The Information Program works to increase access to knowledge and protect civil liberties in the digital environment. The following is a roundup of news and analysis that the program team has been watching in the past week. This week’s top story is the Indian government’s decision to hold talks with key stakeholders on internet censorship.
You can keep up to date on the latest stories to catch the Information Program team’s attention on our Pinboard page.
India: Government to hold talks with stakeholders on Internet censorship
Following its recent response to growing ethnic unrest, which included the blocking of websites and network–level restrictions on mass SMS, the Indian government “has agreed to initiate dialogue on internet censorship with mega internet companies, social media giants such as Google and Facebook, members of civil society, technical community, media, ISPs and legal experts”, the Hindu reports. The Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) provides detailed analysis of the blocks that took place, their legality, and the increasing national debate surrounding the government’s decision to act as it did.
The Hindu | CIS
Czech Republic: Extortionists suspected of using covert mobile surveillance tech
Slate reports on revelations from a senior police chief in the Czech Republic that unauthorized use of “IMSI catchers”—sophisticated computer hardware that collects information about mobile phones and their users and can track and intercept phones and calls—has been detected “across the country”. The police suspect the hardware may be being used for corporate espionage or criminal extortion. “The use of the technology by police—let alone criminals—is controversial."
Apple rejects app that tracks US drone strikes
Wired reports on the Apple App Store’s decision to reject an app that can notify users each time a US drone strike occurs. The app, which draws its content from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ongoing project to map America’s increasing use of drones for targeted assassinations, was rejected on the basis that its content is “objectionable and crude.” As Alex Madrigal writes in the Atlantic, the move highlights how Apple’s control of the smartphone market threatens the free flow of information.
Wired | Atlantic
Donations rise for WikiLeaks to post Trans–Pacific Partnership text
IP Watch reports that nearly $25,000 has been collected to hand over to WikiLeaks if it leaks the text of the Trans–Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a controversial and secretive multilateral treaty currently under negotiation that is thought to contain provisions that threaten privacy and free speech online and reduce access to medicines in the developing world.
Kenya: Blogger in court over airline safety post
Kenya’s Daily Nations reports on the case of blogger and journalist Dennis Itumbi, who has been charged with intercepting data without consent and publishing depraving electronic material, after he revealed emails between executives at Jetlink airlines that raised serious safety concerns.
The Economist reports on the RoboLaw project, a research project launched earlier this year to consider the legal and ethical issues raised by developments in robotics: “Is a prosthetic legally part of your body? When is it appropriate to amputate a limb and replace it with a robotic one? What are the legal rights of a person with ‘locked in’ syndrome who communicates via a brain–computer interface? Do brain implants and body-enhancement devices require changes to the definition of disability?”
New from CDT: ITU Resource Centre
Ahead of a controversial meeting of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) this December, where new proposals that have an impact on who governs the internet are scheduled to be discussed, the Campaign for Democracy and Technology (CDT) have launched its ITU resource center, aimed at providing documents, analysis and calls to action for advocates and activists.
Report: An overview of the patent trolls debate
The US Congressional Research Center have produced a new study on so–called “patent trolls”, companies whose business model “focuses not on developing or commercializing patented inventions but on buying and asserting patents.” The report details the various factors that have led to their ascendance and the cost they pose to innovation.
A knight in digital armor
The Economist profiles OSF fellow and security researcher Chris Soghoian: “With a series of... exploits that have exposed security flaws and privacy violations, he has demonstrated his ability to hack the media with just as much facility as he manipulates computers."
I am Barack Obama, Ask Me Anything
In the run–up to the U.S. election, President Barack Obama has ventured into the influential online community Reddit, participating in what is known there as an “AMA” (“Ask Me Anything”), where community members submit and vote on questions which are then answered (or ignored) by a prominent or interesting figure. The resulting discussion is as interesting for the questions the President ignored as for the answers he did give.