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April 06 2014


April 03 2014

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February 13 2014

Web We Want Contest: Cartoonists Fight Back!

Anti-surveillance comic by Francisco

Anti-surveillance comic by Francisco “Fankiniano” Cardozo via Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

This post originally appeared on the World Wide Web Foundation blog.

A week ago, the Web We Want initiative challenged artists everywhere to produce cartoons on the topic of NSA surveillance, in support of #TheDayWeFightBack. We received more than 70 submissions from all over the world, and today we’re announcing the winners, as judged by the Web We Want team.  All submissions can be viewed on our Flickr photo stream here.

In first place, receiving a $1000 prize, is Francisco Javier “Frankiano” Cardozo Baudry. He is just 17 years old, a true digital native from Asunción, Paraguay. His contribution “Do Not Fear, I care about you” (above) shows how surveillance is invading each and every moment in the daily life of a young person these days. The PDF of this multi-frame cartoon can be downloaded here. We will ask him to make editable versions available so activists all over the world can easily translate, adapt and use his amazing material.

Anti-surveillance cartoon by Carlos Latuff via Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

Anti-surveillance cartoon by Carlos Latuff via Flickr (CC BY 4.0)

Second place goes to cartoonist Carlos Latuff from Brazil, who produced a piece (right) representing a single national leader monitoring the communications of the entire world. Third place goes to American cartoonist Jimmy Margulies, whose work highlighted wiretapping of foreign leaders.

A video (below) submitted by digital rights group Red PaTodos in Colombia deserves an honorary mention and we encourage them to upload it in a collaborative platform such as DotSub, including its script, so others can translate and add subtitles to it. It neatly explains current threats and challenges to online privacy.

The cartoons produced by activists and artists from different countries and contexts show a common pattern: They acknowledge the invasion of their private space, private life and daily activities by those in power. Intelligence agencies are pictured as dark forces by many of the authors and US President Obama is the main character in several submissions. The computer was not shown as the sole method of surveillance – there were also submissions related to telephone surveillance and CCTV cameras, parents spying on children, the military spying on users, physical surveillance and also the role of private corporations that use data collection and consumers habits as business models. One explained in simple terms what the NSA is currently doing, while others show how we interact and watch via our devices.

All the cartoons are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 License which will allow each and every activist, journalist, school teacher and creative around the world to use them, adapt them, modify them and remix them, keeping the content open.

The Web We Want promotes and defends the protection of personal user information and the right to communicate in private. Expect more soon!


Renata Avila is the campaign manager for the Web We Want.

January 28 2014

Coursera Blocked in Syria — by US Sanctions

Screen capture of Coursera notice. Capture by Anas Maarawi, used with permission.

Screen capture of Coursera notice. Capture by Anas Maarawi, used with permission.

“Our system indicates that you are trying to access the Coursera site from an IP address associated with a country currently subjected to US economic and trade sanctions. In order for Coursera to comply with US export controls, we cannot allow you to access to the site.”

As of this month, if you try to access the online learning platform Coursera from within Syria, you will see only this message.

Coursera, which according to its site aims “to change the world by educating millions of people by offering classes from top universities and professors online for free,” is now subjected to a recent directive from the US federal government that has forced some MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) providers to block access for users in sanctioned countries such as Iran and Cuba. Coursera explains the change in its student support center:

The interpretation of export control regulations as they related to MOOCs was unclear for a period of time, and Coursera had been operating under one interpretation of the law. Recently, Coursera received a clear answer indicating that certain aspects of the Coursera MOOC experience are considered ‘services’ (and all services are highly restricted by export controls). While many students from these countries were previously able to access Coursera, this change means that we will no longer be able to provide students in sanctioned countries with access to Coursera moving forward.

Syrian developer Anas Maarawi criticized the policy shift on his blog: “Between the censorship imposed by the regime, which includes blocking hundreds of internet sites, and the effect of US sanctions, it has become nearly impossible for the remaining youth in the country to have access to online learning.”

Maarrawi added: “The technological sanctions imposed by the US against Syria do not harm the regime. They only contribute to suffocating the population, especially a youth eager to learn and connect with the outside world.”

The sanctions are not new. For several years Syrian internet users have been suffering their effects, from social networks such as LinkedIn to Google Earth.

In September 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation called on the US to lift all restrictions “that deny citizens access to vital communications tools.” But the US has continued its piecemeal approach, going back and forth between blocking new ranges of transactions to allowing the export of certain services.

“These sorts of export restrictions are overbroad and contain elements which have no effect on the Syrian regime, while preventing Syrian citizens from accessing a wealth of tools that are available to their activist counterparts in neighboring countries and around the world,” EFF stated.

