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5 Dec

The article Cybersexism is virtual, yet real and harmful opens with a slide saying 'Social media represents the main channel for psychological violence including death, rape, assault or abduction threats'. Highlighting the UN's UNiTE campaign to end violence against women, and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, the article also cites APC and UN Broadband Commission reports to explain the issues. This article is part of Egypt Today’s campaign 'Break the Silence ... Say No to Violence. Along these same priority lines, the Chayn project has published '16 tips to take control of your online life' from their DIY Guide to Online Safety.

                                  After being harassed or abused online infographic

After a London tribunal decided last month that Uber drivers are entitled to workers' rights, the company submitted a request to appeal directly to the UK Supreme Court. The request has been denied, meaning that the case will have to be heard by the Court of Appeal first. The decision was welcome by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which stated that it is ready to confront Uber in the Court of Appeal.

A team of researchers from the Berkley University and the Technical University of Munich have developed a system that enables an artificially intelligent robot to perform self-supervised learning. In practical terms, the researchers built a robot that can predict that it will see through a camera if it performs certain movements. Instead of acting on the basis of pre-programmed instructions, the robot learns by itself, using unguided exploratory sessions to understand how things around it work. In the experiment, the robot was allowed to play with objects on a table; through deep learning, the robot was able to foresee how an image's pixels would more from one frame to another based on its movements. This self-acquired understanding allowed the robot to move objects it had not dealt with before. Otherwise put, the robot was able to predict how different behaviours will affect the objects around it. At the moment, the system is basic and can only 'predict' a few seconds in the future. But a more advanced self-taught system could, for example, learn the layout of a factory, and have the foresight to avoid human workers and other robots who may be in the same environment, as Gizmodo explains.

30 Nov

The group 'Google You Owe Us', led by former executive director and government adviser, Richard Lloyd, is launching a class action against Google UK for abusing the trust of its consumers. According to the group, Google unlawfully collected the information of its users by bypassing security settings on their iPhones. This was done by installing ad-tracking cookies on the devices of Safari users, whose default setting is to block such cookies. This raises the question of how Google uses cookies.

29 Nov

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled in the case of VCAST Limited v RTI SpA, C-265/16.  The case was referred to the CJEU by the Tribunale di Torino (First Instance Turin Court) after VCAST sought a declaration from the court of the lawfulness of its activities. VCAST – a cloud based recording system, provides its users with the possibility to record any programme broadcast by an Italian terrestrial broadcaster. The recording is then stored in the cloud by VCAST, to be enjoyed whenever the user wants. This brought up the question intepretation of Copyright Directive 2001/29/EC and whether this was an infringement of copyright in the works being broadcasted by RTI. VCAST argued that the recording activities amount to an act of private copying by users, in the same way that a producer of recording hardware supplies the necessary equipment to enable a user to legally make a private copy of copyrighted content, its services simply facilitate its users’ ability to make private copies of copyrighted works in the cloud. On this basis, it argued that it should be entitled to rely on the private copying exemption.The CJEU took the stand that this situation does not fall under the private copying exception, since it consists of making protected works available to the public and thus, falls within communication to the public. The CJEU concluded that 'Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, in particular Article 5(2)(b) thereof, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation which permits a commercial undertaking to provide private individuals with a cloud service for the remote recording of private copies of works protected by copyright, by means of a computer system, by actively involving itself in the recording, without the rightholder’s consent.'
The European Commission announced its measures to ensure the protection of Intellectual Property, and therefore, encourage innovation. In order to tackle the rising problem of piracy, the Commission announced further work with intermediates, especially payment institutions, in order to cut the flow of money from pirated goods and services. Moreover, the Commission continues to encourage industry-led initiatives to combat IP infringement. In order to ensure a predictable legal framework, the Commission issued new guidance that provides clarification on how to apply the 2004 IP Enforcement Directive Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRED). In addition, the Commission proposes to renew co-operation with custom authorities and third countries, in order to reduce the number of pirated goods from those counties.  Finally, the Commission has issued guidance for a balanced Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) system which should enable transparent and predictable licensing rules, and adequate awards for investments in R&D and standardisation activities.

