Archive for June, 2009

German Parliament About to Vote on Internet Censorship

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Our German neighbors are about to vote about a controversial legislative package introducing mandatory internet censorship at the network level. Netzpolitik has an excellent overview of the political debate until now. AK-Zensur, the Working Group on Internet Filtering and Censorship, has a comprehensive overview of arguments against the proposals. Germany would be the first EU country to adopt mandatory Internet filtering for Internet access providers. Some ISPs in some other European countries already filter on the basis of black lists provided to them by government agencies and/or private organizations. Here is part of Markus Beckedahl’s account of the action against the proposed censorship:

The net community did not only oppose the governments plans, but also made constructive suggestions how to deal with the problem of child pornography without introducing a censorship architecture and circumcising constitutional freedoms. The working group on censorship demonstrated the alternatives for instance by actually removing over 60 websites containing child pornographic content in 12 hours, simply by emailing the international providers who then removed this content from the net. The sites were identified through the black lists of other countries documented on Wikileaks. This demonstration underlines the protesters main arguments: instead of effectively investing time and efforts to have illegal content removed from the internet, the German government is choosing censorship and blocking – an easy and dangerous way out. The greatest fear of the protesters is that once in place, the infrastructure will be used to censor other forms of unwanted content, not only child pornography. German politicians already seem to be lining up with their wish-list of content to be censored in future – the suggestions ranging form gambling sites, Muslim web pages, “killer games”, and the music industry cheering up with the thought of finally banning pirate bay and p2p.

You can find a detailed linklist of the zensursula-debate here (in german).

French Constitutional Court Strikes Down Core Elements of Hadopi

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

In an important decision the French Constitutional Court has declared the core elements of the proposed three strikes law in France (Hadopi) unconstitutional, considering the freedom of expression and communication, the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy and confidentiality of communications.

This puts further pressure on the Council of Ministers to respect the EP’s adoption of amendment 138, requiring member states to respect the fundamental rights of internet end-users in the context of internet access. The Dutch minister of economic affairs recently wrote a letter to the Dutch parliament, stating the Dutch government did not consider the three strikes strategy to be acceptable. The letter also refers to the new (constitutonally problematic) Dutch notice and takedown code of conduct (my translation):

In the Dutch context, a procedure to deal with end-users with bad intentions is also not necessary, because, partly at the government’s urging, we have adopted a code of conduct on the basis of which internet providers, at the initiative of law enforcement authorities, take action themselves against criminal activity such as child pornography (notice and takedown code of conduct). It will have to be clear that the amendment does not interfere with this code of conduct. The Netherlands wants further clarification of the amendment before it can take a definitive point of view. In particular, it will have to become clear in which cases there should be a prior judicial decision and ion which cases not.

The Dutch government expects the Council to reject the Telecom package as adopted by the EP and the negotiations in third reading to be restricted to amendment 138.

Julie Cohen on the Changing Meaning of `Unauthorized Access`

Monday, June 8th, 2009

This is a really great lecture! Julie Cohen manages to touch upon almost everything I am interested in, in about half an hour.

Panel on the Global Network Initiative

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I ran into this video of a panel on the Global Network Initiative (The video at the source has some useful taps).

Although the positive tone is dominant, there seems to be a little discomfort discussing the initiative and the issues it is seeking to confront, for instance around the issue of working together with law enforcement and answering to subpoenas. Nicole Wong does answer the question about US law enforcement subpoenas, but to say that she is happy about it or deserves compliments for the information she gives would be an overstatement. Google and others should be much more transparent about their interaction with law enforcement in the US and abroad and hopefully GNI will provide the framework do do that. Now their log retention policy FAQ states:

Will governments be able to subpoena server log data after it is anonymized? Will anonymized data still be able to identify an individual user by cookie or IP address?
Google does comply with valid legal process, such as search warrants, court orders, or subpoenas seeking personal information. Logs anonymization does not guarantee that the government will not be able to identify a specific computer or user, but it does add another layer of privacy protection to our users’ data.

Will this policy change make it more difficult for law enforcement to prevent and detect
crime or child exploitation?

No, current laws allow the government to request that companies preserve user data. We regularly comply with such laws.

[...]

How many subpoenas for server log data does Google receive each year?
As a matter of policy, we don’t provide specifics on law enforcement requests to Google.

It’s not generally forbidden to provide these data, so let’s organize them and make them universally accessible and useful. UPDATE: Chris Soghoian issued a FOIA request relating to this kind of information.

The GNI was launched about half a year ago. It’s still looking for an executive director and the webiste does not give any information about the board of directors that is supposed to govern the GNI. In other words, formally, the GNI does not really exist yet. To stay positive, this means that once it really starts to function, much could come out of it.

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