Amid increasing isolation, access to knowledge is vital

Contending with deep isolation and daily loss, many Syrians regard Coursera as an empowering platform that allows them to continue learning, against all odds. Mahmud Angrini, a Syrian doctor who took more than 20 of the online courses the platform offers, shared what Coursera meant to him in a very touching letter that was published on the Coursera blog under the title “It's never too late to start again”:

Once a successful physician, my family and I turned into one of the millions of Syrian refugees. I didn’t just lose my properties I also lost all my relations – friends and supporting family members. I felt sad, depressed, bored and isolated. But then one day while I was surfing the Internet, I found Coursera.

What I can assure you is that Coursera changed my life during those painful months. I began to follow Coursera courses, not just in the field of medicine but also in many other disciplines. (…) Soon later, my language skills improved and I engaged in many other courses. The courses and the interesting knowledge impeded in them helped me forget my pain, depression and suffering.

Someday, the war will end, and we will come back to our homes and our former lives to contribute to the reconstruction process in our country. To do so, we need to learn new skills, and this could only be achieved through continuing education. We can take advantage of the high quality courses that Coursera offers at no cost.

The letter was welcome by the Coursera editors, who described Dr. Angrini’s experience as touching and inspiring: “Thank you Mahmud, for living Coursera’s mission to create a world where people can learn without limits.”

Coursera ended the announcement of the changes that prevent access to their courses in sanctioned countries with the following note: “We value our global community of users and sincerely regret the need to take this action. Please know that Coursera is currently working very closely with the U.S. Department of State and Office of Foreign Asset Control to secure the necessary permissions to reinstate site access for users in sanctioned countries.”

If Coursera really believes in its own role as a life-changer (and game-changer) in the field of online education, it should take all steps necessary to ensure that access to their site is reinstated in sanctioned countries such as Syria, where their courses make the biggest difference.

Anas Maarawi contributed to this article.

December 30 2013

2013 in Review: A Fireside Chat with EFF's Jillian York and Eva Galperin

Graphic by 7iber (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Graphic by 7iber (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Jillian York and Eva Galperin are both longtime Advox contributors that work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading US organization defending human rights in the digital age. They conducted a “year in review” exercise this week, looking at the state of digital rights in 2013 and making predictions for the new year. Not surprisingly, they found themselves focusing on the threat of surveillance in a post-Arab Spring world.

Jillian York: After the Arab Spring, I wasn't really sure how subsequent years could get crazier on the Internet freedom front. And then they did.

Eva Galperin: So was this the “worst year for Internet freedom” to date?

JY: For people who thought that the Arab Spring was going to be a positive turning point, I think 2013 was a pretty tough year. We've seen plenty of evidence of how the Arab Spring influenced countries in the MENA region. What do you think its impact was in other parts of the world?

EG: It has definitely had an influence in Russia and other post-Soviet states. For example, in Turkmenistan the government has seen the Arab Spring as a sign that they should ramp up Internet surveillance. And it doesn't help that the equipment is getting cheaper and surveillance is getting easier as more people all over the world lead more of their lives online.

JY: Surveillance is getting cheaper, and yet there are only a few countries that produce the kind of equipment we're talking about, right?

EG: A lot of the equipment is made in the West, but companies in the US and Europe are facing increasing competition from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE. As activists, we can put pressure on companies like BlueCoat or Cisco or even Teliasonera, but there isn't a lot we can do to influence the policies of Chinese companies.

JY: Right — although I wonder how much the contracts in the West for those companies might influence their choices?

EG: Actually, Huawei officially said this year they were not interested in the US market anymore. I don't want to sound too defeatist, but if the best defense Western companies can come up with for selling surveillance capabilities to authoritarian regimes is “if we don't do it, Chinese companies will,” they've pretty much ceded the moral high ground.  Since everyone is talking about state surveillance these days, do you think that we've made any progress in calling out Western companies this year?

JY: Yes and no. I think we've made a lot of progress with online service providers and social media companies – even if we don't think their statements have been strong enough, many of the leading companies came together and took a stand against the NSA's mass spying. But when it comes to surveillance equipment providers, I think there's so much more we can do. In fact, I'm making that a New Year’s resolution: Find a way to target investors.

On the slip side, there was the launch of the 13 Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance – this document, developed by a coalition (of which EFF was a leading member) and signed by over 300 organizations around the world felt like a powerful step towards a more transparent, rights-protective online environment. So there's some good news.

EG: Indeed! And this could have a lasting impact in years to come. Speaking of strong activism efforts – you watch MENA pretty closely. What great activism have you seen come out of the region this year?

