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last 7 days

28 Mar

Uber has announced its intention to stop operating in Denmark from mid April, because of upcoming new proposed regulations that would introduce additional requirements on cars that function like taxis, such as mandatory fare meters and seat sensors. The company claims that it would have difficulties in complying with such requirements, and is still trying to convince the government to change the proposed regulations.

27 Mar

After the Senate lawmakers voted on Thursday to repeal a set of rules aimed at protecting consumers' online data and prohibit providers from abusing the data they gather from their costumers, on Tuesday the House of Representatives will vote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) stresses the five ways privacy and security in the U.S. will be put at risk if repealing of the FCC’s privacy rules occurs. In addition, the FCC set up the 24-hour form for U.S. citizens, to call for lawmakers to protect federal online privacy rules.

British foreign minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Amber Rudd have called for Internet companies to show more 'social responsibility' in the ways in which they manage terrorist and extremist content. Boris Johnson criticised the 'disgusting' Internet companies, such as Google, for benefiting from extremist content, referring to the growing controversy around Google's advertising practices, which has even resulted in a 'Google boycott'.

Amber Rudd pointed at the role of the Internet in the recent Westminster attack, describing it 'as a conduit, inciting and inspiring violence, and spreading extremist ideology of all kinds'. According to her, responding to this challenge requires the help of social media companies, both the large ones (Google, Twitter, Facebook) and smaller ones (e.g. Telegram, Wordpress and

Amazon will begin collecting nationwide sales taxes in the USA as of 1 April 2017. Amazon has long fought against the imposition of sales tax in individual states, from court cases to corporate exemptions, and the collection of sales tax on online purchases has been a controversial topic in the USA. Yet, recently, many online retailers, like Amazon, started to shift their operations to collect sales tax in most states, most likely due to increased legal and political pressure. Amazon has not yet commented on the change. 

In Bringing the school to kids: The importance of the Internet in times of conflict, author Constance Bommelaer, Senior Director of Global Internet Policy at the Internet Society underlines the importance of Internet access for the exercise of our human rights. While this is not normally highlighted as a priority for refugee children, Bommelaer explains its particular value in her comments about  Mobile Learning Week. She points out that Internet access 'is a fundamental part of the solution' to maintaining educational continuity in the midst of displacement and other challenges in the aftermath of war, violence, conflict, and other crises. It is indispensable to support digital literacy for education  'because education ensures that a generation displaced from its home is not also displaced from its future'. 

26 Mar

According to Indonesia's national police cybercrime chief, Sr. Com. Himawan Bayu Aji, hate speech has become the most-reported online crime last year. Cases of online hate speech primarily concerned race and religion, and included 'defamation, harassment, slander, provocation and threats against individuals or groups'. The police handled 199 of such cases in 2016, and Himawan pledged that the police will be more responsive in managing citizen-reported hate crimes.

last 30 days

22 Mar

In the framework of the country’s new national budget, Canadian government plans to amend its Excise Tax Act and redefine ride-sharing firms as taxi companies. This measure would affect providers of ride-sharing services, such as Uber, ending the tax advantages that they have over traditional taxi companies. The proposed amendments would force Uber to collect the goods and services tax of every ride provided (similar to taxi operators), which could result in higher fares for Uber customers in Canada. UPDATE: Uber Canada is asking the Canadian government to retain the tax advantage, and expand it to taxi services.

South Korean telecom company SK Telecom has concluded a partnership with The Pokemon Company for a temporary zero-rating service involving Pokemon GO. Pokemon GO players benefiting from the offer (available until June) will not be charged for mobile data used while playing the game, although company officials said that data for logging in, updates, and downloads will be charged. The introduction of the service is expected to lead to debates within the country on net neutrality and the implications of zero-rating services.

T-Mobile Netherlands will defend its zero-rating music streaming service in court, opposing a decision of the Dutch telecom regulatory authority according to which the service represents a breach of net neutrality rules. The offer from T-Mobile gives customers with a data plan of 6GB or more per month unlimited data for music streaming from several providers. For the regulatory authority, this represents a violation of the Dutch law (which has a clear ban on price discrimination), while T-Mobile argues that the Dutch legislation goes beyond the EU net neutrality rules and that EU rules should prevail.

21 Mar

Findings of the American National Election Study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, suggest that the Internet does not play a significant role in rising indicators of polarisation. The research points out that polarisation has mostly risen among respondents aged 75 and older (with 0.38 points since 1996), while there is only a marginal increase among under-40 adults (0.05 points). According to the study's authors, 'These findings argue against the hypothesis that the internet in general or social media in particular are the main drivers of increasing polarization', as 'any such explanation needs to account for the rapid increase in polarization among those with limited internet use and negligible use of social media'. 

