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2015: October

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Update: Snooper's Treasure Trove...

Police call for the ability to snoop on the browsing history of all British internet users

Link Here31st October 2015
Full story: Snooper's Charter...Tories re-start massive programme of communications snooping
Police have lobbied the government for the power to view the internet browsing history of every computer user in Britain ahead of the publication of legislation on regulating surveillance powers.

Senior officers want to revive the measures similar to those contained in the snooper's charter , which would force telecommunications companies to retain for 12 months data that would disclose websites visited by customers, reported the Times.

Richard Berry, the National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman for data communications refused to comment on any specifics of the forthcoming legislation, but claimedr the police were not looking for anything beyond what they could already access through telephone records. Detailing the powers police want, he said:

We essentially need the 'who, where, when and what' of any communication, who initiated it, where were they and when did it happened. And a little bit of the 'what', were they on Facebook, or a banking site, or an illegal child-abuse image-sharing website?

Update: ISPs warn about police snooping

31st October 2015. See  article from

 ISPs have warned that any new powers introduced by the government to allow broader snooping of web browsing behaviour must come with adequate oversight to protect civil liberties.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) has sent a checklist of five key principles to MPs that it believes any new legislation must adhere to.

The ISPA said it had not yet been consulted over any extension of powers to cover internet browsing history. Andrew Kernahan, ISPA spokesman, said:

Once the bill is published we will be going through it with a fine-toothed comb. What we do know is that internet connection records that the government wanted was included in the draft communications data bill that was rejected by parliament. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson, said there needed to be a rigorous assessment conducted of the lawfulness, likely effectiveness, intrusiveness and cost of requiring such data to be retained.

Kernahan said despite the bill's rejection, the government had not consulted with ISPs . We are still yet to have a proper conversation about this, he said.



Heard the one about the Supreme Court judge who fell of his bench laughing...

Indian Supreme Court to hear petition to ban online jokes about sikhs

Link Here 31st October 2015
India's Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case which seeks a ban on jokes about Sikhs. The petition claims that such jokes are a violation of sikh's right to equality with fellow citizens and an attack on the dignity of the community. The petitioner said the court should order the government to ensure such online jokes are banned or blocked.

Filed by Sikh lawyer Harvinder Chowdhury, the petition also says offenders should be told to deposit a compensation in the National Legal Aid Fund. It adds that the Ministries of Telecom and Information and Broadcasting should either ban the websites or direct them to remove such jokes since they tend to portray the sikh community as people of low intellect .

Chowdhury complained that she had to suffer humiliation because of such jokes even when she was abroad, and that her children insist on not having Singh or Kaur as surnames to avoid embarrassment.

But judges told her that there are many Sikhs who do not mind such jokes:

Many people we know take these jokes sportingly. It may not be an insult but only some casual comic statements for amusement. You want all such jokes to stop but Sikhs may themselves oppose this.

The case will be heard in a month.



Offsite Article: Controversial Cybersecurity Bill Passed By Senate...

Link Here29th October 2015
Explaining the latest CISA bill facilitating US mass snooping

See article from



Social Credit...

China dreams up social network to record and monitor behaviour that the state considers errant and then make it available to employers and service providers

Link Here28th October 2015
Full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
China has been thinking up a nasty twist to their surveillance society predicted to result in a significant increase in internet censorship. It is called Internet Plus and combines repressive censorship and content monitoring with social media style aggregation of people's internet life.

At the core of China's Internet agenda lies the so-called social credit system . This system, which is currently in the planning phase, seeks to leverage the explosion in personal data generated through smartphones, apps and online transactions in order to improve citizens' behaviour.

According to a planning document published by the State Council last year , its objective is to improve sincerity in government affairs, commerce and social interactions.

Individuals and businesses will be scored on various aspects of their conduct -- where you go, what you buy and who you know -- and these scores will be integrated within a comprehensive database that not only links into government information, but also to data collected by private businesses. An individual's credit score might then be used in granting or withholding particular social services, or being made available to employers.

The State Council plan, for instance, mentions rumor-mongering as an example of behavior to be sanctioned and recorded. It is this part of the plan that has led many commentators to describe it as an Orwellian tool of individual control.



Update: Snoopers bang on the back door...

Iran blocks Telegram encrypted comms app when the company won't provide snooping tools

Link Here24th October 2015
Full story: Iranian Internet Censorship...Extensive internet blocking
Iran has  been facing off with the Telegram encrypted comms app over a dispute about granting the repressive state rights to snoop on users' communications.

Iran has demanded snooping rights but has been generating a public outcry when applying temporary blocks to the app.

Pavel Durov, founder and chief executive officer for the app Telegram, took to Twitter to defend the app after Iran decided to block it because he wouldn't allow the government to spy on its users. Durov tweeted:

Iranian officials want to use @telegram to spy on their citizens. We can not and will not help them with that.