28 Nov

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a set of recommendations in support of net neutrality, following a wide public consultation process that started in May 2016. Among the recommendation, the authority notes that ‘service providers should be restricted from entering into any arrangement, agreement or contract, […] with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory treatment based on content, sender or receiver, protocols or user equipment’. Moreover, ‘the licensing terms should be amplified to provide explicit restrictions on any sort of discrimination in Internet access based on the content being accessed, the protocols being used or the use equipment being deployed. Content would include all content, applications, services and any other data, including end-point information, that can be accessed or transmitter over the Internet’. When it comes to specialised services, they ‘may be offered […] only if they are not usable (or offered) as a replacement for Internet Access Services; and the provision of such services is not detrimental to the availability and overall quality of Internet Access Services’. TRAI also recommends the setting up of a multistakeholder body which would be responsible for ‘developing technical standards for monitoring of [traffic management practices] and enforcement of the principles of non-discriminatory treatment and making appropriate recommendations to the Authority’.

Security Council of Russia instructed the Russian government to start talks among the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) about the possibility to build an alternative DNS root server system, reports RBC news agency.  This system should be independent from the control of international organisations servicing current Internet infrastructure and be designed to protect the BRICS countries in the event of global Internet malfunctions. 

27 Nov

Los Angeles-based CityWatch details Why Net Neutrality Is a Feminist Issue in a commentary on the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) upcoming vote whether to revoke the underlying regulation protecting network neutrality. The article argues that 'For women, whose online voices are already marginalized, the loss of the open internet is a threat to online agency, autonomy, representation, power and wealth.' This particularly affects controversial women's issues, 'including reproductive rights and abortion, protection against sexual violence and rape, child marriage, domestic violence and gender equality in the workplace'.

24 Nov

The UK government aims to get schoolchildren interested in cybersecurity and launched a £20 initiative for this purpose. The Cyber Discovery programme involves 14 to 18-year-olds challenging them with battling hackers. Young people interested will be asked to enrol via an online assessment in order to choose the best talents.

23 Nov

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has enacted new rules that specify how ISPs can advertise their broadband services to consumers. These rules, which will become effective in May 2018, will require ISPs to use different, more clear terminology in their adverts. New adverts about Internet speeds will need to be based on the download speed available to 50% of customers at peak times, and must be indicated that this is an average speed. The ISP community is generally in favour of these rules, but is  objecting on how specific types of service (fiber, carbon, etc) are marketed.

In a position paper on corporate tax and the digital economy, the UK treasury has set out its strategy to ensure the fair taxation of Internet companies. According to the paper, the UK government will push for international tax reforms, while exploring interim solutions to raise revenue from digital businesses. It is also prepared ‘to take unilateral action in the absence of sufficient progress on multilateral solutions’.

The EU and Chile have announced the start of negotiations to modernise their existing Association Agreement, which governs EU-Chile political, commercial, economic, financial, scientific, technological, social, cultural and cooperation ties. The modernisation will include the trade chapters of the agreement, including standards, technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures, small and medium-sized enterprises, services and investment, agriculture, customs, consumer protection, intellectual property rights, transport, fisheries, and energy. The trade deal will include common values and topics of concern, such as enhancing the role of women in trade. The European Parliament gave its recommendations in September about the topics it would like to see reflected in a final deal, which included not only gender, but also sustainable development-related provisions.

Negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the US have concluded their fifth round of talks to modernise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which were held between 17-21 November in Mexico City. The pace of the talks has recently slowed down, because parties have entered into more contentious topics. These topics include a proposal put forward by the US on increasing content requirements in automobile rules of origin, as well as Washington’s push to eliminate the dispute settlement chapter on trade remedies. A US statement, issued after the meeting, recognised that the three parties are ‘in a challenging situation’, because the US has seen ‘seen no evidence that Canada or Mexico are willing to seriously engage on provisions that will lead to a rebalanced agreement’. Although no chapter was concluded, Mexican authorities mentioned that there were ‘substantial advances in anti-corruption, telecommunications, good regulatory practices, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, trade facilitation, e-commerce, technical barriers to trade, and various sectoral annexes’. According to a common statement issued after the meeting, the next formal round of negotiations will take place  from 23 to 28 January, in Montreal, Canada. The parties are aiming to conclude the talks by the end of March.

