Archive | June, 2016

Snowden: Norway gives no guarantees

Norway can issue no guarantee that Edward Snowden will not be extradited to the US, should he visit the country. This a Norwegian court decided Monday. The court argues that such guarantees can not be given when it comes to someone who is not presently inside the country.

In other words: Go to Norway first. Then we will see what happens.

This is hardly reassuring, as Norway is a Nato member with close ties to the US.

It is notable that the Norwegian court does not seem to subscribe to the general human rights principle that no one should be extradited for political “crimes”.

Why Norway? Reuters:

Snowden was granted asylum in Russia, which borders Norway, in 2013. He had been invited to Norway to receive a freedom of speech award from the local branch of writers’ group PEN International, but worried that he would be handed over to the United States, his lawyers have said.

Business as usual. No western democracy is willing to offer Snowden refuge.

At the same time, western politicians and intelligence mandarins are trying to use the fact that Snowden is staying in Russia to discredit him – thus creating an absurd example of circular reasoning.

It is not just about Snowden. As long as this goes on, our political leaders clearly demonstrate that they side with the forces of mass surveillance – not with the people.

And they get away with it, as nobody seems to care.


Reuters: Norwegian court rejects Edward Snowden lawsuit on free passage »


Pardon for Snowden?

“We’re going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists.”

The implicit point is that if Snowden is going to come home, his best chance is a presidential pardon, which is unlikely to come from Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. The final days of Obama’s final term are the best chance Snowden has, which gives Wizner and his team a little more than six months to make their case.

The Verge: President Obama should pardon Edward Snowden before leaving office »


Free the books!

The copyright protection term in the EU is currently 70 years after the author’s death. Several international agreements regulating copyright (such as Berne Convention and TRIPS agreement) suggest a significantly shorter protection term.

It is arguable how long copyright protection for authors, decades after their death, helps fostering economic growth. Most books go out of print within one year from their initial publication, and the same applies to music and films. The vast majority of works are not profitable for much longer. When it isn’t financially beneficial for the rights holders to print new editions of old books, but they are still under copyright protection, nobody else can publish them either. Because of this, many cultural works end up simply disappearing.

EDRi: Excessive copyright protection term killing creativity and access to culture »


Possible new developments in the Sweden vs. Assange case

There might be a new attempt by Swedish prosecutors to interview Wikileaks editor in chief Julian Assange.

Assange has been stuck in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than four years – seeking refuge after the UK legal system decided that he should be extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted to be heard about alleged sex crimes.

The reason Assange gives for not wanting to go to Sweden is that he suspect Swedish authorities might extradite him to the U.S. – where a grand jury is looking into the Wikileaks publication of sensitive and embarrassing leaked embassy cables and war diaries. (You should keep in mind that whistleblower Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in U.S. prison for handing this material over to Wikileaks.)

For years Swedish prosecutors refused to go to London to interview Assange at all. Then, for some years now, the question has been in administrative limbo. (Swedish authorities have sent requests with terms that they knew could not be accepted by Ecuador. And they have sent requests with so short a notice that an interview has been impossible to arrange.)

It’s a mess. And the Swedish allegations about sexual misconduct are very thin. Assange hasn’t even been formally charged. This is all about interviewing him.

I would not be surprised if this new attempt to interview Assange also fails. The case against Assange is so thin that it will probably be dropped altogether after another interview. But U.S., British and Swedish authorities seems to be content with having Assange locked up in a small South American embassy in London – where his freedom of action is rather restricted.


The Guardian: Sweden asks to meet Julian Assange inside Ecuador embassy »


European Parliament in new attempt to introduce web blocking

Tomorrow the Europeans Parliaments civil liberties (LIBE) committee will vote on new EU regulation to combat terrorism.

In the committee, German MEP Monika Hohlmeier (EPP) has introduced an amendment stating that member states “may take all necessary measures to remove or to block access to web pages publicly inciting to commit terrorist offences”.

EP LIBE meeting documents »

In a comment in Ars Technica, EDRi says…

“This leaves the door wide open for private companies to police content and very likely over-block or delete any content they are unsure about,” EDRi (European Digital Rights) head Joe McNamee told Ars. He added that European law requires that any blocking or content restriction measures “must be provided for by law, subject to initial judicial control and periodic review.”

If adopted in the LIBE committee, this proposal will be voted in plenary, probably as soon as 4-7 July.

Jennifer Baker in Ars Technica: Web content blocking squeezed into draft EU anti-terrorism law »

EDRi: Terrorism and internet blocking – is this the most ridiculous amendment ever? »




Meanwhile, in Poland….

In response to the Polish government’s new counter-terrorism and surveillance laws, which allow authorities to block websites and telecommunications, limit the freedom of assembly, and allow secret surveillance of virtually the whole population, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Granting open-ended powers to intelligence agencies to counter terrorism at the cost of every citizen’s privacy and freedom marks a clear abuse of power by the government,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president. “The government seems determined to allow police and intelligence agencies to monitor all personal data and all communications without needing to establish the existence of any actual threat, a disturbing step toward removing checks and balances on government action.”

Via Techdirt »


The DAO: When Blockchain technology outsmarts itself

Blockchain technology has gained interest far outside the Bitcoin society. Today e.g. banks, financial institutions and keepers of public records show an active interest – as the technology builds on an underlying ledger that cannot be manipulated.

