17 Feb

Absher, the official app for eServices of the Saudi Ministry of Interior’s National Information Center in Saudi Arabia, allows men to track and restrict the movement to women. It sends text messages to men when their wife or daughter tries to use their passport and men can use it to alert airports in Saudi Arabia to catch a woman in case the is trying to travel without permission or flee Saudi Arabia. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden sent an open letter to Apple and Google chief executive officers, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, urging them to ‘immediately remove from your app stores the Saudi government’s Absher app, which enables Saudi men to track and control the movements of Saudi women.’ Wyden asked them to prevent technical infrastructure, including app stores, from being used by Saudi government to enable ‘abhorrent surveillance and control of women.’ Cook was not familiar with the case, but promised the company will look into it and consider next steps on Apple’s App Store. A spokesman for Google said the company has also started investigating the app hosted on Google Play Store in order to determine if it is in accordance with its policies.

last 7 days

15 Feb

A veteran Philippine journalist, Maria Ressa, was arrested 14 February on charges of "cyber-libel" but freed on bail soon after international condemnation. CEO of  the news site Rappler, she was arrested at the news outlet’s Manila headquarters by officers in plain clothes from the National Bureau of Investigation. They also charged former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jnr.

The libel charge stems from a story published in May 2012, more than four months before the law Ressa and Santos are accused of violating was enacted. Rappler is one of few media organisations in the Philippines that openly criticises President Rodrigo Duterte, regularly interrogating the accuracy of his public statements and condemning his sometimes deadly policies.

Ressa was named a Time Magazine Person of the Year in 2018 for her work holding  to account in an increasingly hostile environment and was already facing tax evasion investigation that critics site was was an attempt to stifle critical reporting of President Rodrigo Duterte. She spent much of her career as a regional bureau chief at US broadcaster CNN before co-founding Rappler in 2012.

14 Feb

India’s government is finalising proposals to enable itself to block internet content, continuing its battle with global Internet technology companies (for example, India was the first country to reject Facebook's Free Basics). The new rules would require that applications like Facebook, Twitter, and TikToc implement automated screening tools and to remove posts or videos Indian officials consider 'libelous, invasive of privacy, hateful, or deceptive'. They could also undermine the privacy protections of messaging services by allowing the government to trace messages, for example. Critics have compared the moves to censorship policy in China

Wired's Paris Martineau commented on the situation in India is Cracking Down on Ecommerce and Free Speech.

13 Feb

A new research conducted by EU Kids Online in Norway outlines the dilemma that while Norwegian children are familiar with internet and internet -related concepts, there is a disconnection in terms of the practical skills these concepts refer to. Since 92% Norwegian children from the age of nine have a mobile phone and are exposed to the internet, the study terms them as ‘naïve experts’ rather than 'digital natives' pointing the need for more support to protect their privacy online.


The European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the Commission announced in a press release that a political agreement was reached on the draft of the Copyright Directive, a result of trilogue being held since September 2018. The EU Parliament and the Council need to approve the agreed compromise into law.

At a meeting held on 13 February 2019 in the Vatican, Pope Francis and Microsoft President Brad Smith discussed, among other issues, the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI). The discussions revolved around 'AI at the service of the common good and activities aimed at bridging the digital divide that persists at the global level'. It was announced during the visit that Vatican's Academy for Life and Microsoft would co-sponsor a €6000 prize for the best doctoral dissertation in 2019 on the theme 'AI at the service of human life'.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and 11 partner organizations of the Council of Europe Platform jointly launched its annual report on media freedom in Europe with an aim to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists.

The report titled, “Democracy at Risk: Threats and Attacks against Media Freedom in Europe” says that press freedom in Europe is more fragile now than it was in the cold war era. In addition to providing an overview of the urgent threats to media freedom identified in 2018, the report also takes an in-depth look at particular issues or country contexts that individual partner organisations have identified as especially salient during the past year. 

The partners including journalists’, media organisations and freedom of expression advocacy groups, reported 140 serious violations in 32 Council of Europe member states thus providing an on-ground picture of the worsening environment for the media across Europe. The reported threats include journalists facing obstruction, hostility and violence as they investigate and report on behalf of the public and according to the report, threats to press freedom in Europe doubled in 2018.

In addition to a country wise break up of various media attacks, it also discusses changes in the media landscape in Europe that potentially pose a threat to media freedom.

12 Feb

The NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI) begins to create a Cyber Security Collaboration Hub that is an encrypted workspace for information gathering, collaboration and training for all 29 states of the Alliance. Previously NCI provided information to allied national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), but there was no NATO CERT community. By this initiative NCI wants to fill this gap and strengthen the security of NATO’s networks. The first participants of the Hub are CERTs from US, UK, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

A UK government report says that regulation is needed to ensure the reliability of news content distributed by Internet companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. The Cairncross Review: A Sustainable Future states that 'This task is too important to leave entirely to the judgment of commercial entities'. The reviewers were asked to 'consider the sustainability of the production and distribution of high-quality journalism, and especially the future of the press, in this dramatically changing market' and also 'looked at the overall state of the news media market, the threats to the financial sustainability of publishers, the impact of search engines and social media platforms, and the role of digital advertising'.