JY: There have been some strong actions around the case of Egyptian blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah — he is facing charges under Egypt’s new “anti-protest” law, which prohibits public demonstration without prior authorization from government officials. When he was arrested last month in Egypt, his allies created a “rolling press release” in a Google Doc that they sent to journalists and organizations — this is still being updated all the time.  It is pretty genius — a great way to keep people informed of the latest news on his case.

Alaa Abd El Fattah. Photo by Alaa (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Alaa Abd El Fattah. Photo by Alaa (CC BY-SA 2.5)

And in Jordan, people have done great work opposing online censorship that has come out of the Press and Publications Law — over 300 sites have been blocked under new amendments to the law that introduce restrictive content and registration rules for websites. Last year, activists responded by driving a coffin around town, calling it a “funeral for the Internet.”

What about in the places that you watch? I know you keep a close eye on Vietnam, what's happening there?

EG: Vietnam is in the midst of a years-long crackdown on bloggers. This year, we saw high-profile bloggers like Le Quoc Quan (also a human rights lawyer) jailed and convicted. There were also cases where bloggers were lumped together and convicted a dozen at a time. And people like Dinh Nhat Uy were jailed for making anti-government Facebook posts.

They're pretty brazen about charging people for unrelated crimes. Charges of tax evasion, which is what got convicted, are pretty common.

This is also a common tactic in China and Russia. Blogger and opposition leader Alexey Navalny was convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to five years in jail in Russia this summer.

JY: Speaking of Russia, this summer it seemed Russia was “on top” so to speak — between Snowden and Putin's success vis-a-vis Syria — but Russia really is cracking down on activists, is it not?

EG: Not only is Russia cracking down on the political opposition, but they've come down hard on free speech on the Internet. Last year, the Duma passed an Internet censorship law that was ostensibly aimed at protecting children but has been used to silence the opposition. Protecting minors from “extremism” “homosexual propaganda” and information about the sale of drugs all have been leading excuses in Russia for censoring the Internet. I think the homophobia angle is relatively new and unusually strong there.

What trends do you expect to see continue into 2014?

JY: Heh – well, one unfortunate one that merits a mention is journalists being charged under terrorism statutes. I counted four just this year. On a more positive note, I think the growth of the digital rights “scene” is amazing. We're not alone in this fight — there are so many allies in every corner of the globe…but that also means we have to be strident in standing up for ALL of our rights, and not compromise.

EG: I have been really impressed by the sheer number of new organizations springing up all over the world.  I hope this means we'll see a continuing trend towards a more comprehensive, less US-centric Internet freedom movement.

JY: Yes, I hope for the same. Well, Eva – have a happy new year, and I'll see you on the other side.

EG: Back at you! Let’s hope it’s a good one.

October 19 2013

The Government shutdown Was Temporary, Its Damage to science Permanent : Scientific American

The Government #shutdown Was Temporary, Its Damage to #science Permanent: Scientific American

Missed opportunities and gaps in data will have consequences for years to come(Permalink)


October 01 2013

« Shutdown » aux USA : quels fonctionnaires travaillent ou pas ? - France Info

« Shutdown » aux USA : quels fonctionnaires travaillent ou pas ? - France Infoès.jpg

En l’absence de vote du budget dans la nuit de lundi à mardi, une bonne partie des services du gouvernement américain ont fermé. Quelque 800.000 fonctionnaires non essentiels sont désormais au chômage technique. Quels secteurs sont concernés et pour combien de temps ? Tour d’horizon des conséquences de ce « shutdown ».

Près de 800.000 fonctionnaires sont désormais au chômage technique. Il s’agit du premier « shutdown » depuis la fermeture des services administratifs du 16 décembre 1995 au 6 janvier 1996, sous la présidence de Bill Clinton.

Les dépenses relatives à la sécurité publique et à la sécurité nationale restent financées, ainsi que les dépenses sociales telles que le Medicare ou la Social Security, qui bénéficient aux personnes âgées. Voici un tour d’horizon des conséquences de la fermeture des administrations fédérales : 

Les employés fédéraux : Un million d’employés fédéraux sont susceptibles d’être mis en congé non rémunéré à partir du 1er octobre, selon le président de la Fédération américaine des employés du gouvernement, qui compte 670.000 adhérents. Les contrôleurs aériens ou les gardiens de prison sont épargnés. Pendant le « shutdown » de 95-96, plus de 200.000 demandes de passeports n’avaient pas été traitées pendant la période de fermeture des services administratifs. Cette fois, les autorités américaines ont indiqué que les demandes de visas seront traitées.


