France won’t block public Wi-Fi or ban Tor, PM says

Andrii Degeler at Ars Technica UK: Public Wi-Fi networks and Tor won’t be blocked or forbidden in France in the near future, even during a state of emergency, despite the country’s Ministry of Interior reportedly considering it.

Days after the reports on the proposal surfaced in the French newspaper Le Monde, the country’s prime minister Manuel Valls said he had never heard of such requests by police. “A ban on Wi-Fi is not a course of action envisaged,” he added according to The Connexxion.

Valls also said he wasn’t in favour of banning Tor, and denied any knowledge of the police authorities requesting a law to “require [service] providers to give security forces access codes.”

“Internet is a freedom, is an extraordinary means of communication between people, it is a benefit to the economy,” Valls said. “It is also a means for terrorists to communicate and spread their totalitarian ideology. The police must take in all of these aspects to improve their fight against terrorism, but the measures we take must be effective.”

Valls

Unlike the proposal to ban Tor, the idea of closing down public Wi-Fi networks in a state of emergency has some rationale. Police believe it’s easier to track down criminals and terrorists if they use data connections other than shared hotspots on the streets. France’s current state of emergency, which was enacted after the recent attacks in Paris, will persist until at least February 26, 2016.

The problem is that free Wi-Fi also allows civilians to find vital information during an emergency, such as where the nearest shelter is, or if any transportation is running. This may outweigh the perceived benefits of banning the hotspots, although both proposals are extremely hard to enforce regardless.

Giving the authorities a backdoor into virtually any device connected to the Internet has been also widely discussed in the UK over the past few weeks. The Investigative Powers Bill, also known as the Snooper’s Charter, would make it an Internet service provider’s legal duty to keep users’ browsing history for a year. The initiative was met with a wave of criticism from ISPs and industry experts.

Sources:

Ars Technica UK – France won’t block public Wi-Fi or ban Tor, PM says

Wired UK – No, France won’t be banning public Wi-Fi or Tor

UK citizens may soon need licenses to photograph stuff they already own

Glyn Moody at Ars Technica UK: Changes to UK copyright law will soon mean that you may need to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects even if you own them. That’s the result of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which extends the copyright of artistic objects like designer chairs from 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator’s death. In most cases, that will be well over a hundred years after the object was designed. During that period, taking a photo of the item will often require a licence from the copyright owner regardless of who owns the particular object in question.

The UK government is holding a consultation into when this change should enter into force: after a six-month, three-year, or five-year transitional period. An article in The Bookseller puts the starting date as October 2016 without citing a source. In any case, the change is definitely coming, and it’ll likely be quite soon.

Similar to the recent announcement that it is once again illegal to make private copies of music you own, it is unlikely the public will pay much attention to this latest example of copyright being completely out of touch with how people actually use digital technology. But for professionals, the consequences will be serious and not so easily ignored.

Photographers, for example, will need to worry about whether any of the objects in a picture they are taking is covered by copyright, in which case it may be necessary to obtain a licence to include them in the photo. And judging by its comments in the document accompanying the consultation on this issue, the UK government is not very sympathetic to the plight of photographers.

“The Government considers that photographers and image libraries already bear costs for time and administration when assessing whether they need to obtain clearance when photographing other artistic works such as sculptures or paintings.”

Another group likely to be hit by this major copyright extension—publishers of books with pictures of design objects—is also being told to like it or lump it. The Digital Reader spoke with Natalie Kontarsky, associate director for legal and business affairs at the well-known art publisher Thames & Hudson, and she did not mix messages. “The government has actually said ‘you are collateral damage’ in a very sanguine, offhand way. The dark end of the spectrum would be to take books out of circulation and have to pulp. Obviously no one wants to look at that.”

Unfortunately, the alternative isn’t much better. “Licensing images retrospectively is likely to be a very expensive prospect—in terms of actual licence fees to rightsholders, working out who actually owns the rights and the cost of getting picture researchers involved and people like me on the legal side,” Kontarsky told the Reader.

Sources:

Ars Technica UK – You may soon need a licence to take photos of that classic designer chair you bought

The Digital Reader –  Madness: UK Extends Copyright on Photos of Physical Objects, But You Won’t Believe Who Owns That Right 

“Close up” the Internet

“Donald Trump has called for a shutdown of the Internet in certain areas to stop the spread of terror.” In a speech at the U.S.S. Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, Trump referenced the use by ISIS of social media as a recruitment tool. He recommended a discussion with Bill Gates to shut off parts of the Internet.

