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GILC Alert
Volume 6, Issue 8

December 20, 2002


Welcome to the Global Internet Liberty Campaign Newsletter.


Welcome to GILC Alert, the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign. We are an international organization of groups working for cyber-liberties, who are determined to preserve civil liberties and human rights on the Internet.

We hope you find this newsletter interesting, and we very much hope that you will avail yourselves of the action items in future issues.

If you are a part of an organization that would be interested in joining GILC, please contact us at

If you are aware of threats to cyber liberties that we may not know about, please contact the GILC members in your country, or contact GILC as a whole.

Please feel free to redistribute this newsletter to appropriate forums.

Free expression

[1] Chinese Net users face enhanced censorware, arrests
[2] Russian firm cleared in eBook copyright case
[3] Australian high court ruling endangers Net speech
[4] Teen Norwegian DVD programmer faces criminal charges
[5] ICANN shuns public elections in new bylaws
[6] Finnish bill may curb Net chatboard comments
[7] Net blockers deny access to important health info
[8] Vietnamese Net dissident gets 4 year jail sentence
[9] Australian gov't ponders blocking of protest websites
[10] Google censors German & French search results
[11] Panama tries to block Internet ports
[12] Council of Europe adopts Net censorship protocol


[13] US gov't plans Total Informational Awareness spy system
[14] Regulators warn Verichip tracking implant maker
[15] US appeals court allows easier wiretapping rules
[16] Finland gov't data retention stance draws fire
[17] Study: British workplace Net monitoring on the rise
[18] New rules unveiled for webbug trackers
[19] TiVo digital recorder makes mistakes, stereotypes users
[20] Court strikes down US gov't virus spy attack
[21] US court allow blind police Net searches
[22] Swiss Big Brother Awards ceremony held

[23] New GILC member: AEL & EFFI

[1] Chinese Net users face enhanced censorware, arrests

Life is not getting any easier for Mainland Chinese Internet users.

Chinese officials have reportedly arrested Liu Di, Ouyang Yi, Liao Yiwu and Li Yibin, who each posted articles online that criticized their government. Among other things, Liu, a Beijing University student, expressed support for Huang Qi, the proprietor of the "Tianwing Missing Persons Website" who was detained on charges of "instigation to subvert state power" after he republished essays written by other people about the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, the Falun Gong spiritual movement and other topics deemed taboo by the government. She also lashed out at China's rulers for their crackdown on cybercafes over the past several months. Ouyang, a member of the banned Chinese Democratic Party, allegedly also wrote about the 1989 Tienanmen protests, disparaged Beijing's economic strategies and advocated structural reforms. Liao Yiwu had previously created materials concerning various socio-political issues, including the Tiananmen tragedy and China's underclasses; some of these materials have apparently been made available through several overseas webpages. Li Yibin ran a pro-reform Internet site entitled "Democracy and Freedom." The precise whereabouts of Liu, Ouyang, Liao and Li are not clear at this time.

Several free speech groups have protested these arrests. For example, Ann Cooper from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ-a GILC member) complained that "Liu Di has done nothing more than use the Internet to express her views." Similarly, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF-a GILC member) issued a statement that "called on the country's new president, Hu Jintao, to end her detention in secret, which contravenes the article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by China."

Meanwhile, several new reports indicate Chinese government technologies to stifle online free speech are increasing in sophistication. One study, performed by Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, indicates at least 19 000 websites have apparently been blocked at the behest of Chinese officials. The list of barred materials includes "thousands of sites offering information about news, health, education, and entertainment, as well as some 3,284 sites from Taiwan." Another report by Amnesty International documents how Chinese authorities have managed to build what one observer called "the largest and most sophisticated IP [Internet Protocol] blocking and content filtering system in the world" with the help of Western companies such as Cisco Systems, and Sun Microsystems and Nortel Networks. Some of these concerns were also aired during a panel discussion in Washington D.C., where several speakers called for additional research into technical countermeasures against such Chinese Internet blocking systems.