Iranian ministry of ICT demanded that @telegram provided them with spying and censorship tools. We ignored the demand, they blocked us.

According to Durov, ICT completely blocked the app in Iran for two hours Tuesday and partially blocked it for more than a week.




UKraine sets up a registry of censored websites

Link Here23rd October 2015

When Ukraine's Interior Minister announced the initiative to form a new cyberpolice unit on October 11, the focus of the media coverage--and of Minister Avakov's statement--was very much on fighting online crime and beefing up the information security practices of the Ukrainian government. The launch was touted as successful, with over three thousand Ukrainians applying to join the cyberpolice force in the first 24 hours after the announcement. But amid the robust response to plans for the cybercrime unit, an arguably less popular element of the initiative flew under many Ukrainians' radars.

Along with other measures to improve information security, the Ministry plans to establish a registry of websites and webpages blocked for distributing forbidden content.

The presentation slide which was published on the Interior Ministry's website, indicates that websites featuring pirated content violating copyright, child pornography, malware and viruses, and phishing content will be listed on the banned website registry. It's unclear whether social media websites, where any user can potentially upload these and other kinds of content, will bear the brunt of responsibility for these materials -- they could be blacklisted and blocked in their entirety, or authorities could take a more nuanced approach, blocking only the pages with prohibited content. It is also unclear whether the cyberpolice forces will be required to seek court approval in order to add a site to the blacklist and subsequently block it, or if the blockings will occur extrajudicially.

In January 2014, in the midst of the Euromaidan protests, Ukrainian lawmakers passed laws restricting online public space and introducing web blocking, along with a string of other measures limiting free expression and civic activity. The set of laws, ostensibly aimed at cracking down on the protesters, in many ways resembled similar Russian legal norms. Then-president Victor Yanukovych even signed the laws into effect, but the new norms angered the Euromaidan protesters and caused an uptick in protest activity, ultimately resulting in Yanukovich's exit and the repeal of the restrictive anti-protest legislation. Given Ukrainians' reaction to the 2014 laws, the newly proposed banned websites registry is unlikely to get an enthusiastic response from Internet users.



High Speed Pursuit...

Is the Daily Mail hinting that Ofcom sacked ATVOD so that it could could continue to censor Jeremy Clarkson who otherwise would have escaped its clutches by going to Video On Demand?

Link Here22nd October 2015
The Daily Mail seems to have quite cleverly pieced together news about Ofcom's sacking of ATVOD and related statements, (but not directly on the subject of censoring Clarkson) to give the impression that it is all about retaining the ability to censor Jeremy Clarkson after his move from TV to the Video on Demand service, Amazon Prime. The Daily Mail writes:

Ofcom has taken it upon itself to extend its watchdog remit to internet TV shows in a move that will come as a blow to Jeremy Clarkson's hopes for freedom for his new Amazon series.

The broadcasting regulator announced it is taking over internet-watch duties of online video content from the little-known quango Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) following an internal review.

It comes just weeks after former Top Gear presenter Clarkson said he was looking forward to freedom from finger wagging .

Following filming of the new Amazon Prime motoring show, Clarkson wrote in his Sunday Times car review section that he was in the free world, where you can say what you want.

But it has now emerged that the programme will be overseen by the TV regulator.

The Daily Mail doesn't mention that the legal constraints on VoD censorship are set at a higher bar and are more about hate speech than mere taste and decency, but why spoil the case.

The newspaper also notes the news that the EU is eyeing further censorship powers over the wider internet, not just VoD.

The European Union has launched a public consultation on current rules surrounding broadcast and on demand media services.

Next year there will be a full review of the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive, originally adopted in 2010, where the European Commission will examine whether the current system should be adapted.

It will also look at whether the directive's current scope should be broadened so as to apply to new services and players that are outside the existing definition of audio-visual media services.



Update: Shooting the Messenger...

Germany considers prosecuting Facebook over hateful comments about migrants

Link Here22nd October 2015
Full story: Internet Censorship in Germany...Germany considers state internet filtering

With enormous numbers of refugees prompting significant numbers of hateful posts on social media, German prosecutors are considering going after Facebook itself for acting as a home for posts that advocate racial hatred and violate laws against neo-Nazi speech.

German prosecutors are investigating possible charges against three Facebook managers, prompted by a complaint that they failed to act against racist comments about Europe's refugee crisis.

The complaint came from German attorney Chan-jo Jun, of Wuerzburg. In it, he claimed to have flagged more than 60 Facebook entries that would violate German hate-speech laws. In an interview in Die Welt newspaper, he noted that the posts he flagged -- some featuring Nazi insignia and people posing while giving a Nazi salute -- are strictly forbidden by German law.