The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) has announced that network neutrality will be among its priorities in 2017, together with monitoring competition on the broadband market and introducing tougher non-discrimination requirements. The regulator said that, when it comes to net neutrality, it will put the emphasis on event-driven regulation of Internet service providers’ business models. Shortly after PTS’s reinforcement of its commitment to monitoring net neutrality, telecom company Telia Sweden announced that it was extending its zero-rating services, despite these already being controversial because of their implications for net neutrality.

In a paper published earlier this month, German researcher Dominik Herrmann shows that domain name lookups can reveal not only the websites visited by Internet users, but also the individual pages that they access. According to Herrmann, Domain Name System (DNS) recursive nameservers have monitoring capabilities that can allow operators to track the activities of users over an extended period of time. As explained by The Register, the paper describes a behaviour-based tracking method, through which individuals with access to the infrastructure can watch a user’s behaviour while the user has one Internet Protocol (IP) address, create a classifier for that user, and look for behaviour that matches the classifier when the IP address changes. Herrmann argues that one way to mitigate this privacy risk is for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to refresh users’ IP addresses more frequently.

20 Mar

Necurs, currently believed to be the world‘s largest botnet, has come online again. Necurs distributed malware in the form of malicious attachments till December 2016 when its operation went suddenly offline. The Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group have warned the botnet was revived in February 2017 and started distributing pump and dump emails persuading people towards purchasing stocks of a particular company.

[Update] The online site LBRY has irrevocably mirrored the content removed from the  UC Berkeley site. While already available from a command line, the content will be available to the public in April.

On 15 March, the University of California (UC), Berkeley, will begin restricting access to more than 20,000 audio and video files from its free access to course content. In a statement on March 1, UC Berkeley vice chancellor explained the process and reasoning to the campus community, noting compliance with a US Department of Justice (DoJ) finding that the content must meet higher accessibility standards as a condition of remaining publicly available. The cost of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act to enable the university to continue to make these free resources publicly available is prohibitive, she said. According to Inside Higher Ed, some other universities indicated that they have no plans to follow suit.

TheBlaze attributed the case to government over-regulation, and a blog post Department of Justice: If Disabled People Can't Use Berkeley's Free Online Courses, No One Can by Robby Soave of Reason criticises the DoJ decision. 

Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm that can identify racist code words on social media. The algorithm is aimed to address cases in which individuals use a code that involves substituting references to communities by benign words that seem out of context, in hate filled posts or Tweets (e.g. using the words Googles, Bings, and Skypes, to represent the African-American, Asian, and Jewish communities, respectively). The algorithm involves the use of AI to ‘learn’ words that tend to go along with hateful codes, thus being able to tell with an almost 80% accuracy whether a tweet like ‘gas the skypes’ is hateful.

Google has been accused of 'profiting from hatred', as advertisements appear on YouTube videos that show extremist content. These advertisements indirectly fund those who post the videos with about $7,5 dollar for every 1,000 clicks, which could have benefitted extremists with an approximated $318,000. A number of large companies, advertising firms, and government departments have pulled their adverts from Google and YouTube or are considering to do so, including Sky, Vodafone, McDonalds, L'Oréal, and many others. Google's European chief, Matt Brittin, has apologised to its partners and advertisers, and reaffirmed that Google takes its responsibility 'very seriously'. He added that Google will 'raise the bar' and is looking at ways to give advertisers more control to manage where their adverts appear. 

17 Mar

The continued Internet blockage in anglophone Cameroon, now past its fiftieth day, has ramifications for human rights and the economy according to Frontera online. The Economist points out that repression, local tensions and divisions are overshadowing sports and technological prowess of Cameroon society, causing damage to the economic and social fabric of the country.

16 Mar

Google has developed a new algorithm for DeepMind, its artificial intelligence (AI) solution, allowing it to retain knowledge of all of its previously taught skills. As explained by The Merkle, developers were previously able to teach DeepMind to beat one specific game, but once the goal was achieved, they had to wipe its memory to train it for a new game. The Elastic Weight Consolidation (EWC) algorithm allows DeepMind to store information for later use, as well as learn multiple games in succession without problems of delays. The EWC is the first step towards making AI solutions more flexible and efficient, by empowering them with real-time learning capabilities. Solving the ‘conditional forgetting’ problem of AI solutions will allow the AI industry to more forward more rapidly, as systems would be able to retain knowledge about more than one particular field.

