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“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.



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)


Lomas, Natasha. “Smile, Your Selfie is a Mugshot for the NSA.” TechCrunch. June 1, 2014. Accessed December 10, 2015. <;

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.

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

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.


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.”

Regional Languages are the Lynchpin to India’s Internet Boom

“India is expected to see an unprecedented boom in the number of Internet users over the next few years but for a host of Internet companies it means a wholesale change in the language in which they engage with their potential new consumers.

According to a November report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IMAI), India is expected to have the second largest Internet user base in the world by the middle of next year with about 460 million users. The numbers have grown by 49 per cent over the past year and about three-quarter of these new users are accessing the net through mobile phones.

Behind these numbers though, is a more interesting trend, namely that the Indian Internet consumer is now a very different individual than he or she was a few years ago.

Smaller Towns
According to an earlier IMAI-BCG report, while 29 per cent of Internet users lived in rural areas; in 2018 approximately half the users will reside in smaller towns and villages and will access the Internet not in English but through local languages.

The anomaly here is that the Internet in India is predominantly English – the English language still accounts for 56 per cent of the content on the worldwide Web, while Indian languages account for less than 0.1 per cent. There is a dearth of good regional language content that the new Indian Internet user can engage with. However, over the next few years this could change rapidly as companies are investing heavily in building up the Indian language Internet.

Google Initiative
According to a spokesperson from Internet giant Google, the company is already looking ahead to the fact that the next 100 or 200 million Indians who come online won’t speak English. “In the last one year alone, Hindi content on the web has grown by about 94 per cent year on year, whereas English content is growing only at 19 per cent year on year,” he explains.

Last year, Google India initiated an Indian Language Internet Alliance, a group of companies who will help push regional language content online. The first set of partners in this alliance included media forms such as ABP News, Network 18 and Jagran Prakashan Ltd. The ILIA currently has 30 partner companies.

According to B.G. Mahesh, founder and MD of, one of the publishers on the ILIA platform, the focus on regional languages is also essential from a marketing perspective. “Once the user base increases it becomes easier for digital companies to convince brands to spend on their platform. Brands are now interested in reaching users across India, especially Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns. What can be a better platform than Internet to reach Tier-2 and Tier-3 users at a far lesser cost than traditional media which is print and TV?” he asks.

Research conducted by various digital companies also supports the view that the character of the Internet in India is rapidly changing. “One measure is how many Facebook shares of say Hindi stories. Our data shows that it is on the same scale as English. We see creating mobile first experience and shareworthy stories for languages as a big opportunity,” says Samir Patil, CEO of Scroll media which runs the website Scroll Media has already introduced, a Hindi site while others, like curated news aggregator InShorts, have also introduced Hindi versions.

Mr Mahesh also points out that it is not content companies alone that to stand to benefit. “All Internet companies stand to benefit by promoting regional languages. Users want to consume content / services in a language they are most comfortable with. Definitely services like railway booking, apparel, electronics can benefit a lot by having their sites in regional languages.” E-tailers like Snapdeal and Shopclues have already taken the lead, rolling out their sites in Hindi and Tamil versions while several others are expected to follow suit.”


Faster Wifi by way of Lightbulbs

BBC reports that Estonian start-up Velmenni recently completed the first real world test of visible light spectrum-based Wi-Fi, cleverly dubbed Li-Fi by Edinburgh University professor Harald Hass after first demonstrating the technology in a 2011 TED talk. After deploying a Li-Fi internet system in a working office, the Velmenni team was able to transmit data at 1 Gbps, roughly 100 times faster than the average Wi-Fi speed. In laboratory test, the Velmenni team says theoretical speeds of 224 Gbps are possible.

Li-Fi’s distribution across the visible light spectrum means that it can only work indoors. The powerful rays of the sun disrupt the signal, a security concern shared by sister light-based technology LiDAR. But within the confines of indoor spaces where the bleed from other light sources can be controlled, Li-Fi’s incredible strength can make it a powerful enhancement to existing Wi-Fi networks.

The technology is already being eyed by airlines for in-flight internet service, where a light-based streaming service would eliminate existing security risks posed by devices sharing the plane’s radio spectrum. The brightly lit, but predominantly interior spaces of airports are another obvious fit for the technology.