A US judge in Manhattan ruled that a Uber can force a customer to settle a price-fixing complaint through arbitration, despite the customer’s view that the case should be settled in court, as he did not agree to arbitration. In the case at hand, the customer claims that Uber has conspired with drivers to change surge pricing fares during peak demand periods. He also says that he has not agreed to arbitrate because ‘a keypad had obscured a hyperlink to Uber’s terms of service, including the arbitration clause, when he signed up with his smartphone’. In response, Uber argued that the customer had an unobstructed view of the hyperlink. The lawsuit, which began in December 2015, went through several stages, including appeals by both Uber and the customer. The judge’s decision to reinstate the arbitration provisions was welcome by Uber, while the customer’s lawyers noted they are waiting for the court’s opinion before deciding about the next steps.

Inaugurating the start of the Global Conference on Cyberspace (GCCS) 2017 in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised the responsibility of nations in preventing terrorism and radicalisation using cyber-space. At the same time, he emphasised the need to balance national security with privacy and openness of the Internet, in order to preserve innovation and inclusiveness. He underlined the importance of the multistakeholder approach and a collaborative framework for cybersecurity.  Modi called for more training of professionals in field of cybersecurity, that could take a role of ‘cyber-warriors’ and respond to cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity is one of the four themes of the GCCS, along with growth, inclusion, and cyber-diplomacy.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has expressed concerns over the US Federal Communications Commission plans to roll back net neutrality rules, stating that the plan’ does not make sense’. In Trudeau’s opinion, net neutrality ‘is essential for small businesses, for consumers, and it is essential to keep the freedom associated with the internet alive’. He also mentioned that the world need to defend net neutrality and that he will also explore what he can do in this regard.

The government of Singapore has announced plans to introduce driverless buses on public roads by 2022. Before wide deployment, the buses will be piloted in three new neighborhoods with less-crowded roads. The autonomous buses are to complement manned bus services, and will initially operate during off-peak hours. According to the country’s  Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, ‘the autonomous vehicles will greatly enhance the accessibility and connectivity of our public transport system, particularly for the elderly, families with young children and the less mobile’.

Following the announcement that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote of a draft order to roll back net neutrality rules at its December meeting, Internet companies and startups in the US have expressed disagreement with the plan. Facebook stated its disappointment that the proposed order ‘fails to maintain the strong net neutrality protections that will ensure the internet remains open for everyone’, also noting that it will work together ‘with all stakeholders committed to this principle’. Google said that the existing net neutrality rules ‘are working well’, a view which was also shared by Netflix. At the same time, a group of 1000 small companies sent a letter to the FCC stating their concern and noting that ‘without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market’.

22 Nov

Following the hearing in the US Congress early November, Facebook will show its users which Russian propaganda pages they have followed and liked. The effort aims to explain users how they could have been influenced by the posts of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian firms that has reached an estimated 150 million people in the context of the 2016 US presidential election.

Uber servers were breached in October 2016, and Uber paid 100.000$ to the intruders to delete the data and keep quiet about it, Bloomberg reports. Criminals accessed names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders as well as the personal information of about 7 million drivers. Uber claims no Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details. or other data, were taken. At the time of this incident, Uber was already under investigation for separate privacy violation and now admits it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken.

Microsoft-owned Skype has disappeared from several Chinese app stores, including those operated by Apple and Android. According to a Microsoft spokesman, the app has been ‘temporarily removed’ while Microsoft is ‘working to reinstate the app as soon as possible’. An Apple spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company was notified by the Ministry of Public Security that ‘a number of voice over Internet protocol apps do not comply with local law’. In response, Apple removed Skype from its app stores in China.

At its upcoming meeting scheduled for 12 December, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to vote on a proposal previously put forward by chairman Ajit Pai on repealing the current net neutrality rules. In a statement released on 21 November, Pai announced that it had shared with the Commission a draft order on Restoring Internet Freedom, which ‘would abandon [the net neutrality] failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades’. According to the statement, Internet service providers would only be required ‘to be transparent about their practices, so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate’. Pai’s statement was followed by statements from other FCC members. Commissioner Brenda Carr expressed her support for Pai’s draft order, as ‘it will promote innovation and investment for the benefit of all Americans’, while Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that it was time ‘to overturn the market disrupting net neutrality […] regulations’. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, on the other hand, noted that repealing net neutrality rules ‘tears at the foundation of that [Internet] openness’, and called for public hearings. Commissioner Clyburn published a fact sheet outlining her pro net neutrality position.

