Wednesday, 16 June 2010


French Senator Proposes Outlawing Anonymous Blogging (TechDirt, 02 June 2010)

Twitter Fighting Pennsylvania Subpoena Seeking Names of 2 Tweeters from the NY Times as cited on 20 May 2010 on the Business and HR Watch website

some would obviously benefit from anonymity for illegal purposes...!

If You're Trying To Sell Insider Info, Perhaps Don't Randomly Email Dozens Of Investors (TechDirt, 28 May 2010)

Offensive behaviours - distortions

Careful WithThat Fake Social Networking Profile; If You 'Personate' Someone, You Can Go To Jail(TechDirt, 02 June 2010) - the article is critical of the offence: it should not be criminal to impersonate somebody on Facebook in California. I tend to disagree. Using the name of somebody can be criminal whatever the motives. French law considers that the simple use of a name is an offence, although a minor one. But the conjunction of using another's name with fraud notably is in most jurisdictions a crime; why not for a fake webpage if this webpage has not been intended as a work of fiction but as the description of someone's life and thoughts? Of course, torts may be a better tool to deal with such issues, but criminal law cannot be excluded per se.

On the other hand, criminal law cannot be misused just because the behaviour is wrong and does not fit other crimes than hacking for example. Mom Who Used Son's Facebook Account Found Guilty Of Online Harassment (TechDirt, 28 May 2010). what she did was hardly constitutive of harassment: she accessed his account, changed the password and used the Facebook account...

same for banning sentences or pre-trial measures, a "Guy Who Encouraged People To Commit Suicide Online Banned From The Internet" (TechDirt, 27 may 2010), but this is far too broad a measure

Search and Seizures - interception of communication: US

For the US, but to which extent it applies elsewhere?

offensive and harmful content: reaction or education?

We may well be in a transition period where people are not fully understanding that what on the net is not necessarily reliable, accurate and representative of the truth. Therefore it may be more an educational issue than a legal issue and to modify the law or use it and distort it appears quite silly.

File sharing and piracy

three articles recently, two showing the opposite approaches that can be adopted by courts and one the absurdity of trying to get rid of the file sharing via the ISPs

ISP Tries To Charge Users To Block File Sharing... Ends Up Installing Malware That Exposes Private Info (TechDirt 14 June 2010)

Dutch Court Says Just Publishing Links To A Movie Is Illegal And Must Be Blocked (TechDirt, 04 Jun 2010)

compared to

Yet Another Spanish Court Finds File Sharing Site Legal; Compares File Sharing To Book Lending (TechDirt, 08 June 2010) - the source in English language is Torrent Freak which has a link in Spanish to the interview given by the Lawyer Carlos Sanchez Almeida to (04 June 2010) - research in Spanish gives access to the text of the judgment available on what seems to be the website of Almeida's law firm. The Google translation is not bad at all and confirms the translation made. It also reveals more clearly than my now poor understanding of Spanish could grasp. The Judges have referred to various cases, acknowledging that the law is not settled on this issue. Yet, for them

"since ancient times has been the loan or sale of books, movies, music and more. The difference now is primarily on the medium used was previously the paper or analog and now everything is digital format which allows an exchange much faster and higher quality and also a global reach through the Internet. And this exchange takes place in the network through file-sharing systems "P2P (or peer network) where there are no fixed clients and servers have a global reach as any Internet user can connect to your computer and share files that are divided, in turn, a large number of parties.

To use file sharing programs (Emule, etc.) Running the link or link to the document that is on the website so that the user's computer connects to a computer but not many who have various stages of This same document being shared among many users at once without anyone perceived why any financial reward."

In most English newspapers/blogs, the first part is quoted. Yet I find the second paragraph equally interesting: it is saying that file sharing is not about holding the copyrights of the book and making money on it. It is just like a village market place providing the platform for users to exchange.

Wi-fi issues: access and use

When travelling, if one does not have a smartphone or blackberry, it becomes really annoying not to be able to use wi-fi knowing that lots of networks are available. the silliness of it all appeared when I was in Gare du Nord Paris, compared to St Pancras - London. You would have guessed I was a Eurostar traveller. At St Pancras, free wi-fi; in 45 minutes, I checked my e-mails, sent a couple of documents I could not have done so if I had a smartphone. At Gare du Nord, well, no free wi-fi if you do not have a Eurostar business status; the provider SFR was asking a minimum of 2 euros, I recall, for about 30 minutes. Well, I know it is not that expensive, but it is such a hassle (you have to register, type your card number...; a good 15 mins wasted to just access). Result: I did not pay. and I am sure I am not the only to have done so.

of course, one could argue that to call, one has to pay, whether in a phone box, from a landline or a mobile. Why not for wi-fi? well Finland contemplates opening the network to all, getting rid of its offence to use open wi-fi. Of course, open wi-fi means less security. But then, why not charged for higher security? I would actually have paid for added security if I had to send sensitive data or connect to sensitive data website. but for ordinary websites, such as what is the weather back home or train time data, frankly I felt put off.

In contrast, Google's collection of private data is inadmissible. yet, whether it was intended to or an accident, an involuntary consequence not foreseen, is something else. I can't imagine the firm having done it on purpose, at least after until they were (made) aware of it if they continued despite knowledge.
What i am surprised is that the data collected was not destroyed immediately. Governments have no right to look at the data.

Google WiFi Data Caught In Legal Limbo (TechDirt, 27 May 2010)

Wider European Scrutiny of Google on Privacy from NYTimes as reported in Business and HR Watch, 21 May 2010

Obviously, the argument is based on the assumption that privacy is important. Some argue it is not; but I fully disagree. Our ancestors fought, sometimes to death, for a bit of privacy and not just privacy from government's spying. Privacy is essential and it is not because people don't go into mass protest about it that the issue/the right does not matter

Thursday, 20 May 2010

second life ownership of items

Lawsuit Questions Whether Or Not Second Life Users Really 'Own' Their Virtual Land (TechDirt, 11 May 2010)

IP belongs to Linden Lab now; but ambiguity is there about ownership

suicide and free speech

An interesting issue as a lot of countries prohibit assisting suicide but not suicide itself. Moreover, criminal actions are rarely made of speech only; complicity for example requires something else than mere talking and there is an assumption of personal contact, a one to one contact rather than general advertisement.

