WELCOME to Connected Rights, your eye in the needle of digital rights news and analysis.
THE WORLD’S BIGGEST DIGITAL RIGHTS GROUP, THE EFF, HAS RESIGNED from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) over its standardisation of a form of digital rights management (DRM) to control the playback of online video: http://bit.ly/2yl1k6S
The key problem, according to many outraged digital rights activists, is that this is the first time the W3C has greenlit digital locks that will be built into people’s browsers, to control what they can and cannot see in the name of copyright enforcement. The W3C top brass, including web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, rejected a compromise proposal that would at least have allowed security researchers to try finding flaws in the DRM technology so as to keep people safe, without worrying about prosecution.
“Today, the W3C bequeaths a legally unauditable attack-surface to browsers used by billions of people. They give media companies the power to sue or intimidate away those who might re-purpose video for people with disabilities. They side against the archivists who are scrambling to preserve the public record of our era,” thundered author Cory Doctorow, who was the EFF’s representative to the W3C.
SPEAKING OF DRM, printer-maker HP is once again trying to stop its customers from using cartridges that don’t come (at great expense) from HP: http://bit.ly/2fhRm1p
THE “RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN” ISSUE is heading back to the Court of Justice of the European Union, this time to see whether EU regulators have the right to order its application across the world: http://politi.co/2uAMO9y
The French privacy watchdog, CNIL, has a long-running dispute over this with Google. CNIL says the only way for the law to be fully applied is if Google removes the offending links from its service across all its domains, not just in France or the EU. And CNIL is correct, as someone could indeed see the unwanted search result in France if they use a VPN to pretend they’re outside the EU.
But Google is also correct in arguing that this is a crazy over-extension of EU jurisdiction that would stamp all over the rights of people in other countries. If this goes ahead, why should China for example not be able to dictate what information people in Europe can and cannot find about Tiananmen Square?
In the end, this needs to be resolved through the proper consideration of what is proportionate and what is excessive. If a law cannot be perfectly enforced without trying to claim global enforcement, thanks to the internet’s borderless nature, then the only reasonable conclusions are to reconsider the law or to accept that it will have to be imperfectly enforced.
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THE UK GOVERNMENT HAS ASKED WHATSAPP to figure out a way to give British authorities access to people’s encrypted messages. According to Sky News, the Facebook-owned operation said no: http://bit.ly/2xmfxST
This is the sort of access that the authorities will want to get from lots of players, using the rules set out in last year’s Investigatory Powers Act. However, as most readers of this newsletter will know, it is not possible for a provider such as WhatsApp to read the end-to-end-encrypted messages being sent by its users, let alone give a third party a way to read them.
The authorities are asking the impossible – or at least asking WhatsApp to change the whole way its system functions, in order to make its security more permeable. Keep watching; this will be interesting.
DO YOU USE CHINA’S WECHAT MESSAGING APP? The Chinese authorities get to look at most of your activities if you do: http://bit.ly/2xhY2Tz. WhatsApp said no, so the Chinese authorities blocked it…
THERE MAY BE A PROBLEM with storing the searchable biometric details of millions of innocent people’s faces, according to the UK’s “biometrics commissioner”, Paul Wiles. As Wiles pointed out in a report, these details help the cops identify people as they go about their daily lives, and there is no proper oversight to ensure that this power isn’t abused: http://bit.ly/2fhZJuc
CHINESE POLICE ARE USING FACIAL BIOMETRICS to catch naughty cyclists in Shanghai: http://bit.ly/2xPWAJM
DOES APPLE’S NEW BIOMETRIC FUNCTIONALITY respect people’s privacy rights? US senator Al Franken has written to Apple expressing concern over the facial scanning technology that Apple uses in its new iPhone X smartphone, so people can unlock their phone with minimal effort: http://bit.ly/2w70DfV
Apple says the data stays on the device, but Franken wants to know if any third party might be able to access it there nonetheless. He also wants to know where Apple got the facial information it needed to train the system in the first place.
APPLE WANTS TO PROTECT SAFARI USERS from unwanted online tracking, and advertisers are furious. “Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful,” they shrieked: http://bit.ly/2wZyH1z
TWITTER SUSPENDED ALMOST A MILLION TERRORISM-PROMOTING accounts over the last couple years, it said in its most recent transparency report: http://bit.ly/2xbcOME
GOOGLE HAS (UNLIKE MICROSOFT) STOPPED CHALLENGING the ability of US search warrants to demand access to data stored on overseas servers, the Justice Department claims: http://bit.ly/2flEvZ1
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FACEBOOK IS REPORTEDLY MAKING IT DIFFICULT for Rohingya activists to share their stories of the ethnic cleansing taking place in Burma/Myanmar. Very keen to hear what the explanation for this one is: http://thebea.st/2xge8gF
INDIA’S UPCOMING DATA PROTECTION LAW, which it needs to bring in due to its newfound recognition of privacy rights (http://bit.ly/2yd0Mz7), will reportedly be influenced by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): http://bit.ly/2w6zmdE
Lots of countries will be finding their inspiration in the GDPR, firstly because it’s pretty comprehensively thought through, but also because rough equivalence will be required (from the EU side) to ensure the future, unhindered flow of data between those countries and the EU.