Trump believes that we’re “losing a lot of people because of the Internet” and that we have to go see a lot of different people, namely Bill Gates, that really understand what’s happening. According to him we have to talk to them about closing that Internet up in some way and that those who cry “freedom of speech” are foolish.

The notion that the Internet could be shut off is not completely off base. North Korea does it. Some countries have been known to shut off Internet service to their citizens in times of crisis. Egypt for example, restricted the Internet during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. China is the most famous example, forbidding most social networking sites as well as websites that deal with subjects the government doesn’t want its citizens to know about.

Most Western countries regulate the Internet very loosely and there are very few restrictions about what American citizens can do and say on the Internet. Child pornography for instance, is a forbidden Internet activity in the United States. Google is barred from linking to it and websites cannot display images of it.

A full-on “closing up” of the Internet in certain areas would be almost impossible. “There are so many players with so much redundancy built into the system, that the Internet is not just something that can be turned off with a wave of a magic wand.” Virtually every part in the United States has multiple Internet service provider options.

Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the other major broadband companies don’t overlap much. Telephone companies like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all provide the same service to roughly the same areas. Satellite companies also provide Internet to most parts of the country. “Removing Internet service in certain areas of the U.S. would require those companies to turn off their cell towers and fiber networks, and to restrict satellite access to people living in those regions.”

Shutting down Internet service in foreign countries could be even more difficult. Although the US works closely with ICANN, they do not control the global Internet. “Servers on foreign soil serve up the Web and other Internet services to people living abroad.” Foreign Internet infrastructure would need to be disrupted or shut down to turn off service, which is already a tricky task. It would become even harder if the countries and companies controlling those servers and cell towers abroad don’t cooperate.

Source: http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/08/technology/donald-trump-internet/

Institutionalizing the ‘Selfie’

In his book The Burden of Representation (1988) John Tagg writes regarding institutional photography,

“A vast and repetitive archive of images is accumulated in which the smallest deviations may be noted, classified and filed. The format varies hardly at all. There are bodies and spaces. The bodies… are taken one by one: isolated in a shallow, contained space; turned full face and subjected to an unreturnable gaze; illuminated, focused, measured, numbered, and named; forced to yield to the minutest scrutiny of gestures and features.” (Tagg 64)

The modern ‘selfie’ has thusly been institutionalized by state powers, with the help of commercial products including social media, to arrive at an antiphonal autopraxis between individuals and the state by which state subjects catalog their own lives, and the state collects that information as evidence. According to documents leaked my Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts “millions” of images per day, around 55,000 of which are defined as “facial recognition quality images.”

“As well as its own in-house facial recognition software, the documents cited in the report note that the NSA also relies on commercially available facial recognition tech, including PittPatt — a company owned by Google — to process the data it is harvesting.”

As facial recognition software reaches human-level accuracy, striving toward super-human accuracy for recognizing individual faces within a crowd, the weaponization of that technology by the state in the interest of producing a certain artifactuality (the making of facts) risks a wholesale subversion of our right to privacy on the Internet. In this system, visualizing oneself with ‘selfies,’ and sharing those images with close friends on social media, adds entries to a state-sponsored retentional apparatus that treats images as facts in the event of criminal intervention. In result, ‘selfies’ become discrete acts of metadata production, by which a surrogate self is held in reserve, made to represent the ‘selfie’ subject in his/her absence.

“The body itself is invested by power relations through which it is situated in a certain ‘political economy’, trained, supervised, tortured if necessary, forced to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. Power is exercised in, and not just on, the social body because, since the eighteenth century, power has taken on a ‘capillary existence’.” (Tagg 71)

References:

Lomas, Natasha. “Smile, Your Selfie is a Mugshot for the NSA.” TechCrunch. June 1, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2015. <http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/01/nsa-facial-recognition/&gt;

Tagg, John. Evidence, Truth and Order: Photographic Evidence and the Growth of the State. In The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. University of Minnesota Press. 1988. Print.

Chubb to offer UK cyberbullying insurance

Marion Dakers at The Telegraph: An insurance company has started offering the first protection from cyber-bullying, claiming to cover the cost of professional help, time off work and even relocation for those who fall prey to online harassment.

Chubb Insurance said wealthy policy holders who buy its personal insurance will be covered for up to £50,000, which could be used to pay for counselling, lost income if they are off work for a week or more, and help from online experts for victims of cyber-bullying and their families.

While the policy is targeted at worried parents, adults who suffer harassment online will also be covered, for example if an internet bullying campaign leads to the victim losing their job or their wrongful arrest.