11 Feb

In the USA, President Donald Trump signed an ‘Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence'. The order outlines an American AI Initiative, according to which the USA is to (a) drive technological breakthroughs in AI; (b) drive the development of appropriate standards and reduce barriers to the testing and deployment of AI; (c) train current and future generations with skills to develop and use AI; (d) foster public trust in AI, while protecting civil liberties; and (e) promote an international environment that supports AI research and innovation. The implementation of the Initiative will be coordinated through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence. In line with the Initiative, federal agencies that perform or fund research and development are directed to prioritise investments in AI. At the same time, the order requires governmental agencies to make federal data, models and computing resources more available to AI experts, researchers and industries, while respecting safety, security, privacy, and other individual rights. Federal agencies are to establish guidelines for the development and use of AI across sectors, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology will lead the development of technical standards 'in support of reliable, robust, and trustworthy systems that use AI technologies'. To better prepare the workforce for the 'age of AI', federal agencies will prioritise AI within their fellowships and training programmes, and the Select Committee will develop recommendations on AI-related educational and workforce development. Lastly, the order calls for the development of an action plan to protect the US advantage in AI technology critical to the economic and national security interests 'against strategic competitors and adversarial nations'.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy meant to 'accelerate the adoption of AI and the creation of a force fit for our time'. As part of the strategy, the DoD plans to launch several initiatives to deploy AI to enhance military decision-making and operations across key mission areas, as well as to put in place a common foundation to enable decentralised development and experimentation of AI. The DoD also intends to provide comprehensive AI training and bring critical AI skills into service by recruiting and partnering with AI experts. In addition, the DoD will engage with commercial, academic, and international partners to help address global challenges, align civilian AI leadership with defence challenges and contribute to efforts dedicated to identifying and advancing emerging technologies and applications. The department also commits to developing its vision and guiding principles for using AI in a lawful and ethical manner and to consulting other stakeholders in advancing AI ethics and safety in the military context. The implementation of the strategy will be coordinated by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Centre, whose first task will be to accelerate the delivery and adoption of AI capabilities across the military.​

10 Feb

In the USA, the Senate of of Maryland has voted to update state laws against cyber-bullying of children. The measures propose to widen the scope of the law to  only include cyber-bullying, update the definition of electronic communication, and emphasise that it is applicable even for a single significant act, instead of requiring multiple examples of bullying acts. The proposed measure is  named ‘Grace’s Law 2.0’ in memory of 15 year old Grace McComas of Woodbine, a teenager who killed herself after being cyber-bullied repeatedly on social media.

During the World Government Summit from 10 – 12 February 2019, the World Government Summit in cooperation with PricewaterhouseCoopers published a paper on Public Sector Readiness in the Age of Disruption. The first part of the study addresses the question of what are the main public sector organization’s imperatives for today and tomorrow? To this aim, it pinpoints seven imperatives for public sector organisations to improve their readiness and the lessons learned. The seven imperatives are: 1) enabling trust and transparency, 2) building disruptive public-private partnerships, 3) balancing innovation and regulation, 4) making decisions enabled by big data, 5) being digital, 6) building “renaissance” talent, and 7) building holistic, citizen-centered organisational performance. For each of these imperatives, the paper provides a call to actions to be fulfilled. It further highlights some cases of excellence from international and UAE government entities. The second part focuses on the implications of these imperatives for public sector leadership to design and implement disruptive agendas. Finally, the paper provides Public Sector Disruption Readiness Index to help governments and leaders measure their level of fitness and preparedness.


last 30 days

8 Feb

A new report titled ‘Children's data and privacy online Growing up in the Digital Age’ was released on Data Privacy Day. The study conducted by Children’s Data and Privacy Online and funded by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), highlights that children value their privacy, however the  privacy practices they follow are dependent to their social environment. The report also suggests there is a  need to design standards and regulatory frameworks for protecting children’s privacy across different age groups.

Glasgow firm Boston Networks in co-operation with the Scottish government, the Scottish Enterprise, and the Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) launched a £6 million Internet of things (IoT) network in Scotland. The network will work via 500 long range (LoRa) wireless gateways situated throughout Scotland, enabling transmission of data between electronic devices and appliances across the country. Mostly businesses and public sector organisations that could monitor the efficiency and productivity of their IoT devices and improve their functioning will benefit from the network.

A recent blog post by the Knight Center, University of Texas has explored the key findings of a recent UNESCO report dubbed “World trends in freedom of expression and media development: regional overview of Latin America and the Caribbean 2017/2018”.

According to the report the most ‘significant and persuasive trend’ is the increase in Internet access in Latin America and the Caribbean. The study that analysed 33 countries that make up the region found an increase in Internet users by 17% between the years 2013 to 2017. Again the report projected that the increase in Internet access through mobile devices will hit 50% by 2020.

Google has launched two new apps that will cater to the needs of people who are deaf or have hearing impairment. Google in a recent blog post mentioned the apps as Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier designed to mainly run on the Android OS. The apps which come pre-installed on Pixel 3 phones in Accessibility Settings will also be available in the Google Play Store for other phones as well.

According to the post by Google, Live Transcript is an app that automatically transcribes speech in near-real time allowing people to communicate in peculiar situations where communications would be difficult. Sound Amplifier on the other hand is an app designed for people with hearing loss, allowing such users to tweak sound settings to improve the quality of their hearing ability.

