Government Internet Shutdowns in 2016
Governments shut down the Internet more than 50 times during 2016 for a variety of reasons, from affecting elections and limiting opposition communications, to what was justified as stopping students from cheating on their exams. Consequences can be far more serious than just inconvenience to Internet users. They can include millions of dollars of economic losses and perpetration of human rights violations. Experts suggest that UN agencies like the ITU could assist by issuing statements in response to specific incidents.
Colombia imposes tax reforms on the Internet industry
Colombia has passed new tax rules that impose a 19% value added tax on Internet services paid by creditcard, primarily targeting over-the-top (OTT) services such as Netflix, Uber, Spotify, and Airbnb. In addition, large mobile data packages will be taxes with 4%. A representative of the telecommunications sector responded that the measure 'is going to generate user decline', while Uber has stated that 'it helps to see our activity as legitimate and is the first step towards a smart regulation'.
ICANN and US government terminate the Affirmation of Commitments
ICANN and the US Department of Commerce have agreed to terminate the Affirmation of Commitments (AoI), a 2009 document which outlined the two parties’ responsibilities towards each-other. Among its provisions, the AoI stressed out ICANN’s commitments to openness and transparency, and regular community reviews of its work. As noted by the US government, the termination of the agreement is a consequence of the completion of the IANA stewardship transition and the incorporation of the of the AoC framework into the revised ICANN bylaws.
Turkey plans launching domestic Internet services compatible with national culture
Turkey's Minister of Communication announced in a television interview that the country is creating a domestic search engine and e-mail service 'compatible with national culture and values'. The measures would be taken in response to the 'need to store user data within Turkey's borders and ensure that communications could be fully analysed domestically'. However, activists fear Turkey's complete isolation from the international community, as several global Internet companies (e.g. PayPal, Amazon, and eBay) have already been blocked in Turkey, and others (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) are often temporarily blocked in response to political incidents and attacks.
Cloud market reached $148 billion in 2016
The cloud market reached $148 billion in 2016 and grows at 25% annually, according to Synergy Research Group. Last year, spend on cloud services overtook spend on cloud infrastructure hardware and software. The market leaders continue to be Amazon/AWS, Microsoft, HPE, Cisco, IBM, Salesforce and Dell EMC.
US government sues IoT company over security practices
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Taiwanese-based computer networking equipment manufacturer D-Link, alleging that ‘inadequate security measures taken by the company left its wireless routers and Internet cameras vulnerable to hackers and put U.S. consumers’ privacy at risk’. FCT argues that the company failed to ‘take reasonable steps to secure its routers and Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, potentially compromising sensitive consumer information, including live video and audio feeds from D-Link IP cameras’. According to the Commission, the action is part of its efforts to protect consumers’ privacy and security in the Internet of Things. D-Link later reacted saying it ‘denies the unwarranted allegations outlined in the FTC complaint and will vigorously defend the action’.
New York Times removed from Apple App Store in China
The New York Times app has been removed from Apple's App store in China. The newspaper's website has already been blocked since 2012, but its content continued to be available on through its application. According to the New York Times, its app was removed on 23 December 2016 from the app store.
Indian telecom regulator launches new consultation on net neutrality
The Telecom Regulatory Authority in India (TRAI) released a Consultation Paper on Net Neutrality, asking for input from stakeholders on questions such as: what could be the principles for ensuring nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet, in the Indian context? and how should ‘Internet traffic’ and providers of ‘Internet services’ be understood in the net neutrality context? The aim of the consultation is to ‘proceed towards final views on policy or regulatory interventions, where required, on the issue of net neutrality’. This is part of a two-stage consultation process on net neutrality, initiated by TRAI in May 2016.
.africa subject to another application for a temporary restraining order
The legal battle over .africa continues, as DotConnectAfrica files another motion for a temporary retraining order to stop ICANN from delegating the string until the case is heard in court. The court agreed to consider new arguments as ground for the motion, with a hearing being set for 31 January. A similar application was denied by a Los Angeles judge in December 2016.
US government launches the IoT Home Inspector Challenge
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched a competition inviting the public to create a technical solution that consumers can use to guard against security vulnerabilities in software found on the Internet of Things (IoT) devices in their homes. Participants in the ‘IoT Home Inspector Challenge’ are asked to develop a tool that would, at minimum, help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software.
