The GovLab SCAN – Issue 78

This is our 78th edition of The SCAN – Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance. Feel free to share your suggestions with us at [email protected].

Samantha Grassle also contributed to this post.


  • A new briefing by Amnesty International and Privacy International lays out a 7-point plan for the post-Snowden revelations era, with recommendations for legal and policy reform, corporate due diligence, and international standards
  • The Paraguayan Senate defeated a mandatory data retention bill that would have compelled local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months
  • Last Sunday night, the provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct a bulk data collection program expired. The future of the program will be decided this week by the Senate

Latest Developments

Bogado, David and Katitza Rodriguez. Victory: Turning the Tide Against Online Spying in Paraguay. Electronic Frontier Foundation. June 4, 2015.

  • In this blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation boasts of a recent victory in Paraguay, where the Senate “defeated a mandatory data retention bill that would have compelled local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months.” The bill was introduced last year, and through a coordinated campaign by EFF, TEDIC and Amnesty Paraguay, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously rejected it in March, and the Senate decided to do the same this week. According to the authors at EFF, this is an “extraordinary victory for privacy and an important first step in the right direction.”

Brown, Pamela. Patriot Act provisions have expired: What happens now? CNN Politics. June 1, 2015.

  • On Sunday night, the Senate allowed provisions of the Patriot Act to expire, temporarily ending the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program. According to Brown, the Senate is expected to restore the provisions by mid week, and there are some exceptions, including the fact that the FBI and NSA “are allowed to continue using Section 215 and the roving wiretap provision in investigations they began before the June 1 expiration date.” The article concludes with some facts about surveillance, including that independent experts have all found that these areas of the Patriot Act have not been effective in combating terrorism.

Finley, Klint. New Facebook feature shows actual respect for your privacy. Wired. June 1, 2015.

  • Facebook is launching new privacy features “to enable users to use the encryption standard OpenPGP to protect e-mail notifications sent by the company, and to share their public encryption keys with their friends or with the public.” Privacy advocates are seeing this as an important step forward, and other companies are also making similar efforts. Facebook also added support for anonymous browser Tor last year, Whatsapp has introduced an encryption system, and Google and Yahoo are developing an encryption system for web mail.  These tools will improve the overall security of Facebook, by protecting users’ credentials and messages. According to security researcher Eleanor Saitta, “Things like Tor and PGP are not just useful for high-risk users. They actually build a better internet for everyone.”

Google investigations continue, says EU’s Margrethe Vestager. BBC. June 2, 2015.

  • This week, the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager stated that the commission will continue to investigate Google over a number of complaints, including “the copying of third party content.” She is beginning her investigations around Google’s shopping service, saying that “it was just prudent to take one of the first areas in which there was complaints, and then of course to refresh the case when it comes to the data. In terms of legal action against companies, she said the commission could take companies to court but if “the best thing is to settle [out of court], then we will settle.”

Millions of US government workers hit by data breach. BBC. June 5, 2015.

  • Nearly four million US government workers have been affected by a major personal data breach. According to The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), past and current employees have been affected and the breach could span all federal agencies. The OPM made an “aggressive effort” to update its cybersecurity in April, during which it became aware of the breach. US officials suspect Chinese hackers to be behind the breach, while Beijing has denied official involvement. Susan Collins of the Senate Intelligence Committee has said that the breach is “yet another indication of a foreign power probing successfully and focusing on what appears to be data that would identify people with security clearances.”

Mullin, Joe. Internet privacy lawsuits, once all the rage, fizzle out. ArsTechnica. June 2, 2015.

  • According to a report in The Recorder, Internet privacy lawsuits have gone down drastically over the past 5 years. In 2010, the number of privacy lawsuits against Apple, Google, or Facebook happened at a rate of about 29 per year. In 2015, only one case has been filed so far (against Facebook.) This field is still unclear on legal precedent, but later this year the Supreme Court will hear Spokeo v. Robins, which will determine “whether plaintiffs can sue if they can’t demonstrate any concrete harms.”

Shields, Todd. FCC to Allow Cable Companies to Raise Rates Without Local Approval. Bloomberg. June 3, 2015.

  • According to this new change, cable companies will not need approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to escape local rates. Now, companies will only need to deal with local jurisdictions. According to an FCC spokesperson, this policy change is  “a common-sense update for today’s video marketplace to reduce regulatory burdens on all cable operators — large and small.” Although the National Cable & Telecommunications Association says that this move isn’t a threat to competition, consumer advocates and politicians are concerned that this will lead to “unnecessary regulatory benefits to large cable companies”, higher rates for consumers, and fewer channels.

Snowden, Edward. Edward Snowden: The World Says No to Surveillance. The New York Times. June 4, 2015.