Is It Illegal To Tell People How To Commit Suicide Online? (TechDirt, 14 May 2010)

Piracy: looking at IP in other ways

three articles in a week to remind us that we have to rethink IP because of the new technologies, the same way printing forced us to rethink IP. Interestingly enough, Sage publishers are conducting a survey online about open access journals: whether people are in favour of it and on which terms (free of charge or pay to publish type of model)

"EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Admits That 'Piracy' Has Created The Market That Legislators Did Not", TechDirt, 11 May 2010

Swedish Police Say Anti-Piracy Law Has Harmed Ability To Catch Criminals (TechDirt, 18 May 2010)

"Does Intellectual Property Go Against Traditional Views Of Knowledge In India?", TechDirt, 14 May 2010

Privacy infringement

The two infringements make you wonder what non-famous companies do and how they are controlled:

Google Admits It Was Accidentally Collecting Some Open WiFi DataData (TechDirt, 14 May 2010)
EU watchdog slams Facebook privacy settings (Euractiv, 14 May 2010)

and new challenges ahead...

Obviously the question is a matter of sensibility as the US tend to be less concerned than Europe.
Draft Of Privacy Bill Introduced... And Pretty Much Everyone Hates It (TechDirt, 5th May 2010)

Digital Economy Act: after all the controversy, may well be dropped

UK Politicians Looking To Repeal Digital Economy Act (TechDirt, 19 March 2010)

London Wants To Offer Full WiFi Coverage... But How Will That Work With The Digital Economy Act? (TechDirt, 18 March 2010)

UK Regulator Says Digital Economy Act Only Applies To Big Wireline ISPs (TechDirt, 18 March 2010)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Critical Legal Studies Conference 2010

With a vested interest as I am chairing stream 9 of the Critical Legal Conference 2010 @ Utrecht in September 2010 : The WWW: great expectations or great disenchantments?

To see all the streams of the Conference on Modernities, click here

Friday, 7 May 2010

enforcing the law: France and US updates

In France, JDN reported on the Institut de la recherche criminelle de la gendarmerie nationale (the Institute on criminal research of the Gendarmerie nationale, the French police force) and its work in the Fort Rosny-sous-bois (the Fortress...). databases, recognition of images, techniques to recover data... - 12 February 2010

More recently, news on the US Cybersecurity Act which first draft was anti-libertarian, "Les Etats-Unis toilettent leur plan de lutte contre la cybercriminalité" JDN, 13 March 2010


"Cybercriminals target non-conventional appliances" (, 09 April 2010). not surprising, and among the devices: mobiles phones, USB flash drives and peripherals.

and DDOS attacks linked with extortion/blackmail notices, "Chinese DDoS attacks hit News Limited" (, 14 April 2010)

Criminalisation of DRM bypassing - ACTA becoming transparent?

If the process was certainly not transparent, the draft is at last published. Will comments be published and listened to?

"Acta copyright treaty draft gets first public airing" (, 21 April 2010)

and earlier on, the EU Parliament's rejection of the treaty by 633 to 13! "European Parliament votes down Acta treaty" (, 11 March 2010)

The gold mine: ID and other data thefts

Between the NHS desktops that were hacked and controlled as part of a botnet, and facebook accounts also hacked, it is obvious that security and privacy are at the heart of cybercrime. Accessing illegally and controlling data/computers is at the heart of a successful criminal entreprise.

"Over 1,000 NHS desktops part of botnet, says Symantec" (, 23 April 2010)

"iDefense: 1.5 million Facebook accounts for sale" (, 23 April 2010)

Therefore, one wonders why employers ease restrictions on employees using social networking sites, when usually the security of their own IT systems is average or bad. "Managers ease restrictions on Facebook use" (, 23 April 2010)

especially when a study by the French CNIL reveals that the most common password used is "123456"!!!!!! JDN, 22 January 2010

Privacy of Wi-fi data: Google Street View

A very interesting story that does not seem to make the big headlines despite its crucial importance in my view.
Google Street View, already criticised for other reasons, all linked to privacy, acknowledged that it takes the Wi-Fi details of people, i.e. their MAC addresses, that will be able to any user using location-based services. In other words, your neighbour or your potential hacker can know all about your Wi-fi, making easier to hack into your computer.
A "bemol" though: if you have configured your Wi-Fi device not to broadcast, the signal and information should not be available. Another reason to do it, if you have not already done so.
"Google explains why Street View cars record Wi-Fi data"

when we know that Google will have 96 pc of the UK roads on it: "Google Street View to cover 96pc of UK roads"

For a general view of privacy issues Google services raise, see the letter addressed to the company ten European authorities in charge of protecting IT users privacy, CNIL, press release 20 April 2010. See also (in French), "Les gardiens de la vie privée exhortent Google à respecter les lois" (Depeches du Juris-Classeur, 23 April 2010)

Security again

Security seems to be the word of the week.
  • The EU commission wants to create an agency to foster better collaboration in cyber-investigations, albeit the UK, Germany and France remain to be convinced. One concerns is also the overlap with ENISA, in addition to the fact that ENISA has not been the success story that it was hoped for when it was launched. "EU to establish cybercrime agency" -Euractiv, 28 April 2010
  • The UK is worried that it does not have enough IT engineers able to implement security and is targeting A-levels pupils and UG to recruit more IT students "UK-wide Cyber Security Challenge kicks off" (, 29 April 2010)
  • And Beijing is imposing an authorisation on firms developing IT security softwares/solutions, probably less for security reasons than for protectionist motives. JDN, 29 April 2010 (in French)

Security review by Symantec and other issues of web security

Symantec published its report analysing cyber-issues in 2009. Most of the attacks continue to come from the US (19%), followed by China (8%) and a new comer, Brazil (6%). The bulk of the attacks (37%) focuses on acquiring data, then it is accessing structural tools of companies (26%) and piracy (15%). Fraud represents only 2%. It confirms that the new value or currency today is data, rather than money itself as a direct target. In other words, data is worth more than currencies.
The recent story about a Twitter user confirms that data is gold. He was able, after numerous tweets to different users including to a Twitter employee, to find the ID and password of that employee and conduct himself as an Twitter administrator (JDN, 6 May 2010). He has been arrested in France in the Massif Central, after collaboration with the FBI (Obama's account was hacked).