Meanwhile in the Blockchain community people have developed several virtual currencies. One of them is Ethereum. Wikipedia explains…

“Ethereum is a public blockchain platform with programmable transaction functionality. It provides a decentralized virtual machine that can execute peer-to-peer contracts using a cryptocurrency called Ether.”

And out of the Etherum project came concepts like DAO, standing for Distributed / Decentralized autonomous organization. Back to Wikipedia

The DAO is a digital decentralized autonomous organization and a form of investor-directed venture capital fund.

The DAO has an objective to provide a new decentralized business model for organizing both commercial and non-profit enterprises. It has been instantiated on the Ethereum blockchain, and has no conventional management structure or board of directors. The code of the DAO is open-source.

The DAO is stateless, and is not tied to any particular nation state. As a result, many questions of how government regulators will deal with a stateless fund have not yet been dealt with.

The DAO was crowdfunded via a token sale in May 2016. It set the record for the largest crowdfunding campaign in history.

Brilliant, really. And extremely interesting.

Then came the “Sorry Dave, I cannot do that” moment. Wikipedia…

In June 2016, it was revealed that hackers had exploited a vulnerability in the DAO code to enable them to siphon off perhaps as much as $50million in funds from the DAO. Stephen Tual, COO of, the company that had worked on the development of the DAO, announced that they were working with the Ethereum Foundation to modify the underlying protocol to freeze the accounts of the hackers, and also said that the DAO would be wound up as a result.

Some say the DAO was hacked. Others claim the money was stolen. But apparently someone just seems to have taken advantage of the rules inscribed in the code, initiating a fork.

Now, it becomes very technical. If you are interested in the details, I suggest you read this piece by Bloomberg View columnist Matt Levine: Blockchain Company’s Smart Contracts Were Dumb »

It will be interesting to see what happens now – if The Dao irreversible code is to be confronted with some relevant jurisdiction’s law, in court. Or if there will be a rollback, a back-dated hard fork in the ledger.

Blockchain technology is still very young and there is a lot of learning by doing. And learning the hard way.

If you inscribe functions to code that cannot be changed there are both great opportunities and risks. You need to be proactive, to foresee future problems and developments – and to refrain from functions that can be misused.

Smart contracts cannot save stupid people.

Let’s hope that people have learned from this experience for the future. Blockchain is still a great, smart concept. Ethereum is still very interesting. And, in a wider perspective, DAO is a brilliant idea. I hope it will not be derailed by this temporary bump in the road.

It’s all in the code, stupid.


Updates: Wired » | IBT »


Silicon Valley on mass surveillance: Enough is enough

Washington Post:

Like many Silicon Valley start-ups, Larry Gadea’s company collects heaps of sensitive data from his customers.

Recently, he decided to do something with that data trove that was long considered unthinkable: He is getting rid of it.

The reason? Gadea fears that one day the FBI might do to him what it did to Apple in their recent legal battle: demand that he give the agency access to his encrypted data. Rather than make what he considers a Faustian bargain, he’s building a system that he hopes will avoid the situation entirely.

WP: What’s driving Silicon Valley to become ‘radicalized’ »


Corporatism vs. free speech

Politics should stick to lawmaking. Companies should stick to making business.

When the two mix, the result is usually damaging. Politicians lose their focus on principles, their mandate from the voters and the public good. Companies who lobby for subsidies and (often competition reducing) special laws will find themselves worse of in the long run, as they detach from the realities of the market.

Nevertheless, politicians and businessmen are often involved in mutual back-scratching.

Lately, the political EU-apparatus and big data companies have ganged up to curb free speech. The EU, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Microsoft have decided on a mutual approach to keep back hate speech and religious radicalisation on the net.

In other words, the EU encourages private companies to censor statements on the Internet that the politicians do not approve of.

If you are to limit free speech at all — the rules must be clearly set out in law. If there should be any censorship at all — it must be decided in a court of law, in accordance with the laws. And if anyone is being censored — there must be a possibility to appeal the decision.

All these three principles are being thrown out in the EU-Big Data agreement.

And there is nothing you can do about it. Having signed e.g. various social networks terms and conditions, you have essentially given up your rights.

From a political point of view, the EU is acting in a deceptive way. When there are no legal means to censor voices they would like to silence – they turn to private companies to do what they themselves cannot accomplish. (It’s just like when US authorities had PayPal, credit card companies, and the banks to throttle the stream of donations to Wikileaks.)

The EU is short-circuiting the rule of law and democracy itself – in order to curb the people’s civil rights.

This is totally unacceptable.



CoE on blocking of Internet content and rule of law

EDRi reports…

Several European countries lack clear legal provisions and transparent procedures when it comes to blocking and removal of online content. A comparative study published by the Council of Europe stresses that any restriction on the right to freedom of expression must be provided for by law, be proportionate and follow legitimate objectives. Blocking should only be a measure of last resort and applied with great caution. Furthermore, if a state endorses voluntary blocking measures by private companies, the authors of the study ascribe full responsibility to the state for not placing such a system on a legislative basis, accepting insufficient judicial review and the possibility of overblocking.

EDRi: CoE study: Blocking content has to respect fundamental rights »

Council of Europe: Filtering, blocking and take-down of illegal content on the Internet »