According to a report, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) a new toolkitto support the development of High Speed Internet service in rural communities. The toolkit defines 27 USDA programmes that aims to ‘facilitate the expansion of broadband, including grants, loans and technical assistance from multiple mission areas of the USDA’.

Anne Hazlett, Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development, stressed the importance of the user-friendly tool by saying that “high-speed broadband e-connectivity is becoming more and more essential to doing business, delivering health care, and, for school children, doing homework in rural communities.”

7 Feb

According to a report, Facebook on 6 February 2019 announced the GOAL (Going Online As Leaders) programme, which seeks to empower, guide and inspire tribal girls across selected communities in India to become young digital leaders in their communities.

According to the report, the programme which will run in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh states, will nurture and train young girls from India’s tribal villages on core competency areas such as digital literacy, life skills, leadership and entrepreneurship.

In a letter sent to White House cybersecurity officials, over 20 US industry groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the Telecommunication Industry Association, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, asked for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to continue leading the development of cybersecurity guidance for Internet of things (IoT) devices. The groups praised the work done by NIST so far concerning the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity and suggested to follow the framework concerning cybersecurity guidance for IoT devices. They concluded the letter by asking the US Congress to increase the NIST funding, given the extent of its work.

India is on the verge of launching a new national programme on artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Interim Minister of Corporate Affairs, Piyush Goyal. The programme will focus on nine priority areas (not yet announced) and will include, among other things, the establishment of an AI centre, a hub of centres of excellence. A national AI portal will also be set up to allow all citizens to access AI. In line with this programme, India's Ministry of Human Resource Development announced that several higher educational institutions across the country have set up new centres for AI, offering AI-related programmes focused on topics such as deep learning foundations and applications, foundations of AI and machine learning, reinforcement learning, and probabilistic reasoning in AI.

Olayinka Laggah, the Commissioner for the National Commission for Children (NCC) has urged the  Sierra Leone Ministry of Information and Communications to consider including measures to protect child rights online in the National Telecommunications and Cyber Security Acts, which is proposed to be reviewed.

Laggah, acknowledged the benefits of the Internet while highlighting the growing concern of easy access to inappropriate content  by children

6 Feb

According to a report, a federal appeals court on 1 February overturned the decisionby the Ajit Pai –led Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to take broadband subsidies away from tribal residents. The broadband subsidies allow residents to obtain a $25-per-month lifeline subsidy that reduces the cost of Internet or phone service.

The FCC’s decision reached by a vote of 3-2 in November 2017, could not be implemented due to a stay orderissued by the US court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in August 2018. The follow-up ruling by the same court last Friday has therefore effectively halted the FCC’s plans. 

The code of practice includes guidance on testing automated vehicle technologies in public places in the UK and recommendations on how to maintain safety during the trials. The code is based on the 2015 guide and it provides clearer guidance on: increasing the safety and responsibility of trials, and improving trial transparency by engaging with the public, authorities, and other entities when planning trials.

According to a publicationwhich sought to analyse a recent reporttilted ‘The Net Neutrality Situation in the EU’, the conclusion has been drawn that zero rating business practices by wireless carriers have led to an increase in the cost of wireless data compared to countries without zero rating practices.

The report published by the non-profit Epicenter.Works compared the 30 member countries of the European Union (EU) on the enforcement of net neutrality. It was found that EU countries without zero rating practices enjoyed a double digit drop in the price of wireless data after a year. The countries with zero rating practises from their wireless carriers on the other hand saw data prices increase.

Source: Epicenter.works study analyzing price changes between countries with and without zero rating practices.

On Safer Internet Day 2019, UNICEF called for co-ordinated efforts  to tackle and prevent violence against children online and protect their rights. As more young people come online, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore called for preventing 70.6% of youth  (aged 15-24) from being cyberbullied. The results are from a recent UNICEF poll conducted among over one million youth across 160 countries. ‘Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web, it is time for governments, families, academia and the private sector to put children and young people at the centre of digital policies,’ Fore stated..

After resisting the Russian regulators in 2018, Google has agreed to recieve a registry containing a list of banned websites to exclude from search results displayed to users within Russia. Google caved into pressure by Russian authorities who threatened to ban the search engine in Russia. This development comes after Russia opened civil proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for not complying with Russian data storage requirements. Russian legislation requires Russian user’s personal data to be stored on servers within Russia.


5 Feb

On 2 february, India's Vice President Venkaiah Naidu took a shot at the country's news media and pushed for restraint. According to a report by  the Press Information Bureau, Naidu advocated for prescribing a minimum educational qualification for aspiring journalists. He added that the country's press stands a chance of becoming captive receivers of biased and partisan information.

The comments from Naidu have come two days after the government was cornered by a scoop, which said that the unemployment in the country was at its worst in 45 years based on an undisclosed survey submitted to the government by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). This is not the first time that governments in India have advocated curbs on press freedom. Just last year, a similar attempt by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry had to be withdrawn after a severe backlash from the industry. 