DNSSEC deployed within 89% of all top-level domains
A report recently released by the Internet Society shows that, as of November 2018, 89% of all top-level domain names (TLD) have signed their zones with Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC). While all new generic TLDs have deployed DNSSEC at their root, only approximately 47% of all country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) have taken this step. Deployment of the security extension for second-level domains vary widely; for example, over 50% of domains under .cz (the ccTLD for Czechia) are signed, while only about 0.5% of zones in .com are signed. Looking at the broader picture, the report notes that the ‘deployment of DNSSEC has made substantial progress since the root was signed in 2010’, and that ‘the major DNS servers and resolvers now ship with DNSSEC capability, and tools assisting DNSSEC operation are improving’.
China allows domain names in two additional new gTLDs to be hosted in the country
China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has issued a decision allowing domain names under .shop and .site to be hosted within the country’s borders. This follows a similar decision issued earlier this month with regard to domain names under .club, .vip, and .xyz. Previous to these decisions, .com and .net were the only generic top-level domains (gTLDs) which could have domain names hosted in China. Without an approval from the Chinese government, domain names in gTLDs can be registered in China, but they cannot be activated or hosted there. According to Domain Pulse, the approval, however, comes with certain conditions for the registries: complying with Chinese domain name management, making registrant contact data available to the MIIT, create a user complaints hotline. and report each quarter on the gTLD’s operation.
Israel approves 'Facebook Law' to force web platforms to remove content
The Israeli cabinet has approved new legislation - dubbed the 'Facebook Law' - to empower the Administrative Court to force Internet content providers to remove incitement from their platforms, at the state's request. So far, the Israeli government can file requests to Internet companies to remove content, of which about 71 percent were addressed. According Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, 'it is important for this cooperation to be obligatory', as 'people's lives are at stake'. Facebook urged the Israeli government to 'carefully [consider] the implications of this bill for Israeli democracy, freedom of speech, the open Internet and the dynamism of the Israeli Internet sector'.
The Dutch Consumer and Markets regulator bans T-Mobile Netherlands’ zero-rating practices
The Dutch Consumer and Markets regulator ordered T-Mobile Netherlands to stop offering a streaming music service which was not counted toward customers’ data usage. The zero-rating service, introduced in October, was seen by the regulator as a breach of the country’s net neutrality rules, because it put other similar services (such as Spotify) at a competitive disadvantage. T-Mobile risks a penalty of 50,000 euro/day if it does not comply with the order.
European Commission objects to Facebook for 'misleading' information over WhatsApp
US court denies motion asking ICANN to put the delegation of .africa on hold
A court in Los Angeles, USA denied a motion for a preliminary injunction preventing ICANN from delegating .africa to ZACR. In 2016, DCA, a competing applicant for .africa, filed a case against ICANN’s decision to have .africa delegated to ZACR, arguing that it had been treated unfairly by ICANN, which had broken the terms of the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook. While the case is still pending a trial in court, the denial of the preliminary injunction could mean that ICANN may proceed with delegating .africa before the case is settled.
Legality of UK's Investigatory Powers Act questioned by the European Court of Justice ruling
European Court of Justice (CJEU) in Luxembourg questioned the legality of the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, related to the bulk collection of communications data, with its verdict.
The ruling set new precedent for EU member states’ data retention regimes, stating that “general and indiscriminate retention” of data is prohibited. Access to the retained data by the Government is restricted for the purpose of preventing and detecting serious crime, and must be:
- Subject to prior review by a court or an independent authority; and
- notice must be given to people affected by the retention, as soon as such notice no longer jeopardises the investigation, in order for those individuals to exercise their legal rights if necessary.
The Investigatory Powers Act passed through Parliament in November 2016, as a replacement for the expiring Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) passed in 2014, which enabled unprecedented levels of state surveillance in the UK. The history of the case is followed closely by Privacy International.
ICANN advised to address the issue of name collisions before approving new gTLDs
ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) issued an Advisory on the Stability of the Domain Namespace tackling the issue of ‘name collisions’ - the ambiguity on the use of the domain namespace, in cases when domain names allocated and used within the public Domain Name System (DNS) are also used for other purposes, outside the DNS (for example, home and corp are used as domain names in private networks, but there are also applications for these names to be registered as new generic top level domains - gTLDs). Noting that name collisions threatens the stability of the domain namespace, SSAC recommends that ICANN establishes ‘definitive and unambiguous criteria for determining whether or not a syntactically valid domain name label could be a top-level domain name in the global DNS’, and that it does not make any decision to add new TLDs to the DNS until this matter is addressed.
