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Motherboard & VICE Are Building a Community Internet Network


The net neutrality battle has been exhausting; it has come at enormous cost in time, energy, attention, and money.

Fundamentally, the net neutrality fight is one where the best possible outcome is preserving the status quo: an internet landscape and connection infrastructure that is dominated by big telecom monopolies. Simply put, the internet is too important to rely on politicians and massive corporations to protect it.

In order to preserve net neutrality and the free and open internet, we must end our reliance on monopolistic corporations and build something fundamentally different: internet infrastructure that is locally owned and operated and is dedicated to serving the people who connect to it. Continue Reading →

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Anonymity defends us Let’s defend anonymity


This post was written by Derechos Digitales and Global Voices’ Advox and Latin America editors. The right to anonymity is at risk now more than ever. As we live more and more of our lives on  the Internet and we interact more and more with digital technology, it becomes easier to identify us and collect information about our habits, preferences, opinions, and even about our bodies. At the same time, a discourse that puts security and anonymity in opposition to one another has forcefully permeated mainstream political narratives, drawing strong associations between anonymity and criminality — it has been portrayed as an enabler of delinquency, terrorism, drug trafficking, child pornography and other extremely serious social ill. And there have been numerous legal attempts to limit our right to reserve our identity. Continue Reading →

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U.S. Bypasses ICANN Debates on Domain Privacy with Closed Room Deals at the OECD and TPP

Today ICANN’s GNSO Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group is discussing the comments that EFF and thousands of others made in response to proposals to clamp down on the availability of privacy proxy services by domain registrants. Those plans could have prevented registrants from using such services to shield their personal information from public view—but the news from the Working Group session on that count is relatively good. It seems that the Working Group will accept that privacy services should remain generally available, including by those who use their domain names commercially. But meanwhile, literally on the same day, the United States is in the middle of a closed-door meeting in Paris that will contradict everything that the ICANN community has painstakingly agreed. At this week’s meeting of the Committee on Consumer Policy of the of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of developed countries), the United States is pushing through language for a new revision of the OECD E-commerce Recommendation that would require domain name registration information to be made publicly available for websites that are promoting or engaged in commercial transactions with consumers. Continue Reading →

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The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t

On July 11, 2000, in one of the more unlikely moments in the history of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch handed the microphone to Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, to hear his thoughts on art in the age of digital reproduction. Ulrich’s primary concern was a new online service called Napster, which had debuted a little more than a year before. As Ulrich explained in his statement, the band began investigating Napster after unreleased versions of one of their songs began playing on radio stations around the country. They discovered that their entire catalog of music was available there for free. Ulrich’s trip to Washington coincided with a lawsuit that Metallica had just filed against Napster — a suit that would ultimately play a role in the company’s bankruptcy filing. Continue Reading →

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The Real Agenda behind Bill C-51

As criticism mounts over the federal government’s controversial new security legislation, Bill C-51, the Conservatives have fallen back on a series of point-form justifications—one of which is that the new law would “Allow CSIS agents to speak with the parents of radicalized youth in order to disrupt terrorist travel plans.”
Certainly, no reasonable person could object to such a policy. But government agents already perform such family interventions under existing legal rules. So why mention this example in official talking points, unless the object is to distract attention from the many areas in which CSIS powers will be expanded in unsettling ways? Under C-51, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service will be allowed to take any action that agency officials believe is reasonable to “reduce . . . threats to the security of Canada,” including (with judicial permission provided after a secret, one-sided hearing) breaking the law and violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The only outer constraint is that CSIS must not inflict bodily harm, obstruct justice, or violate sexual integrity. Such broadly defined powers are very different from merely sending agents to speak “with the parents of radicalized youth.” Moreover, these new provisions will apply to CSIS’s full security mandate, not just anti-terrorism. Continue Reading →

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The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World


Data and Goliath is a book about surveillance, both government and corporate. It’s an exploration in three parts: what’s happening, why it matters, and what to do about it. This is a big and important issue, and one that I’ve been working on for decades now. We’ve been on a headlong path of more and more surveillance, fueled by fear­–of terrorism mostly­–on the government side, and convenience on the corporate side. My goal was to step back and say “wait a minute; does any of this make sense?” I’m proud of the book, and hope it will contribute to the debate.