India already ranks 138 out of 180 countries in the world, just one notch above Pakistan, for press freedom. While the country still has a number of news media, the challenges for journalists have risen including mysterious journalist deaths. The World Press Freedom Index Report 2018 by Reporters Without Borders said, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence by soldiers acting with the central government's tacit consent. At least three of the journalists murdered in 2017 including newspaper editor Gauri Lankesh, was a target of a hate campaign on social networks.

On Safer Internet Day, that took place on 5 February 2019, Google Chrome, in collaboration with cryptographists from Stanford University, released a new extension named ‘Password Checkup’. THe extension checks username and password combinations entered in login pages to be placed in a Google database of four billion credentials compromised in data breaches. The extension is aimed to mitigate negative consequences of massive breaches like Collection #1. Password Checkup will not alert a user when they use unsafe and simple passwords, but when the username and password have been previously breached. Moreover, the extension is designed in a way that Google does not learn user passwords and keeps the breached credential database protected.


The European Commission (EC) has set up a new Expert Group on Safer Internet for Children to improve co-ordination and co-operation between member states in protect children rights online.The expert group is expected to discuss various aspects of protecting children rights online such as;  protecting children from harmful online content, including advertising directed at children; providing best practices for member states to follow, and offer support on how to implement specific provisions concerning minors in key existing regulations.The first meeting of the expert group will take place in Brussels on 6 March.

4 Feb

In its recently released report on ‘Ten ways the precautionary principle undermines progress in artificial intelligence’, the US-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation argues that policymakers should embrace the innovation principle as opposed the precautionary principle when it comes to tackling progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The precautionary principle argues that governments should limit the use of new technologies until they are proven safe. The report notes, however, that this principle could lead to more harm than good, as it could generate hypothetical scenarios suggesting that technological progress comes with severe and irreversible threats. The innovation principle, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that technological innovation benefits society and bring more opportunities and risk. As such, the governments should create an enabling environment to support widespread innovation, while building protection mechanisms were necessary to limit harms. In line with innovation principle,  regulation should be applied on a case-by-case basis, where there is a reasonable expectation that potential damages are considerable, and other mechanisms cannot address them. The report argues that AI-targeted policies based on the precautionary principle could have several negative effects, such slower and more expensive AI development, less innovation and lower-quality AI, less AI adoption and economic growth, and fewer positive social impacts. As such, the Foundation recommends that, if policymakers want their nations to achieve the full benefits of AI, they should embrace the innovation principle to foster it, rather than the precautionary principle to limit delay or constrain its progress.

The World Bank Group and the European Commission committed to tackle together issues related to the future of work in all countries and regions where they operate. The collaboration between both organisations will be focused on the skills challenges emerging from the changing nature of work. They aim to prepare citizens with sound basic education and digital skills. Activities related to the digital economy and employability are at the core of each institution’s commitment. They will collaborate in region-wide initiatives, including the Africa-Europe Alliance on Sustainable Investment and Jobs, and the Digital Moonshot for Africa. Technical teams will meet frequently in order to foster coordination at global, regional and national levels.

The Bangladeshi government has filed a lawsuit at the US District Court in the Southern District of New York against Philippine bankers who conspired with North Korean hackers to steal US $81 million from Bangladesh’s Central bank. In 2016 the Central Bank of Bangladesh held funds at the US Federal Reserve Bank in New York which were fraudulently transferred to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) in the Philippines by hackers. The cyber-heist included eight RCBC officers who conspired with casino operators, Chinese citizens and the hackers who are believed to be North Korean. The court in this case will have to deal with multiple questions of jurisdiction since it is a multinational cybercrime.

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) discussion draft is about core cybersecurity capabilities baselines for IoT devices, asking for public input on the matter. The draft details a set of cybersecurity capabilities that could be achieved by most IoT devices, especially looking for feedback concerning: the definitions and specificity of adequate capabilities, the usefulness of establishing high-level principles for IoT devices, the adequacy of the criteria chosen for identifying baseline capabilities, and the necessity of creating a taxonomy to describe types of IoT devices for future analysis. The draft is based on two previous reports: the ‘NIST internal report 8228; Considerations for Managing Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity and Privacy Risks’ and the ‘Report to the President on Enhancing the Resilience of the Internet and Communications Ecosystem Against Botnets and Other Automated, Distributed Threats’.

3 Feb

Google recently developed a new extension to its web browser Google Chrome that warns users about lookalike URLs. The extension is aimed at reducing the risk to visit ‘typosquatted domains’ or phishing sites that imitate legitimate ones. Those sites often look like the real ones but are designed to steal visitor credentials and other sensitive information. The extension works as a dropdown panel under the URL bar and asks the user whether they intended to visit this particular website, redirecting to the right domain if there was a typo in the URL. The extension is not planned as a default feature for Chrome for at the moment.


