WELCOME to Connected Rights, your cherry on the cake of digital rights news and analysis.
FIRST THINGS FIRST! As many of you will know, last year I published a book called Control Shift: How Technology Affects You and Your Rights. Well, I’ve now decided to give it away for free, so please go ahead and download a copy!
If you’d really like to buy it, Control Shift is still available on Amazon, as a physical book and (now at the minimum allowable price) as a Kindle ebook. To those of you who have already bought it, my heartfelt thanks.
THE FIVE EYES INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES – those of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – have agreed that techniques must be developed to bypass encryption.
“The inability of intelligence and law enforcement agencies to lawfully access encrypted data and communications poses challenges to law enforcement agencies’ efforts to protect communities,” they said. “Therefore, we agreed to the urgent need for law enforcement to gain targeted access to data.”
If the spies can figure out a way to do this without undermining people’s general security, hey, knock yourselves out. But no-one’s managed that yet.
THE COMMISSIONER OF LONDON’S METROPOLITAN POLICE would like to see the cops gain the ability to access material from Facebook and other social media platforms “within minutes”. Cressida Dick’s words came in the context of a murder investigation where the suspect has slowed things down by withholding his Facebook password.
IN A BRILLIANT DEMONSTRATION OF THE STUPIDITY of online copyright filters, a German music professor uploaded to YouTube public domain recordings of copyright-free music from the likes of Schubert and Wagner. Within minutes, YouTube’s exorbitantly expensive Content ID system – supposedly the gold standard of copyright filters – told him the uploads were violating the composers’ copyright.
The professor launched appeals with Google’s system, but found that “even in cases where my defense to the Content ID claims were successful, the videos were not reverted to this free license, making it much more difficult for others to use and share these digitized works in the way I originally had intended”.
Just the sort of system we want to see foisted on much of the internet by Article 13 of the EU’s proposed Copyright Directive, then!
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HERE’S A GDPR SUIT WITH A DIFFERENCE: The market research giant Nielsen is being sued by some of its shareholders over the impact of the EU’s new privacy law on the platforms that it uses. Nielsen’s shares dropped by over a quarter after it revealed the impact on its business of big data platforms and other analytics providers tightening up access to the consumer data they hold.
The plaintiffs argue that Nielsen misled its shareholders about the likely impact of the GDPR. The firm’s CEO, Mitch Barns, blithely claimed that “we still have the access to all the data that we need for our measurement products including our relationship with Facebook,” only for Nielsen to later admit that “our results are significantly below our expectations as revenues were impacted by GDPR and changes to the consumer data privacy landscape.”
Nanoviolins at the ready…
GOOGLE AND MASTERCARD HAVE BEEN ENGAGED in a cosy and quiet little deal whereby the former buys customer purchase data from the latter, in order to help advertisers link up consumers’ offline activities with the targeting of their online ads. Mastercard never told its customers about the arrangement. Now, how might this fly under the new GDPR rules?
WHY WOULD GOOGLE RETURN TO CHINA? Here’s how John Hennessy, the chairman of Google parent Alphabet, sees it: “The question to ask yourself is, are the Chinese people better off with a limited version of Google, or are they better off with no access at all? And that’s not so clear to me. There’s a shifting set of grounds of how you think about that problem, and how you think about the issue of censorship. The truth is, there are forms of censorship virtually everywhere around the world.”
Yes, I hear you say, that’s a pathetic argument, especially compared with the ethical stance taken by Google (at the urging of co-founder Sergey Brin) when the company stopped playing ball with Chinese censors in 2010. But on the plus side, Hennessy also referred to a potential return “while preserving the goals of the first exit”. Given that Chinese censorship has only gotten worse since 2010, if Google can square that circle, it would be quite a feat.
THE LATEST VICTIM OF CHINA’S “GREAT FIREWALL” is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, whose news website became inaccessible in China a day after the Australian government blocked Huawei from being involved in the Aussie 5G rollout. Seems legit.
THE CHINESE AUTHORITIES HAVE LAUNCHED A SNITCHING PLATFORM to let the public flag up “online rumours” that need stamping out. The system is called Piyao, and it will also serve as a channel for “real” news sourced from state-owned media and government agencies.
If you’d like me to speak about digital rights at your event or provide advice for your business, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LINK BETWEEN FACEBOOK AND RODRIGO DUTERTE’S ABUSIVE PROPAGANDA has been noted before, but Buzzfeed News has a comprehensive new report on the situation. It does not make for pleasant reading.
Here’s the nub of the gist: “If you want to know what happens to a country that has opened itself entirely to Facebook, look to the Philippines. What happened there — what continues to happen there — is both an origin story for the weaponisation of social media and a peek at its dystopian future. It’s a society where, increasingly, the truth no longer matters, propaganda is ubiquitous, and lives are wrecked and people die as a result — half a world away from the Silicon Valley engineers who’d promised to connect their world.”
XIAOMI, THE CHINESE PHONE MAKER, HAS a couple stores in Madrid, and naturally it has its smartphones on display for testing. However, it turns out the Gmail accounts on those test units were those for the stores themselves, and anyone playing with them got to see confidential information on suppliers, employees and customers.
FAMILY ORBIT, A SPYWARE FIRM THAT SELLS ITS TOOLS TO PARENTS, left images of hundreds of monitored children online in a poorly protected state, making it easy for hackers to access them.