with the support of the Government of Malta, and “will initiate a research and policy project aimed at discussing the future developments of the Internet as a global public resource.”

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