A lot of those attacks are performed by users dowloading PDF documents and believing that their banks would send them e-mails requesting for their information (74% of phishing). It confirms that users are "culprits" as much as the perpetrators. If people were a bit more careful in what they download and read, there would be less succesful attacks. It is certainly the message of Remy Fevrier from the French Gendarmerie Nationale (the French police under the military umbrella) at the FIC or Forum International sur la Cybercriminalite held in Lille from the 31 March to 1st April 2010. He explained that some firms went bankrupt because precious data was stolent by a competitor which was then able to offer the product at a lesser price because it did not have the costs of research and development.

Coming back to the Symantec report, to control other computers, attackers continue to use keystroke softwares, uploading users' details and zombies/botnets I suppose.
Firefox and Safari are the most vulnerable browsers on the web currently. IE and Chrome being stable and quite below (50 instead of around 100).

See the summary in French on JDN "Les menaces IT n'ont pas connu la crise en 2009" (6 May 2010)

Friday, 23 April 2010


US Convicts Nigerian 419 Email Scammer (TechDirt, 22 April 2010) - speaks for itself.

Google search in court

In the story below, I am troubled by two things:

- the assumption that a diversity of items being available proves that each of them are rarer to come by (here a yellow hat). How a Google search can help assessing this baffles me. Statistics of sale would be more relevant. Education of judges in how to use Google and how Google gathers its information?

- why indeed a judge can 'google' but not juries?

Judges Allowed To Use Google To 'Confirm Intuition' In Cases (TechDirt, 23 March 2010)


Just a few additional links about posts published earlier on:

"Copyright A Priority For The DOJ; But Identity Fraud Has Fallen Off The List" (TechDirt, 8 April 2010)

which contrats with the EU Parliament's perception: Parliament threatens court action on anti-piracy treaty (Euractiv, 10 March 2010)

and the side effects of wanting more inforcement in non-democratic countries: "Careful What You Wish For: Greater IP Enforcement In China Being Used Against Foreign Companies..." (TechDirt, 8 April 2010)

Social networking and risks

Social networks put careers at risk, survey finds (Euractiv, 1 February 2010) with employers looking on the internet profile of applicants! Question of education about impact of the internet in people's lives.

Social networks put minors at risk, EU warns (Euractiv, 10 February 2010), a campaign which echoes ENISA reports about the use of internet/virtual worlds by minors. Again, education

EU to slam new Facebook privacy settings (Euractiv, 09 February 2010) and in French "Les réglages de confidentialité de Facebook dans le collimateur de l'UE" (Euractiv, 09 February 2010)

Hyping issues up: distortions when it comes to internet

1 - "The Real Problem With Internet Comments Isn't Anonymity" (TechDirt, 12 April 2010). That I would agree; people before internet could be anonymous for the better or for the worse (blackmail...). They could also be discovered and were accepting the risk; so why not now? Why the internet should change anything in us allowing anonymity? What we need is better education for people to understand the impact of their behaviours and better policing, but not an end to anonymity.
"Judge Who Was Revealed As Anonymous Commenter Sues Newspaper For $50 Million" (TechDirt, 8 April 2010)
"Israeli Supreme Court Says There Is No Legal Way To Reveal Anonymous Commenters Online" (TechDirt, 1 April 2010)
Columnist Claims Anonymity Is Bad For Our Country (TechDirt, 31 March 2010)

2 - "Dear Journalists: There Is No Cyberwar" (TechDirt, 9 April 2010). I don't completely agree. Governments use and will use the new technologies to attack and the disruptions will be different.

3 - As Cyberbullying Moral Panics Heat Up, Actual Rates Of Cyberbullying Decreasing (TechDirt, 9 April 2010). Well yes and no. Cyberbullying is a problem like its off-line version, but it is probably not so much of a problem as it is made up.

Similar distortion in the understanding of the law in order to catch behaviours we find offensive but which are not necessarily legal:
Son Gets Mom Charged With Harassment Over Facebook Account Hijacking (TechDirt, 8 April 2010) - apparently, the son lets the computer logged in; that is unauthorised access in the UK!
And if this is true, it is even worse: Sarkozy Kicks Off Criminal Investigation Into Blog/Twitter Reports He Had An Affair (TechDirt, 7 April 2010)

4 - or distortion in the use of the law: "Court Says President Bush Violated Wiretapping Laws With Warrantless Wiretap" (TechDirt, 31 March 2010) with Wired having published the decision from NorthDistrict Court of California

This affair echoes two others about procedure and the difficulties to conceptualise it:
"Leaving Your WiFi Open Decreases Your Fourth Amendment Rights To Privacy?" (TechDirt, 10 February 2010) - I can't see how there is less privacy if you leave your mobile phone or your landline accessible to people from the outside
"Duh, Don't Leave A Thumb Drive With Child Porn Plugged Into A Shared Computer" (TechDirt, 22 April 2010) - no expectation of privacy for a US court when the thumb drive is plugged in. I would agree (like Masnick and unlike Kerr with whom I seem to disagree quite a lot - he writes on VWs). Kerr argues the thumb drive is like a suitcase in a public space; inaccurate if it is plugged in as everybody can see what's in it, like an open suitcase (aka Masnick).

and see "Les points-clés du projet de loi Loppsi" (LeMonde, 09 February 2010)

Circulation of information and saving of

The Economist On Why Copyright Needs To Return To Its Roots (TechDirt, 20 April 2010). The argument is that the Statute of Queen Anne granted copyrights for only 14 or 21 or 28 years maximum. It was not during the artist/writer's lifetime. Well, I would like to introduce a nuance here: the life expectation of people was probably at the time around 40 years old. If one writes the book in their twenties and one adds 14 years, that is roughly 34 minimum, so prettry much the author's lifetime. What is true though, is that the limited period made it impossible to transfer the copyrights to the descendents/heirs.
for life expectancy: which cites a book

