Battles for Democracy. Week 14

Battles for Democracy. Week 14

A weekly summary of the battles for democracy we couldn’t write about.

Citizens Losing

Citizens abused or killed, liberties and rights cut.
As we approach the European elections in late May, many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be considering their future careers, either because they have made the decision to step down or because they fear losing their seat. If experiences from the end of the previous parliamentary term in 2009 are any indication, many MEPs will be approached by lobby firms and industry groups hoping to entice them through the revolving door: the route from the European Parliament to Brussels’ for-profit lobby circles is a well-trodden path.

While twitter ban has been lifted in Turkey, YouTube still blocked and DNS hijack still in place. Turkey’s telecoms authority lifted a two-week-old ban on Twitter on Thursday, after the constitutional court ruled the previous day that the block breached freedom of expression. However, addresses belonging to Google, Level 3 and OpenDNS have all been hijacked by order of the Turkish government. The hijack means that people using those addresses to reach Twitter or YouTube can no longer get through. Net monitoring firms said the hijack was “concerning” and would let the government log who was trying to get round its controls.

New Leaks Show NSA, GCHQ Infiltrating Private German Companies. Der Spiegel and The Intercept have just released more leaked NSA documents, this time covering the surveillance of foreign officials. This is the sort of thing we expect the NSA to be doing, although perhaps without targeting allies.

The most comprehensive report to date on CIA interrogation and torture program won’t be public. The Senate Intelligence Committee on 3 April 2014 voted to declassify portions of a 6,200-page report on the CIA’s interrogation program, including its 480-page executive summary.  The only way to know the whole truth about this will be if the report is leaked.

Venezuela: Political spiral of violence a threat to the rule of law. Venezuela risks one of the worst threats to the rule of law in decades if the different political forces do not commit to fully respecting human rights, according to a new Amnesty International report on the current crisis in the country.

A 6-minutes crash course by @lobbycontrol on the role of industry lobbying in EU-US trade talks. (Video in English subtitled in German) The authors of the video walk around Brussels stopping at EU Institutions and lobbies owned buildings explaining how the obscure relationships between both benefit companies and damage citizens’ rights.

An example of the immediate future? Ethiopia, a total surveillance state. The Ethiopian government has maintained strict control over Internet and mobile technologies so it can monitor their use and limit the type of information that is being communicated and accessed. Information gleaned from telecom and Internet sources is regularly used against Ethiopians arrested for alleged anti-government activities. During interrogations, police show suspects lists of phone calls and are questioned about the identity of callers, particularly foreign callers.

Member of the European Parliament escapes disciplinary actions for proposing law changes dictated by lobbies. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, has ruled that no disciplinary action should be taken against Louis Michel, a Belgian liberal MEP who was found to have violated the Parliament’s code of conduct. Last autumn, Michel’s office proposed more than 200 amendments to EU data-protection legislation that turned out to have been produced by industry representatives. The Corporate Europe Observatory complained in a formal letter to the President of the European Parliament for his inaction.

Although your mobile OS could alert if the operator switches encryption off, chances are it won’t. Since 1997 GSM standards includes information so that the phone’s OS can detect if the operator switched encryption on or off. And since 2009 the standard allows your phone to override the operator settings. However, a paper published in 2012 analysed Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, and Symbian to check if that feature was present just to discover that only Symbian had it implemented.

Citizens Winning

Citizens unite, react and take action, institutions support them.

#youbroketheinternet , A project to create a completely encrypted and obfuscated GNU Internet stack. The project aims to gather all projects providing a piece of the puzzle to create a GNU Internet stack that cuts out the man in the middle. In addition, they are preparing a EU law proposal to require obfuscated and end-to-end encrypted communications in all telephony and computer appliances sold after 2014. The law shall include ways to ensure its correct implementation and a transition path from the existing unencrypted systems.

NSA revelations changing how and where businesses store sensitive data. The vast scale of online surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is changing how businesses store commercially sensitive data, with potentially dramatic consequences for the future of the internet, according to a new study.

Brazil moves toward an internet bill of rights. After two years of wrangling, the Brazilian chamber of deputies finally approved the General Internet Framework last week. It was drafted with three key issues in mind: Net neutrality, user privacy and freedom of expression. Under the bill, internet service providers are barred from interfering with connection speeds or content. While the current wording of the bill shows social and political maturity, and seeks to put Brazil on another level in terms of freedoms of expression, it has its blind spots. These include the storage of user data by ISPs for one year for investigation purposes, which is damaging to privacy.

European Parliament passes strong net neutrality law, along with major roaming reforms. the European parliament has passed a major package of telecoms law reform, complete with amendments that properly define and protect net neutrality. Carriers are deeply unhappy.

Tools For Democracy

Participation Now is a new Open University web platform that hosts an accessible and expanding collection of over 120 of the most creative examples of contemporary public participation and engagement initiatives.

Corporate Europe Observatory: Exposing the power of  corporate lobbying in the EU. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is a research and campaign group working to expose and challenge the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policy making.

Lo and Behold!

Yes, anonymous Tor users can be identified, because most people don’t know how to remain anonymous. A recent Wall Street Journal article notes that law enforcement is slowly realizing that perhaps Tor isn’t a parade of horribles that must be encumbered with backdoors for wiretapping… after realizing that most criminals more or less reveal themselves by doing something stupid along the way anyway.


Featured image: CC BY-SA gerlos