For more information on the Liu Di case, visit the Digital Freedom Network (DFN-a GILC member) website under

To read the RSF statement on Liu Di, click

For more of Ann Cooper's remarks, see

An RSF statement on the Ouyang Yi case is posted at

An RSF press release concerning Liao Yiwu is available under

Read Alistair Alexander, "Three arrested in Chinese net clampdown," Guardian Unlimited, 19 December 2002 at,12597,862881,00.html

The Berkman Center report is posted at

For press coverage of this report, see "China's Internet Censorship," Associated Press, 3 December 2002 at

For further details in German (Deutsch), read Florian Rotzer, "Gefiltertes Internet fur China," Heise Telepolis, 4 December 2002 at

Read Jim Hu, "Rights group looks at China and techs," CNet News, 27 November 2002 at

See also Jane Perrone, "China called on to free net activists," Guardian Unlimited, 27 November 2002 at,12597,848904,00.html

For German (Deutsch) language coverage, read "Forderung an China: Laast die Internet-Haftlinge frei!" Spiegel Online, 27 November 2002 at,1518,224545,00.html

For more details on the aforementioned panel discussion, click

For background information regarding various Chinese cybercafe restrictions, read "Chinese province launches ID requirement for web users," Associated Press, 5 November 2002 at

For details in German (Deutsch), see "China Mauert Sich Zu: Lizenz zum Surfen," Spiegel Online, 6 November 2002 at,1518,221544,00.html

[2] Russian firm cleared in eBook copyright case

A Russian company has been exonerated in a highly watched legal dispute over Ebook copy protection codes.

The dispute revolves around the work of Dmitry Sklyarov, who developed a program for his employer, Elcomsoft. The program circumvents the copy protection scheme contained on Adobe Systems electronic books. Sklyarov created the software as part of an effort to allow Ebook readers to view such products on whatever computers they like. After writing a paper on the subject and presenting it to the public at a Las Vegas computer convention, United States government agents arrested him on charges of violating the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which restricts the right of computer users to circumvent any program that "effectively controls access" to copyrighted works. In early December, U.S. prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against Sklyarov, allowing him to visit his home country in time to ring in the New Year, however, as part of this deal, he was supposed to testify against his former employer.

However, during the trial, the Federal officials were unable to persuade the jury that to convict Elcomsoft. One blow to the prosecution's case came from an Adobe Systems employee who admitted during testimony that he had yet to hear of any instances where Elcomsoft's products were used to pirate eBooks. In addition, as the trial progressed, government attorneys did not actually call Sklyarov to the witness stand. Curiously, they instead replayed his videotaped statements from a December 2001 pre-trial deposition, in which Sklyarov mentioned that he did not merely create his program for profit, but as part of his doctoral research "to show the weaknesses of protections of PDF formats [used in electronic books]."

See Carrie Kirby, "Russian company acquitted in Adobe EBook Copyright Case," San Francisco Chronicle, 18 December 2002, page B1 at

Read Lisa M. Bowman, "ElcomSoft verdict: Not guilty," CNet News, 17 December 2002 at

To read a translation of this article in French (Francais), click,,t118-s2127745,00.html

See "Copyright trial clears software firm," BBC News Online, 18 December 2002 at

Read Declan McCullagh, "DMCA critics say reform still needed," CNet News, 17 December 2002 at

See also Lisa M. Bowman, "Skylarov reflects on DMCA travails," CNet News, 20 December 2002 at

For further information in German (Deutsch), read "Geschworene befinden Elcomsoft fur nicht schuldig," Heise Online, 18 December 2002 at

[3] Australian high court ruling endangers Net speech

Many experts warn that a decision by the Australian High Court may intimidate journalists from publishing their works online, for fear of breaking speech restrictions around the world.

The case centers on the United States business magazine Barron's, which published an article accusing an Australian citizen of "a series of offences, stock manipulations, classic stock scams and frauds and connection with money laundering." That person, multimillionaire Joseph Gutnick, sued Barron's parent company Dow Jones, claiming that the online publication of the article made the corporation liable under Australian defamation laws, which are less protective of free speech than its U.S. counterparts. The Australian High Court has since upheld a lower court ruling in favor of Gutnick, and said that the case could be heard Down Under, rather than in the United States.