ICANN publishes updated gTLD marketplace study
ICANN published an updated version of its gTLD Marketplace Health Index (beta), which reflects statistics and trends related to generic top-level domains (gTLD). Some of the data revealed by the index: 190,882 thousands second-level domain names in existence in gTLDs in the first half of 2016; 562,841 second-level domain name registrations in Internationalised gTLDs (IDNs) in the first half of 2016; most ICANN-accredited gTLD registrars and registry operators are located in Europe, North America, and Asia/Australia/Pacific. The reports also notes that the commercial marketplace for gTLDs in thriving, demonstrated by growth in new gTLDs and across all gTLDs, and that marketplace competition is perceived to be fair. Also, diversity exists in the choice of a service provider, including geography, scripts offered, and languages offered. A version 1.0 of the index is currently under preparation.
Snap Inc. opens an office in China
Snap Inc, Snapchat's parent company, has opened a research and development office in China. The office, which is in Shenzhen, South East China, will reportedly be used to further develop Snapchat's Spectacles device. They are already assembled in China but the office represents an interesting move for Snapchat, given that its platform is banned in the country.
US White House makes recommendations on how to prepare the workforce for an AI-driven economy
In a follow-up to a previous report on ‘Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence’ (AI), the US White House has published a new report on ‘Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy’. The new document looks at the effects of the AI-driven automation on the US job market and economy, and makes recommendations on policy responses that could lead to increasing the benefits of AI and mitigate its costs. The proposals include: investing in and developing AI for its many benefits; educating and training individuals for jobs of the future; and aiding workers in the transition and empowering them to ensure broadly shared growth. The White House also calls for ‘continued engagement among government, industry, technical and policy experts, and the public […] in moving the Nation toward policies that create broadly shared prosperity, unlock the creative potential of American companies and workers, and ensure America’s continued leadership in the creation and use of AI.’
British MPs to investigate VAT fraud in the run-up to Christmas
Sellers on Amazon and eBay have reportedly evaded millions of pounds in value added tax (VAT) in the run-up to Christmas, leading British Members of Parliament to launch an investigation. Wide-scale VAT fraud on big e-commerce platforms was first reported by an article in the Guardian in November 2015. According to the UK Government, VAT evasion in online shopping has become a 'very big issue', costing about 1.5 billion pounds a year in lost tax.
Families of victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting sue tech companies
The families of some of the victims of the shooting in the Orlando Pulse nightclub in June 2016 are suing Google, Twitter, and Facebook, as these companies are accused of having a role in the radicalisation of the shooter. According to the lawsuit, 'without...Twitter, Facebook, and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of ISIS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible'. The lawsuit claim that the tech companies even 'profit from ISIS postings through advertising revenue'. Earlier this year, a similar lawsuit was launched in response to the 2015 Paris attacks. This case is still pending.
UNESCO’s Committee adopts draft Operational Guidelines on the implementation of the Convention in the digital environment
From 12-15 December 2016 UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expression held its tenth ordinary session. During the session, Committee’s selection of six projects recipients of the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) in the framework of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions were announced. The Committee adopted the preliminary draft Operational Guidelines on the implementation of the Convention in the digital environment. The draft document requires states to update their respective laws “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions in the digital environment.” The Guidelines recognize the need to address issues such as the digital divide between developed and less developed countries when it comes to the flow of cultural goods and services, digital literacy and access to local cultural content.
Canada's CRTC declares broadband internet access a basic service
In a ruling held on December 21st, The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has declared that broadband internet access will be considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians, and has set targets for basic telecoms service provision across Canada, such as: Fixed broadband internet access speeds of 50Mbps download/10Mbps upload; an unlimited data option for fixed broadband access services; the ‘latest’ mobile wireless technology available not only in homes and businesses, but also along major Canadian roads. The CRTC also announced the establishment of a fund to support projects in areas that do not meet the above targets. Applicants will be able to submit funding proposals in order to build or upgrade infrastructure for fixed and mobile broadband internet access services.
Uber removes self-driving cars from streets of California
Uber has decided to remove its self-driving cars from California roads following the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) opinion that the self-driving car program violated California law. The introduction of self-driving cars happened only a week ago in San Francisco.