In the context of the ICANN58 meeting, held in Copenhagen, on 11-16 March, several governments represented on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee have expressed strong dissatisfaction with ICANN’s Board decision to allow the registration of two-letter domain names – including country codes –  in new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The decision, taken in November last year, is seen by governments as a rejection of previous GAC advice (in which governments cautioned the Board that the release of two-letter country codes could create confusion among end users in that they may interpret the domain names as being affiliated with a government or a country code TLD manager). In a joint GAC–Board meeting, the Board said that, in its view, the decision is fully consistent with GAC advice, as it asks registries to implement measures aimed to mitigate the risks of confusion. However, the GAC communique released at the end of the Copenhagen meeting advises the Board to ‘explore measures to find a satisfactory solution on the matter to meet the concerns of these countries before being further aggravated’.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which administers Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) cases, has reported that trademark owners filed 3036 UDRP cases in 2016, an increase of 10% over the previous year. Cybersquatting disputes relating to new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) rose to 16% of WIPO’s caseload in 2016, covering a total of 5374 domain names. The gTLDs with most disputed domain names were .xyz, .top, and .club. Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) accounted for around 14% of WIPO fillings.

15 Mar

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development's Working Group on the Digital Gender Divide, co-chaired by the GSMA and UNESCO, released a new report, Recommendations for action: bridging the gender gap in Internet and broadband access and use, which analyses and addresses the difficulties faced by women to realise the full potential of Internet access, including the advantages of mobile technology. This remains a critical issue, as the report notes that the gender gap widened from 2013 to 2016, with the highest gap in Least Developed Countries, but with penetration rates higher for men than women across the globe. The report recommends more study, integrated policy, confronting barriers, and multistakeholder cooperation as ways of addressing the digital gender divide.

In a letter sent to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), registries of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) – represented in the gTLD Registries Stakeholder Group (RySG) - have asked the organisation for a temporary offset of registry fixed fees. Noting that ‘consumer awareness of new gTLDs is not as great as anticipated’ and that ‘a number of gTLD operators are struggling’, the RySG proposes that registry operators of all delegated new gTLDs receive a 75% credit for their $6,250 quarter fixed registry free. Registries also ask ICANN to consider creating a fund ‘to promote universal awareness of new gTLDs to the general Internet user community, and universal acceptance of new gTLDs across the Internet’.

The US Department of Justice indicted two officers of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for protecting, directing, facilitating and paying criminal hackers that have stolen over 500 million accounts of Yahoo! in 2014. A grand jury in the Northern District of California charged the two officials as well as the other two hackers for using the stolen information "to obtain unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies", as well as for obtaining financial gain through a spam campaign. According to the New York Times, the arm of the FSB in which the two officers work is supposed to help foreign intelligence agencies to catch cybercriminals, yet in this case the officials allegedly helped the hackers avoid detection. While Russian didn't have an official reaction, the Sputnik News reminded that one of the two indicted officers was also "charged with treason and arrested by Russian authorities back in December 2016 along with his FSB superior Sergey Mikhailov and Kaspersky Lab's top manager Ruslan Stoyanov".

14 Mar

Speaking at a cybersecurity conference, Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chair of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that that the agency has not yet taken a position on whether there should be mandatory regulations for the Internet of Things (IoT), rather than self-regulation and standardisation from industry groups. In the light of massive cyber attacks involving IoT devices, several experts have asked for governmental regulation in the field of IoT security. Ohlhausen said that, if there is potential harm to consumers in a new technology, the FTC should not act until that harm manifests: ‘We don’t know if that risk will materialize. It may well materialize, but a solution may materialize at the same time.’

The German government has published a draft law that will impose fines of up to €50 million on social networking sites that do not remove hate speech and fake news. Content that is considered 'blatantly illegal' needs to be removed within 24 hours, whereas other 'law-breaking content' should be taken down or blocked within a week. According to German federal minister for justice and consumer protection, Heiko Maas, 'Facebook and Twitter missed the chance to improve their takedown practices', adding that, 'for companies to take on their responsibility in question of deleting criminal content, we need legal regulations'. 

13 Mar

As part of the preparations for the upcoming Root Zone Domain Name Systems Security Extensions (DNSSEC) Key Signing Key (KSK) rollover – scheduled for 11 October 2017 – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has launched a testing platform for network operators and other interested parties to confirm whether their systems can handle the automated update process for the KSK rollover. Internet service providers, network operators, and others who have enabled DNSSEC validation must update their systems with the new KSK, and the testing platform is aimed to allow them to confirm that their infrastructure supports the ability to handle the rollover without manual intervention.