1 Feb

According to the commission’s alert, the communication system of the watch is unencrypted, which enables access to the data stored in the watch (e.g. location, phone numbers). Therefore, it is possible for hackers to send commands to the watch, to communicate with the child wearing the watch or locate the child.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asian (ESCWA) released a study on Arab Horizon 2030: Digital Technologies for Development. The study examines digital technologies for development in the Arab region within the framework of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development and the horizon it sets for the year 2030. Through this study, ESCWA aims to promote radical policy changes in utilising digital technologies for sustainable development in the Arab region. To this aim, it identifies proposals and recommendations for harnessing these technologies in social, economic, and human development opportunities. The research tackles seven thematic policy areas relevant to digital technologies and their impact on development goals: digital strategies, ICT sector, ICT infrastructure, cybersecurity, digital divide, e-applications, and e-government. For each of the identified thematic policy areas, the study provides an in-depth analysis organised under four sections: 1) contextualization of the thematic issue with respect to its impact on the SDGs, 2) analysis of local policies in the Arab countries and the gap with advanced countries, 3) pinpointing Horizon 2030 vision and policy change recommendations to fulfill SDGs, and 4) outlining business-as-usual trajectory in line with Horizon 2030 vision. At the end, the study provides a summary of the 2030 vision and the pertinent policy change recommendations for each of the seven areas.

On 1 February 2019, Domain Name System (DNS) providers started to release new software updates that will stop supporting the old workarounds that existed for the DNS resolution process and allowed users to bypass the Extension Mechanisms Protocol for DNS (EDNS). EDNS is a set of extension mechanisms to expand the size of the DNS message as it goes through its query, which allows more information to be included in the communication between each host in the DNS resolution process. Because of the efforts to accommodate a few DNS systems that are not in compliance with DNS standards established two decades ago, including EDNS,  it was decided to stop supporting such accommodations. Among DNS software and service providers participated in the DNS flag day were CISCO, CZ.NIC, Google, Cloudflare, Facebook and others.

The US Army has activated its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Task Force at the National Robotics Engineering Centre of the Carnegie Mellon University. The Task Force will, among others, foster cooperation between the Army and the broader AI community, with the aim of developing technology that 'will modernise processes used to equip and protect soldiers, enhance readiness, and increase the Army's capabilities'. Carnegie Mellon will act as the hub for the Task Force, which intends to engage other universities and private sector entities across the country. It will also co-operate with the Army Research Lab and the Department of Defense's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.​

IoT sensor networks are used for monitoring and reacting to physical characteristics of building environments (e.g. temperature, pollution and humidity levels, and electrical usage) and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) aims to improve the security and functioning of these systems. As part of the process, the NCCoE published the ‘Security for IoT sensor networks: Building management systems’ case study, which describes different technological parts of the networks and accompanying security challenges, asking for public input in shaping and refining the scope of the project.

WhatsApp announced a ‘Startup India-WhatsApp Grand Challenge’ in partnership with Invest India to enhance the country’s entrepreneurial and small business community growth. Through this challenge, WhatsApp will award five winning startups each a grant of $50,000. The themes for the startup challenge vary between healthcare, rural economy, financial and digital inclusion, education, and citizen safety. “Entrepreneurs with highly innovative ideas, business models that solve for a local India problem, making a large scale socio-economic impact, are invited to apply,” WhatsApp highlighted in a press release. The last day for registration for WhatsApp Startup India challenge is March 10.

31 Jan

The US advocacy group The Future of Privacy Forum in consultation with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Technology Forum published a white paper exploring the benefits, challenges, and privacy tensions concerning IoT and people with disabilities. The paper describes the privacy considerations of IoT for people with disabilities and offers several recommendations for companies and policymakers on how to address the issue. Main recommendations are: prioritising inclusive design for people with disabilities, consideration of the sensitive nature of the personal data of people with disabilities when designing IoT devices, and asking policymakers to consider the risks and benefits of IoT for people with disabilities in policy decisions.

Singapore Land Transport Authority, with Enterprise Singapore, standards development organisations, and the Singapore Standards Council developed a set of preliminary national standards for driverless vehicles. The standards, known as technical reference 68 (TR 68), were developed last year and aim to promote the development and use of vehicles in SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) levels 4 and 5 which are fully autonomous driverless vehicles.

The UK Parliament members have concluded that it is the  ‘legal duty of care  of online companies and social media platforms to act to protect young users online. The government has been tasked to examine legislations to ensure online companies share necessary data to help, identify, and protect children online. Further, a report by the Commons Science and Technology Committee highlighted how the existing ‘patchwork’ of regulation has resulted in a ‘standards lottery’ which does not ensure safety of children online, recommending the government to set a target to reduce online sexual abuse of children by halve within two years and eliminate it in four years.

30 Jan

ICANN has issued its third Legislative and Regulatory Report summarising recent and pending privacy and data protection, as well as cybersecurity legislation as of 31 December 2018. The report includes enacted regulations and current trends from around the world which may have bearing on ICANNs mission.

The US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) held a public workshop dealing with cybersecurity in medical devices. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the newly released draft guidance ‘Content of Premarket Submissions for Management of Cybersecurity in Medical Devices’, especially the topic of cybersecurity bill of materials (CBOM). The guidance details recommendations such as: limiting data access only to reliable users and devices, improving security measures for data access, and securing data integrity and confidentiality. The public can comment on the guidance until 18 March 2019.

A proposed settlement of the Yahoo’s data breach, which was meant to cover 200 million people across the US and Israel with close to 1 billion accounts has been rejected by a US judge due to lack of transparency. The judge could not declare the settlement “fundamentally fair, adequate and reasonable” because it did not say how much victims could expect to recover.