Many observers are concerned that the decision, which is considered to be the first of its kind from a nation's highest court, will have a severely damaging impact on Internet expression. In a statement, Reporters Sans Frontieres warned that the ruling "sets a dangerous legal precedent that exposes online media to prosecution anywhere in the world where the Internet is present and a lawsuit can be filed for libel." RSF, according to the organization's secretary-general Robert Menard, "believes that lawsuits against online media must be handled by the courts in the country where the website is hosted. This is the only solution to avoid judicial harassment of the press and self-censorship of political, social and economic news published on websites." Ian Brown of the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR-a GILC member) fears that this "type of ruling will simply result in many US websites blocking access to non-American readers, destroying a rich resource for the rest of the world." Indeed, after the decision was announced, Gutnick himself ominously warned: "[Y]ou have to be careful what you write and if you offend somebody or write malicious statements about people... then you can be subject to being prosecuted."

The text of the decision is available at

For RSF's comments on this decisions, click

See James Pearce, "Aust High Court ruling hits Internet worldwide," ZDNet Australia, 10 December 2002 at,2000024981,20270565,00.htm

Read David Fickling and Stuart Millar, "How Diamond Joe's libel case could change the future of the Internet," The Guardian, 11 December 2002 at,12582,857749,00.html

See Jonathan Krim, "Internet Libel Fence Falls," Washington Post, 11 December 2002, page A10 at

Read "Landmark Ruling In Internet Case,", 10 December 2002 at

See also "Australian court to hear Net case," Reuters, 9 December 2002 at

[4] Teen Norwegian DVD programmer faces criminal charges

A Norwegian teenager insists he did not break any laws when he wrote a controversial DVD program nearly 4 years ago.

In 1999, Jon Johansen created DeCSS--a primitive computer program that was meant to aid users of the Linux operating system watch DVDs on their machines. In January 2000, Norwegian authorities briefly detained him for his activities but soon released him. However, earlier this year, he was arrested once more on the premise that by developing DeCSS, he violated a Norwegian law against break-ins. These claims were bitterly contested by the Johansen's attorney, Halvor Manshaus, who noted that the teenager could hardly be said to have broken into a DVD that he legally bought and owned. Johansen himself charged that he is the victim of the "economic crime police and the film industry." A verdict is expected by early 2003.

The release of DeCSS has led to a flurry of protracted court battles in several countries. Last year, a United States Federal appeals court upheld a ruling against 2600 magazine that, among other things, bars the publication from even linking to other websites that contain DeCSS-a decision that was heavily criticized by free speech advocates.

For an archive of documents regarding the Johansen case, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) website under

See "DVD piracy trial nears climax," BBC News Online, 17 December 2002 at

See Doug Mellgren, "Hacker Hero And Hollywood Nemesis," Associated Press, 9 December 2002 at

For German (Deutsch) press coverage, read "DVD-Hacker Johansen pladiert auf unschuldig," Heise Online, 10 December 2002 at

For further information in French (Francais), see Christophe Guillemin, "Protection des DVD: un jeune Norvegien en process contre les studios d'Hollywood," ZDNet France, 17 December 2002 at,,t118-s2127690,00.html

[5] ICANN shuns public elections in new bylaws

The organization tasked with running the Internet domain name system has formally decided to eliminate public elections from its governance structure.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' Board of Directors has approved controversial new bylaws in a 15-3 vote. Under this revised system, ICANN will no longer hold direct public elections for Board seats, but instead will have an official Nominating Committee and several Supporting Organizations each select Directors. The new bylaws also included several Governmental Advisory Committee recommendations, including a requirement that the "advice of the GAC on public policy matters ... be duly taken into account both at the policy-drafting and at the decision-making stage." ICANN's restructuring committee has since called for still more changes to newly approved Bylaws; these changes would, among other things, make it easier for the organization to reject requests for reconsideration. Since then, ICANN has made additional revisions to these Bylaws. Among other things, these revisions will make it easier for the organization to reject requests for reconsideration.

