The GovLab SCAN – Issue 75

This is our 75th 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:

  • The U.S. House of Representatives voted to end the National Security Agency (NSA) practice of bulk phone data collection. The future of this practice  will now be determined by the Senate, sometime before June 1 when the related provision of the Patriot Act is set to expire
  • In Bangladesh, extremists murdered Ananta Bijoy Das, the third blogger to be murdered in the country this year
  • China’s State Council announced that China will speed up the development of its broadband network and that telecommunications firms must increase urban broadband speeds by 40% while also cutting prices

Latest Developments

Burney, Derek and Fen Osler Hampson. Data collection should be based on principles of necessity. The Globe and Mail. May 11, 2015.

  • This article discusses data collection by security and intelligence officials, stating that “governments must recognize that they too have a responsibility to respect the privacy of their citizens online and uphold the rule of law.” Thus, Burney and Hampson argue that “data collection should be based on the principles of necessity and proportionality.” The authors state that public officials should not stand in the way of new forms of encryption and privacy-enhancing solutions, as these will “help restore public trust and confidence in the Internet.”

Chapman, Glenn. ICANN sees privatization of Internet management soon. Yahoo News. May 14, 2015.

  • This week, ICANN head Fadi Chehade expressed this confidence that the IANA functions will be transitioned out of the U.S. government’s control by the end of the year. According to Chehade, “the necessary components for a new stewardship scheme are accounted for and there will be ‘major legitimizing endorsements’ from several countries in coming weeks.” The transition has faced heavy criticism and questioning from lawmakers in Washington D.C., but Chehade maintains that he welcomes the scrutiny so that the organization stays “on top of their game.”

China reveals ambitious broadband plan. BBC. May 14, 2015.

  • This week, China’s State Council announced that China will speed up the development of its broadband network, stating that “speeding up the construction of information infrastructure will boost investment and support” as well as help “mass innovation.” According to Premier Li Keqiang, China’s internet service speeds rank “below 80th in the world due to underdeveloped information infrastructure” and that telecommunications firms must increase urban broadband speeds by 40% while also cutting prices.

Farrell, Paul. US Calls on Nauru to lift restrictions on Facebook and other social media sites. The Guardian. May 15, 2015.

  • On Thursday, the US State Department issued a warning after determining that the Nauruan government restricted access to Facebook, making it “difficult for asylum seekers held in the Australian detention centre to communicate with people outside the centre.” The Nauruan government also recently introduced a law that would jail political opponents and asylum seekers for up to 7 years. According to officials, the ban is necessary to “prevent the community from ‘sexual perverts’ and restrict access to pornography”. In wake of public criticism, Nauruan President Baron Waqa, has asked the international community to respect the decisions of Nauru as a sovereign state.

Lardinois, Frederic. Mozilla Launches A New Firefox Version Without DRM Support. TechCrunch. May 12, 2015.

  • Mozilla has officially launched a new default version of Firefox with HTML5 DRM support, following their announcement last year that they would implement these specifications into the browser. This built-in DRM solution means that the browser will automatically download the Adobe Content Decryption Module (CDM), allowing “users to watch content from Netflix and similar services without having to deal with plug-ins like Microsoft’s Silverlight, which is on its way out, and Adobe’s Flash.” However, there is a “clash between the closed-source DRM solution and the free and open Firefox browsers — and Mozilla’s mission in general”, and Mozilla has also launched a separate CDM-free version of Firefox.

Lately, Dale. The Rise of the Digital Walled Gardens. Slate. May 12, 2015.

  • This article points out that despite Facebook’s large user base, “the social-networking future may turn out to be somewhat less linear as website-based platforms give way to more adaptive mobile technology.” There is a proliferation of extremely popular messaging apps, and also a shift towards anonymity, such as the app Whisper. Moreover, many users may not want a “single open identity” through one dominant social network; for example, demonstrators in Hong Kong’s protests last year used mesh networking through the Firechat app. Thus, despite Facebook’s expanding user base, the future is likely to be “a stew of giant networks, messaging apps, and “antisocial” platforms—dominated as much by Shanghai as by Silicon Valley.”

Mankotia Singh, Anandita and Deepali Gupta. ISPs express their inability to ban on Uber, Ola apps. The Times of India.

  • This week, the Indian Telecom Department requested that Indian Internet service providers block the URLs for four websites: Uber, Ola cabs, TaxiForSure, and angelbroking.com. However, the ISPs are “perplexed by the new directive” and have expressed their inability to ban https sites Uber and Ola, stating that “we can only block http sites and not the https sites as the latter have higher encryption codes.” The Telecom Department has tried blocked these sites itself but was “unable to do so because of the strong encryption code.”

