Category Archives: law

don’t let the EU censor your internet: stop ACTA

ACTA infographic

You might have heard that SOPA got stopped (for now) in the USA, a bill to censor the internet and limit online freedom for everyone. An even worse deal is going down on our EU-side of the globe unfortunately, where ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) has already been signed, but not yet approved (luckily).

ACTA – a global treaty – could allow corporations to censor the Internet. Negotiated in secret by a small number of rich countries and corporate powers, it would set up a shadowy new anti-counterfeiting body to allow private interests to police everything that we do online and impose massive penalties — even prison sentences — against people they say have harmed their business.
avaaz.org

So it’s about time to do something about this before this bill gets voted in the EU Parliament and gets adopted globally.
First you can start by reading about ACTA, find out what’s wrong with it, sign the petition and act against it.

For those in the US, you can go sign the White House petition. Do it, because this deal is worse than SOPA, as it spans beyond the internet and deals even with regulations on medication and food.

The oppressively strict regulations could mean people everywhere are punished for simple acts such as sharing a newspaper article or uploading a video of a party where copyrighted music is played. Sold as a trade agreement to protect copyrights, ACTA could also ban lifesaving generic drugs and threaten local farmers’ access to the seeds they need. And, amazingly, t he ACTA committee will have carte blanche to change its own rules and sanctions with no democratic scrutiny.
avaaz.org

Spread the word, sign the petition, just do something so this is stopped just like SOPA was.

Afterwards, you can get back to your memes and lolcats. :)

 

help stop the Belgian data retention rule

The European Union wants that internet traffic, phone calls and generally every form of electronic communication data (e.g. Skype) is logged and kept for 2 years. The logged data has to contain personal information to identify the user and location information such as time, date, place, length of the phone call/internet connection, the text/MMS/email-message itself.

The whole idea is to use this data to stop terrorism and crime but I don’t see how tracking the surfing behaviour or a few million innocent people is going to make it any easier in finding that needle in the haystack. Not only is this a huge invasion of each and every civilian’s privacy, it’s also going to cost a lot to set up. In the end it’s the customer of the ISP’s and phone companies that’s going to end up paying for this, as if Belgium isn’t already expensive enough when it comes down to that.

Having this information spread out of a few thousand databases is also prone to abuse or hacking. Think of what spammers could do with this kind of information, or even marketeers. They’d love to get their hands on that kind of information I’m sure.

So if you too feel like this should be put to and end, get over to bewaarjeprivacy.be and sign the petition.

#iranelection

I’ve been watching the internet concerning the Iranian elections lately and I have to say that the information being delivered over the net is far more interesting than what traditional media has to offer, plus it’s a lot faster too.

A few things are quite interesting about this whole thing from an geek point of view on how the so called new media is used in the conflict:

1. Easy channels of information = easy channels for disinformation. As bloggers use blogs, Twitter and facebook to spread instant updates on what’s going on inside Iran, the government sets up fake account to spread disinformation using the same channels. Keeping your bullshit filter up when going through the information spread on the various networks is mandatory to not get suckered into the false news.

2. The firewalls have eyes. While the internet is the medium to spread news in a somewhat anonymous fashion, it’s also being actively monitored and  partially controlled by the government to try and track down protesters. The same goes for cellphone networks and SMS traffic. Public proxies and anonymizers can help to keep the identity of the bloggers safe, but those are being shut down as well. Governments all over the world are lobbying to limit the privacy of their civilians by forcing ISP’s to track their user’s actions on the net under the excuse of increasing security and fighting the terrorist threat. Once this is achieved there is no turning back and these tools can be used for less noble goals which is now being displayed in Iran. Keep this in mind next time politicians talk about forcing your internet provider to keep logs. Tools like Tor, Freenet, proxies and anonymizers are also imported for this reason.

3. Sometimes helping turns out to be not helping. People all over the world are trying to help the Iranian protesters using all sorts of geeky tricks. Unfortunately these tricks seem to be working more against them in some cases. Some people started DDos’ing Iranian websites. This turned out to be blocking overal internet traffic in Iran, including those of the protesters trying to get the word out. Retweeting messages of legit Iranians for example can blow their cover as Boing Boing mentions. Retweeting false information is another. Which brings us to..

4. Who can you trust? Trust is the major issue here. Can the blogger’s information be trusted? Can a website or forum be trusted, or is it a tool set up by the government to lure in the unwary? The gov has been said to set up so-called anonymous twitter-sites which simply log protesters accounts and IP’s for easy tracking. Trusting your Twitter or GMail account to a malicious website which then uses it to spam your friends is one silly mistake to make. But if your life depends on it you better be damn sure that site can be trusted before you hit the submit button.

5. The internet is supportive. All over the net support is being raised (noticed those green icons on Twitter?), rightfully or not. The underdog is always popular online and I frankly don’t have a clue yet who’s right and who’s wrong in this story, but by making such a fuss the government is certainly not looking like the good guys in this one. One thing I do know is that it’s important to allow free speech and that’s what the Iranian government is now trying to stop by blocking access to the net. It’s cool to see the Swedes at Piratebay have set up a forum which Iranians can use in full anonymity for example. I’m not linking directly to it here as it seems to be down at the moment, probably because of the increased traffic it’s getting right now, so they don’t need those few extra clicks coming from here.