Not surprisingly, these actions have been severely criticized by a number of observers, including one of ICANN's own Board members. Karl Auerbach, one of ICANN's few publicly elected Directors, disputed the claims of ICANN President M. Stuart Lynn that the group had to get rid of public elections for the sake of efficiency, going so far as to label the organization "the most inefficient organization in the world," especially since "it's only created seven top-level domains in its four years of existence." He also admonished the group for its lack of transparency and questioned its accounting practices: "In terms of corporate governance, ICANN makes Enron look like a saint."

The Board also has adopted a resolution calling on the organization's President, M. Stuart Lynn, "to develop a draft Request for Proposals ... for the purpose of soliciting proposals for a limited number of new sponsored gTLDs [generic Top-Level Domains]," such as .health. The decision comes amidst of long-standing complaints that ICANN has moved too slowly in approving new TLDs.

ICANN's resolution regarding new sponsored gTLDs is available at

See "Internet to get new domain names," BBC News Online, 16 December 2002 at

Read "ICANN to approve new domains," Reuters, 15 December 2002 at

The text of the new bylaws (as approved in October 2002) is posted under

The December 2002 revisions to the bylaws are available at

See also Richard Koman, "Karl Auerbach: ICANN 'Out of Control'," O'Reilly Network, 5 December 2002 at

[6] Finnish bill may curb Net chatboard comments

A Finnish proposal regarding public communications may have a seriously detrimental impact on Internet expression.

The bill would expand the legal liability of Internet publications. Under the scheme, the hosts of online fora (such as digital chatboards) could be held responsible not only for their writings, but those of each and every participant. The proprietors of such discussion groups would have to have an editor-in-chief could be criminally prosecuted for any posted material. Moreover, all published items must be archived for 2-3 months; hosts and service providers would be essentially be required to log all Internet traffic, presumably to provide evidence for possible subsequent action by law enforcement agents.

The bill has already received a fair amount of criticism from several groups. In a detailed critique of the legislation, Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFI-a GILC member) explained that the "proposal does not take the realities of the Internet into account. The criminal responsibility for the material written by others, technically unrealistic archival and logging requirements, combined with the vague definitions, would probably be a death blow to many forms of Internet publications."

To read EFFI's analysis of the bill, click

See "Proposed law raises controversy over freedom of expression on internet message boards," Helsingin Sanomat, 16 December 2002 at

[7] Net blockers deny access to important health info

A recent study suggests that Internet blocking software is still far from perfect.

The study, which was commissioned by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, found that in many instances, such software denied people access to information on such health topics as diabetes, depression, sexually transmitted diseases and suicide. The document went on to warn that this denial of data could have a particularly harmful effect on young people, who may be reluctant to otherwise seek details on such subjects from adults.

The results of the study have fueled concern over laws such as the United States Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which requires Federally-funded libraries and schools to install "technology protection measures" such as blocking software. Emily Sheketoff from the American Library Association (ALA) reiterated: "Most parents would not trust their children to a baby sitter who only does the job some of the time - and they shouldn't trust a mechanical device to keep their children safe. Filters provide a false sense of security that children are protected when they are not." Numerous groups, including the ALA and GILC members the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have challenged CIPA, saying the law is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. A trial court agreed with these arguments and struck down the law; an appeal of that ruling will soon be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Kaiser Foundation report, entitled "See No Evil: How Internet Filters Affect the Search for Online Health Information," is available online via

For more of Sheketoff's remarks, click

Read Ellen Edwards, "Study: Web Filters Block Health Information," Washington Post, 11 December 2002, page A2 at

For coverage in German (Deutsch), see "Internet-Filter blockieren Aufklarungs-Websites," Heise Online, 11 December 2002 at

For more on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court CIPA hearing, click

Read Declan McCullagh, "Supreme Court to hear filtering case," CNet News, 12 November 2002 at

See "Guns and Porn Top Court Agenda,", 12 November 2002 at

For details in German (Deutsch), see "Oberster Gerichtshof der USA entscheidet uber Internet-Zwangsfilter für Bibliotheken," Heise Online, 12 November 2002 at

[8] Vietnamese Net dissident gets 4 year jail sentence

Hanoi has made several moves to tighten its grip on Internet speech.