Velmenni CEO Deepak Solanki says if all goes according to plan, Li-Fi could very well be deployed across consumer products in just three to four years. Stay tuned!”


The Quantum Dawn Trilogy

A recent test of financial institutions’ ability to handle a series of cyberattacks identified a number of areas where improvement is needed. Companies need to get high-level executives more involved during a major attack, improve communication with government agencies and create response teams composed of representatives from various parts of an individual business, according to an after-action report released by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association on Monday. The report on “Quantum Dawn 3,” conducted by Deloitte Advisory Cyber Risk Services, offered praise for companies’ information sharing, use of established procedures for specific kinds of attacks and relations with organizations like the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Islamic State Teaches Its Soldiers about Encryption

They remind their members to always check “location services” to make sure their phones won’t reveal where they are. They urge them not to use Instagram because it’s owned by Facebook, which “has a bad reputation in the protection of privacy.” And they ask that no one use Dropbox, because former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is part of its board of investors, and Edward “Snowden advised not to use the service.”

These are just a few of the extensive security tips from a 32-page Arabic document that analysts at the Combating Terrorism Center, an independent research group at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, have discovered after about a year of monitoring several known Islamic State online forums. The instructional guide was first published a year ago by a Kuwaiti security firm named Cyberkov to teach journalists and political activists how to protect their indentities and communications. Since then, it has been adopted by members of the Islamic State. The document includes a list of links and descriptions to over 40 consumer products that help secure written and spoken communications on almost every digital platform — the type of thing that would make online security advocates proud.

Militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

In the days following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, an act for which IS has taken credit, it became clear that U.S. intelligence agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to track communication among the terrorist organization’s members. As Yahoo News reported last week, many officials have blamed the group’s adoption of sophisticated encryption software, such as the web browser Tor or the messaging app Telegram, for the inability to identify potential threats. In an October congressional hearing, FBI Director James Comey characterized this concerning new development as the group’s ability to “go dark.”

“With every platform they’ve been using there has been some sort of scrutiny, you saw that very clearly with Twitter as the accounts are regularly suspended,” Laith Alkhouri, director of terrorist activity tracking at deep-Web research firm Flashpoint Partners, told Yahoo News. “Now they’ve shifted to encrypted chatting platforms.”

Since its launch in 2013, IS has been largely known for its gruesome, well-produced videos and pervasive social media presence — efforts that have helped brand it as both a terrifying and innovative terrorist group. But now that the Islamic State has caught the world’s attention, its Web-savvy media operatives have becoming increasingly careful to secure their communications. A member’s ability to encrypt, analysts tell Yahoo News, is an important factor in how the organization values him or her as an operative. As a result, members are learning these tools faster, creating a much bigger problem for intelligence agencies trying to track their communications.

IS’s school of encryption includes a metaphorical 24-hour Jihadi Help Desk, as NBC’s Josh Meyer reported on Monday. Headed by a group of at least five core members with extensive technical training, it acts as a support system for those interested in joining the jihadi movement. Day or night, interested members can connect with the group to ask for help with securing their communications — whether that means changing the location metadata on photos they’ve taken or finding the most secure way to store information in the cloud.

“If you’re planning on going to Iraq or Syria on a flight and you’re looking up plane tickets, it’s probably not a good idea to look it up in the clear,” Aaron F. Brantly, a counterterrorism analyst at the CTC, told Yahoo News. “So [the Help Desk] says, go through the Tor network, use a VPN. If you want to communicate with your brother or sister who is fighting at the front, root [or gain control over the software in] your Android phone.”

For a good number of people who use the hotline, that’s where the tutorial ends. But Brantly says that his team has also identified several high-level members of IS’s media wing, the Al-Hayat Media Center, using the information in these tutorials as a way to spread propaganda more securely. In some cases, Alkhouri reports, group chats on Telegram that are specifically dedicated to propaganda can have up to 16,000 members, and are growing by the thousands every day.