But, he said, Facebook responded to his complaints by saying the content didn't violate Facebook's community standards, and the posts were not removed. He made copies of the posts and sent them to Facebook's German managers by registered mail. In the complaint he filed, he noted:

We need to put an end to the arrogance with which some companies try to translate their system of values to Europe.

Facebook Germany encourages the dissemination of offensive, punishable content through its actions in Germany.

This week, the German tabloid Bild ran a two-page spread of nothing but hateful Facebook comments, complete with user names and profile photos. The comments were directed at the large number of refugees seeking asylum in Germany, and those who support them.



Extract: The Great Firewall of Britain...

An extract from the government's Counter-Extremism Strategy reveals a propaganda 'network of credible commentators' to challenge internet extremism

Link Here21st October 2015

Contesting the online space

63. We are already working in partnership with industry and the police to remove terrorist and extremist material. Cooperation with industry has significantly improved in recent years. Removals at the request of the police have increased from around 60 items a month in 2010, when the unit responsible was first established, to over 4,000 a month in 2015, taking the total to 110,000 pieces of propaganda removed.

64. However, a fundamental shift in the scale and nature of our response is required to match the huge increase in extremists' use of the internet. This will involve close partnership with the public and industry to do two things: first we need to empower people to use the internet to challenge extremists online; and second we will work with social media and communications providers to ensure extremists do not have open access to their platforms.

65. To empower those who wish to challenge extremists online, we will continue to:

  • support a network of credible commentators who want to challenge the extremists and put forward mainstream views online;

  • train a wide range of civil society groups to help them build and maintain a compelling online presence, uploading mainstream content so that the extremist voice is not the only one heard;

  • run a national programme to make young people more resilient to the risks of radicalisation online and provide schools and teachers with more support to address the risk posed by online radicalisation; and

  • build awareness in civil society groups and the public to empower internet users to report extremist content.

66. And we will go further to limit access to extremist content online. In particular we will:

  • create a group that brings industry, government and the public together to agree ways to limit access to terrorist and extremist content online without compromising the principle of an open internet. We will learn from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which has been successful in tackling child sexual exploitation content online; and

  • continue to support greater use of filtering, working with industry to develop more effective approaches.

67. Communications service providers have a critical role in tackling extremist content online. We have seen the considerable progress they have made in tackling online Child Sexual Exploitation. We now look to them to step up their response to protect their users from online extremism. As the Prime Minister made clear in his July 2015 speech,... is now time for radicalisation . We need industry to strengthen their terms and conditions, to ensure fewer pieces of extremist material appear online, and that any such material is taken down quickly.

68. Using the internet -- both to confront extremist views and limit access to extremist content -- is crucial if we are to challenge extremist ideologies in our modern society. Alongside this is a need to promote the positive message that it is possible to reconcile your faith identity and national identity. By contesting the online space and presenting compelling alternatives to the extremist worldview, we will work in partnership with others to keep pace with the extremists' use of the internet.



Update: The Great Firewall of Thailand...

Thailand's military dictators resume plans to censor the internet

Link Here21st October 2015
Full story: Internet Censorship in Thailand...Thailand implements mass website blocking

Thailand's junta has said it planned to create a new military unit to censor online dissent, as Internet freedom campaigners said they were training hundreds of volunteers for a cyber war against censorship.

The proposed unit follows controversial plans for a single access point to the Internet, dubbed by online protesters as the Great Firewall of Thailand - in reference to China's draconian web surveillance - because it would make it easier to monitor the web.

While Thai premier Prayut Chan-o-cha claimed no conclusions have been reached on the single gateway but defence minister Prawit Wongsuwon has now told reporters the military is continuing with the plan.

In response, the group Citizens Against Single Gateway: Thailand Internet Firewall, vowed to launch unspecified attacks against the junta if the gateway plans were not cancelled. The group said the group in a Facebook post:

In order to win the cyber war this time, we must use brains, skills and patience.



When your government or police take a liking to your account...

Facebook will notify users when they are targeted by nation-states

Link Here 19th October 2015
Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook, explains its new Notification for targeted attacks:

The security of people's accounts is paramount at Facebook, which is why we constantly monitor for potentially malicious activity and offer many options to proactively secure your account. Starting today, we will notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.

While we have always taken steps to secure accounts that we believe to have been compromised, we decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored. We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts.

It's important to understand that this warning is not related to any compromise of Facebook's platform or systems, and that having an account compromised in this manner may indicate that your computer or mobile device has been infected with malware. Ideally, people who see this message should take care to rebuild or replace these systems if possible.

To protect the integrity of our methods and processes, we often won't be able to explain how we attribute certain attacks to suspected attackers. That said, we plan to use this warning only in situations where the evidence strongly supports our conclusion. We hope that these warnings will assist those people in need of protection, and we will continue to improve our ability to prevent and detect attacks of all kinds against people on Facebook.