The Vietnamese government has sentenced Le Chi Quang to four years in prison for allegedly committing "acts of propaganda" against the government. His arrest came soon after the online appearance of an essay he wrote that described the political environment in which the various Chinese-Vietnamese treaties were signed. His trial lasted only one day, and foreign reporters were banned from the proceedings. In addition, Vietnamese authorities have arrested another man, Nguyen Vu Binh, for writing his own critiques of the very same treaties that were the subject of Le's article.

Meanwhile, government agents have stepped up efforts to block access to various webpages along the Information Superhighway. At least two of the country's Internet service providers (ISPs) have confirmed that Vietnamese netizens are no longer are barred from accessing the Vietnamese language section of the BBC's website; users who attempt to visit the site receive error messages telling them to notify their ISP or false requests for passwords. Hanoi has refused to say anything about this new censorship measure.

For further information, visit the Digital Freedom Network (DFN-a GILC member) website under

See Owen Gibson, "Vietnam blocks BBC website," Guardian Unlimited, 12 November 2002 at,7496,838547,00.html

Read "Vietnam jails internet dissident," BBC News Online, 8 November 2002 at

[9] Australian gov't ponders blocking of protest websites

The Australian government has sent mixed signals as to whether it will expand its controversial Internet censorship system to cover protest websites.

Government officials Down Under are apparently considering possible changes in the law that may make it more difficult for people to protest online. Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison is exploring ways for the Federal government to block various webpages--a decision that was reportedly prompted by pressure from one local police minister, who expressed concern specifically about several websites that called for protests against the World Trade Organization. Indeed, a number of local police officials meeting in Darwin charged that it was "unacceptable" that "websites advocating or facilitating violent protest action be accessible from Australia." While precise details have yet to be released, Ellison's initiative apparently will focus on toughening the nation's criminal laws regarding telecommunications.

The discussion comes shortly after Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA-a GILC member) published an extensive analysis of Australian government reports on a complaint-based Internet censorship regime. Under the regime, which was created some 3 years ago, certain websites are supposed to be screened out or taken down based on guidelines that had previously been applied to films. The EFA analysis project was launched after Australian information technology Minister Richard Alston admitted to the Australian Senate that official government reports contain statistical errors exaggerating the alleged effectiveness of the scheme. EFA's researchers discovered among other things, that the "Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) spent 83% of its Internet censorship efforts investigating content on overseas-hosted websites over which it has no control," and noted that the "ABA's refusal to provide the URLs or titles of taken-down Australian-hosted web pages, on the ground that such information would enable a person to access prohibited content on the Internet, indicates the ABA believes such content has not been taken down from the Internet." The report concludes that there is simply "no evidence or indication to support the Minister's claim that the Internet has been made safer," and recommends that the law enabling this scheme "be repealed and the costly and failed Internet regulatory apparatus be dismantled."

The EFA study is posted under

Read Sean Parnell and Matthew Fynes-Clinton, "Ellison to pull plug on protest websites," The Courier-Mail, 7 November 2002 at,5942,5437553,00.html

[10] Google censors German & French search results

The world's most popular Internet search engine is preventing users of its German and French editions from seeing certain listings.

Google officials have confirmed that many sites are displayed when searching through its main page ( are not made available via or A company spokesperson explained, "To avoid legal liability, we remove sites from search results pages that may conflict with German law." However, the company declined to provide further information, including what sites were blocked: "As a matter of company policy we do not provide specific details about why or when we removed any one particular site from our index. We occasionally receive notices from partners, users, government agencies and the like about sites in our index. We carefully consider any credible complaint on a case-by-case basis and take necessary action when needed. This is not pre-emptive--we only react to requests that come to avoid legal liability, we remove sites from Google search results pages that may conflict with local laws."

This practice was discovered Ben Edelman and Jonathan Zittrain from the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. Cyber-rights experts warn that this delisting of search results is part of a growing trend where censorship laws in various countries may curb Internet speech on a multinational basis.

For further information, visit the Berkman Center website under

[11] Panama gov't tries to block Internet ports

The Panamanian government's attempts to stop telephone calls through the Internet have come to a screeching halt.