Members of IS also use these platforms while engaging in real-time operations in Iraq or Syria, according to Brantly. But the bar that members must clear to be included in these forums is much higher. After using a Tor Web browser, a fake phone number, a fake email address and fake identity to sign up for an encrypted messaging platform, one is invited into a group chat centered around a specific goal. (For instance, Brantly says he’s spent a year monitoring a Telegram group whose sole purpose is to plan out minor cyberattacks on websites.) But to be fully accepted requires participating in a series of discussions intended to vet your beliefs. These can range from discussion about various religious edicts to terrorist incidents to specific battles. Some of the mainstay moderators of these groups may, at times, ask to chat using Telegram’s one-on-one “secret chat” feature, which uses end-to-end encryption, a process that jumbles the content of a message from both the sending and receiving ends.

“They actually explicitly say these are non-trust-based groups in general, so you have to wait to build that trust up in a non-open-forum sort of situation,” Brantly said. “In a non-help-desky way, if you will.”

In a meta way, IS has employed these chatrooms for discussions about security itself. One Telegram-based forum, populated mostly by men from ages 18 to 35, has spearheaded the conversation on heightening security standards, discussing which consumer products are best for various types of phones or computers. Others discuss how extensive encryption precautions need to be taken for a given piece of information, using encryption rates as substantial as 128-bit or 256-bit — levels that require considerable computing power in order to decode. Brantly says that over time, members of this group distill the wisdom into long instructional packets (like the one included in this piece) or YouTube and Vimeo tutorials.

“I’m certainly seeing more messages from more tech-savvy jihadists urging others to use more secure messaging platforms and to avoid leveraging their information on social media,” Alkhouri said. “Some people are even saying avoid Twitter in general, because that could give out your location, especially for fighters on the ground.”

Though intelligence officials have yet to discover how the attack on France’s capital was organized, it’s clear they had no inkling it would take place. And along with this tragedy, a new revelation about IS has come to light: An organization that was once famous for being everywhere on the Internet has now learned to be in as few traceable places as possible.

“They essentially try to eliminate all the digital breadcrumbs along the way,” Brantly said.


Related link: IS encryption guide

WhatsApp accessed a user’s contacts 23,000 times in one week

Popular instant messaging app WhatsApp has been caught accessing one user’s contacts list over 23,000 times in one week. It remains unclear why the app made so many requests as it looked at the list over 3,300 times a day.

The Next Web’s Ben Woods noticed the hugely excessive number of access attempts this week. The reworked permissions model in Android M Marshmallow allow users to see exactly how many times an app accesses a specific hardware or software feature as part of its more detailed control set.

Most Android apps will request access to some extra permissions when they are installed. They could range from using the microphone and camera to being able to control system functions. More often than not, these permissions must be granted so all the app’s features can run but the prompt at install time provides an easy gate-keeper approach to security.

The system is implemented as an early warning system for anything that looks suspicious. If a simple clock or stopwatch app requests access to your messages and network then that may be a sign that in the background it is doing something rather more sinister than displaying the time.

WhatsApp’s extensive feature list means it requests a lot of Android permissions. They include Wi-Fi information, microphone, camera, media and storage access, the ability to monitor location, messages and phone calls and, importantly in this instance, the privilege to access a user’s contacts.

Most of those permissions are infrequently used. Woods’ screenshot shows location was accessed 26 times during the 7-day period, a reasonable-sounding figure that amounts to around three requests per day while using the app. However, 23,709 reads of his contact list is less explainable, even by WhatsApp itself.

The company didn’t respond to Woods’ “multiple” requests for comment in the past week when asked why its app looked at his contacts 3,387 times a day on average. That’s twice per minute every day, even when the app isn’t open.

It isn’t at all clear why WhatsApp is using the contacts list so frequently. Woods speculates it could be polling the entire list every time the app is opened or a message is received or sent. It could even take another look whenever a contact comes online to cross-reference them with your local list. Even with all of these factors considered, 23,700 requests in a week still seems to be an excessively large number.

The large number of reads are likely to impact on more than just privacy. Each time it takes another look, the phone is having to do work and use up battery power, even when it is locked. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be too great an issue but it all adds up when one app is using one feature 3,300 times a day. Woods notes that rival messaging app Facebook Messenger hasn’t used a single granted permission during the same seven-day period.

Because WhatsApp is a respectable app used by 900 million people worldwide, it can be assumed it isn’t intentionally acting maliciously here. The issue could be caused by a bug that is making it read the contacts list more often than it should but it’s hard to tell when the company has consistently refused to comment on what appears to be a very reasonable question.

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