Update: Claims of shorter retention times...

Germany passes new internet mass snooping law, after all they now have an awful lot of Syrians to keep an eye on

Link Here17th October 2015
Full story: The Edward Snowden Revelations...Internet Snooping in the US revealed
Germany's Bundestag has voted for a new version of the data retention law that caused so much controversy in the past.

The new law will force telcos to store call and email records for 10 weeks, as well as metadata including information about who called or emailed whom and when, and call duration. IP addresses will also be logged. Mobile phone location data will only be stored for four weeks.

The data is only to be used in the investigation of terrorism and other serious crimes (but all crimes are defined as 'serious' crimes these days) and police must get a judge's consent before rifling through personal metadata, and the individual in question must be notified.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas defended the new law, saying that it was proportionate, in contrast to earlier legislation, as less data would be stored and retained for a shorter time.



Offsite Article: Are you a traitor?...

Link Here17th October 2015
Full story: The Edward Snowden Revelations...Internet Snooping in the US revealed
The BBC Panorama interview with Edward Snowden

See article from



Cameron looks into Obama's backdoor...

The Obama administration will not pursue requirements for government backdoor into encrypted communications

Link Here16th October 2015

The Obama administration has announced that it will not be pursuing legislation to force tech companies to introduce encryption backdoors. National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh said:

As the president has said, the United States will work to ensure that malicious actors can be held to account -- without weakening our commitment to strong encryption. As part of those efforts, we are actively engaged with private companies to ensure they understand the public safety and national security risks that result from malicious actors' use of their encrypted products and services.

The announcement came in the same week that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales called the British Prime Minister's anti-encryption rhetoric moronic . He said:

It's too late, David. ...The genie is out of the bottle. ...It is not feasible in any sense of the word for the UK to ban end-to-end encryption. It's a completely moronic and stupid thing to do. We all have a very strong interest in a safe and secure internet.



Going after 3rd parties...

Entertainment Distributors' Push For Site-Blocking Power Get More Extreme

Link Here16th October 2015



Update: The Great Firewall of Thailand...

Thailand's military dictator continues to defend his attempt to censor the Thai internet

Link Here11th October 2015
Thailand's military dictator has been defending his latest policy to censor dissent with plans to launch a single Internet gateway that will help the government to muzzle the web.

According to news reports, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology was ordered at a September 1 Cabinet meeting to establish a firewall to filter all Internet traffic entering and leaving Thailand. The written order, signed by Prayuth, said the gateway would serve as a tool to control access to inappropriate sites and the influx of information from abroad, the reports said. Prayuth's order called on authorities to expedite the gateway's establishment.

Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalists' senior Southeast Asia representative responded:

Thailand needs fewer, not more, controls on the Internet. Prayuth should scrap the one gateway plan and any other designs to block, censor, or surveil the Internet and Internet-based social media applications. Any new laws or plans to govern Thailand's Internet should be left for a new, elected administration, not his self-appointed military junta.

Thai citizens have been opposing the censorship plan via a petition signed by nearly 150,000 people. The issue has become one of the biggest public rallying points since the military seized power from an elected government last year.

Activists brought down several government websites last week in protest at plans dubbed the Great Firewall of Thailand .

Last Wednesday, calls went out on social media in Thailand encouraging people to visit the websites and repeatedly refresh them. Image caption One of the posts that appeared on social media: Next target, to show our opposition to the single gateway. Among the targets were the site of the ministry of information, communications and technology (ICT) and the main government website .

ICT Deputy Permanent Secretary Somsak Khaosuwan tried to spin the website crash, claiming that the site did not crash because of an attack but because it was overloaded by visitors checking to see whether and attack was happening.



Update: Identifying Repression...

China looks to identify internet users by demanding that they use an ID card to log on

Link Here2nd October 2015
Full story: Internet Censorship in China...All pervading Chinese internet censorship
China's public security ministry is pressing ahead with repressive moves to force more of the country's 668 million netizens to use their real names and a digital ID card online.

The move is part of a raft of Internet controls enshrined in the draft Cybersecurity Law being debated in China's parliament.

While officials claim the new system will improve the security of users' personal data and help fight cybercrime, online activists say it is yet another way for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to keep tabs on who is saying what online.

An online activist nicknameed Xiaofei Riyetan told RFA:

The overall aim of the Chinese Communist Party is to further tighten control on dissidents, including democracy activists. This will add greater weight to their attempts to accuse these people of crimes, and enable them to lock them up in the name of the rule of law.

He said recent surveys showing that netizens feel less safe online than they did previously have more to do with a sense that everything they do or say is being watched, than with cybercrime.  The activist said:

The crackdown on dissents has got worse and worse since [President] Xi Jinping came to power. The space for free expression is getting smaller and smaller, and ever more tightly managed; that's why we feel more and more unsafe, he said.

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