29 Jan

Facebook, in a reported session at the 2019 edition of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, held in Sri Lanka from 16-21 January, has outlined its efforts at curbing misinformation and promoting online safety through digital literacy skills programmes.According to Shelley Thakral, head of policy programmes (India, South Asia and Central Asia) at Facebook, the company has partnered with civil society organisations in Sri Lanka to promote digital literacy and economic development. Thakral cited an initiative in collaboration with Sarvodaya, one of the oldest civil society organisations in Sri Lanka, that aims to train up to 20 000 school children by the end of 2019 on how to stay safe on social media.

Google's cybersecurity incubator Jigsaw expands its Project Shield for political organisations in Europe on the eve of parliamentary elections in May 2019. Project Shield was launched in 2016 to mitigate distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks for free on news websites in the US to keep vital political information accessible. The project was aimed at smaller independent news organisations that did not have the resources to survive DDoS attacks and stay online. Later, the project started to protect sites for registered political organisations, independent journalists, human rights groups, and elections monitoring services. Now the project is also available for European operators for free. European political organisations will be able to protect their websites from DDoS attacks that may deny people from accessing their information. This year’s European Parliament elections will attract more attention than usual because of the Brexit issue.

The US civil society organisation Public Knowledge published a white paper suggesting a new way to protect customer IoT device security. The paper proposes to create a ‘Security Shield’ label, that will inform consumers whether a product meets the best cybersecurity standards as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The initiative is based on a similar program in the environmental field, ‘Energy Star’ that enables manufacturers to label their products based on their energy efficiency, allowing consumers to make informed decisions.

28 Jan

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) has published a ‘Technology related violence against women: Investigating Tech Related Violence Against Women in Peri-Urban Areas of Uganda’ report. It emphasises various aspects of tech-related violence against women (VAW), as well as their implications and solutions. It aims to address these growing challenges in Uganda. At the beginning of the study, tech-related forms of VAW are clustered into three main groups: pornography, cyber stalking, and sexual harassment. Report notes that the United Nations estimates that 95% of aggressive behaviour, harassment, abusive language, and denigrating images in online spaces are aimed at women and come from current or former male partners. Those are referred to as technology-related VAW. ‘Tech-related VAW encompasses acts of gender-based violence that are committed, abetted or aggravated, in part or fully, by the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), such as phones, the internet, social media platforms, and email.’ This study had been done over the period of three month, between June and August 2018, with the support from Association for Progressive Communications (APC).

The Male Champions of Change (MCC) Institute, has shared an open letter dedicated to ‘every male leader in the tech sector’, in order to emphasise their motivation for and commitment to implementing practical actions to create a gender equal future. The letter notes that on average 26% of computing jobs and 5% of leadership positions in technology industry are held by women. It aims to bring attention and step up to ‘lead on gender equality’ in the tech sector. The group, established by accelerateHER and Male Champions of Change, will hold an inaugural meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to implement an action-lead strategy for the upcoming 12 months. The letter has been signed by high-level representatives of 18 different organisations, including WeTransfer, Samsung NEXT and Samsung Electronics, Microsoft, BBC, and Intel, among others.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, Dr Scott Gottlieb, and the Director of the Centre for Devices and Radiological Health, Dr Jeff Shuren, issued a statement on a record year for device innovation. According to the statement, the FDA approved 106 new IoT medical devices in 2018, compared to 99 devices in 2017. This reflects the ongoing policy of the FDA in recent years to promote the development and use of IoT medical devices and services in the USA. The statement also highlighted FDA’s plans to continue implementing the National Evaluation System for Health Technology (NEST) and other initiatives concerning the development of safe IoT medical devices.

25 Jan

The European Commission decided to harmonise the radio spectrum in the 3.4-3.8 GHz band to enable future use of 5G across the countries. The amending implementing decision is in line with the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) which requires from Member States to support this band for 5G systems by 21 December 2020.  The decision of the Commission is based on the principles of technology and service neutrality, both provided by the EECC. The EU has tried to integrate this band since 2008, but a few number of licences has been required. The harmonisation of spectrum for wireless broadband electronic communications services will boost connection speed, provide more reliable mobile networks and expand mobile network coverage. The 5G is considered an important building block for the future of the digital economy.

Responding to a request from the WhoIS Registry to reduce the annual fees of $25 000, ICANN responded stating that the new gTLD would have to pay the overdue fees by 10 Februray or risk being terminated. ICANN rules also allow gTLDs to sell their contract to other registries.


Artificial intelligence (AI) was among the most prominent topics discussed at this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting held in Davos, between 22 and 25 January 2019. One of the highlights was the WEF announcing the creation of a high-level 'AI Council' to work on addressing issues such as ethics and AI, data protection, and the future of work. Singapore used the Forum as an opportunity to release a model governance framework for AI, built on two principles: AI-based decisions are explainable, transparent and fair; and AI solutions and human-centric. German Chancellor Angela Merkel mentioned that, when it comes to addressing AI challenges, global cooperation and engagement through a collective architecture are needed. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred to a need to integrate new technologies such as AI in the laws of war, noting that the second commission of the UN General Assembly could play a role here. Philanthropist George Soros spoke about a 'mortal danger facing open societies from the instruments of control that machine learning and artificial intelligence can put in the hands of repressive regimes', and expressed concerns about the AI-based 'credit score system' developed in China. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff drew attention to the risks of a new type of digital divide, between those who can benefit from the opportunities offered by AI, and those who do not have access to such technology. According to Benioff, AI is becoming a 'new human right' that everyone should have access to.