Related to this is the post on TechDirt. The clip is cleverly made, but I am still not convince completely by it. No one has ever been able to copy what one wants without 1) acknowledging the author..., 2) in some cases (commercial use mostly), ask permission from the author. So yes copying can be theft, but not always. "Copying Is Not Theft" (techDirt, 15 April 2010)
Incidentally, acknowledging an author was not an inherent practice to writers. It started when the library of Alexandria opened and started to collect 'books'. They needed to reference the books and started to enquire about their authors... In parallel, in order to get all the books of the world at the time, the scribs did not hesitate to copy the books without permission and then they would reference them.
See also: "Content Creation Is An Evolutionary Process" (TechDirt, 22 February 2010) and the more recent post: "Innovation By Imitation: Study Shows That Success Comes From Imitation" (TechDirt, 22 April 2010)
and the very interesting comment/analysis of another's post: "Understanding What's Scarce And What's Not..." TechDirt, 09 February 2010

The Library of Congress seems to want to save all Twitter feeds on the grounds that ordinary people participate, giving historians a unique insight into day-to-day moods and understanding of issues. Not bad, but I wonder to which extent: it violates privacy, it is that useful for historians. Library Of Congress To Store Your Inane Twitter Chatter For All Eternity (TechDirt, 16 April 2010)

Google and China

Rob Hanlon and Stephen Frost, CSR Asia, on 31 Mar 2010, criticised Google's HR motives to withdraw from Mainland China. The core of their arguments is nothing new: Google was not making any profit, to stay would have been counterproductive to their business model; to withdraw in the name of HR is not helpful to China's HR activists and it is an illusion to believe a foreign company can influence China's policies on whether to censor or not.

Well, at the end of the reading, frankly, I am less than convinced by their arguments. I have no doubt that Google withdrew because it was not making enough money, but I do not think it is the only motive. I completely disagree with their stand about people/companies not being able to influence others including foreign governments. This is saying that nobody is responsible for whatever happens and history defies such argument. As we are talking about HR, let us think about Nelson Mandela. He was the catalyst of a whole movement who changed the course of history. Gandhi did the same against the then British Empire which power we forget the might.

Google's answer to the criticism is poorly drafted I think. The HRW's response is much more interesting as it points towards the weakness of Hanlon and Frost's arguments.

All the reports are on the Business and HR website at

For the earlier report on Google closing its site: Google Shuts China Site in Dispute Over Censorship (NY Times 22 March 2010) and different comments on the Business and HR website:

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Beware The Seductive Power Of Surveillance

TechDirt - 5 April
Refers to an article by Jesse Hirsh

same as previous post: common sense means that surveillance will exist and that we need to assess the risks and stop treating the internet as something different than the telephone, for HR purposes

See the previous interview of Thomas Berners-Lee: "Web under threat from 'snooping' authorities" (TechDirt, 04 December 2010)

Once Again, A Court Overturns Internet Ban For Convicted Criminal

TechDirt, 5 April 2010 -

technology seems to make people lose their common sense. Would we agree to a ban on using the telephone because the offender committed the offence with it?

Are Computers in Africa Really Weapons of Mass Destruction?

I am as skeptic as Kevin Donovan about the correctness of the analysis made in Foreign Policy. Yes, it is true that Africa does not use the latest softwares, but nor does Europe and a lot of other countries. And to use the nicknamed Nigerian scam as an example supporting the argument seems rather week. Nigeria has not been the only country sending that type of scam and if 'Western' people were not so gullible, maybe the wave of those scams would not have reached that scale at the time.

Monday, 5 April 2010

EU divided on ways to defeat online child pornography | EurActiv

EU divided on ways to defeat online child pornography | EurActiv

The EU Commission wants members states to filter content, but Germany is not particularly happy about it and wanted that it will refuse to do so, should there be a directive in that sense. The new EU treaty forbids member states to filter content on justice and home affairs. How will this provision be interpreted?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Interpretation of traditional offences

Three scenari demonstrating how the internet affects the interpretation of criminal law

Sexting: no child porn for the US courts
"Court Rejects PA DAs Attempt To Charge Teens For Sexting Themselves", TechDirt, 18 March 2010 - The court is right in legal terms. The child porn offence was meant to protect children against others (and adults) rather than against themselves (and their peers). But morally and practically, it is not satisfying. The DA could have used the money spent in prosecuting differently? I think this is one of the offences most deeply affected by our ways of consuming the new technologies

"California Court Says Online Bullying Is Not Protected Free Speech" TechDirt, 19 March 2010. Decision justified as long as the "bullying" fits the definition of harassment; calling somebody a jerk without a pattern of abuse is no harassment.

"ACS:Law Now Using Dubious Legal Theories To Threaten", TechDirt, 22 March 2010. It is not so much the headline that interests me than the details of the article: NY has passed a legislation to avoid forum shopping in liber law. In effect, libel decisions from foreign jurisdiction are unenforceable on its territory. This destroys the idea that one can be liable from anything published on the web by any jurisdiction; indeed, a condemnation can only be enforced if the country of residence accepts the enforcement! Remains the issue of the trial by abstentia and the difficulties the person may have to travel to the country who took the original decision as traditionally, stepping on one's territory is to accept its jurisdiction. So the ban is enforced differently!

But for no change in the law, just change in illegal methods to act: "Disgruntled Ex-Auto Dealer Employee Hacks Computer System To Disable Over 100 Cars" TechDirt, 18 March 2010

Meaning of "without authorisation"

Quite interesting facts and legal issue of defining what is "without authorisation". In the US, an employee used his employer's computer to access personal information that he then deleted. The seventh circuit court found it was hacking but the ninth circuit court rejected the interpretation. I quote from TechDirt:
"In declining to adopt the Seventh Circuit's interpretation of "without authorization," the court held that a "person uses a computer 'without authorization'... [only] [1] when the person has not received permission to use the computer for any purpose (such as when a hacker accesses someone's computer without any permission), or [2] when the employer has rescinded to access the computer and the defendant uses the computer anyway."... The Ninth Circuit declined to hold that the "defendant's authorization to obtain information stored in a company computer is 'exceeded' if the defendant breaches a state law duty of loyalty to an employer" because no such language was found in the CFAA.... The Ninth Circuit noted that because the CFAA was "primarily a criminal statute," and because there was ambiguity as to the meaning of the phrase "without authorization," it would construe any ambiguity against the government.... "
Compared with the UK, I thought of the Brown case where two police officers accessed the database (vehicle registration) for personal purposes, and then the Alison case in similar fashion: originally, the courts found there was no hacking; but the HL in Alison considered that "without authorisation" meant that without authorisation for the purpose involved.
Applied to the UK, the comment would meant that the HL got it wrong? I would disagree