NSA-Affäre: USA verweigern Schriftsteller Ilija Trojanow die Einreise

Die Schriftstellerin Juli Zeh berichtet auf Facebook, dass ihrem Schriftstellerkollegen Ilija Trojanow die Einreise in die USA ohne Begründung verweigert wurde. Trojanow wollte zu einem Germanistenkongress in die Staaten reisen, zu dem er eingeladen war.

Trojanow hat sich immer wieder sehr deutlich gegen staatliche Überwachung positioniert. Vor einigen Jahren veröffentlichte er zusammen mit Juli Zeh die Streitschrift “Angriff auf die Freiheit” zum Thema innere Sicherheit und Einschränkung der Grundrechte. Trojanow hat sich auch zu der aktuellen NSA-Affäre mehrfach zu Wort gemeldet und ist u.a. Mitinitiator eines diesbezüglichen offenen Briefs an Bundeskanzlerin Merkel.

Juli Zeh kommentiert das Einreiseverbot gegen Trojanow mit folgenden Worten:

Formulieren wir es mal positiv: Unser aller Engagement zeigt Wirkung. Es wird zur Kenntnis genommen.

Formulieren wir es negativ: Es ist eine Farce. Die reine Paranoia. Menschen, die sich für Bürgerrechte stark machen, werden als Staatsfeinde behandelt.

Es ist beängstigend, wie die USA mit Kritikern umgeht. Das aktuelle Vorgehen der US-Behörden erinnert immer stärker an die politischen Hetzjagden der McCarthy-Ära.

September 30 2013

Youtube und SUISA, Stinkefinger-Foto, Abhör-Ermittlungen

Youtube und die Schweizer Verwertungsgesellschaft einigen sich auf Lizenz-Tarife, der Urheber des Stinkefinger-Fotos von Peer Steinbrück fordert seine Rechte ein, im Gefolge des Abhörskandals ermittelt nun die Staatsanwaltschaft Coburg. Außerdem im Wochenrückblick: Beschlagnahme gehosteter Dateien, Recht auf Vergessenwerden und Online-Lottoziehung.

Schweiz: Einigung zwischen Youtube und SUISA

Die schweizerische Verwertungsgesellschaft SUISA und Youtube haben sich auf Lizenz-Tarife geeinigt, wie diese Woche bekannt wurde. Damit sollen zum einen die Nutzungsrechte am Repertoire der SUISA eingeräumt werden. Gleichzeitig wurden Vergütungsvereinbarungen getroffen. In Deutschland konnten sich Youtube und GEMA bislang noch nicht einigen.
Zur Mitteilung der SUISA.

Fotograf setzt Urheberrecht am Stinkefinger-Foto durch

Der Fotograf Alfred Steffen versucht, seine Urheberrechte an dem berühmten Stinkefinger-Foto von Peer Steinbrück durchzusetzen. Steffen begründet dies damit, dass dieses Foto vielfach unberechtigt in den Medien verwendet wird. Aus diesem Grund hat er nun ein anwaltliches Informationsschreiben an verschiedene Medienvertreter gesendet. Darin weist er darauf hin, dass eine Verwendung nur mit seiner Einwilligung und seiner Nennung erfolgen darf. Das umstrittene Foto entstand im Rahmen eines Interviews, das Steinbrück kurz vor der Bundestagswahl im Magazin der Süddeutschen Zeitung gab.
Die Nachricht auf

Abhörskandal: Piratenpartei erzwingt Ermittlungsverfahren

Die Staatsanwaltschaft Coburg hat ein strafrechtliches Ermittlungsverfahren gegen Unbekannt wegen des Abhörskandals aus diesem Sommer eingeleitet. Dies geht aus einer aktuellen Meldung der bayerischen Piratenpartei hervor, aus deren Reihen die Anregung zu einem solchen Verfahrens kam. Die Staatsanwaltschaft Coburg ist laut Piratenpartei die erste Strafermittlungsbehörde in Deutschland, die einer Anzeige wegen Verletzung des persönlichen Lebens- und Geheimnisbereichs nachgeht. Dazu benötigte es jedoch Nachhilfe: Die Staatsanwaltschaft lehnte es zunächst ab, Ermittlungen aufzunehmen und auch die Beschwerde hiergegen vor der Generalstaatsanwaltschaft blieb erfolglos. Erst ein Ermittlungserzwingungsklage veranlasste nun die Aufnahme der Ermittlungen.
Zur Meldung der bayerischen Piratenpartei.