Refinitiv joins the UN Task Force on Digital Financing of Sustainable Development Goals as a data partner. The company announced that it will deploy its data and insight to support local communities and combat climate change through committing to three core pledges on environment, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable solutions that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. “As we explore ways in which the digitalization of finance can be used to unlock resources for the Sustainable Development Goals, having solid data on the sources, types and direction of funding flows is critical to our work. With Refinitiv's support, we hope to find opportunities in which small changes to investment criteria or incentives could shift investors and investments toward more sustainable outcomes” said Tillman Bruett, Director of the Task Force Secretariat. The task force, which consists of leaders from developed and developing countries, is mandated to recommend strategies to harness the potential of financial technology to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. It met at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 22 – 25 January 2019, Davos and is expected to present its preliminary report of recommendations to the Secretary-General in September 2019.

Based on reports published by NHK world and Forbes, Japan’s Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, Masashi Ishida, has approved an amendment related to connected devices. According to the amendment, which is a part of a governmental security survey, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology Law, will attempt to hack connected devices at homes and offices in Japan, in order to test their vulnerabilities. The operators of the survey will randomly hack into about 200 million devices and create a list of vulnerabilities, which they will share with the owners of the breached devices as well as their Internet service providers (ISPs) for them to improve their safeguards. This move is done in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, as part of the Japanese government’s efforts to deal with cybersecurity threats.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published the Advanced Drone Operator's Toolkit. The guide offers a set of recommendations for governments that plan to integrate drones into their national airspace. The recommendations are based on pilot projects that took place in Switzerland and Rwanda in co-operation with the Drone Innovator's Network (DIN). This guide was developed by the WEF’s Drones and Tomorrow’s Airspace team at the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution together with international governmental organisations, private companies, public stakeholders, research institutions, and civil aviation authorities from five continents. During the summit, it was also announced that the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh will be the next state to join the pilot and will begin implementing the recommendations of the toolkit in delivering medical supplies.

Singapore’s Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) issued a draft version of an Internet of Things (IoT) Cyber Security Guide. The guide aims to promote the implementation of best cybersecurity practices for IoT devices among IoT developers and users. This preliminary version of the guide includes key principles of IoT security and recommendations for improving security. In addition, the IMDA has begun a process of public consultation in the matter, asking the public and the industry for their views and comments to be added to the next version of the guide.

24 Jan

A new report from Germany’s NetzPolitik says Facebook is working with Aeronautics giant Airbus, to test drones in Australia. This is an attempt to revive the social media giant’s ambitious programme to beam Internet across the globe using drones which was abandoned last year. NetzPolitik obtained a document, requested under Australia’s Freedom of Information Act, that showed that the two companies spent last year planning on how to collaborate and schedule test flights in November and December 2018.  According to the report, Facebook wants to use the drones that operate at an altitude of 20 kilometres from the Earth’s surface to bring connectivity to some 3.8 billion people who do not yet have access to the Internet.

The most significant effort in advancing Industry 4.0 is the development of digital infrastructure. According to a recent report, private and public sector representatives who took part in the 2019 edition of the ASEAN Digital Infrastructure seminar organised by the ASEAN Business Advisory Council in Thailand, announced the expansion in the country’s Internet infrastructure.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society of Thailand, Pichet Durongkaveroj told reporters during the seminar that Thailand is all set to become a full-fledged broadband nation by the end of 2019 by providing Internet access to an additional 50 000 villages this year.

23 Jan

One of the main justification of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for repealing net neutrality rules was based on the prediction that deregulation would boost broadband network investment. However, this prediction has not been turned into reality. In 2018, Charter, Verizon, and Comcast reduced capital expenditures. In an earnings announcement, Comcast said that its cable division decreased 3 percent less on capital expenditures last year. According to MoffettNathanson estimates cited in a Light Reading article, Charter and Comcast are both expected to reduce cable capital expenditures in 2019. 


The European Commission adopted an adequacy decision that will facilitate the sharing of data between the EU and Japan. The Japanese data protection watchdog also recognised the EU data protection regime as equivalent, providing mutual recognition on both sides, as reported by Bloomberg.

22 Jan

Australian federal government wants to make sure that on-demand economy worker pays their fair share of taxes. The Treasury published an industry discussion paper containing proposals for a mandatory regime of taxes for people working in the sector. The measure would include companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Uber eats, among others. Sharing economy has experienced significant growth in Australia, and authorities are concerned that there is a possibility that some workers do not report their current income to avoid paying the right amount of taxes. The Transportation Workers Union of Australia has condemned the proposal, alleging that, first, the government should consider regulating the on-demand economy to protect workers, including legislation on minimum pay, superannuation, sick leave, and the possibility of collective bargain. 

France will use cyberweapons, in addition to traditional weapons, to respond and attack, Defence Secretary Florence Parly stated at the International Cybersecurity Forum FIC2019, held in Lille. She declared that ‘Cyberwar has begun’. Parly called on European allies to co-operate in combating cyber-threats, and particularly, in protecting the defence industry’s supply chain. In this regard, she asked for greater engagement from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to further develop the French (and EU) cyber-defence, and announced a bug bounty partnership between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and startups, in which ethical hackers will conduct research for the MoD to look for internal vulnerabilities.