Nearly two months ago, authorities in the Central American nation ordered local Internet service providers (ISPs) to block certain communications ports that were oftentimes used to carry Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) transmissions. Such transmissions are banned in a number of countries around the world, including Panama. Observers have suggested that the plan is really designed to help Cable & Wireless, which holds a monopoly over phone service throughout the country through a joint venture with the Panamanian government.

The decision was met with scorn from a variety of quarters. The National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (La Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación or Senacyt) charged that the order "constituted an unusual form of censorship." Subsequently, pursuant to the legal challenge launched by one affected ISP, Net2Net, the country's Supreme Court immediately suspended the port-blocking scheme, and instructed telephone industry regulators to issue a special report to provide additional information on this subject.

The text of the original Panamanian government edict is posted under

Read Mario A. Munoz, "Corte suspende decision de bloquear internet," La Prensa, 26 November 2002 at

For further information in English, see Evan Hansen, "Panama suspends Net-phoning order," CNet News, 26 November 2002 at

For further information in German (Deutsch), read "Oberster Gerichtshof hebt VoIP-Blockade in Panama auf," Heise Online, 27 November 2002 at

[12] Council of Europe adopts Net censorship protocol

The Council of Europe (CoE) has adopted a protocol for free speech online. But at least one country has already announced it will not go along with the plan.

The protocol was considered in connection with the CoE's Cybercrime Convention. The proposal generally requires signatory nations to bar people from "making available" or "distributing ... racist and xenophobic material ... through a computer system." Among other things, the plan also will require signatories to criminalize the use of computer networks to conduct various "racist and xenophobic" activities. Having been approved by the CoE's Council of Ministers, the scheme will be open to signatures during the Council's next Parliamentary Assembly session in late January 2003.

However, the United States government, which supported the underlying Convention, has signaled that it will not sign the protocol. Drew Wade, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, explained: "The important thing to realize is that the U.S. can't be a party to any convention that abridges a constitutional protection." Wade was apparently referring to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech. This stance has drawn support from freedom of expression of advocates, such as Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member), who said he would be "stunned" and felt "mislead if the U.S. government were now to sign" the protocol.

A CoE press release regarding the protocol is posted under

Read Declan McCullagh, "U.S. won't support Net 'hate speech' ban," CNet News, 15 November 2002 at

For a French (Francais) translation of this article, click,,t118-s2126090,00.html

See also Julie Scheeres, "Europeans Outlaw Net Hate Speech", Wired News, 9 November 2002 at,1367,56294,00.html

[13] US gov't plans Total Informational Awareness spy system

Public criticism is mounting against a highly secretive United States government program to collect massive amounts of personal information about everyone in America.

Total Informational Awareness is a project of the U.S. Department of Defense. It is supposed to gather personal data on a grand scale, including emails, phone calls, financial records, transportation habits, and medical information. Its backers hope that by scanning and analyzing this mountain of data, it will be possible government agents to predict and prevent crime. Many details concerning this plan have still not been fleshed out; indeed, the official TIA system description reveals that a number of key segments have yet to be developed, including methods to protect the security of the warehoused information and other prevent unauthorized access. There is speculation that TIA will be used by the newly-created U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Serious questions have been raised as to whether the system will actually work, as well as its potentially disastrous impact on individual privacy. Indeed, the entire program has been compared to the flawed crime-prediction system portrayed in the recent science fiction movie "Minority Report," where an innocent man is harassed after the system mistakenly accuses him of a crime that has yet to be committed. Revelations about the program have already led to several mass email and phone campaigns by private citizens against TIA.

To read a dossier on TIA compiled by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member), click

For video and text coverage, see "US eyes Big Brother plan," BBC News, 12 December 2002 at

For more on web protests against TIA, read "The web bites back," BBC News Online, 16 December 2002 at

See Paul Boutin, "Keeping Track of John Poindexter," Wired News, 14 December 2002 at,1283,56860,00.html

Read Robert O'Harrow Jr., "U.S. Hopes to Check Computers Globally," Washington Post, 12 November 2002, page A4 at

For coverage in German (Deutsch), read "US-Verteidigungsministerium plant weltweite Überwachung des Internet," Heise Online, 12 November 2002 at

[14] Regulators warn Verichip tracking implant maker

The United States government officials have issued a stern warning to makers of a controversial tracking implant.