A study conducted by Tripwire and Dimensional Research reveals increased concerns over the security of the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) – connected devices in critical infrastructures such as energy, utilities, government, healthcare, and finance. The study looked at the  industrial IoT deployment in organisations, and the expected security concerns in 2017. Ninety-six percent of the surveyed information technology security professionals expect to see an increase in security attacks on the industrial IoT in 2017. Moreover, 51% of them said they do not feel prepared for security attacks that abuse, exploit, or maliciously leverage insecure IoT devices, while 64% said they already recognise the need to protect against IoT attacks, as there continue to gain popularity among hackers.

12 Mar

As part of its modified guidelines for the scheme for "Promotion of Information and Communication Technology in the MSME Sector", the Indian Government has proposed to subsidise the adoption of Cloud Computing by Micro and Small Enterprises and to implement a campaign for sensitising these Enterprises on the benefits of ICT in general and cloud computing in particular.

11 Mar

The report, presented by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, to the Human Rights Council, denounces current surveillance legislation and calls for States to respect privacy as a universal right in the digital age. Cannataci referred to the current legislation aimed at regulating surveillance, calling the measures introduced in new surveillance laws in France, Germany, the UK and the USA ‘extremly intrusive'. He urged to stop the manipulation with the fear of terrorism: 'Desist from playing the fear card, and improve security through proportionate and effective measures, not with unduly disproportionate privacy-intrusive laws.” In conclusion, he called for the international cooperation and transparency towards the public, and demanded ‘safeguards without borders and remedies across borders’.

10 Mar

US telecom company Verizon has announced that, starting June 2017, it will stop issuing new public static IPv4 addresses, due to a shortage in available addresses. Customers to which IPv4 addresses have been allocated in the past will retain those addresses, and Verizon will continue to fully support them. But customers wishing to reserve new IP addresses will have to convert to IPv6 requirements and implement Verizon-certified IPv6 devices.

9 Mar

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that the right to be forgotten does not extend to company registers. The case involved the director of an Italian company whose properties failed to sell, presumably due to the companies register showing that he was the administrator of another company that went bankrupt. The court ruled that company registers needed to be public to ensure legal certainty

In its submission to the UK Culture, Media and Sport committee's inquiry into fake news, The British News Media Association (NMA) calls for an 'urgent investigation into the impact of Google, Facebook, and a digital advertising supply chain', as UK news outlets are 'squeezed by the Facebook-Google duopoly and by new forms of digital advertising that very often bypass real news for fake'. In addition to an examination of their business models and other underlying issues of the digital advertising supply chain, the NMA urges the government to review the regulatory status of Google and Facebook as 'mere intermediaries'. 


In Four reasons internet access is a women's issue Stephanie Maclellan explains why we must work to close the digital gender gap. Ms. Maclellan states that 'Education gaps, lower income and cultural norms can all contribute to keeping women off-line. The four areas of work to be done are synthesised in explanations of 1. Health and Safety; 2. Advocacy and Awareness: 3. Income and Employment; and 4. Representation and Leadership. Her points were similar to those expressed in statements by two UN special rapporteurs on the occasion of International Women's Day. 

8 Mar

WikiLeaks released over 8000 pages of confidential documents of the US government dating from 2013 to 2016, that provide detailed description of the CIA ability to hack the phones, computers and smart devices. The leaks, dubbed "Vault 7", reveal that the CIA was able to compromise the software of all the major vendors, including Apple, Microsoft and Android, as well as those of producers of Internet of Things devices such as Samsung, which confirms the agency is collecting and exploiting vulnerabilities in these systems instead of reporting them to vendors to patch them. CIA was also able to trick the major anti-virus programmes, such as those of Kasersky, BitDifender, AVG and F-Secure, to avoid detection of the intrusion into a system. While the hacking arsenal disclosed could not break the encryption of the most popular communication applications like WhatsApp, Telegram or Signal, the ability to penetrate into the operating system of the users' phone and access the messages before being encrypted made the encryption irrelevant. The source code of the hacking tools was, however, not publicly disclosed by WikiLeaks but was instead saved until vendors and security companies do further analysis. The documents also reveal that the hacking tools have been exchanged beetween various intelligence services within the US as well as with the partners from Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom). While the CIA did not comment on the authenticity or content, some sources confirmed to The New York Times that the code names of CIA programmes mentioned in the documents appear to be genuine.

'Ensuring an Internet free from gender-based violence enhances freedom of expression, as it allows women to fully participate in all areas of life and is integral to women’s empowerment', according to Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, commemorating International Women’s Day. This relationship between freedom of expression and women's rights was also underlined by David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of freedom of expression, who stated that 'The Internet should be a platform for everyone to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, but online gender-based abuse and violence assaults basic principles of equality under international law and freedom of expression in a UN news release the same day.

