Archive | January, 2015

EU ministers dodge issues about a free and open Internet

This week EU justice and home affairs ministers met in Riga. Associated Press reports…

Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters in Riga that the EU needs to deepen cooperation with the Internet industry “and to strengthen the commitment of social media platforms in order to reduce illegal content online.” (…)

“We are now taking this cooperation further by deepening dialogue … in order to develop concrete, workable solutions,” Avramopoulos said.

So, basically they repeat what they said at their emergency “look as if you know what you are doing” meeting in Paris.

But what does it mean? It’s totally unclear. So, the ministers are dropping the ball in the lap of their national leaders at the next EU summit. Who, probably will pass it on to the EU-US security summit in February. Maybe the US security apparatus will have an idea or two…

Much is at stake: A free and open Internet. Freedom of speech. Religious freedom.

We might have reached a point where politicians have run out of symbolic political gestures. If so, it’s dangerous. Now, all they have left is going after our human and civil rights.



International Bullshit Day

Today (January 28) is Data Protection Day (Europe) or Data Privacy Day (US and Canada).

From Wikipedia…

Data Privacy Day’s educational initiative originally focused on raising awareness among businesses as well as users about the importance of protecting the privacy of their personal information online, particularly in the context of social networking. The educational focus has expanded over the past four years to include families, consumers and businesses. In addition to its educational initiative, Data Privacy Day promotes events and activities that stimulate the development of technology tools that promote individual control over personally identifiable information; encourage compliance with privacy laws and regulations; and create dialogues among stakeholders interested in advancing data protection and privacy. The international celebration offers many opportunities for collaboration among governments, industry, academia, nonprofits, privacy professionals and educators.

Splendid! Or..?

Let’s follow the money. Among participating organisations and corporate supporters are: FTC, FCC, FBI, New York State Attorney General Office, UK Information Commissioner, Microsoft and Verizon.

Yeah, right!

The core question when it comes data protection / privacy is: Who is the owner of your personal data? Is it you? Or someone else?

The EU is in the process of hammering-out new data protection laws. In this work US government and corporate lobbyists, as well as most EU member states are working hard to take away your control over your personal data.

They paint one image. But the do the opposite.

So–IMHO–Data Protection Day / Data Privacy Day is mostly astroturf.

If you really want to celebrate January 28 – you should support European Digital Rights (EDRi) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).



Hacking politics

A free and open internet, copyright reform, mass surveillance, data protection and civil rights are all issues where the rules are decided in politics. But politics is not always a fair and open democratic process. And change do not always has to be initiated from within the traditional political system.

Former Pirate Party member of the European Parliament (MEP) Amelia Andersdotter this weekend delivered a piece over at TorrentFreak: Pirate Party MEP Fails to Deliver True Copyright Reform »

Here she criticises newly elected German Pirate MEP Julia Reda for her report on EU copyright reform. Andersdotter writes “De facto, Julia Reda is more conservative than the European Commission, and this is a massive problem for representative democracy.”

In defence of Reda, one could say that she has written a report (not legislation) that the European Parliament might be able to accept. This report, written by some other MEP, probably would have been right out damaging. Reda has picked the fights she might be able to win.

But that still leave us with the problem that there might be no real copyright reform in the EU, if left to the EU institutions. Which brings me back to my thesis that you need external pressure in combination with inside political initiatives to change things. To get toothpaste out, you have to apply pressure to both sides of the tube.

I have worked with internet related issues inside the European Parliament. Before that I was an activist outside the EU institutions. Frankly I cannot say when I had the best possibility to influence, to change things. Inside you have resources, not available to activists. But outside you are a voice from reality, of the people–that most politicians will have difficulties to ignore. (Especially if you manage to involve the media.)

Inside the political system you have a choice between different strategies.

You can burry yourself in details. That ought to be a reasonable approach. But in reality you will find yourself in a never ending flood of paper. To do this you need vast resources when it comes to time, manpower and expertise.

The other inside strategy is simply being there. To offer others your perspective, to ask the hard questions, to lead media in the right direction, to be a visionary and a crusader with a cause. For small political organisations, with small resources–this might be the easier way to go.

One, two, twenty or no internet friendly MEP:s or MP:s–most of us will still be outside the parliamentary and political system. But we can make a difference. We are the ones who shape public opinion. We are civil society. We can make politicians jump. To do so, we just have to take action.


Pirate Party MEP Fails to Deliver True Copyright Reform »
Christian Engström: Political Activism (Pirate Visions) »


Google, Wikileaks and the U.S. Government

The Independent (UK) reports…

Google handed over emails and data belonging to WikiLeaks and was unable to tell the group that it had done so for three years. (…)

The data requests are thought to be related to an ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks, launched in 2010. It is related to the publication of hundreds of thousands of US government secrets tand cables that were provided by Chelsea Manning.

