WELCOME to Connected Rights, your fly in the ointment of digital rights news and analysis.

MICROSOFT HAS BEEN FIGHTING THE US AUTHORITIES since last year over the issue of gag orders, and it seems to have won: http://for.tn/2yNjBwq

The company was irked that the authorities routinely told it to keep its mouth shut when they wanted to rifle through someone’s emails in an investigation. It wanted to be able to inform its users that their stuff, held on Microsoft’s “cloud” servers, was being searched. And now, except where secrecy really is necessary, it seems it will be able to do so. The justice department changed its policy on these gag orders last week, so Microsoft is winding down its lawsuit against the government.

This is a victory for the company (which is also fighting the government in a separate case involving emails stored overseas; see last week’s Connected Rights: http://bit.ly/2y2NXam), but also for the US Constitution. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to ensure that people know when their stuff is being searched or seized, and the First Amendment is supposed to let Microsoft tell people things.

FACEBOOK HAS TO ANSWER TO GERMAN LAW ON PRIVACY, the advocate-general of the Court of Justice of the European Union has said. Yves Bot said in an official CJEU opinion that the social network doesn’t get to claim it’s only answerable to courts in Ireland, where its EU headquarters are located. This is a non-binding opinion, though the CJEU usually follows its advocates-general’s opinions.

The specific case concerns Wirtschaftsakademie, an education firm that was told by a German data protection authority to deactivate its Facebook fan page, on the basis that neither the firm nor Facebook properly informed visitors to that page that their data would be collected and processed.

First off, Bot said Wirtschaftsakademie was jointly responsible with Facebook for the data collection. Second, he said the whole thing fell into German jurisdiction. Facebook has for years been trying to argue in various EU cases that it’s only answerable to the Irish authorities. Bot said that, when it comes to what happens in Germany, the German regulator can tell both Facebook Ireland and the US-based mothership what they can and can’t do.

The final decision will come in mid-2018-ish.

FACEBOOK, MICROSOFT, ALPHABET (GOOGLE) AND a ton of other companies, also including data brokers like Acxiom, have been warning investors that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation may force them to change their businesses and/or hurt their bottom line. This was spotted by data protection guru Pat Walshe: http://bit.ly/2yKo2s6

13,000 TWITTER BOTS PUMPED OUT THOUSANDS OF BREXIT messages ahead of last year’s referendum, before disappearing. Most (though not all) were in favour of Brexit, according to researchers: http://bit.ly/2gYF7EH

When Buzzfeed asked the Nigel Farage-associated Leave.EU lot about this, it got an extraordinary reply: http://bzfd.it/2y4hmWs

Over in the US, Twitter has promised to clearly label electioneering ads as such, in the interests of transparency – and, of course, warding off threatened legislation. Not that this would cover ads to do with a referendum, though Twitter is also making vague noises about doing something to demarcate “issue-based ads”: http://bit.ly/2iyjcYw. However, how useful would that be when the bots are posing as regular people, not politicians?

Meanwhile, the head of the UK Parliament’s fake news inquiry has asked Facebook to hand over information about the activity of Russia-linked accounts in the run-up to the referendum. Facebook, of course, handed over similar information to US legislators regarding the 2016 election campaign: http://bit.ly/2zBnn9b

Want to support this newsletter? If so, thanks so much! Here’s my Patreon page. Many thanks to those who are already contributing.

THE PIRATE PARTY GOT MORE THAN 10 PERCENT OF THE VOTES in last weekend’s Czech elections, giving them 22 members of parliament. The digital-rights-centric party won’t go into coalition with Andrej Babiš’s populist ANO 2011, and therefore may become the country’s official opposition – a first for a Pirate Party: http://bit.ly/2yKpSa6

CAMEROON IS YET AGAIN DISRUPTING internet access in restive Anglophone regions, despite promising not to: http://bit.ly/2z4cGA0

WILL THE EU’S NEW EPRIVACY REGULATION MESS UP the “internet of things” industry? According to one lawyer I spoke to, it will, at least according to the proposed draft: http://bit.ly/2y222JK

This is a tough one, as the legislation is clearly needed, and there’s a heck of a lot of scaremongering going on about it (see http://bit.ly/2zy38Ki). However, it does need to be good legislation, otherwise it could have unintended consequences. Yes, there are huge privacy problems with the internet of things, and it would be good if the new regulation could fix them, but the industry does need to know, for example, how “raw data” falls into the definitions included in the text. Clarity, please!

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION WON’T BAN ENCRYPTION but it does want to help law enforcement agencies break it. I’ll leave it to my former colleagues at Politico to explain that one: http://politi.co/2y1SPBl

WILL MICROPAYMENTS SAVE ONLINE PUBLISHERS? That’s a long-running question and so far the answer has been “no”, but attempts to turn that around continue to appear. Here’s my piece on the relaunch of Flattr, now owned by Adblock Plus proprietor Eyeo: http://zd.net/2yIRLzt

And here’s a screenshot of Google’s new “ad removal pass” for reading articles on sites, without having to see their ads: http://bit.ly/2iyGqh9. If enough publishers join this program, maybe enough users will pay to read stuff again? Time will tell.

In the meantime, here’s a good read from Mary Hamilton, a departing Guardian exec, on the problems facing publishers who are overly in thrall to the web giants: http://bit.ly/2hTjHIY. A great quote from her piece: “If someone else’s algorithm change could kill your traffic and/or your business model, then you’re already dead. Google and Facebook are never going to subsidise news providers directly, and nor should they. Stop waiting for someone to make it go back to the way it was before.”

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 david@dmeyer.eu.

SAUDI ARABIA HAS APPOINTED its (and surely the world’s) first minister for artificial intelligence: http://bit.ly/2yVfbV7

INTEL HAS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GOVERNMENTS ON THE ISSUE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: http://intel.ly/2gysxLC. Included you will find the immortal and entirely altruistic phrase, “Liberate Data Responsibly.” Right before “Rethink Privacy”…

DO WE HAVE A RIGHT TO OBSCURITY and is it fundamental to democracy? Here’s an interesting piece about that question, and the ways in which facial recognition technologies are threating that supposed right: http://bit.ly/2yBSu5v

WHAT ARE THE SECURITY AND PRIVACY IMPLICATIONS OF AUGMENTED REALITY? Not a question I’ve ever considered, to be honest, but someone has: http://bit.ly/2zlgl8z

IN LAST WEEK’S CONNECTED RIGHTS, I noted that some were reporting data company Dracore was responsible for a horrendous data breach affecting tens of millions of South Africans. It now looks like the culprit was real-estate company Jigsaw Holdings. Here’s an article about the implications of the breach: http://bit.ly/2gAdC3J

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