Verichip can hold individualized data (such as a person's name, current condition, medical records and unique identification number) and is meant to be inserted under a person's skin. When a special external scanner is pointed at a Verichip, it displays a number and the stored information is transmitted "via telephone or Internet." Verichip's maker, Applied Digital Systems (ADS), is marketing its product for applications such as "identification, various law enforcement and defense uses and search and rescue." Company officials have been working for some time to incorporate Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to allow Verichip recipients to be tracked via the Information Superhighway.

Besides arousing strong concern from privacy advocates, these developments have drawn serious scrutiny from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which started investigating ADS months ago. In a recent letter, the FDA blasted ADS, saying the company's "conduct flagrantly disregards FDA's prior comprehensive advice. ... As a medical device, the VeriChip is subject to many legal and regulatory requirements, one of which is a requirement that products receive clearance or approval from FDA prior to marketing. You have not obtained such clearance or approval." The letter went on to suggest that VeriChip and ADS may have violated various Federal laws, and warned, "If ADS continues to market the VeriChip for medical applications, FDA is entitled to initiate enforcement action without further informal notice. Such action could include, for example, seizure of product inventory, injunctive relief preventing ADS from further marketing the VeriChip, and civil money penalties. Violations of the FD&C Act are also punishable by criminal penalties."

The FDA letter is posted under

[15] US appeals court allows easier wiretapping rules

Experts worry that a new ruling by a little known intelligence tribunal will greatly erode privacy online.

The decision came in regards to foreign intelligence gathering guidelines for Federal officials. The United States Justice Department had argued in favor of rules changes that would allow investigators to conduct surveillance operations and get search warrants under looser standards of FISA, even if the primary purpose of the wiretapping or search is not to collect foreign intelligence. Under this theory, law enforcement agents could make use of such standards so long as foreign intelligence gathering was merely a "significant" purpose. A Federal trial court disagreed and ordered Federal officials, among other things, to "ensure that law enforcement officials do not direct or control the use of the FISA procedures to enhance criminal prosecution."

However, in its first-ever decision, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review essentially rejected with the lower court's reasoning and decided in favor of the government. The 3-judge appeals panel held that FISA, even as originally enacted, "did not preclude or limit the government's use or proposed use of foreign intelligence information, which included evidence of certain kinds of criminal activity, in a criminal prosecution." Among other things, the panel also went on to say that the trial court did not have the power under the U.S. Constitution to take prior restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering operations and impose "them generically as minimization procedures."

The Court of Review's ruling was met with derision from many privacy advocates. Ann Beeson from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member) said her organization was "deeply disappointed with the decision, which suggests that this special court exists only to rubberstamp government applications for intrusive surveillance warrants." The ACLU, along with several organizations (including GILC members the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Open Society Institute), had previously filed legal papers urging the appeals panel to uphold the lower court's ruling.

The text of the appeals court ruling (in PDF format) is posted at

An ACLU press release regarding the ruling is available under

Read "Feds Get Wide Wiretap Authority,", 18 November 2002 at

See Declan McCullagh, "Secret U.S. court OKs electronic spying," CNet News, 18 November 2002 at

For further information in German (Deutsch), read Florian Rotzer, "USA: Freier Informationsfluss zwischen Geheimdiensten und FBI," Heise Telepolis, 19 November 2002 at

[16] Finland gov't data retention stance draws fire

The government of Finland is in hot water over its support of efforts to retain data about telecommunications customers.

Finnish officials are arguing for a system by which telecommunications traffic data inside the European Union should be retained for two years. There are already fears that data retention systems, if implemented, will lead to unnecessary governmental intrusions without actually deterring crime. As Kai Puolamäki of Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFI-a GILC member) explained, "A comprehensive obligatory data retention, like the one proposed now, increases the risk of misuse considerably. I would say the possible advantages of data retention are questionable - especially since skilled criminals can easily avoid this kind of surveillance." EFFI chairman Mikko Valimaki added: "You might think that the Sonera-case would have been a wake-up call for politicians: if data is available, it will be misused sooner or later. But no. Finland seems to push forward with exceptional Big Brother optimism."

