Global Policy Weekly – August 29, 2013
CDT's Global Policy Weekly highlights the latest Internet policy developments and proposals from around the world, compiled by CDT's Global Internet Freedom Project.
SECURITY AND SURVEILLANCE
A recent cyberattack in China targeted servers responsible for the websites with “.cn” domain names, appearing to have shut down the registry for two to four hours. The Chinese government described the event as the worst denial of service attack that the country has faced. CloudFlare reported a 32% decrease in traffic for the Chinese domains on the company’s network and estimated that this pattern likely reflects a similar drop in traffic overall. While some reports allege that the Chinese government may have targeted the nation’s own systems, the Chinese foreign ministry denied these allegations.
Lawmakers in New Zealand passed the controversial Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, which provides new rules on the Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) authority to conduct surveillance. According to John Key, the minister in charge of GCSB, the bill, “tightens, not widens, the existing regime” and provides clearer information about what the agency may and may not do. Critics warn that the bill expands GSCB authority and legitimizes surveillance practices that had previously been conducted under questionable legal authority. In a recent poll, three-quarters of New Zealanders expressed concern about the bill, and activists have taken to social media to protest its provisions.
Facebook released its first Transparency Report detailing the company’s response to government requests for information in the first half on 2013. The report comes three months after Facebook joined the Global Network Initiative, a group that offers companies a framework for responding to government requests that is consistent with human rights principles. Facebook reported getting 11,000 - 12,000 requests from the US government on 20,000-21,000 accounts and providing some information in 79% of cases. The numbers provided are listed in ranges because the company opted to include data on sensitive National Security Letter (NSL) requests and faced legal limitations of the specificity of data the company could provide. CDT is leading an effort (which includes Facebook and other Internet companies) to push for greater transparency around national security-related surveillance of Internet and telephone communications.
Google announced that it is now allowing developers to make apps available in Iran through the Google Play store. The new distribution option is available only for apps that are free of charge. Commentators believe that this is the first time a company has taken advantage of the US Treasury Department’s recent authorization of communications technology exports to Iran. Observers at the New America Foundation applauded Google’s actions as an important first step, but noted that app developers must follow through and proactively opt into making their applications available to Iranians through Google Play.
The Freedom Online Coalition, a group of 21 countries who have committed to advancing human rights on the Internet, wrote a joint statement criticizing Vietnam’s new media law that is scheduled to take effect in September. Decree 72 limits the use of social media to “providing or exchanging personal information” and forbids sharing information from news outlets. The Coalition warned that “Decree 72 appears to be inconsistent with Vietnam’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as its commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” The statement echoed criticism by other concerned parties, including Reporters Without Borders, United States officials, and a coalition of large technology companies.
The New America Foundation published a new paper examining the issue of mobile phone privacy and security in developing countries. In the paper, Hibah Hussain discusses the growth of information and communications projects for development (ICT4D). ICT4D projects use new technologies to address problems in health, agriculture, and other areas for people in the Global South. Hussain raises the concern that ICT4D practitioners and funders lack frameworks and best practices to safeguard privacy and security for users, and proposes guidelines for better incorporating these values into project planning and evaluation.