But there’s a big idea here too, and that’s the balance between group interest and self-interest. Data about us is individually private, and at the same time valuable to all us collectively. How do we decide between the two? If President Obama tells us that we have to sacrifice the privacy of our data to keep our society safe from terrorism, how do we decide if that’s a good trade-off? If Google and Facebook offer us free services in exchange for allowing them to build intimate dossiers on us, how do we know whether to take the deal?

There are a lot of these sorts of deals on offer. Waze gives us real-time traffic information, but does it by collecting the location data of everyone using the service. The medical community wants our detailed health data to perform all sorts of health studies and to get early warning of pandemics. The government wants to know all about you to better deliver social services. Google wants to know everything about you for marketing purposes, but will “pay” you with free search, free e-mail, and the like.

Here’s another one I describe in the book: “Social media researcher Reynol Junco analyzes the study habits of his students. Many textbooks are online, and the textbook websites collect an enormous amount of data about how­–and how often­–students interact with the course material. Junco augments that information with surveillance of his students’ other computer activities. This is incredibly invasive research, but its duration is limited and he is gaining new understanding about how both good and bad students study­–and has developed interventions aimed at improving how students learn. Did the group benefit of this study outweigh the individual privacy interest of the subjects who took part in it?”

Again and again, it’s the same trade-off: individual value versus group value.

I believe this is the fundamental issue of the information age, and solving it means careful thinking about the specific issues and a moral analysis of how they affect our core values.

You can see that in some of the debate today. I know hardened privacy advocates who think it should be a crime for people to withhold their medical data from the pool of information. I know people who are fine with pretty much any corporate surveillance but want to prohibit all government surveillance, and others who advocate the exact opposite.

When possible, we need to figure out how to get the best of both: how to design systems that make use of our data collectively to benefit society as a whole, while at the same time protecting people individually.

The world isn’t waiting; decisions about surveillance are being made for us­–often in secret. If we don’t figure this out for ourselves, others will decide what they want to do with us and our data. And we don’t want that. I say: “We don’t want the FBI and NSA to secretly decide what levels of government surveillance are the default on our cell phones; we want Congress to decide matters like these in an open and public debate. We don’t want the governments of China and Russia to decide what censorship capabilities are built into the Internet; we want an international standards body to make those decisions. We don’t want Facebook to decide the extent of privacy we enjoy amongst our friends; we want to decide for ourselves.” Continue Reading →

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Surveillance: The Fightback Begins – Please Join

Things have gone rather quiet on the Snowden leaks front recently, prompting some to wonder whether we have now heard all the really shocking stories. That’s been denied a few times by people in the know, who suggested that there was, indeed, more big stuff to come. And some of it turned up yesterday:
American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. It’s one of the longest, most-detailed stories that The Intercept has published so far, and is well-worth reading in its entirety. What it shows is that GCHQ and the NSA really do want access to everything, and that they are prepared to do more or less anything to get that. Continue Reading →

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Death to Pandora? A guide to the looming music copyright war

By Peter Weber
The Week

There’s a big, contentious battle brewing in Washington and you might not even know about it. But you should, especially if you like music. Congress is looking at a complete overhaul of U.S. copyright law, and the most divisive issue involves money and music. The Justice Department also announced in June that it is revisiting a 70-year-old consent decree with the two organizations that collect and distribute songwriting royalties: ASCAP and BMI. The smart money is on something in the music business changing in the near future. Continue Reading →

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The Web We Want: Could Canada Lead on a Digital Bill of Rights?

By Michael GeistThe Toronto Star This week marked the 25th anniversary of the drafting of Tim Berners-Lee’s proposal to combine hypertext with the Internet that would later become the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee used the occasion to call for the creation of a global online “Magna Carta” to protect the rights of Internet users around the world. (more…) Continue Reading →

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