Puerto Rico has published a fiscal plan that includes a number of tax reform measures, aimed at stabilising its revenue and solving budget deficits. One of the proposed reforms is an Internet sales tax. The government of Puerto rico estimates that Internet sales tax can generate 65 million USD by 2019.

7 Mar

French government has decided to abandon plans that would allow its expats to vote online at the forthcoming national elections. According to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the national agency for information security ANSSI has evaluated that there is "extremely high risk" of cyberattacks and other ways of influencing the elections in case of online voting. Even though France has established a successful model for online voting in 2012, the agency has estimated that the risks are too high amid allegations of Russian hacking of the US presidential elections and claims by one of the candidates at the French Presidential elections Emmanuel Macron that his camp has been targeted by Russian hackers, which Russia denied.

More than 170 groups representing consumer, media, technology, library, arts, civil liberties, and civil rights advocates, as well as content creators, have sent a letter to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, asking them to maintain the net neutrality rules. The groups specifically urge the FCC and the Senate Committee ‘to oppose legislation and regulatory actions that would threaten net neutrality and roll back the important protections put in place by the FCC in 2015, and to continue to enforce the Open Internet Order as it stands’. The letter also notes that net neutrality support and protects basic values such as competition, innovation, free speech, and equality of access, and that, for this reasons, it needs to be protected.

Verisign, the registry for .com and .net, has received approval from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for a ‘Verification Code Extension’ system which allows the company to restrict who can and cannot register domain names under .com and .net in various countries. As explained by DomainIncite, the system enables Verisign to stop domains registered via selected registrars from resolving, unless the registrant’s identity has been verified (via a verification code that needs to accompany the registration of a domain name). These codes are distributed to affected registrars by verification service providers (nor Verisign itself. The system seems to have been used in China, allowing Verisign to obtain approval from the government in order to operate within the country.

Russia’s Internet regulator Roskomnadzor has confirmed that LinkedIn will remain blocked until the company agrees to move Russian user data to Russian territory. The company's counsel said LinkedIn is not ready to comply, according to a statement posted on the regulator's website. The network has been blocked since November, after the company failed to move users’ data, in violation of local laws.

6 Mar

River City Media (RCM) known as one of the largest spam operations in the world has exposed its entire operation to the public, allowing a data breach of its backups that included a database of 1.4 billion email accounts. Some of the records were combined with real names, user IP addresses, and often physical address. According to Chris Vickery, MacKeeper’s Security Researcher who discovered the leak, the CRM operation was responsible for up to a billion spam emails daily using sophisticated techniques to avoid anti-spam measures. Leaked documents also included backups of CRM’s internal communication and operational details. The case was handed over to the law enforcement and the most severe harmful code was also provided to affected IT companies and anti-spam organisations.

2 Mar

US-based telecom company AT&T has announced that it had signed an agreement with IDA Ireland (the country’s agency responsible for the attracting and development of foreign direct investment) and the Dublin City Council, to collaborate and exchange information and best practices about smart cities solutions. Within the framework of this agreement, the company will look also into working on specific Internet of Things development projects with various organisations across Ireland.

An audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the period December 2015 – September 2016 shows that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has appropriate controls in place to ensure the security, availability, and processing integrity of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions transactions. The audit concerned the IANA registry management systems and the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) services it provides. The audit also demonstrates that ICANN’s root key signing key processes contain appropriate security measures, and that these processes have been executed as planned.

1 Mar

A group of researchers at the University of Washington’s Network Security Lab has shown that the artificial intelligence (AI) tool developed by Google’s Jigsaw to spot online harassment and abuse can be deceived by ‘slightly perturbing the abusive phrases’. Jigsaw’s Perspective is focused on moderating online conversations to spot abusive and harassing comments. As explained by Arstechnica, the AI tool works by applying a ‘toxicity score’ to comments, which can then be used to aid moderation or reject comments. The researches have shown that the tool can be deceived to give low toxicity scores to comments that it would otherwise flag, by simply misspelling words or inserting punctuation into the word.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority has allocated a pool of recovered IP version 4 (IPv4) addresses to Regional Internet Registries. The returned address space is to be added to the RIRs’ free pool and distributed according to their IPv4 allocation and assignment policies. As explained by RIPE NCC, following the exhaustion of IANA's free pool of IPv4 addresses in 2011, IANA created a recovered pool of leftover and returned IPv4 address blocks. This policy was ratified by all five RIR communities in 2012 and stated that IANA would begin making equal, periodic allocations from the recovered pool.

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