Cyberwar is no longer science-fiction.

Photo by MisterArasmus, copyrighted so I’m going for fair-use here :)

about that riaa trial

When you pirate mp3s, you're downloading COMMUNISME!I was just reading about the first RIAA trial against Jammie Thomas for downloading pirated music. One of the things that’s pretty mind boggling about it is that the jury is composed out of people who hardly have any computer knowledge at all.

This is something that I’ve seen mentioned before in trials related to computer technology. Being it cyberstalking, websites with illegal content or file sharing. I don’t see how a jury without some, or even better, substantial knowledge of the internet and peer-to-peer networks can get an idea of what this case really is about. What’s worse is that the outcome of this trial will be a precedent for any future piracy trials. In one Belgian case there was a judge who stopped the trial (temporarily) because he couldn’t grasp what the experts called in to testify where talking about. He didn’t know Jack about computers and was going to speak a verdict on a website copyright infringement case. FTW!

In the RIAA case most of the folks on the jury (according to the Wired article) don’t even use the internet ffs. How the hell are they supposed to get a more complex idea of how file sharing works if they don’t even know the basics of surfing the web or sending an email?

Beats me.
A trial to keep an eye on for sure.

p2p traffic filtered in belgium soon?

Copyright can be beautifull too.It’s not just the Germans that don’t get how the internet works. The Belgian copyright organisation Sabam won a case in the Brussels court against Scarlet, one of the Belgian internet providers, to stop illegal p2p music downloads.

The idea is to use filters on all p2p traffic and block illegal downloads. That might work in theory, but in reality this means Scarlet will have to be building a huge filtering system tracking all p2p downloads from it’s customers. Privacy anyone?
As with all filtering systems, there will be ways to bypass them by using tunnels, or simply making the transfered files unrecognisable for the filters. How about legal downloads btw? How will those filters know the difference?

Sabam is doing the same thing RIAA has been doing in the States. Instead of changing their failing business model and fix their own problem they are putting the blame with the ISPs and forcing them to fix their problem. Instead of finding a way to offer legal music on the internet in a flexible way that people are willing to use, they are trying to block downloads instead, because they want to sell more plastic disks filled with 50% filler people don’t want to hear.

Look at iTunes ffs, it’s not like people don’t want to legally buy music online right?

Scarlet is of course appealing the sentence in court. Hopefully a judge with some more knowledge of the internet will be in charge of that case…

You can find Dutch articles about the case here, and here.

german gov going crazy?

A German flag.The German government is making some odd waves lately. I posted about their odd internet censorship policy before affecting Flickr users in Germany, but there’s two posts on Hadez’ blog that really made me raise an eyebrow to who’s in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the European Union.

First there was the law they passed making all hacking tools illegal in Germany. Owning a tool, which means just having it on your hard drive is enough to get sent to jail for a year, or get a serious fine. Hacking tools however are not evil pieces of satanic source code mind you, they are the tools used by security experts and IT network admins to keep their networks running safely, while trying to detect intrusions, or prevent them.
It’s like with a crowbar. It’s used for burglary sure, but not everyone with a crowbar is intending to break into your car or house now is he?

A second one I thought was exclusive for those silly bats that live across the Atlantic. You know, those lads that got Bush junior re-elected and like to bomb small countries and all. They have these debates going down on whether or not Intelligent Design (talk about a contradiction) should be taught in school as an alternative to Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Turns out the same discussion is arising in Germany as well now ffs. Looks like the Americans aren’t the only silly bats out there anymore, and they moved into my backyard dammit.

I’m really hoping the rest of Europe isn’t going to be picking these crazy laws up as well, or we’re al screwed.

flickr censorship?

Violet Blue. The real one.Flickr is dealing with a lot of censorship fuzz lately, some legit and some not imo.
For instance in this case where the sex blogger Violet Blue got her pictures censored because her account didn’t make it through the adult filter is kinda shitty. Her account wasn’t packed with porn or anything, but as someone who blogs on the subject of fornication (funny word isn’t it) and all that has to do with it, there are some pics in there showing some skin, and (OMGWTF!) perhaps even a nipple or two.

So her account got suspended and censored, so she got rather pissed about it, which she has the right to of course. In the end everything turned out alright. The Flickr guys apologized to her, which is nice, and the naughty pics are now marked as such so they don’t show up in peoples safe searches.

The idea behind the filtering Flickr does is simple, and a good one. They want people to be in control of what pictures they want to see turning up in their search results. As is the case with Google and Yahoo, safe search filters the NSFW pictures for you. But as has been proven countless times before on the internet, filtering isn’t an easy task, so mistakes happen.
People get pissed of rather quickly with these kind of mistakes though, and in some cases, web 2.0 has enabled the mobs to start spamming their ass off with “flickr sucks” statements all over the intahweb.

For instance in the case where Flickr censors pictures for users from Germany (here). The problem here is that Flickr is forced to do this to apply to German law, and didn’t just apply this policy because they don’t like bratwurst und sauerkraut.
However, tons of Flickr users are now posting and reposting pictures telling Flickr to stop their censoring activities, which they can’t really do anything about without risking a big fat lawsuit. Flickr users who may or may not know at all what the deal is about anyway, judging from some of the comments posted on the support forums…

Mob 2.0?