Landgericht Hamburg entscheidet über Beschlagnahme von gehosteten Dateien

Das Landgericht Hamburg hat in einem strafrechtlichen Ermittlungsverfahren gegen den Anwalt des bayerischen Justizopfers Gustl Mollath entschieden, dass bestimmte gehostete Dateien nicht gelöscht werden müssen. Der Anwalt hatte zahlreiche Dokumente aus den Gerichtsverfahren gegen Mollath veröffentlicht und auf einem externen Server gespeichert. Die Hamburger Staatsanwaltschaft versuchte, diese Daten zu beschlagnahmen, da sie in der Veröffentlichung in dieser Form für strafbar hielt. Das Gericht erteilte ihr jedoch eine Abfuhr, da die Strafprozessordnung keine Regelung für die Beschlagnahme zur bloßen Löschung von Daten vorsehe.
Ausführlich dazu auf
Der Beschluss des LG Hamburg in der Telemedicus-Datenbank.

Kalifornien will Recht auf Vergessenwerden einführen

In Kalifornien soll es Minderjährigen demnächst möglich sein, ihre Postings im Netz entfernen zu lassen. Gleichzeitig soll ein Verbot für Dritte eingerichtet werden, die Daten für bestimmte Werbung zu verwenden (zum Beispiel für Waffen und Alkohol). Die Initiative ist allerdings aus mehreren Gründen umstritten, da sie nur für eigene Daten gilt und Erwachsene ihre Jugendsünden damit nicht löschen können. In Europa gibt es ebensolche Bestrebungen, die allerdings überwiegend als nicht sinnvoll kritisiert werden.
Mehr dazu auf

Medienanstalten halten Internet-Lottoshow für unzulässig

Die Landesmedienanstalten halten die Übertragung der Lottoziehungen über das Portal für unzulässig. Grund: Die Übertragung der Ziehungen sei als Rundfunk einzustufen, zudem wird die Betreibergesellschaft überwiegend staatlich gehalten. Dem Staat ist es aber grundsätzlich untersagt, Rundfunk zu betreiben. Aus diesem Grund regen die Landesmedienanstalten nun entweder den Betrieb über die Seite eines bereits zugelassenen Rundfunkveranstalters an oder aber eine zeitversetzte Ausstrahlung der Ziehungen in einer Mediathek.
Zum Bericht auf


Lizenz dieses Artikels: CC BY-NC-SA.

September 17 2013

Pourquoi les pauvres votent à droite, aux USA comme dans les pays_riches. politique…

Pourquoi les #pauvres votent à #droite, aux #USA comme dans les #pays_riches.
#politique #sociologie_électorale #Bush #smh

Ils ne sont pas les seuls à s’interroger, comme en témoigne Pourquoi les pauvres votent à droite du journaliste et historien Thomas Frank. Dans cette enquête sur son Kansas natal, il pose cette question qui, pour de nombreux observateurs, ne devrait pas avoir lieu. Si la droite est le parti des riches, comment alors expliquer qu’il recueille les faveurs des plus déshérites ? Pourtant, au Kansas, comme dans de nombreux États américains, il est possible de voir sur le bord de la route des panneaux proclamant qu’un « travailleur qui soutient les Démocrates est un peu comme un poulet qui soutiendrait Kentucky Fried Chicken ! »

September 16 2013

US Power and the Not-So-Democratic Global Internet

Carna Botnet geovideo of 24 hour relative average utilization of IPv4 addresses observed using ICMP ping requests. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Internet Census 2012.

Carna Botnet geovideo of 24 hour relative average utilization of IPv4 addresses observed using ICMP ping requests. This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Internet Census 2012.

This post was co-authored by Eduardo Bertoni. It originally appeared on Huffington Post.

In the early days of the Internet, the United States established a near monopoly over Internet protocol and everything that flows from it — code, regulation, policy and an unthinkably powerful Internet technology industry. The NSA leaks provide a chilling example of the consequences that this degree of dominance can have for the world.

Today, most of the ICT private sector is based geographically in the US. This has made it possible for the US government to develop some of the most influential policies and practices that affect the exercise of human rights, like the right to privacy, on the global Internet. Foreign governments have little ability to influence or regulate the actions of companies like Google or Facebook beyond their national borders. Even within their jurisdictions, this can prove difficult.

Why should we assume that these policies will work for the rest of the world?

This dynamic can bring both gains and losses. The Global Online Freedom Act, a bill introduced in Congress that would hinder the ability of US companies to sell surveillance and censorship technologies to repressive governments, could have a positive impact on human rights. But many policies do just the opposite. What we now know about the NSA proves that, in essence, the US government created a surveillance regime not for just for its own country, but for the entire world. It would not be possible for the NSA to spy on millions of Internet users if Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and other leading companies were not located in the US.

