Global Voices Advocacy's Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world. This week we focus on a new set of surveillance issues in Israel and the United States, as well as challenges to online activists in Singapore, Turkey, and Malaysia.
Israel’s Attorney General affirmed that Israel's Security Agency can legally demand to search of the contents of foreigners’ email accounts if they wish to enter Israel. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel petitioned the Justice Ministry to overrule the policy after a Palestinian-American woman was denied entry into the country last year for refusing to comply with a search request. The Attorney General’s office said that the policy will only be applied when “suspicious or pertinent information has been identified.” While travellers are not expected to give up their passwords, those who refuse to allow security officials access to their email may be denied entry to the country.
The Nigerian government awarded a US$40 million contract to Israel-based Elbit Systems that will allow authorities to monitor computers and email correspondence within the country, according to Premium Times Nigeria.
According to documents received by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Obama administration officials secretly authorized the interception of Internet communications by the US National Security Agency and the Department of Defense as part of a military-run cybersecurity pilot project aimed at protecting critical infrastructure.
A judge in the US state of Texas denied a request by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to install spyware on a computer to track a suspect in a bank fraud and identity theft case. According to Slate, the judge called the tactic “extremely intrusive” and refused to approve it because the FBI “did not know the location or identity of the suspect and could not guarantee the spy software would not end up targeting innocents.”
Singaporean cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested in response to a complaint filed against him for publishing a satirical comic on his Facebook page, “Demon-cratic Singapore,” that accused the Singaporean government of racism and discrimination against the country’s Malay minority. Chew was released on a bail of over US$8,000. If convicted under Singapore’s Sedition Act, he could face up to three years in prison and/or a hefty fine.
With general elections approaching, independent news websites in Malaysia including Harakah Daily and Malaysiakini reported that DDoS attacks have left their sites difficult to access through certain ISPs. Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran called on ISPs to “stay out of politics” and “ensure shared gateways are free of tampering and restrictions.”
Changes to EU data regulations could weaken provisions that protect online privacy. A group of consumer rights groups, including the Open Rights Group, Privacy International, Digital Gesellschaft, Access, and La Quadrature du Net have launched a “Naked Citizens” campaign opposing the changes, claiming the amendments “are an effort to strip EU citizens naked by making it almost impossible for them to control who sees their personal information and even how it is used.”
ICT policymakers in East Africa are considering new ways to lower broadband costs for the region. Kenya has not build a broadband cable connection with Tanzania, largely due to competition between the countries; both wish to be the primary provider of fiber in the region. Others have argued that creating an Internet Exchange point may be the key to lowering broadband costs for East Africa.
Iceland's Supreme Court decided on April 24 to fine Valitor, a subcontractor of Visa ISK, US$6,830 per day for blocking DataCell, the processor for WikiLeaks’ donations, from their payment processes.
Finnish websites went dark on April 23 to promote a new Citizen’s Initiative Act, which would require Parliament to process bills proposed by the public that obtain 50,000 signatures of support. The bill currently has just over 27,000 signatures.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution on a proposed EU-US trade agreement, the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. The resolution encourages the inclusion of copyright, patent, and trademarks. Many civil society groups oppose the inclusion of intellectual property and patent provisions in the agreement.
Sovereigns of Cyberspace
Advocates in the United Kingdom accused Facebook of political censorship after a post promoting the privatization of the UK health system was taken down. Written by Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the post chronicled the story of a cancer patient navigating the country's healthcare system, but was taken down after receiving over 1,000 shares.
Google released a new Transparency Report, illustrating a sharp increase in the number of content removal requests it received from July-December 2012. Large quantities of requests came from Brazil, the US and Russia. Google received requests from 20 countries concerning posts of the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims”.
The “Syrian Electronic Army,” a group alleged to have close ties to the Syrian government, took credit for a hacking attack on the Associated Press’ Twitter account. Attackers posted a false report that explosions had occurred at the White House and injured US President Barack Obama. The news agency’s accounts were suspended temporarily following the attack and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement affirming that the report was indeed false.
In response to the hack, Twitter is now testing a two-step authentication feature that would increase platform security.
The self-proclaimed leader of LulzSec was arrested by Australian police this week. The Australian citizen is part of the group that took down the American Central Intelligence Agency website in 2011 and other Australian government websites more recently.
BadNews, a “malicious ad network library,” has widely infiltrated Google Play and has reportedly been operating for at least 10 months. The malware has been downloaded up to 9 million times, according to security researchers. The apps connect to a rogue server every four hours and report information including the device phone number as well as its unique serial number.
A new version of the Ubuntu operating system has launched. A review of the new operating system is available here.
Publications and Studies
“Spyware. HackingTeam” – SecureList
“Understanding impact: an Internet Rights are Human Rights training curriculum from APC” – Association for Progressive Communications
For upcoming events related to the future of citizen rights in the digital age, see the Global Voices Events Calendar.