In its ‘Autumn Budget 2017’, the UK government announced plans to support the development of clean and autonomous transport technologies. On the one hand, the UK plans to allocate £650 million for research and development in autonomous and electric vehicles. On the other hand, the government expressed its wish ‘to see fully self-driving cars, without a human operator, on UK roads by 2021’. To contribute to this, it plans to bring changes to the regulatory framework, including with relation to the conditions under which driverless cars can be tested on public roads without a human safety operator. Moreover, the  National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) is to launch an innovation prize to determine how future roadbuilding should adapt to support self-driving cars.

21 Nov

The Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace (GCSC) - created to develop proposals for norms and policies to enhance international security and stability - released a “Call to Protect the Public Core of the Internet” after its Delhi meeting (20-21 December). The declaration urges state and non-state actors to avoid activity that would intentionally and substantially damage the general availability or integrity of the “public core” of the Internet. It proposes the adoption of the following norm by all stakeholders: “Without prejudice to their rights and obligations, state and non-state actors should not conduct or knowingly allow activity that intentionally and substantially damages the general availability or integrity of the public core of the Internet, and therefore the stability of cyberspace”.

20 Nov

According to Reuters, 'Online abuse silences women and girls, fuels violence', fueling gender-based violence and resulting in self-censorship online, as shown by a recent survey. Al-Jazeera reported that 'a majority of the harassment - almost 60 percent - was racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic' referring to a report about the poll, which examined the extent and consequences of online harassment.

The Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) – established by the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) with the mandate to examine emerging technologies in the area of LAWS – met in Geneva, on 13–17 November. The GGE discussed technology, military, legal, and ethical issues surrounding LAWS, and adopted a report outlining several conclusions and recommendations. Among these: international humanitarian law applies fully to all weapons systems, including the potential development and use of LAWS; responsibility for the deployment of any new weapon systems in armed conflicts remains with states; given the dual nature of technologies in the area of intelligent autonomous systems, the Group's work should not hamper progress in or access to civilian research and development and use of these technologies; there is a need to future assess the aspects of human-machine interaction in the development, deployment, and use of emerging technologies in the area of LAWS; there should also be further discussions on possible options for addressing the humanitarian and international security challenges posed by emerging technologies in the area of LAWS. The Group also recommended that it meets for a duration of 10 days in 2018 in Geneva.

A recent DDoS Trends and Analysis report released by Corero Network Security shows that the number of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) attacks continue to increase as criminals take advantage of insecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices. According to the report, which contains observations from attacks attempted against Corero customers, organisations experienced an average of 237 DDoS attack attempts per month during the third quarter of 2017, which is the equivalent to 8 DDoS attack attempts every day. The data also show a 35% increase in monthly attack attempts compared to the previous quarter, and a 91% increase in monthly attack attempts compared to the first quarter of 2017. This frequency increase is attributed to ‘the growing availability of DDoS-for-hire services, and the proliferation of unsecured IoT devices’.

The Federal Network Agency in Germany has announced a ban on domestic sales on children’s smartwatches that have a listening function, while also taking action against some online sellers. The smart watches in case have an app which allow parents to listen unnoticed to the child’s environment (including teachers in the classroom), and this is considered by the agency to be ‘an unauthorised transmitting system’ and covert surveillance which is illegal in Germany. The agency has asked parents to destroy the devices they have bought, and also instructed schools to pay attention whether children have such smart watches and to ask for their destruction.

17 Nov

The Pentagon accidentally exposed its Web-monitoring operation by misconfigurating online storage, cybersecurity firm UpGuard discovered. Content captured from news sites, comment sections, web forums, and social media sites like Facebook, featuring multiple languages and originating from countries around the world, were collected and then stored on Amazon S3 repositories. However, The Pentagon neglected to make those cloud-based storage servers private, which left them easily accessible for anyone with an ASW account. The Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed the exposure to CNN Tech, and informed that DoD secured the data by 1 October, after UpGuard alerted officials of the problem in mid-September. It is still unclear what the reason for collecting data was. It did, however, raise concerns about the Pentagon’s surveillance of citizens of the USA and other countries, the issues of legality and privacy, as well as further concerns about government cybersecurity practices.