We had previously hoped that the US government would regulate these giants with an eye toward the human rights of users worldwide. But the Snowden leaks prove that in some cases, they are doing the reverse. Here, they have taken advantage of their unique situation in order to create what is likely the largest electronic surveillance regime in human history.

For those of us who belong to what is now called “the global south,” the legitimacy of these policies is the same whether it comes from US government policy makers, or senior officials in Silicon Valley. We have not been involved in Washington political processes, nor have we taken part in technology companies’ decision-making about products and services. Of course, the US does not have an obligation to ask our opinion or to take our personal needs into consideration. But the legitimacy that the US has to impose a specific code of law on the Internet is similar to that of the private sector: Both can do so without taking into account the rights and interests of the rest of the world. As a result, we are left with a paradox: Either we accept some kind of “balkanization” of policy — wherein every society has the capacity to influence code through its own policies — or we accept that the only way to move forward is through decisions made by international agreements.

But both of these options are fundamentally flawed. Balkanization could make it impossible to maintain the bountiful “borderless” nature of the Internet as we know it today. And for international agreements to be legitimate, recognized and enforced by national governments, strong and serious engagement would be required from countries around the globe. Unfortunately, this does not yet appear to be happening. For example, there are just two Latin American member countries in the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of governments that came together in 2011 to facilitate a global dialogue about the responsibilities of governments to actively further freedom on the Internet. Participation of other countries from the same region in the annual Internet Governance Forum is equally low.

In today's Internet age, software and hardware designs significantly impact our ability to exercise our rights. That is what Larry Lessig posited many years ago when he wrote that “code is law.” For that reason, and because the “code” is drafted mostly in the US, it is reasonable to question — and to doubt — the legitimacy of these policies for the rest of the world. The question is whether this will remain the status quo, or whether some force, corporate or political, will bring about a shift to a more equal, human rights-protective global Internet.

Eduardo Bertoni is the Director of the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE) at Palermo University School of Law, Argentina. From 2002-2005 he served as the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression for the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights at the Organization of American States.

September 09 2013

How the NSA is Tampering with Encrypted Communications (and how to fight back)

National Security Agency Headquarters. This photo has been released to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

National Security Agency Headquarters. This photo has been released to the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This post was co-authored by Dan Auerbach, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In one of the most significant leaks of information about US National Security Agency (NSA) spying, the New York Times, the Guardian, and ProPublica reported last week that the NSA has gone to extraordinary lengths to secretly undermine secure communications infrastructure online, collaborating with GCHQ (Britain's NSA equivalent) and a select few intelligence organizations worldwide.

These revelations imply that the NSA has pursued an aggressive program of obtaining private encryption keys for commercial products—allowing the agency to decrypt vast amounts of Internet traffic sent by users of these products. They also suggest that the agency has attempted to put backdoors (well-hidden ways to access data) into cryptographic standards designed to secure users’ communications. Additionally, the leaked documents make clear that companies that manufacture these products have been complicit in allowing this unprecedented spying to take place, though the identities of cooperating companies remain unknown.

Many important details about this program, codenamed Bullrun, are still unclear. What communications are targeted? What service providers or software developers are cooperating with the NSA? What percentage of private encryption keys of targeted commercial products are successfully obtained? Does this store of private encryption keys (presumably procured through theft or company cooperation) contain those of popular web-based communication providers like Facebook and Google?

What is clear is that these NSA programs are an egregious violation of user privacy. Under international human rights doctrine, users have a right to speak privately with fellow citizens and to freely associate and engage in political activism. If the NSA is allowed to continue building backdoors into our communications infrastructure, as law enforcement agencies have lobbied for, then the communications of billions of people risk being perpetually insecure against a variety of adversaries, ranging from governments to criminals to domestic spy agencies.

Faced with so much bad news, it's easy to give in to privacy nihilism and despair. After all, if the NSA has found ways to decrypt a significant portion of encrypted online communications, why should we bother using encryption at all? But this massive disruption of communications infrastructure need not be tolerated. Here are some of the steps you can take to fight back:

  • Use secure communications tools (read some useful tips by security expert Bruce Schneier). Your communications are still significantly more protected if you are using encrypted communications tools such as messaging over OTR or browsing the web using HTTPS Everywhere than if you are sending your communications without taking such precautions.
  • Finally, the engineers responsible for building our infrastructure can fight back by building and deploying better and more usable cryptosystems.

The NSA is attacking secure communications on many fronts; advocates must oppose them using every method they can. Engineers, policy makers, and netizens all have key roles to play in standing up to the unchecked surveillance state. The more we learn about the extent of the NSA's abuses, the more important it is for us to take steps to take back our privacy. Don't let the NSA's attack on secure communications be the end game.