"Courts Stretching Computer Hacking Law In Dangerous Ways" TechDirt, 18 March 2010

Google, China, HK

"Google Approach In China: Redirect To Hong Kong", TechDirt, 22 March 2010
with the original post from Google also from 22 March 2010.
What I was intringued by in Google's statement was the following sentence: "We believe this new approach of providing uncensored search in simplified Chinese from is a sensible solution to the challenges we've faced—it's entirely legal and will meaningfully increase access to information for people in China. " I wonder what Google meant by "legal": legal to uncensor in China? or legal to redirect links?
I also noticed that after the English version of the post, other links to the same content are posted in different languages. Quite interesting to see how Google is catering for his non-anglophone users

"If ACTA Gets Approved, Expect China To Use It As Justification For Censorship", TechDirt, 22 March 2010

Copyrights: our level of acceptance in surveillance and prosecution techniques

Self-explanatory and completely in line to my point of view about the level and type of surveillance we accept online being disproportionate to what we would tolerate offline; it is like the spirit of the Enlightenment being swallowed by the new technologies.

"Would UK Politicians Support The Digital Economy Bill If It Applied To Offline Activities As Well?" TechDirt, 19 March 2010

It is especially worrying when one sees those types of headlines and attitudes:

"More ACTA Leaks: Would Create Special Organization To Manage Worldwide Copyright Laws", TechDirt, 19 March 2010

"EU Proposes Criminalizing Inducing Infringement In ACTA Draft; Could Outlaw Google", TechDirt, 18 March 2010 - it is the EU commission, not the Parliament; and it continues the general trend in EU Law of wanting to edict criminal sanctions whereas criminal law is not supposed to be a competence for the EU institutions

"If ACTA Gets Approved, Expect China To Use It As Justification For Censorship" - TechDirt, 19 March 2010 - well China will indeed always use whatever possible to reinforce surveillance

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Discipline and surveillance: school's attitude

Pretty silly attitude for a school: education should be about transparency of thinking.
And of course completely illegal, thus scary:

"School Accused Of Spying On Kids In Their Homes With Spyware That Secretly Activated Webcams" TechDirt 18 February 2010

Passport control: awaking the dead

"Is Elvis Dead? Who Knows, But His Passport Made It Through Airport Security In Amsterdam", TechDirt 01 March 2010

I like the irony of it all. Trying to secure identities of people, and yet failing badly...


The bug in HADOPI 2 (French version of three strikes law for piracy) was "patched" by governmental decree or statutory instrument, with the possibility to ask for damages in the criminal proceedings. But some more difficulties have been highlighted, mainly due to the administrative status of HADOPI which does not have the quality of police officer and thus can't receive complaints linked to criminal charges and torts claims as an officer would.
"L’argent du beurre des ayants droit : Hadopi 2 bientôt patchée" PC INpact 5 March 2010

"French Government Looking To Set Up The Great Firewall Of France?" TechDirt 18 February 2010

While most European countries are happy with the secrecy surrounding ACTA (and the EU COmmission also), Sweden, the EU data protection agency, and the EU Parliament are quite worried about it.
"Parliament threatens court action on anti-piracy treaty" EurActiv 10 March 2010
"La « Cnil européenne » demande plus de transparence sur l'Acta", 01net, 23 February 2010
And yet, Sweden accepted that the expert who has worked for the music industry in the Pirate Bay case could be head of the IT crime unit.
"Swedish Investigator Hired By Warner Bros. During Pirate Bay Investigation Now In Charge Of IT Crime In Sweden" TechDirt, 26 February 2010

THose copyrights claim are becoming ridiculous, as even a video of PRof. Lessig has been taken done on YouTube. Ironically, Prof. Lessig was in favour of copyrights in Second Life
"Bogus Copyright Claim Silences Yet Another Larry Lessig YouTube Presentation" TechDirt, 2 March 2010

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


Although I would agree that there is a difference between a print mindset and an internet mindset, I disagree strongly with somebody who argues that the internet is about linking and that not to acknowledge sources is OK. Of course, links are essential, but date and place (blog or author's name) is also important for people to check the info; after all, that is why we instaured referencing vs plagiarism. Plus I don't believe that the non-linear way the internet works is an excuse for what is basically lazyness.

"Print Mindset vs. Internet Mindset: Do You Link? Do You Credit Sources?" TechDirt, 9 March 2010

Google's liability in Italy

A few other articles on the three Google's executives declared responsible in Italy because of a YouTube video.

Columnist Claims Italy's Google Verdict Makes Sense, TechDirt, 9 March 2010 (with M. Masnick obviously disagreeing)

and a speech by Lessign at the Italian Parliament, probably scheduled long ago and thus a coincidence with the verdict, "Lessig Gives A Well-Timed Speech To The Italian Parliament On Internet Freedom", TechDirt, 11 March 2010

and some pointing out that the EU may prefer privacy to freedom of speech. It is not wholly true, but yes, Europe definitely has a different vision of what is privacy in comparison with the US and even the UK, "Where Are The European Regulators In Charge Of Protecting Freedom Of Expression?" TechDirt, 9 March 2010

The problem is certainly due to the abundance of information available, despite the shortcomings in some countries of censorship, "Society Doesn't Know How To Deal With Abundance" TEchDirt, 11 March 2010

The power of images and data

Three articles, all connected around several themes.

The first one is about Chatroulette's site which works on the basis of logging in for random chats with people all over the world (well, at least that is what they tell you). The principle may seem great but exhibitionists and voyeurs populate the site so much that whoever uses it is sure to encounter some unpleasant images or chat on a regular basis, about one every ten chats. The problem is that students, children, anybody has access to it.
What I found fascinating is the fact that people want to spend time at random with images displayed, often of their own private homes. There is a sense that their privacy is not infringed because the others do not know where they live... But that is on the basis that they reveal nothing of themselves. Yet, even with one image (that can be captured from the webcam), somebody can start tracking down the person since some websites allow to search for matching pictures. Anonymity cannot really exist.