They may also be able to hire a reputation management team to clean up any online smears, or pay for a digital forensic specialist to trace the abuse.

Chubb said the changes were made in response to “extensive research” about the type of protection its wealthy customers wanted. The company, founded in 1882, sold £612m-worth of insurance in the UK last year, covering high net worth individuals as well as commercial policies.

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One in five teenagers has been the subject of cyber-bullying, according to a recent study by Vodafone. A United Nations report on online abuse aimed at women also highlighted the scale of the problem and called on governments to censor the internet, only permitting providers who “supervise content and its dissemination”.

In the UK, while there is no crime of cyber-bullying, there have been numerous convictions for online harassment, including jail sentences last year for two Twitter users who barraged Caroline Criado-Perez with abuse over her campaign to keep famous women on British banknotes.

Some US insurers have started to offer homeowner insurance that would help the customer if someone in their house is sued for online harassment. However, Chubb’s insurance to support the victims, rather than alleged perpetrators, of cyber-bullying is thought to be the first of its kind.

The insurance industry has been racing to catch up with the risks presented by the online world. While more than 80pc of large businesses suffered a breach of their online systems last year, less than 10pc have any form of cyber insurance, according to the Association of British Insurers.

“Insurers have been monitoring the growth of cyber risk for some time, and recent high profile events mean the general public is becoming much more aware of how they could be affected by hacking, data theft or cyber bullying. Insurers are innovating all the time to offer people and businesses products to help them manage new and existing risks,” said Matt Cullen, the ABI’s head of strategy.

The Cabinet Office has been working with insurers to try and encourage more firms to protect their online businesses, although it has stopped short of giving financial backing, as it has done with the Pool Re vehicle to ensure terrorism insurance is always available.

Sources:

The Telegraph – ‘Troll insurance’ to cover the cost of internet bullying

Intelligent Insurer – Chubb introduces cyber-bullying cover

Participants Discuss Public Access in Libraries at Internet Governance Forum 2015

Source: IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions)

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2015, with the theme ‘Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development,’ took place in João Pessoa, Brazil, from 10-13 November, with 2,400 onsite participants and additional remote participation. The barriers to increasing access to information as identified in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a frequent focus of conversation.

Statement of Principles on Public Access in Libraries

Christina de Castell, Manager, Policy and Advocacy, reported on the work of the Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries (DC-PAL) and presented a statement of principles for feedback. Initial feedback on the principles was positive, and further comments can be provided online until the end of December 2015. Comments are also open on the statements of other Dynamic Coalitions, such as on net neutrality.

Statement of Principles on Public Access in Libraries 

  • Libraries should be recognized as an existing vehicle for ensuring universal internet access and be used when available to initiate infrastructure and connectivity for all.
  • Governments should provide an enabling environment for universal access to information by providing policy and legislation (including allocation of funds where needed) to support the role of libraries in providing public access to ICTs, internet connectivity, related training and access to information and knowledge so that all people can participate fully in society.
  • Libraries should be supported in their role of offering training and skills development for technology, information and media literacy to all.
  • Individuals have the right to privacy when they seek information; internet users in libraries must not be subject to surveillance of their activities.
  • Libraries should be supported in enabling the creation of local content and in promoting and providing online access to local, government and open access content.

Background Info:

The Dynamic Coalition on Public Access in Libraries (DC-PAL) was formed following the 2011 annual meeting of the IGF and is coordinated by IFLA and EIFL. The DC-PAL aims to engage the IGF community in discussion about public access to the internet and the role and potential of libraries. The IGF is a multistakeholder platform that enables the discussion of public policy issues pertaining to the Internet.

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Revealed: FBI can demand web history, phone location data without a warrant

Zack Whittaker at ZDNet: The FBI can compel companies and individuals to turn over vast sums of personal data without a warrant, it has been revealed for the first time.

In a case that’s lasted more than a decade, a court filing released Monday showed how the FBI used secret interpretations to determine the scope of national security letters (NSLs).

Nicholas Merrill, founder of internet provider Calyx Internet Access, who brought the 11-year-old case to court after his company was served a national security letter, won the case earlier this year.

National security letters are almost always bundled with a gag order, preventing Merrill from speaking freely about the letter he received.

While it was known that national security letters can demand customer and user data, it wasn’t known exactly what.

In a statement on Monday, Merrill revealed the FBI has used its authority to force companies and individuals to turn over complete web browsing history; the IP addresses of everyone a person has corresponded with; online purchase information, and also cell-site location information, which he said can be used to turn a person’s phone into a “location tracking device.”

