After a short hiatus, welcome back to the Media Law Roundup. This edition provides a survey of October’s media news.
A new group of industry, civil society, and government organizations called the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) was unveiled on October 7th. A4AI aims to focus on policy change to promote a more affordable Internet in developing nations. The alliance was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation, and is supported by over thirty members including Google, UK Department for International Development, USAID, Cisco, Facebook, Intel, Omidyar Network, Microsoft, and Yahoo. A4AI executive director Sonia Jorge stated that many countries, at a national level, have not yet revised Internet or telecommunication policies. She emphasized that the alliance is not just telling countries to reform their regulatory framework, but rather working with stakeholders in these developing nations to improve regulations. A4AI is currently working with three countries with the hopes of extending its network to 12 countries by the end of 2015. In December 2013, A4AI intends to release its first annual “Affordability Report.”
On October 9th Brazil announced it would host a global summit on Internet governance in April 2014. Brazil has been in the spotlight since the country made public its plans to extricate itself from U.S. control of the Internet. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff tweeted that governments, industry, civil society and academia will come together at the summit to discuss Brazil’s ideas for enhancing Internet security.
As Christopher Yoo, the Director of Penn Law’s Center for Technology, Innovation, and Competition, stated at CGCS’s Scholarship After Snowden event, “If you are getting a service for free, you are not the customer, you are the product.” Beginning on November 11th 2013, Google users’ profile names and photos will become further integrated into Google’s “product”. On October 11th, Google announced a terms of service update that allows the company to include users’ profile names and pictures in reviews, advertisements and other commercial products. Users’ restaurant reviews, comments on YouTube, and music ratings can imply personal endorsements to be displayed on Google and other third party websites. While Google users can opt out of the ads and those under 18 years old are excluded from this policy change, critics are angry at Google’s exploitation of user data.
At SeoulCyber2013, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt proposed principles to constrain state surveillance. He stated surveillance activities should, “abide by the legality, legitimate aim, necessity and adequacy, proportionality, judicial authority, transparency and public oversight.” Bildt’s comments reflect legal principles put forth by a coalition of civil society organizations first in May 2013 at the Stockholm Internet Forum, and later in September 2013 at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The NGO document outlined additional principles Bildt did not mention. The foreign minister’s speech, however, indicates that Sweden is reaching some common ground with NGOs regarding balancing state power and Internet users’ human rights. Questions still remain about what actions, if any, the Swedish government will take regarding Bildt’s principles.
At the October 17th Internet, Mobile & Digital Economy Conference, India’s Deputy National Security Advisory (NSA) Nehchal Sandhu stated that the Internet has become a global phenomenon, and must have a management system reflecting this universality and diversity. Sandhu asserted that organizations currently influencing the Internet’s institutional architecture and technical standards are U.S. and West-centric. The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) are often cited as being unrepresentative of global Internet interests. Due to the Internet’s dynamic and evolving nature, Sandhu emphasized the urgency for creating “globally coordinated, inclusive and coherent Internet policies.” Sandhu states that the establishment of a multi-sector organizational mechanism for global Internet policy discussions, that does not enable the predominance of any single government, is necessary. The Deputy NSA also identified that the Indian government has taken an integrated approach to cyber security, citing India’s recent National Cyber Security Policy.
A new free browser add-on called Lightbeam enables Firefox users to see who is tracking their browsing habits for advertising and other purposes. Released by Mozilla, Lightbeam is geared to a mainstream audience. The tool generates a real-time graph of every site users visit and the third parties that are potentially collecting user data. Till Daida, co-founder of the ad-blocking browser extension Adblock Plus, stated that Lightbeam is a “step forward in the fight for greater openness across the Internet.”
On October 20th Google Ideas announced a new browser tool that would enable people to provide their trusted friends with secure connections to the unrestricted Internet. The tool, uProxy, functions as a peer-to-peer gateway to an open Internet. People living in authoritarian regimes, such as China, Syria, and Iran, could bypass digital censorship and monitoring by connecting with someone whom they trust across the world. Emphasizing the tool’s simplicity to use, Yasmin Green, the Principal at Google Ideas, stated that uProxy merely requires “two clicks…to bypass a repressive regime.” uProxy, however, does not anonymize traffic, allow for file sharing, or provide encrypted communications. Although uProxy was revealed at Google Ideas’ “Conflict in a Connected World” summit, it has not yet been made public. uProxy’s official release date is unknown as Google wants to make adjustments to its security.
In the wake of the Snowden revelations, Brazil and Germany have requested that the UN adopt a draft resolution calling for the right to privacy in the digital age. The resolution urges countries to “protect their right to privacy guaranteed under international law.” It calls on the assembly to state that is it concerned about human rights violations resulting from excessive surveillance. This encompasses, “extraterritorial surveillance of communications, their interception, as well as the collection of personal data, in particular massive surveillance, interception and data collection.” The draft will be debated by a human rights focused General Assembly committee, and voted on later this month.