"Online voyeurs flock to the random thrills of Chatroulette", The Observer, 14 February 2010 page 20
On an anedoctal use of Chatroulette, "Band 'Releases' New Album Via Chatroulette" 15 February 2010
and for the French Secretary of State to ask for regulation of Internet at an international level: "Nadine Morano demande à l’ONU de réguler Internet", 01net, 25 February 2010

The second article is about comments made by Mark Zuckerberg, one of the founders of Facebook that "people have gotten really comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people", and that lack of privacy as a "social norm". The article astutely points out the constrast between the affirmation and the reality of Mr Zuckerberg's behaviour to withdraw pictures from his facebook page! We may feel comfortable with others' lack of privacy, but not with our own. There is here an element of voyeurism, like with gossip: it is fine to gossip about others, but not about ourselves!
Even more interesting is a Sunday Times poll explained in the article, where 63% disagree with the statement that privacy matters less than before and 70% say they are worried about communication of private data.
There is an obvious need to redefine privacy in the internet age, I would add, in the Facebook age. What does it mean in legal terms?
There is also a question of education and responsiblity here. All those examples of people having posted images of others (without their knowledge) in embarrassing situations with unintended consequences of loss of jobs, refusal of qualification etc... There is a need to learn about our responsiblity towards others, like when on the road, and seeing a bad driver - one cannot pretend not seeing him/her and continue driving, one has to adapt-; but there is also a need to learn not to take images at face value, that seeing somebody being drunk once does not mean s/he is unfit for a job. Relativity... a new relationship to images and words on the net...

"Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says privacy is dead. So why does he want to keeps this picture hidden?" The Sunday Times, 17 January 2010 page 12

For an earlier version of the same problem on Facebook, "Public lives: Does the internet know too much about us?", The Independent, 30 June 2008

The third article is about the EU being worried about Google and the YouTube case in Italy. Europe Looms as Major Battleground for Google, The NY Times, 14 February 2010 (the printed version is titled: In Europe, Unease with Google's Power Grows - bad English by the way)

On the issue of privacy and speech, see Global Network Initiative

The power of words

After the Robin Hood airport closed (Doncaster, Sheffield) due to heavy snowfall, Mr. Chamber wrote a twitter post that was meant as a joke to friends and ended to be taken seriously by police officers. I quote the terms as they are essential: "Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!".
He may be charged under the Terrorism Act with conspiring to create a bomb hoax.

Tessa Mayes (privacy law and free speech legal issues), according to the article, said "Making jokes about terrorism is considered a thought crime, mistakenly seen as a real act of harm or intention to commit harm".

Several thoughts come to mind. Yes, any offence that does not require a tangible result and/or a tangible action not based on words (like buying explosives) tips the law towards thought crimes. Some hate crimes can be considered as thought crimes as what is punished is the expression of a thought qualified as being hatred. So some offences linked with terrorism (incitement to, for example; or here the conspiracy to create a bomb hoax) are in that sense a thought crime. Now, this is a choice: Parliament approved its condemnation; others disagree. The question is which power do we want to give to words? Where we draw the line is never easy and I don't think complete freedom of expression should prevail, nor I do share the Government's perception of security and necessity.

Beside this issue and debate, what I find interesting here, is the simple fact that I do not see how the offence of conspiracy to create a bomb hoax can even be committed, given the context. Obviously, the facts can only be analysed in view of what happened at the time (not in view of the fact that no hoax emerged); but given the weather, the airport closure and the Twitter type of interaction, it is difficult to take the post seriously. It is a silly post and the person who wrote it should have been a bit more conscious of his responsibility; but I can't imagine the offence existing in all its elements.
"Twitter joke led to Terror Act arrest and airport life ban", The Independent, 18 January 2010

On a similar note, -the power we want to give to words and where we draw the line between dignity of the person/victim and freedom of speech-, are the attacks Richard Dawkins, the atheist, endured. I do not share his atheist (and that does not make me a creationist, because frankly to consider that the world was created in seven days is a total negation of the bible's message which has nothing to do with providing a history of human kind, but an understanding of our present day situation- In hebrew, Genesis starts by "Bereshit", in other words, in principle, in the principle, not as most latin languages versions put it, "at the beginning" which implies a timeline - and while I am at it, Eve is not Eve until after the transgression: before the transgression, he is Ishah, the other side of Adam called Ish, like in Chinese medicine the Ying and Yang, the masculine and feminin of Man). So back to our story: I do not share his views but it would never occur to me to write with vicious language.
Now, even if it is improper, should we leave people free to do so? Freedom of speech tells that that even not pleasurable speech should be heard. But should we allow speech that fosters tribalism as the article puts it, or hate of others as I would put it? UK law has answered by saying no in specific situations (clear hatred of race, religion, sexual orientation and disability to some extent), but did not say anything for the rest. So is it all about education of people? education about words, their power and who we are in which society.

The author wrote a book on Cyburbia: the Dangerous Idea That's changing How We Live and WHo We Are, London 2009 (my next reading at Cambridge in a few weeks).
"When the net's wisdom of crowds turns into an online lynch mob" James Harkin, The Observer, 28 February 2010, page 31

The whole story made me think of an earlier article about a journalist, Lee Siegel, who was so tired of the vicious comments he used to receive on his blog that he created a personna to counteract it, with nobody realising it was the same person. 1) It says a lot about the degree of analysis use by people (one should be able to recognise a style), 2) It says a lot about what speech is used for, in his case, silencing dissent (against Bush's policies). "Truth and consequences", The Guardian, 27 May 2008
And about distortion of words and its consequences on everyday life: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: "Freedom of speech can't be unlimited", The Independent, 6 July 2009

If words were not powerful, they would not be used, including to start war or strenghten one's side. "PR groups cash in on Russian conflict", The Guardian, 24 August 2009

Fraud, spam and co

An old article I retrieved today from my pile. The author, Charles Arthur, wonder whether convicting spammers in the US will put an end to spam. A rather pessimist response, understandably. What interested me was the fact that spam can be linked to fraud and criminal organisations with data collected beeing sold back or with botnet spamming created and then offered to eastern European criminal gangs.
So as usual, if people were not so gullable, there will be a bit less fraud and spam.