DMV revoked the registration of 16 of the company's autonomous vehicles, under the understanding that the registrations were "improperly issued for these vehicles because they were not properly marked as test vehicles." Uber replied that the law doesn't apply to its self-driving cars, because humans constantly monitor its vehicles and can take over control at any time. DMV’s understanding, however, was that the law applies to the kind of technology in the vehicle, not whether a human is behind the wheel. If the car is equipped to be autonomous eventually, it's subject to the law. Uber said it was looking for alternative uses for its vehicles and different cities where it could redeploy the cars.
Satellites and digital inclusion
SES, a world-leading satellite operator, published the report “E-inclusion: Satellites are the Answer”. The report claims that Internet broadband and speed are increasing, but the digital gap is not necessarily narrowing. Satellites provide borderless connectivity and respond swiftly to evolving situations. SES claims to have completely global network that reaches 99% of the world’s population.
New research brings AI algorithms closer to being able to explain themselves
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics have made a step towards explainable artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, by designing a ‘pointing and justification’ system that enables algorithms to point to the data used to make a decision and justify why it was used that way. As explained by Quartz, the system ‘picks an idea from the mind of a machine and translates it for humans. Rather than displaying a decision as a series of mathematical equations, the machine can again do the heavy lifting to interpret its results.’ Although the proposed system only works with a specific scenario (recognizing human actions in pictures), it opens the door towards future general AI algorithms that can explain their actions in a clear and easy to understand manner.
US FCC Republican members plan to work on revising net neutrality rules
In a letter sent to several industry groups representing network operators and Internet service providers, the two Republican members of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have disclosed their plans to work on revising the net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC in 2015. According to the letter, the Commissioners’ intent is to ‘revisit […] the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding more broadly, as soon as possible’. They also noted that they ‘dissented from the Commission's February 2015 Net Neutrality decision, including the Order's imposition of unnecessary and unjustified burdens on providers’.
French postal service will conduct trials of drone mail delivery
The French postal service will conduct trials of a drone mail delivery program after it was granted approval from the French aviation regulatory authority. The postal service hopes that these trials will lead to a full-scale service that delivers mail to remote areas. The French post operates with more regulatory flexibility around using drones than services operating in the US, for example. It is expected that the introduction of drones will help to cut down on costs and enhance the efficiency of mail delivery. This would have a positive impact on e-commerce, since postal service delays are seen as one of the barriers to the increase of online trade.
Partnership between Uber and Indonesia second largest taxi company
Uber and Express Group, the second largest taxi company in Indonesia have concluded a partnership on a three-month trial during which a certain number of taxi drivers will be allowed to join the UberX service in Jakarta. The partnership will allow Uber to increase its pool of cars in the Indonesian capital, while the taxi drivers will gain the potential for more business. The move represents a significant development, given that few months ago Express drivers were part of a protest against Uber.
New information security doctrine in Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the updated information security doctrine, which should be a response to increasing foreign cyber-efforts to affect Russia's internal affairs and endanger its critical infrastructure, Reuters reported. The doctrine recognises that countries but also terrorist and extremist groups are building capacities to influence information infrastructure for military purposes. It alerts that the Russian government agencies, scientific centres and military industries are being targeted by foreign intelligence services through cyber-espionage, while the youth are becoming affected by the information bias and psychological operations from other countries using online media. In response, Russia will build strategic deterrents and strengthen the protection of its critical infrastructure, but will also further pursue efforts to prevent armed conflict that stem from the use of ICT.
France considers an Internet ombudsman
France is considering to appoint an official Internet ombudsman, 'to regulate complaints about online material in order to prevent excessive censorship and preserve free speech'. The bill would put in place a 'content qualification assessment procedure', which will protect firms against the removal or censorship of content. If approved, the bill could be copied by other European jurisdictions.
US investigating Russian involvement with elections and exploring possible responses
The Russian-speaking hackers may have also penetrated the US election agency network after the elections, and obtained the credentials of hundred of people at the commission and access to non-public reports on flaws in voting machines, Reuters reports. Earlier, the two renown mathematicians have stated that it is likely that the very system for counting the votes in some states was hacked as well. The FBI and the CIA have agreed that Russian cyberattacks that preceded the elections aimed at helping Donald Trump to win the elections, Washington Post reports. Following up on the CIA claims, 80 members of the Electoral College have signed the Open Letter requesting the Director of the National Intelligence to make the facts related to the outside interference with the elections public. US President Obama has previously ordered a full review into the claims that Russia was behind the cyber-operations related to elections, and has reviewed possible options to respond to Russia's hacking including using the US cyber-presence in the systems of the Russian critical systems, New York Times reports.