  • In this op-ed, Edward Snowden highlights the major policy and technology changes that have occurred since he leaked information related to US mass surveillance two years ago.  Snowden argues that an informed public has pressured policymakers to turn against the N.S.A’s call tracking-program and end mass surveillance as was allowed under the Patriot Act. This movement is happening globally, including in Latin America with Marco Civil, new anti-surveillance laws in Europe, and the United Nations’ recent declaration that mass surveillance is a human rights violation. Additionally, technologists around the world have developed security methods like encryption to protect privacy. While Snowden argues that we must remain vigilant, he is optimistic that the balance of power has shifted, concluding, “as a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects.

Swanson, Bret. The IoT needs more wireless spectrum. ComputerWorld. June 3, 2015.

  • According to the author, the emerging Internet of Things will drive “the next big acceleration in the volume of connected devices.” Over the next decade, an estimated 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, and this will require much more spectrum than is available today. Swanson argues that readers should be suspect of smaller firms recent arguments that Washington should set-aside spectrum for them to boost competition. He concludes, “ a real auction is the surest route to achieving that 500 MHz objective — and launching the next waves of mobile innovation.”

Tufekci, Zeynep. Mark Zuckerberg, Let Me Pay for Facebook. The New York Times. June 4, 2015.

  • In this article, Zeynep Tufekci examines the fact that “ad-financed Internet platforms aren’t free, and the price they extract in terms of privacy and control is getting only costlier.” She suggests that “Internet sites should allow their users to be the customers” by allowing them to pay a certain amount per month to not be tracked and for encryption upgrades. Contrary to the perception that users will not pay for Internet services, she argues that “With growing awareness of the privacy cost of ads, this may well change.” According to Tufekci, micropayment systems may be the way forward, which would “allow users to spend a few cents here and there, not be so easily tracked by all the Big Brothers, and even allow personalization were developed in the early days of the Internet.”

York, Jillian C. The illusion of a borderless Internet. The Atlantic. June 03, 2015.

  • In this piece, Jillian York, the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, discusses the “myth of a borderless Internet”, stating that “Given the global nature of the Internet, corporate giants like Google and Microsoft are forced to define borders, often contending with demands from governments.” Similarly, social-media companies can define boundaries in other ways besides maps, such as search results. York stresses that there is a lack of transparency with regards to how these decisions are made, and “many often fail to notice the lack of neutrality with which these companies actually operate.”

Papers and Reports

Bauer, Johannes M. and William H. Dutton. The New Cybersecurity Agenda: Economic and Social Challenges to a Secure Internet. Available on SSRN. June 4, 2015.

  • This joint working paper for the Oxford Global Cybersecurity Project and the Quello Center “focuses on key economic and social factors underpinning worldwide issues around cybersecurity and, identifies a new agenda for addressing these issues that is being shaped by the Internet and related information and communication technologies, such as social media.” The authors state that cybersecurity is a “not merely an engineering and computer science problem, but also an economic and behavioral challenge” and thus “It is critical that economists and other social and behavioral scientists engage in this area and address the practices of a wider range of actors in local and global arenas who need strategies that provide feasible and practical steps for securing the Internet and the incentives and mindsets to take them.”

Danaher, Brett, Smith, Michael D., and Rahul Telang. The Effect of Piracy Website Blocking on Consumer Behavior. Available on SSRN. May 29, 2015.

  • This study examines “how consumer behavior changes when Internet Service Providers are required to block access to major piracy websites.” The researchers found that blocking a popular piracy website, The Pirate Bay, “had little impact on consumption through legal channels” and users either found alternative sites or ways to circumvent the block. According to the paper, these results “suggest that website blocking requires persistent blocking of a number of piracy sites in order to effectively migrate pirates to legal channels.”

Two Years After Snowden: protecting human rights in an age of mass surveillance. Amnesty International. June 4, 2015.

  • This briefing “presents an overview of the information that has come to light in the past two years about mass surveillance programmes run by the UK, US and other governments, as well as the key legal, policy and technological developments relating to mass surveillance and the right to privacy during this period.” The briefing includes recommendations in the form of a 7-point plan that calls for legal and policy reform, corporate due diligence, and international standards.


(Also see The GovLab’s Curation of Eight Internet Governance Calendars for more past and upcoming events)

ICANN53. ICANN. June 21-25, 2015.

  • ICANN’s 53rd meeting will “provide the opportunity for an internationally diverse group of individuals and organizations to come together and discuss and develop policies for the Internet’s naming systems.” There are many options for remote participation, including video and audio streaming, scribing, chat, remote interventions, and transcripts.

INET Colombo. Internet Society. June 8-9, 2015.

  • INET Colombo “will recognize the pioneers who brought networking to Sri Lanka, and developed it over the past 20 years. The event will bring together bring together over 300 participants from the Government agencies, Internet service providers, mobile operators, academic institution, banks, ICT entrepreneurs, commercial companies and general public.” The event will also be webcast.

Privacy & Innovation: In Pursuit of Right Incentives. Law and Technology Centre at the University of Hong Kong. June 8-9, 2015.

  • This conference will assemble a group of scholars, civil society members and industry leaders from Europe, Canada, the United States and Hong Kong to reflect upon pressing privacy and innovation questions. Registration information can be found here.

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