"Will convicting five major spammers put an end to spam?" The Guardian, 24 June 2010

For other articles on sale of private data and fraud,
"Welcome to DarkMarket – global one-stop shop for cybercrime and banking fraud", The Guardian, 15 January 2010, page 3

"T-Mobile staff sold customers' details to rivals", The independent, 18 November 2009

Further fraud this time with carbon trading, "Fraud Besets E.U. Carbon Trade System", The NY Times, 8 February 2010

and issues of security for smartphones: "Mobile security: Hackers kept at bay by lack of a standard platform" Financial TImes 15 February 2010

Climate change and hacking: does the end justify the means?

Over the debate on climate change data flaws, what struck me is that nobody questioned the hack of e-mails as if it was normal for e-mails, held on universities computers, to be accessed without authorisation. Certainly, I understand the importance of getting data right, especially for such a major issue as climate change, but does it justify the means? The hack is investigated by police officers and I wonder what would be the outcome and if the media will be so willing to tell the story.
Because, once the discussion settled, it happens that the flaws were minor and did not change the overall conclusions of the report: climate change is created by man, the rise in temperatures is alarming, and we better get going otherwise our children will not be living on this planet. So why all that fuss and nothing on hacking?

"Strange case of moving weather posts and a scientist under siege", The Guardian, 2 February 2010 (page 6)

Legality of extradition

The High Court, on 14 January 2010, appears to consider the Home Secretary's assessment as being unfair and misguided. The new report from the psychiatrist Professor J. Turk highlighted "exceptionally high risk of self-harm and even suicide" and should have given more pre-eminent weight than the HS did.
The decision is not yet published on BAIILI, but the one of 31 July 2009, before that new evidence was brought in in October 2009, is on the website.
New hopes then for Mr. McKinnon which I hoped will not be dashed.

"Judge says extraditing Gary McKinnon may be unlawful" The Guardian, 14 January 2010, page 9

Monday, 15 March 2010

Google, China and Co: where do we draw the line between the acceptable and the not-so-acceptable?

A long silence, partly because I was busy scrolling down the shelves at Cambridge (UK) library for books before my fellowship at CRASSH ended. I still have a few books to read, but today I am trying to go through the amassed cuts of newspapers' articles.
So let us review the story about Google rethinking its policy in China. Much ink has been spilled over the issue.
First, Google made its annoucement on 13 January 2010, a date that feels a bit like a new year/new resolution statement. The annoucement was not to censor anymore its search results on Google China, whether or not requested by Chinese authorities. The consequences, i.e. the possible end of any business presence in China, were recognised as a possibility. What seems to have triggered the decision was a series of cyberattacks against Chinese human rights activists. (Guardian, 13 January 2010, front page and page 3).
"Google to end censorship in China over cyber attacks" (Tania Branigan, TheGuardian, 13 January 2010)
"Google counts cost of censorship and draws red line under China" (Bobbie Johnson, TheGuardian, 13 January 2010)

On the details of the attacks, see Guardian 14 January 2010 and 15 January 2010.
"Google acted on censorship amid China dissident fears" (TheGuardian, printed version 14 January 2010, front page)
"Google's move on Chinese censorship welcomed by human rights activists"
(TheGuardian, 14 January 2010, page 14)
"Accounts invaded, computers infected – human rights activists tell of cyber attacks", The Guardian, printed version 15 January 2010

The attacks bring into light how internet communications are central to governmental response to politics, including war. "Cyber-warfare 'is growing threat'" The Guardian, 4 February 2010, page 7; similarly, six months ago, "MyDoom virus hits key networks in US and South Korea" The Guardian, 9 July 2009, page 16 (the title in the printed version is slightly different: "Cyber attacks paralyse government computers in US and South Korea"). But for a different vision on a 'supposed' cyberwar: "White House Cyber Security Guy: There Is No Cyberwar", TechDirt, 9 March 2010

However, the cynics add that Google never made the money it expected to make; it has only one third of the search engines market in China which is dominated by Baidu= Governmental Chinese version of search engine. So its decision may not rest so much on willingness to defend democratic values through guaranteeing freedom of expression, than on profit-making interests.
In addition, Google's decision in 2006 to censor results hurt the company's reputation, so much that one of its founder, Sergey Brin, called it a "net negative" (see Guardian's article, 13 January 2010, page 3; and page 14, 14 January 2010).

Nevertheless, cynicism may not be so much on the agenda. Let us face it: Google is not the new knight defending freedom of expression without awaiting something in return. On the other hand, personal history certainly plays a role here. Sergey Brin emigrated to the US in 1979, aged six, with his parents who were victims of anti-semitism, even under the then-USSR. (Guardian's, Tania Branigan, 14 January 2010, front page).

China's reaction was at the beginning cautious... and heavily censored as few headlines made it on the newspapers/online versions in China itself. Some commentators, pro-governmental line, did not see Google's decision as 1) affecting China much (there are other search engines), 2) as a desinterested decision (aka, Google does not make enough profit to stay).

What seems to emerge on the side, with other companies finding it difficult to enter the Chinese market, is a picture of full protection of Chinese interests (economic or not) against foreign companies and Governments. It fits with a presentation I attended in September 2009 at the Society for Legal Scholars (SLS) in Keele, where the speaker demonstrated that Chinese law favoured chinese contract law in all dispute resolutions, a concept that systematically discards foreign law; in other words, private international law in China is resolved by the quasi-systemic application of local law to the exclusion of foreign law. An article on the International Herald Tribune of 14 January 2010 page 15 is quite revealing on those behaviours. The article even ends up by saying, in more polite form, that foreign companies sell their soul to China, accepting to give for free, for fear of loosing a market share, what they would never have tolerated in other countries. I know the story is not exagerated. In his second volume on Globalisation, which focuses on Water, Eric Orsenna (French Academician and writer) explains that the French company Alstom more or less gave the plans of its water turbines for the three Dams on the yellow river, in exchange for obtaining the market... Except that the turbine plan is now copied and Alstrom not needed...

"China stifles news of Google’s defiance", The International Herald Tribune, 14 January 2010 (p. 1)
"Google Is Not Alone in Discontent, But Its Threat Stands Out", The New York TImes, 14 January 2010 (by the way, this habit of the NYT and IHT not to use the same title in the printed and online version is frankly annoying).
Eric Orsenna, L'avenir de l'eau : Petit précis de mondialisation II (Broché), Fayard 2008 (The future of water: little manual on globalisation II - NB: the first volume was on coton and is as interesting as the second, if anybody can read French - by the way, it is not a complicated French although it is beautifully written).