The original version of this post appeared on the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Deeplinks blog.

Minister Wins Damages Against Zambian Gossip Website

A US court has awarded Zambia's Deputy Commerce Minister over US$50,000 in a defamation suit against social news site Kachepa360, hosted in and run from the United States.

Kachepa360, which ceased operations nearly two years ago, targeted high-ranking officials, business people and celebrities, exposing alleged infidelities and other scandals. In local dialects, the word Kachepa carries connotations of rumour mongering and gossip.

According to the Zambian Watchdog, Kachepa owner Chisala Mulenga suspended activities on the site after her parents, who reside in Zambia, received threats from individuals targeted by the site. Deputy Commerce Minister Miles Sampa, whose “sexual exploits” had been highlighted on Kachepa, filed the suit in the United States, where Mulenga resides. The case was heard before a court in the state of Massachusetts.

After Minister Miles Sampa announced the court victory on Facebook, the story was picked up by citizen media websites Zambia Reports and Zambian Watchdog. On his Facebook page, Minister Sampa wrote:

In order to vindicate my name from perennial slanderous and unsubstantiated allegations directed at me by the online publication Kachepa360, I took up the matter in the USA courts of law where the defendant is domiciled.

After months of deliberations, the case was awarded in my favour against the promoter of the Publication Kachepa360, Ms Chisala Mulenga, and I have been awarded damages amounting to USD $50,000 at 12 % interest from November 2012.

Explaining why he pursued the matter in the US, he stated:

Although I welcome criticism, I believe that the journalism profession should be unbiased, factual and professional regardless of the location of their residence or the medium used to disseminate their information.

I decided on pursuing this matter in the relevant courts abroad to demonstrate that accountability is a standard for all, even for online publications which may feel that they are beyond the reach of the Law.

On Facebook, social and political commentator Proud Aushi Musamba Mumba challenged Sampa to sue the Zambian Watchdog instead of what she called a “small fish”:

Lol Hon Miles Sampa instead of suing big guns writing and accusing him of being corrupt he sues a small fish in the pond that people don't take serious or pay attention to as she clearly states “Kachepa 360.” Meaning it is based on rumours. Let him sue ZWD [Zambian Watchdog] that informs the nation on things they want carpeted.

Zambia Reports accused Sampa of using the suit as an opportunity “to warn those running critical websites in Zambia…not to hide behind the veil of anonymity as the law could catch up with them.”

Independent and citizen media websites in the country have faced a steady stream of attacks in recent months, leaving major sites including the Zambian Watchdog and Zambia Reports increasingly difficult to access within Zambia. Critics suspect the attacks have been perpetrated by government authorities — in July, Vice President Dr. Guy Scott said he would celebrate if the Zambian Watchdog was shut down, and there has been much discussion of tensions between news outlets and government officials online.

Although Kachepa 360 held a slightly different category, providing readers with more guilty pleasures than transparency about government activities, the case could set a chilling precedent for other independent sites that scrutinize government officials. Now that a government Minister has successfully trounced Kachepa 360, what site might be the next victim?

September 07 2013

10 Chemical Weapons Attacks Washington Doesn't Want You to Talk About

10 Chemical Weapons Attacks Washington Doesn’t Want You to Talk About

Sur le sujet : Irak : après les feux de la guerre, les cancers - Les blogs du Diplo

Et le travail du reporter franco-irakien Feurat Alani, notamment le docu « Fajullah, a lost generation »

#WMD #ADM #guerre #war #weapons #USA #Irak

September 02 2013

Des groupes terroristes ont tenté d'infiltrer le renseignement américain

Des groupes terroristes ont tenté d’infiltrer le renseignement américain

Le gouvernement américain suspecte que plusieurs groupes liés à des organisations terroristes ou ennemies, telles que Al-Qaida, ont cherché à infiltrer les agences de renseignement américaines, rapporte ce matin le Washington Post. Conséquence, celles-ci ont mené des enquêtes sur des milliers d’employés.
La CIA a révélé qu’environ un cinquième des postulants à un emploi présentant un profil suspect avaient « des liens significatifs avec des terroristes et/ou des services de renseignement hostiles », écrit le journal, qui s’appuie sur un document confidentiel remis au quotidien par Edward Snowden.

#CIA #USA #renseignements #surveillance #Snowden #NSA #AlQaïda #Hamas #Hezbollah

August 30 2013

August 29 2013

While the dishonest and the stupid are attempting to railroad everyone into military endeavours…

While the dishonest and the stupid are attempting to railroad everyone into military endeavours devoid of public benefit, let us remember that France stood out of the Iraq war because it had independent orbital imaging capabilities showing that the WMD claims were nonsense... Meanwhile, the USA took for a ride all the blind ones who had decided that US imagery was cheaper and good enough.