Netizen Report: Are Blogger Assassinations Becoming Routine in Bangladesh? Global Voices. May 14, 2015.

  • This week, a third blogger was murdered in Bangladesh. Ananta Bijoy Das, a science writer and blogger, was killed in Sylhet, and Al-Qaida has claimed responsibility for the murder. Two other writers who advocated secular thought, Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy, were killed earlier this year and judicial authorities are reviewing their cases. The Netizen report points out that “All three bloggers’ names appeared on a list of 84 bloggers deemed atheist or blasphemous that Islamic hardliners submitted to the government in 2013” and that “the question on many bloggers’ minds now is: Who is next?”

Peters, Sara. What Does China-Russia ‘No Hack’ Pact Mean For US? InformationWeek. May 11, 2015.

  • This article discusses the pact signed by Russia and China last week to not launch cyberattacks against each other and “jointly counteract technology that may ‘destabilize the internal political and socio-economic atmosphere,’ ‘disturb public order’ or ‘interfere with the internal affairs of the state.’” However, according to the article, experts agree “that the countries don’t actually have any intention of ceasing their cyberespionage campaigns against each other.”

Rosenbush, Steve. Google’s Vint Cerf Warns Against Fragmentation of the Internet. The Wall Street Journal. May 14, 2015.

  • At this week’s Conference on Internet Governance and Cybersecurity held at Columbia University, Vint Cerf opened this session with a warning “that political and technological forces” could lead to fragmentation that would threaten “foundation of the Internet’s value.” As an example, Cerf pointed to the ongoing tension in Europe, where governments are imposing limits on search. According to Cerf this is evidence that “the calls for ‘multi-stakeholder’ approaches to Internet governance  can be at odds with the free-wheeling regimes emanating from of the U.S.” The event which concluded on Friday, touched on a number of pressing issues , including the future of Internet freedom, privacy, and cyber-security.

Snowden says Australia watching its citizens ‘all the time,’ slams new metadata laws. RT. May 11, 2015.

  • In a talk via satellite link at the Progress 2015 conference in Melbourne, Edward Snowden criticized the new metadata laws passed by the Australian government last month. He stated that the government and intelligence officials have undertaken mass surveillance of its citizens and are collecting information “that they can then search through not only locally, not only in Australia, but they can then share this with foreign intelligences services.” He also raised the concern that journalists are particularly vulnerable to the new laws, since “you can immediately see who journalists are contacting, from which you can derive who their sources are.”

Steinhauer, Jennifer. House Votes to End N.S.A.’s Bulk Phone Data Collection. The New York Times. May 13, 2015.

  • On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives strongly “approved legislation to end the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records”. Now, all eyes are on the Senate and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch supporter of the NSA program as is. According to the author, the House’s near unanimity is not reflected in the Senate, and “a compromise of some form must be reached before June 1, when the provision of the Patriot Act that allows the N.S.A. dragnet expires.”

Papers and Reports

Kruger, Lennard G. The Future of Internet Governance: Should the U.S. Relinquish Its Authority Over ICANN? Congressional Research Service. May 05, 2015.

  • This paper addresses the IANA transition, including a background of the role of the US government, the NTIA intent to transition stewardship of the DNS, the multistakeholder process to develop a transition proposal, and the role of Congress in the IANA transition. According to the paper, the two key issues for Congress are whether the NTIA should relinquish its authority, and whether there will be “sufficient accountability checks on ICANN and the DNS” in the absence of the NTIA’s stewardship. The author states that “the future of how ICANN and the DNS will be governed is highly relevant to the broader question of how the Internet should be governed.”

Universal Implementation Guide for the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance. Access. May 2015.

  • This Implementation Guide by Access provides information on how to apply the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance, “a framework for assessing human rights obligations and duties in the commission of communications surveillance.” The guide comprises five main sections: government application for information, judicial consideration, the search, appeals and remedies, and international cooperation.

Events

Africa Internet Summit (AIS). May 24 – June 05, 2015.

  • This summit in Tunisia is the third AIS and “a platform where key Internet-related development issues faced by Africa are discussed.” Remote participation includes live webcasts and dedicated chat channels to ask questions or make comments.

Middle East and Adjoining Countries School on Internet Governance (MEAC-SIG). ICANN. May 25-29, 2015

  • This event in Tunisia will span five days and will comprise courses and sessions ”covering a broad range of issues from technical to policy aspects of Internet Governance.” The objective is to “help individuals from the MEAC region to better understand the global and regional Internet Governance issues, settings and processes while gaining access to comprehensive and structured knowledge on the various aspects of Internet Governance, and the actors, issues and settings surrounding it.”

 

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