If we take into account China's policy in conducting business, then it appears very clearly that accepting to censor the results could only amount to failure in terms of believing that the economy will allow for freedom of expression to grow. The economy is in itself a close circuit; nothing from the outside will penetrate it, especially NOT freedom of expression. After 30 years of economic "liberalisation", the West should start looking at the full picture, rather than avoiding the issue: China will not become a democracy by free market. See James Kynge, "Full circle", Financial Times 16/17 January 2010.
"China and the west: Full circle", Financial TImes, 15 January 2010 (printed version, 16/17 january 2010 (like for the Guardian, can't they just give one date???)
Viewed under that light, Bill Gates' comment is not as irresponsible as it may first appear. It is a realist comment: that anyone doing business in China has to accept the fact that democracy is out of question. Then the question is: does one have the guts, to take a familiar expression, not to do business? The West's answer so far is certainly not living to its Enlightenment's ideals.
"Playing the wall game in China" The Guardian, 18 January 2010

Additionally see:
"Google may lose business, but gains good will", Miguel Helft, International Herald Tribune, printed version January 16/17, 2010 (can't find the link online)
"Why fearful china stamps out dissent", Peter Beaumont, The Observer, 17 January 2010, p. 22 (can't find the link online either)
Will Google stand up to France and Italy, too? The Guardian, 14 January 2010

"China Issues Another Warning to Google on Enforced Censorship of the Internet" link to NY Times by Business and HR website, 12 March 2010

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Murdoch's NY Post Continues To Source Articles From Bloggers With No Credit | Techdirt

Murdoch's NY Post Continues To Source Articles From Bloggers With No Credit Techdirt 5 March 2010

I like the irony of this info. Championing IP rights but not even having the decency to acknowledge authorship. It made me think of a book I am currently reading about openness, secrecy and authorship. The author looks at those issues from the Greek and Roman times to nowadays and tries to understand who information and knowledge were transferred. So far I read only the first two chapters (out of 9) and more or less, there is no secrecy, no willingness to restrict the flow of information. the only evolution has been to acknowledge authorship. Secrecy exists only for magical formulas and what we would consider nowadays as religious writings. But for example military writings (about weapons...) were open to all even though the audience was obviously restricted by lack of education of the masses. The reason was that war was seen as the skill, personal characters of men, of generals, rather than the result of good weapons. Exactly, good weapons were acknowledged as a factor to win a war, but the skills of a leader were seen as more important to use those weapons at their best (and to improve them).

also originality was not key: what was important was the possibility for knowledge to be available with acknowledgments of sources

The Myth Of Originality... Tech Dirt 5 march 2010

Did Google Ignore A Takedown On The Italian Video? | Techdirt

Did Google Ignore A Takedown On The Italian Video? Techdirt 8 March 2010

Apart from the issue of establishing the facts, the question is can Google be criminally liable? It may sound harsh, but the context of criminal liability has evolved over the past ten years. The biggest sources of privacy violations are within the corporate world with the databases corporations collect, hold and misuse, or because of information they make available. Offenders are not simply individuals. There is a 'collective' responsibility at corporate level and one can see that with the English debate on corporate crime. Except that the English debate is extremely restricted as we focus on manslaughter, whereas France allows for corporate liability for any offence. The question that springs to mind is actually whether Italian law sanctioned the three men as individuals or as representants/agents of Google the corporations.
The usual critic about the take down notice and the absence of a court judgment still holds.

See also "Google and YouTube should put own houses in order Charles Arthur" The Guardian, 1 March 2010, who argues that Google should be more consistent in its take-down policy rather than harrowing on lack of freedom of expression

Online personality and offline identity

Techdirt Daily Email for Tuesday, 09 March 2010 - Outlook Web Access Light

and "Turns Out That People Are Actually Pretty Honest About Themselves Online" TechDirt 19 February 2010

Not many studies appear on the theme; I suppose that the methodology to research online is not the easiest to practice. BUt it seems that people behave offline and online in pretty similar ways. It certainly corresponds to other studies that examine how people on the long term would present themselves and the discovery that the differences between online and offline are minor.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Controlling content

Traditional issue of the internet, but within the US, instead of between the US and the rest of the world. Question: censorship of content. Do you allow it? on which basis? why not total freedom? Is the question about articulating the global/local? Is law about moral values? if we accept local countries/regions can censor/ban, filter, should we regulate how they do it?

(TechDirt, 8 February 2010)

Friday, 5 February 2010


"Lord Lucas Keeps Wanting To Chip Away At Digital Economy Bill: Exempt Search Engines" (TechDirt, 28 January 2010).
"Insult To Injury: Mandelson Wants Those Wrongly Kicked Off The Internet To Pay To Appeal" (TechDirt, 28 January 2010)

seriously, first time I ever heard that one, but it is so crazy it just highlights the financial issue behing the fight against piracy by big companies "Seriously: Where Is The Link Between Copyright Infringement And Terrorism/Organized Crime" (TechDirt 29 January 2010)

This will be worth reading and transferring to other types of offences than piracy: it corresponds exactly to what I said if I believe the comment:
"Decision In iiNet Case Explains Why ISPs Cannot Effectively Be Copyright Cops" (TechDirt 4 February 2010)


Apparently, "Obama Quietly Issues Ruling Saying It's Legal For The FBI To Break The Law On Accessing Phone Records" (TechDirt, 22 January 2010)

and I find this even more astonishing: the harm exists, it is to each individual. "Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Warrantless Wiretapping, Appeal Planned" (TechDirt, 22 January 2010)

It is as astonishing as Bill Gates stating it's business and if Google does not want to comply to China, too bad! (25 January 2010)

Anonymity on the web

A very simple explanation, common sense, but as true as for anonymity by post mail: can't certify identities without using existing means of identification...

"You Can't Get Rid Of Anonymity Online, Even If You Wanted To" (TechDirt, 4 February 2010) refering to the blog of Bruno Schneier

A change compared to the UK court position earlier on a blog written by a police officer:
"Israeli Court Supports Anonymity For Online Commenters" (TechDirt 26 January 2010)