Link: Google secretly handed over WikiLeaks emails and personal data to US government »


EU to give Google monopoly on linking to news articles?

After Spanish and German newspapers unsuccessfully tried to get Google to pay for publishing snippets of text from articles when linking to them–the EU might be picking up the idea.

In Spain and Germany Google simply stopped linking, resulting in the newspapers quickly withdrawing their claims. But in Spain there has since been a discussion about forcing Google to link–and to pay for doing so.

Now European newspaper publishers seems to have hooked the European Commission on the same idea.

The concept is plain stupid. It fails to understand the dynamic of linking on the net. It would distress the very nerve system of the Web.

And it would stop inovation and new entrepreneurs dead in the tracks.

Google might be able to pay newspaper publishers, if forced. At the same time that would give Google a de facto monopoly on linking to newspaper articles. No new or small companies would have the economic muscles to do the same.

This is yet another issue that we need to watch, closely.


Update, here we go…


Riga Council meeting: EU to step up War on Terror

UK Prime Minister David Cameron as well as EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove have floated the idea that governments should be able to access all our communications–including encrypted information.

This would not only have privacy implications. The practical effects and problems would be monumental.

A ban on encryption is only one of many ideas and suggestions that will be on the agenda at the EU justice and home affairs ministers meeting in Riga next week.

PC World reports…

Next week’s EU ministerial meeting will be an informal one behind closed doors, where no formal decisions will be made. The ministers will discuss broadly how to implement all the counter terrorism measures that have been discussed in the last month, the Commission official said, adding that in addition to De Kerchove’s advice, ministers will also take into account suggestions made by the Commission and EU member states.

The fact that this is an “informal” meeting is cause for vigilance. This way the ministers can initiate projects and proposals under the radar.

Closed doors will also be a perfect opportunity for them to discuss how to “harmonize” EU and U.S. antiterror legislation. (In preparation for the EU and U.S. security summit in February.)

All eyes on Riga, next Thursday.



Barrett Brown sentenced today: 63 months in prison

After a month long delay, today U.S. journalist Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison. He should be released in the spring of 2017.

This is a disappointment as there where hopes that he would be released today, after time served.

Barret Brown is the journalist who used material obtained by the Anonymous network to start an investigative project about outsourcing of U.S. intelligence operations to private contractors: Project PM.

He was supposed to be sentenced back in December last year, but there was a delay until today. Here you can read the blog post I wrote about the case back then.

And here you can read the speech Brown gave in court today.

This is not the rule of law, Your Honor, it is the rule of Law Enforcement, and it is very dangerous.

This is a very disturbing affair–with far reaching implications for journalism and transparency. It is a part of a pattern where the U.S. Government is hunting down journalists, to prevent them from exposing the truth.



After receiving his sentence Barrett Brown released the following statement:

“Good news! — The U.S. government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex. For the next 35 months, I’ll be provided with free food, clothes, and housing as I seek to expose wrongdgoing by Bureau of Prisons officials and staff and otherwise report on news and culture in the world’s greatest prison system. I want to thank the Department of Justice for having put so much time and energy into advocating on my behalf; rather than holding a grudge against me for the two years of work I put into in bringing attention to a DOJ-linked campaign to harass and discredit journalists like Glenn Greenwald, the agency instead labored tirelessly to ensure that I received this very prestigious assignment. — Wish me luck!”


GCHQ: Journalists are a threat to security

Some newly released documents from the Snowden-files indicates that British GCHQ targets journalists. It starts with journalists communications being trawled in during a wider operation in 2008. The Guardian reports…

Emails from the BBC, Reuters, the Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde, the Sun, NBC and the Washington Post were saved by GCHQ and shared on the agency’s intranet as part of a test exercise by the signals intelligence agency.

But this is not only done in connection with wider operations. Journalists are being specifically targeted.

New evidence from other UK intelligence documents revealed by Snowden also shows that a GCHQ information security assessment listed “investigative journalists” as a threat in a hierarchy alongside terrorists or hackers.

One restricted document intended for those in army intelligence warned that “journalists and reporters representing all types of news media represent a potential threat to security”.

In a democratic society, the press has an important role to scrutinize what is going on in politics and in the administration. Media freedom is important if we want a reasonably correct picture of current events, for journalists to be truly investigative–and for all of us to be able to properly analyse what our elected representatives are up to.

So, what can we conclude from government surveillance of the media?

The obvious answer is that politicians (and bureaucrats) do not want to be held accountable for their actions. They want to be able to conduct secret policies in the shadows. They fear the truth.

But we cannot have that in a democratic society. If we are not allowed to know what the political ruling class and their little helpers are up to–elections becomes pointless.


The Guardian: GCHQ captured emails of journalists from top international media »