21 Jan

As reported by the Guardian, a surgeon has won a legal action to remove from Google searches mentions of past medical negligence. This case is the first legal development including the right to be forgotten and medical negligence by a doctor.

Online activist and journalist Huang Qi went on trial in Mianyang, Sichuan, facing charges from November 2016 of leaking state secrets. No verdict has yet been reported concerning the last-minute trial. His early work on finding missing persons was lauded by the Chinese government, but later work published on the site 64tianwang (in Chinese) and his reporting on alleged government officials' wrongdoing have resulted in at least two previous detentions since 2009.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, along with 11 other organisations released a statement last November reporting that Huang Qi could die in police custody if he does not receive medical treatment for high blood pressure and late-stage kidney disease.

CNIL’s restricted committee imposed a financial penalty of 50 Million EUR against  Google, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), for lack of transparency, inadequate information, and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalization. According to CNIL, the information relevant for the GDPR is scattered through severalsteps and often incomprehensible to the users. In addition, Google when personalising ads failed to obtain valid consent from the users, since the user was not sufficiently informed about the extent of the processing information
and the collected consent was ambiguous.



Kenya has enacted amendments to its national identification law that will enable the state to collect more precise data when issuing identification documents. These include digital Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), GPS coordinates of residential addresses, retina and iris pattern, voice waves and earlobe pattern. Previously, persons were required to register their fingerprints, facial image, postal address and place of birth. The newly signed law will help to build a digital ID system known as National Integrated Identity Management System that will centralise birth, ID, refugee, death, driving licences and passport records.

in 2016 having a higher rate of registration of persons than most Sub-Saharan African nations. However, key gaps identified included having numerous identification databases as well as lack of a privacy and data protection framework. Although there are data protection Bills, the country is yet to enact a comprehensive privacy law.

Denmark based company Bluetown, announced its  Airband Initiative with Microsoft which will bring Internet access to approximately 800 000 people in underserved communities in the Eastern region of Ghana. TV white space and wi-fi will be used to create affordable public wi-fi zones. The project will also provide Internet and free access to digital services such as e-learning, e-health, news and more) to local institutions and businesses .

At the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Human Rights, the  resolution the right to privacy in the digital age (A/RES/73/179) was adopted.

The general assembly noted that every individual, especially children and women are more vulnerable to have their privacy violated. It was also recognised that the right to privacy is important to prevent gender-based violence, abuse and sexual harassment cyber-bullying, cyberstalking  especially against women and children.The UNGA also emphasised the need to adopt preventive measures and remedies to protect the privacy and rights of all especially women and children.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that the protections afforded by the federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), applies to websites and mobile apps, in a new ruling. , have According to the court, limiting access online essentially prevents a customer's access to services at the company’s physical locations. The decision went in favour of a visually impaired California resident Guillermo Robles who filed a lawsuit against Domino’s in 2016, after his unsuccessful attempt to order pizza online. Robles had sought a declaration that Domino’s was in violation of the ADA since their website or app was not designed to be compatible with the screen-reading software which he uses.

The state government of Victoria, Australia, announced its plans to give Bosch a grant of $2.3 million to test self-driving vehicles on high-speed rural roads. This is the first time these cars are allowed in the state after legislation permitting such trials was approved last year. The tests will analyse how the vehicles function under various weather and traffic conditions in order to improve rural road safety.

Irish data protection watchdog announced it was investigating Twitter after the company disclosed a new data breach. The Irish authority has been investigating Twitter since November after other breach notifications, as reported by Reuters.

20 Jan

Facebook and the Technical University of Munich have announced co-operation in developing a research centre to focus on ethics in the context of artificial intelligence (AI). The Institute for Ethics in AI will benefit from an initial grant of 7.5 million USD over from Facebook, over the next five years. It will, however, also try to attract funding from other donors, such as public agencies and other private entities. The institute is expected to conduct substantive research on issues related to AI and ethics, such as safety, privacy, fairness, and transparency. The output of such research could take the form of ethical frameworks, methodologies and algorithmic approaches to provide advice and guidance for AI developers and practitioners, legislators, and decision-makers. In motivating its choice for such an investment in a German-based centre, Facebook explained that it expects the institute to 'benefit from Germany's position at the forefront of the conversation surrounding ethical frameworks for AI'.

19 Jan

The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) Inter-sessional Panel 2018-2019 was convened on 15-17 January 2019, Vienna, Austria. During the panel, an issues paper was introduced on the impact of rapid technological change on sustainable development. The (draft) issues paper, which is prepared by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) secretariat, examines the opportunities, risks and challenges brought about by rapid technological change, and looks at the role of science, technology and innovation (STI) policy. It further identifies strategies, policies, and immediate actions required to use STI to empower people, especially those who are vulnerable, and ensure inclusiveness and equality. One of the key messages posited by this research is that rapid technological change offers a significant opportunity to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals. That said, it also poses new challenges for policy-making, threatening to outpace the capacity of governments and society to adapt to the changes that new technologies bring about.


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