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Netizen Report: Subpoena Edition

Oil barrel in Ecuador, Amazon Mycorenewal Project, by newmy51 on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This report was researched, written, and edited by Alex Laverty, Weiping Li, Renata Avila, Sarah Myers, and Rebecca MacKinnon.

Chevron has sought data through U.S. courts from Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft email accounts of lawyers and other individuals involved with an $18 billion court case against the company in Ecuador. The legal action is taking place in a California federal court, the spillover of legal battles in Ecuador that has pitted the California-based multinational energy corporation against indigenous Amazonian Indians. The subpoenas are part of a larger effort  by Chevron to discredit the February 2011 ruling in Ecuador, which found Chevron responsible for polluting the Ecuadorian jungle. Chevron contends that the lawyers for plaintiffs used fraud and misconduct to achieve the judgment and that the subpoena will allow the gathering of data from email accounts that would give evidence to this effect.

A total of 101 people, some only indirectly connected to the case, have had their email accounts targeted by the subpoena. Any digital interaction with the plaintiffs’ lawyer seems to be a condition for inclusion in the subpoena. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google have provided notices to their users about the request for information, with Melbourne-based law professor and blogger Kevin Jon Hellmer detailing his experience. Last week CNet reported that Google has asked the court to deny Chevron's request for immediate disclosure, arguing it's “simply unreasonable to demand that Google collect, review, and produce this volume of information in less than 30 days.” Chevron subsequently agreed to more time.

Censorship

Twitter has blocked a neo-Nazi account to users in Germany upon request from German authorities, because its content is illegal in Germany. The account remains visible elsewhere. Here is the announcement by Twitter General Counsel Alex MacGillivray and here is the text of the German order, posted at Chillingeffects.org.

In an ongoing crackdown, Uzbekistan’s state monopoly telecommunications operator Uztelecom has blocked proxy servers which enable the nation’s Internet users to access websites blocked by the government. According to Uznews, currently the company has only blocked servers that contain the keyword “proxy,” but soon it will expand the list to include more servers.

About 10,000 people, many of them Muslims, protested outside Google’s London headquarters, demanding the company take down the controversial anti-Islam movie trailer “The Innocence of Muslims.” Another protest march is expected to take place in Hyde Park in coming weeks.

Also in a reaction to the video, Saudi Arabia's government said at the World Telecommunications Policy Forum, an occasion where members of International Telecommunication Union exchange views on telecommunication policy, that there should be more international cooperation to “address ‘freedom of expression’ which clearly disregards public order.”

There are growing concerns among tech-savvy Syrians that the government will shut down the Internet.

Palestinians in Gaza are concerned that Hamas could extend an online porn ban to political websites.

Greatfire.org has released a new search tool Free Weibo through which users can conduct anonymous and uncensored searches for messages on the popular Chinese microblog Sina Weibo, even including messages that have been deleted by censors.

Recently the online community Reddit, a longtime supporter of free speech, faced a dilemma over whether to block links to articles on the blogs Jezebel and Gawker that reveal the true identity of a Reddit user. Some volunteer moderators even asked to ban links to other Gawker pages. The Reddit staff initially banned the links site-wide, but then lifted the ban and let moderators decide whether to restrict access in their subreddits.

Privacy

Apple’s new iOS 6 includes features that track user information for advertising purposes. Although an opt out feature is included, Apple has faced criticism for making the op-out feature difficult to turn on.

European Union regulators have given Google three to four months to clarify the company's new privacy policy, which was the product of Google’s decision earlier this year to consolidate all of the different privacy policies across its many platforms into one policy. Google’s privacy policy does not allow for an opt-out, which is required under EU law. The French data protection commissioner, the CNIL, issued a press release criticizing the policy for “incomplete information and uncontrolled combination of data across services.”

A law in Slovakia that compels telecommunication and ISP companies to monitor the communications of all users, including those not suspected of any crimes, has been challenged in court by members of Slovakia’s parliament.

Cybersecurity

The New Zealand Ministry of Social Development suffered a major data breach after it failed to prevent users from accessing the ministry’s entire network as well as other department data via a PC internet kiosk for job seekers.

The majority of 27,900 IP attacks that affected 7.8 million computers in China come from the United States, according to China’s National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team.

National Policy

Prompted by a recent case in which a teenager in the United Kingdom has been sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for making offensive jokes, as well as an increase in arrests resulting from  irritating online messages, the British director of public prosecutions is considering encouraging social media companies to become more involved in moderating their own websites.

Copyright

The Derivative Work Concern Group in Hong Kong has condemned actions taken by YouTube that led to the deletion of an authorized derivative song that commemorated the victims of a recent ship crash. Google responded that it was acting on the content owner’s policy of deleting matched content on YouTube.

Sovereigns of Cyberspace

Apple has removed a free map application that uses Google data from its App store. The application had some features resembling Apple’s previous maps app, which was replaced with the launch of iOS6.

Following an antitrust investigation into Google’s business practices, the US Federal Trade Commission has drafted a memo suggesting the government sue Google. The focus of the investigation includes whether Google has manipulated search results to favor its own services, and whether the company has prevented phone makers from dropping Google’s products.

Twitter has opened an office in South Korea and plans to launch localized features.

Wikimedia Foundation and Saudi Telecom (STC) have signed a deal to offer free Wikipedia access to the telecom company’s customers in the Middle East. Soon customers will be able to visit Wikipedia via cell phone without being charged data fees.

Internet Governance

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is meeting in Toronto this week. Anybody with an Internet connection can follow the proceedings online. The California-based non-profit organization which coordinates the world's web addresses has unveiled a new plan to increase ICANN's participation and presence across Africa.

The Non-Commercial Users’ Constituency held a conference on Internet governance prior to the ICANN meeting. You can watch the entire proceedings online here.

Last week India held an Internet Governance Conference which was heralded by the Internet Society as a “multistakeholders success story.”

The Secretariat of the International Telecommunication Union hosted a briefing for civil society organizations, hoping to provide an overview for those who look for more information on the procedure and issues that will be discussed in the World Conference on International Telecommunications. However, a report from the Center for Technology & Democracy says the meeting left many questions unanswered.

Netizen Activism

Hacker network Anonymous was enraged by Wikileaks’ installment of a paywall soliciting donations on its website. A press release attributed to Anonymous announced they will no longer risk prison sentences for Wikileaks nor its founder Julian Assange. Anonymous and Wikileaks had been allies, and have cooperated to reveal sensitive and classified information to the public.

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