16 Nov

Trade ministers from the 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam - announced they have agreed on the core elements of the deal and they are close to finalising a plan to bring the trade agreement into force. Nevertheless, a planned meeting of leaders to announce a completed deal was cancelled, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly decided not to attend, due to some remaining concerns. The negotiating parties rebranded the accord as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), explaining in a common statement that this version is meant to keep the original TPP’s “high standards, overall balance, and integrity (…) while ensuring the commercial and other interests of all participants and preserving our inherent right to regulate, including the flexibility of the parties to set legislative and regulatory priorities.” They also circulated two annexes – one which features an outline of the CPTPP, and another listing which provisions of the original TPP have been suspended and which are pending further negotiation. Eleven of the 20 suspended items are found within the TPP’s intellectual property chapter.

In 2018, the methodology used by ITU to determine and rank countrywide ICT development will utilise 14 indicators for its assessment, instead of 11 indicators. The additional indicators will capture the recent developments in ICT markets, with the introduction of emerging technologies. The ICT Development Index (IDI) is a core feature of the ITU's annual Measuring the Information Society Report. ITU ranks the performance of 176 economies based on three pillar categories: ICT access, use and skills. The increase on the number of indicators was announced by the ITU at the 2017 World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium (WTIS), in Tunisia.

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering changes to its Lifeline program that helps low-income Americans pay for telephone and internet service. The changes would also to allow telecom companies to decommission aging DSL connections in rural areas without replacing them. The proposed changes to the Lifeline program would allegedly reduce the available subsidies, make them available to fewer people, and cover fewer carriers.

Although still ongoing, a group of civil society technologists' analysis of IETF RFC 7725 at the IETF 99 Hackathon already demonstrates 'how implementation and data on human rights can inform protocol design.' The draft implementation report provides extensive comments, including potential negative or positive impacts, in particular considering the significance and use of IETF Status Code 451, so-named in reference to Ray Bradbury's classic novel Fahrenheit 451

15 Nov

The White House has released an updated version of its Vulnerability Equity Process (VEP), an internal procedure according the which the government decides which software vulnerabilities it will disclose to vendors, and which it will withhold for its own use in cyber-attacks. While VEP was developed over several years since 2008, previous versions were largely classified and have raised numerous concerns by the private and civil sector. The updated version still has some parts classified -  namely, the annex related to the exceptions due to restrictions by partner agreements and sensitive operations - yet the other parts are now unclassified. Justifying the existence of VEP and acknowledging the increased transparency about it, Rob Joyce, the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator, emphasised several guiding principles the government needs to respect: taking into account the interests of all stakeholders, accountability of the process and those who operate it, and informed and vigorous dialogue. Joyce reported that the government discloses more than 90% of the vulnerabilities it finds; yet Edward Snowden warned that the 10% withheld could be the most harmless. The improved version of VEP responds to criticism of some experts, such as Bruce Schneier, on the previous version, and now includes detailing of departments and agencies involved in the process, the criteria for decisions, mechanisms for objections by involved institutions, and issuing annual reports with at least an executive summary made public. The concerns remain, however, that the non-disclosed vulnerabilities could be leaked and again cause global havoc, as the WannaCry ransomware did, Wired reports.

Israel’s Tax Authority is planning to send tax bills to Google and Facebook within a year, joining the efforts of several countries in the European Union. The Israeli authorities are currently gathering data about the companies’ operations in Israel to decide on the percentage of the profits that is taxable in the country.

14 Nov

Freedom House has published Freedom on the Net 2017, which asses Internet freedom in 65 countries. The report identifies a number of key trends in Internet freedom in 2017: manipulation of social media to undermine democracy; shutdowns of mobile Internet services; government restrictions on live video; cyberattacks against journalists, opposition and human rights defenders; new restrictions on VPNs; and physical attacks against online journalists. These developments have led to the overall decline in Internet freedom for the 7th consecutive year. The use of social media to ‘advance an anti-democratic agenda’ has brought new challenges, as it is ‘more difficult to combat than other types of censorship...because it’s dispersed and because of the sheer number of people and bots deployed to do it,’ says Sanja Kelly, director of the project.


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