According to a release, the FBI can also force a company to release postal addresses, email addresses, and “any other information which [is] considered to be an electronic communication transactional record.”

Merrill said in remarks: “The FBI has interpreted its NSL authority to encompass the websites we read, the web searches we conduct, the people we contact, and the places we go. This kind of data reveals the most intimate details of our lives, including our political activities, religious affiliations, private relationships, and even our private thoughts and beliefs.”

Federal district judge Victor Marrero described in his decision that the FBI’s position was “extreme and overly broad.”

He also found that the FBI’s overbroad gag order on Mr. Merrill “implicates serious issues, both with respect to the First Amendment and accountability of the government to the people.”

Merrill is the first person who has succeeded in completely lifting a national security letter gag order.

The Patriot Act expanded the reach of national security letters when it was signed into law a month after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

More than ten thousand national security letters are issued by the FBI every year, without a warrant or judicial oversight.

These letters have been surrounded with controversy for years, leading to many unsuccessful attempts to litigate against them. Major companies, including Google, have challenged national security letters, with little luck. Microsoft recently challenged an order, which led to the FBI to withdraw the demand.

In 2008, a US court found the National Security Letter statute, amended by the Patriot Act in 2001, was unconstitutional.

In a separate case in 2013, the gag order provision was found to be in breach of the First Amendment. The government appealed the ruling.

Sources:

ZDNet – Revealed: FBI can demand web history, phone location data without a warrant

Yale – Merrill v. Lynch – Unredacted Decision Vacating Gag Order.pdf

Yale – Merrill v. Lynch – Unredacted Attachment to 2004 NSL.pdf

3.2B People Now Online Globally, Mobile Broadband Overtakes Home Internet Use

Net Neutrality Could Be Challenged On Dec. 4

fcc-net-neutrality-vote

On Dec. 4 a federal appeals court in Washington will hear arguments over the Obama administration’s net neutrality rule. This upcoming hearing may unravel the FCCs 3-2 vote that placed strong net neutrality protections essentially saying internet service providers could not block websites or impose limits on users.

Even though President Obama endorsed what is being called “net neutrality,” broadband providers like Verizon Communications and AT&T filed federal lawsuits causing a Federal Appeals court to strike down the FCC implemented regulations. Since this motion on January 14, 2014 the Obama Administration has worked endlessly alongside the FCC to enact stronger net neutrality rules in February 2015 “so the next Google and the next Facebook can succeed.”

On Friday, Dec. 4 the FCC’s most recent set of rules safeguarding Internet neutrality will be challenged in the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit. The hearing will last for 2-hours and 20-minutes during which time three judges will hear oral arguments before ruling in favor or against the February FCC rule. If the judges are against the ruling it could lead to Internet providers favoring some websites over others for access and speed because they are capable of paying more.

Check out the details for the hearing here and the timeline for net neutrality here.

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Clinton Pledges Broadband for All Americans in $275 Billion Infrastructure Plan

As her State Department emails continue to trickle out, former Secretary of State and 2016 presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has unveiled a five-year, $275 billion infrastructure plan, hinging on a main goal: to expand faster broadband connections to millions of Americans. This goal, among others that aim to improve the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, would bring the United State’s infrastructure and technology up to par with other major nations, including China, she said. “It means giving all American households access to world-class broadband and creating connected ‘smart cities’ with infrastructure that’s part of tomorrow’s Internet of Things,” her plan says. By 2020, she says she’ll bring affordable broadband with “sufficient” speeds to all American households, and with that wider internet access, she’ll push broadband providers to fight for their customers with lower prices.

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This goal is already a stated one among American agencies and legislators. The FCC changed the definition of broadband earlier this year when it raised the minimum download speed needed from 4Mbps to 25Mbps and the minimum upload speed from 1Mbps to 3Mbps. Approximately 20 percent of Americans’ connections do not meet that standard. “High-speed internet access is not a luxury; it is a necessity for equal opportunity and social mobility in a 21st century economy,” Clinton’s plan states. With that in mind, she says her plan will build on the Obama Administration’s efforts to equip public places, including libraries, schools, and mass transit systems, with these high-speed connections.

Her plan also calls for “fostering the evolution from 4G wireless networks to 5G networks and other next-generation systems,” which she calls “essential platforms” that support connected devices, smart factories, and driverless cars. All these investments, she believes, have “enormous potential to drive economic growth and improve people’s lives.”

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