Military sovereignty is also about being able to remain peaceful - let us remember that next time the time for budget cuts come:


The original statement is in this Ken Silverstein piece (

They say everyone else was wrong,” said this former official, “but we conditioned them to be wrong. We spend [tens of billions of dollars per year] on signals intelligence and when we reach a conclusion, the people who spend less than that tend to believe us. They weren’t wrong, they chose to believe us. The British, Germans, and Italians don’t have all those overhead assets, so they rely on us. Historically they have been well-served, so they believe us when we tell them the earth is round. The French have their own assets—and guess what? They didn’t go with us

Guilhem Penent, of France’s IFRI and IRSEM thinktanks, writes in the Space Review ( as follows:

Regarding outer space, France’s main objective is to perpetuate its autonomy and national sovereignty. As sovereignty is the state of determining itself based on its own will without depending on other nations, satellites are, first and foremost, the guarantee of France’s autonomy in assessment and thereby in decision-making

The decision not to follow the US in 2003 was thus taken by then President Jacques Chirac in accordance with intelligence based for the most part on Earth-imaging satellite HELIOS 1, whose findings were in contradiction which was being said at the UN Security Council. When the war in South Ossetia broke out in 2008 between Russia and Georgia, then President Nicolas Sarkozy, as chair of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU), used images provided by HELIOS 1 and HELIOS 2 to deny Russia’s allegations about the withdrawal of its troops when those troops were actually progressing southward.

This is the first public confirmation, I believe, that the French did in fact stand out of the Iraq war because HELIOS imagery showed that the WMD claims were nonsense

#WMD #Iraq #Helios #France #war #USA #intelligence #Chirac

Enthält Content von EMI: „I have a dream”

Jeder kennt die Rede von Martin Luther King, die mit den Worten „I have a dream” ins kulturelle Gedächtnis eingegangen ist – oder zumindest diesen einen Satz. Der 50. Jahrestag des Marschs auf Washington vom 28. August 1963 hat jetzt auch daran erinnert, dass sie ein dauernder Quell von Urheberrechtsstreitigkeiten ist.

Geht es um die Rede in voller Länge, ist die Frage: Public Domain oder nicht? Oder genauer, nach dem Copyright Act der USA von 1909: War sie zur allgemeinen Veröffentlichung bestimmt? Oder nur für ein begrenztes Publikum, und damit geschützt? In einem Streit zwischen Kings Erben und CBS urteilte ein US-Berufungsgericht: Die Rede sei geschützt. Doch der Streit endete im Vergleich; wirklich klar ist die Lage nicht.

Josh Shiller in der Washington Post:

The only legal way to reproduce King’s work — at least until it enters the public domain in 2038 — is to pay for a licensing fee, rates for which vary. (Individuals visiting the King Center can buy a recording of the “I have a dream” speech for $20. Licenses for media outlets run into the thousands.)

Verwaltet werden die Rechte seit 2009 zusammen von den King-Erben und EMI Publishing, jetzt Sony/ATV. Ob es im Sinne des Erfinders ist, wer sie verwenden darf und wer nicht, daran lässt ein Bericht von Lauren Williams bei Mother Jones zweifeln:

Critics, including civil rights icon Julian Bond, bristle over the fact that “I Have a Dream” is kept under strict watch in the name of controlling King’s image at the same time it’s licensed by rich companies for use in TV commercials, including a 2010 Mercedes-Benz spot, an Alcatel ad, and a particularly galling 2001 Cingular Wireless campaign that also included quotes from Kermit the Frog and Homer Simpson.

Unbeeindruckt vom Streit ist die Organisation Fight for the Future, die maßgeblich an den SOPA- und PIPA-Protesten mitgewirkt hat. Sie ruft dazu auf, ihre Youtube-Version der Rede zu verbreiten. Dort ist das Video – im Gegensatz zu anderen Versionen – bis heute online. Auch vor dem Jahr 2038.

*Ten charts show how the U.S. has changed for the better since MLK's speech* ❝Earlier today, to…

Ten charts show how the U.S. has changed for the better since MLK’s speech

Earlier today, to mark the 50th anniversary of #Martin_Luther_King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we posted a series of charts showing that the economic gap between whites and blacks hasn’t really narrowed over the last 50 years. In some cases — like the wealth gap — it’s actually widened.

Yet by other metrics, there has been a striking amount of racial progress in the United States since 1963. That’s worth noting too:

#USA #visualisation #graphiques

August 26 2013

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