WELCOME to Connected Rights, your frog in the throat of digital rights news and analysis.
DREAMHOST IS CLAIMING VICTORY IN ITS FIGHT AGAINST DONALD TRUMP’S justice department (see http://bit.ly/2wxGtQn). The hosting provider for DisruptJ20.org has received its final court order for information about the site, and it allows DreamHost to redact all identifying information and protect the identities of users who interacted with it: http://bit.ly/2hAuCXK
Recap: DisruptJ20 was a group that organised protests in Washington, DC on the day of Trump’s inauguration. A couple hundred people were arrested during riots on that day and the justice department initially tried to get details about everyone who visited the site. It’s also trying to get data from Facebook about DisruptJ20 organisers and the group’s fans on the social network: http://bit.ly/2wLKIny.
“The government… does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost’s website and discover the identity of, or access communications by, individuals not participating in alleged criminal activity, particularly those persons who were engaging in protected First Amendment activities,” chief judge Robert Morin said in his order, issued Tuesday.
Now let’s see if the same applies to the Facebook case.
THE US TREASURY’S INTELLIGENCE DIVISION HAS “repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies,” according to a Buzzfeed exposé: http://bzfd.it/2ytwFb8
THE US SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE has introduced yet another attempt to green-light the mass surveillance of Americans, this time in the form of the – and all alarm bells may ring at once here – “USA Liberty Act”: http://bit.ly/2ktmdKd
The legislation would reauthorise Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows spying on foreigners, while also codifying in law one of FISA’s chief abuses: the fact that data scooped up with this mass online surveillance can also relate to Americans. The USA Liberty Act would allow domestic law enforcement agencies to look at this data with a court order, and at metadata with little more than supervisory authority.
Want to support this newsletter? If so, I bow to you and direct you towards my Patreon page. Many thanks to those who are already contributing!
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION IS GUILTY OF “MAGICAL THINKING” in the way it assumed algorithms can effectively police online platforms for unlawfully-uploaded content, according to Daphne Keller of Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society: http://stanford.io/2yX29T6
As Keller wrote: “The Commission’s faith in machines or algorithms as arbiters of fundamental rights is not shared by technical experts… In principle, filters are supposed to detect when one piece of content – an image or a song, for example – is a duplicate of another. In practice, they sometimes can’t even do that. More fundamentally, when content that is illegal in one context appears in a new one, they don’t understand the difference.”
ALMOST HALF OF 5,000 CHILDREN SURVEYED IN THE UK said they would like to see greater privacy in social media. Digital Awareness UK and the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) commissioned the survey to study attitudes towards social media, and found 49 percent want more privacy, 71 percent want less advertising and 61 percent want less fake news. http://bit.ly/2xWnSv0
A whopping 63 percent said they wouldn’t mind if social media had never been invented, and 71 percent said they had taken “temporary digital detoxes”. Over half said “social media made them feel less confident about how they look or how interesting their life is”.
EBAY FOUNDER PIERRE OMIDYAR IS ALSO NOT A FAN of how social media turned out, as he explained in this Washington Post op-ed: http://wapo.st/2fY2Jsk
“For all the ways this technology brings us together, the monetisation and manipulation of information is swiftly tearing us apart,” he wrote. “From foreign interference in our elections to targeted campaigns designed to confuse and divide on important social issues, groups looking for an effective way to infiltrate and influence our democracy have found generous hosts in the world of social media.”
IT’S NOT JUST SOCIAL MEDIA THOUGH – Google has also admitted that Russia operatives may have bought ads across its many properties to interfere with the 2016 election: http://wapo.st/2y4J58p
The core issue here is targeted advertising, which is the backbone of today’s online business models. As long as it continues to be this, with dumb algorithms providing the only scrutiny of what’s going up, manipulation and division will be inherently supported.
IS IT OK FOR TELCOS TO PROVIDE certain services – but not others – without charging for the data they use? In an important application of the EU’s new(ish) net neutrality laws, the German telecoms regulator has said this practise of “zero rating” is fine in principle: http://zd.net/2g0K7YK
The devil is in the details, though. Deutsche Telekom has an offer called StreamOn that doesn’t charge users for streaming media from providers that have chosen to partner with Telekom. This is essentially permissible, the Bundesnetzagentur said, though Telekom must stop degrading the quality of the video it offers people on certain packages – a net neutrality violation.
The watchdog also told Telekom to let its customers get their streaming music and video while roaming elsewhere in the EU, without suddenly charging for it. This is thanks to the new roaming rules that were contained in the same package as the net neutrality rules.
That law doesn’t explicitly mention zero rating, which is why the Bundesnetzagentur is allowing Telekom to use such a tactic. It’s going to be a long while before the law evolves again, so there’s plenty of time to observe how such offering work out in practise – and in particularly, whether they disadvantage consumers or certain service providers.
OH, AND THE DUTCH REGULATORS HAVE DECIDED the same thing, again regarding T-Mobile (Telekom’s local brand). Digital rights activists at Bits of Freedom are getting ready to fight: http://bit.ly/2y8gT4z
If you’d like me to write articles for you about digital rights issues, speak at your event or provide privacy advice for your business, drop me an email at email@example.com.
WHEN EQUIFAX SAID THE RECORDS OF 400,000 British people were caught up in its mega-breach, oops, it meant 15.2 million people: http://bit.ly/2gb0rd2
REMEMBER THAT MATTEL CHILD-MONITOR that got privacy advocates so agitated (see last week’s CR: http://bit.ly/2wLKIny)? Well, the outcry worked. Mattel has scrapped its plans for the “Aristotle” monitor, which would have tracked babies through to adolescence: http://bit.ly/2xmJ14q
WANT TO BLOCK ADS IN YOUR BROWSER? If Adblock Plus is your tool of choice, do make sure you download the genuine article: http://engt.co/2wKAkwC
IN THE LATEST EDITION OF “HOW BROKEN WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR INTERNET OF THINGS?”, a woman bought a cheap webcam and then some random person whispered to her through it: “Bonjour madame.” http://bit.ly/2xXYrco