This stance was revealed in an official response to a Council of the European Union questionnaire on the issue. While many details have yet to be worked out, the data that could be collected under such a scheme might include web surfing habits, email header information, callers' and recipients' names, and the geographic locations of individual mobile phones. Ironically, these suggestions have come while the Scandinavian country's biggest telecommunications provider, Sonera, is under intense scrutiny over alleged data privacy violations.

An EFFI press release on this subject is posted under

Read John Leyden, "More arrests in Sonera snooping probe," The Register (UK), 14 December 2002 at

For further information in German (Deutsch), see "Vorratsdatenspeicherung in der Europaishchen Union," Heise Online, 27 November 2002 at

To read responses to the EU questionnaire, click

Background information regarding data retention issues is available from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member) website under

[17] New British regulations may enhance workplace Net privacy

The British government has issued rules that may enhance Internet privacy rights in the workplace.

The British Information Commissioner has issued Employment Practices Data Protection Code regarding employer workplace monitoring powers. Among other things, the Code generally cautions that interception of communications "without the consent of sender and recipient ... is against the law unless authorized by the Lawful Business Practice Regulations." The new rules also warn that consent "must be freely given," and that employers generally should not open "messages that are both personal and private." The document advises companies to make impact assessments "to determine whether internet access monitoring is justified and if so to determine its nature and scope."

Some observers see the promulgation of these rules as part of a trend towards greater workplace privacy protections in European Union member countries. For example, the Supreme Court of France recently held that the Nikon camera company did not have an automatic right to read every message in their employees' email accounts.

The Codes of Practice (in PDF format) are posted online at

Read Mark Ward, "Tighter rules on workplace snooping," BBC News Online, 18 November 2002 at

[18] New rules unveiled for webbug trackers

Questions remain whether a self-regulatory scheme will prevent violations of tracking technology that uses tiny Internet pictures.

The rules would be applied to "webbugs"-miniscule image files embedded in webpages. Also known as "pixel tags," they are used to identify and track computer users. Because their nature, they can be rather difficult to detect and block. These webbugs are often located on Internet search engines, thereby allowing users to be identified by their Internet protocol numbers and search queries. These tags can also be used in conjunction with text tracking files or "cookies."

Under the proposed rules, webbug adherents would have to notify website visitors of the tags as well as how the webbugs are being used. Sites with webbugs would have to get consumers' consent before collecting and sharing personally identifiable information. However, the rules are voluntary, and it is not completely clear what penalties would be imposed on violators. Indeed, these standards were not created by privacy advocates, but by a trade organization composed of advertising companies, including DoubleClick, a company that has been heavily criticized in the past over its lack of sensitivity to privacy concerns.

Read Stefanie Olsen, "Ad firms set rules for Web tracking bugs," CNet News, 26 November 2002 at

[19] TiVo digital recorder makes mistakes, stereotypes users

Mistakes made by a highly touted interactive television device have fueled concerns as to how personal information can be abused.

TiVo is a personal video recorder with Internet connections. It provides such features as replays of television broadcasts within seconds and advanced programming options. However, researchers have determined that the device collects detailed information about users' viewing habits and sends this data back to the manufacturer through the Information Superhighway. While the manufacturer claims that these profiles were anonymized, a report from the Privacy Foundation indicates that the data collected did in fact contain identifying information (including the serial number of the individual user's machine).

Meanwhile, as the number of subscribers continues the climb, the number of complaints regarding TiVo's flaws has also grown. These flaws have arisen because TiVo's personalization algorithm has a tendency to stereotype their users and automatically record programs based on those misperceptions. In one case, a TiVo began recording a multitude of Korean news programs for a non-Asian user; after he complained, the machine for whatever reason started saving Chinese news programs instead. Another TiVo deluged its heterosexual user with gay oriented programming after he had recorded a single movie about a man who had a bisexual spouse.

Read Jeffrey Zaslow, "If TiVo Thinks You Are Gay, Here's How to Set It Straight," Wall Street Journal, 26 November 2002 at,,SB1038261936872356908,00.html

The Privacy Foundation report on TiVo is posted under

[20] Court strikes down US gov't virus spy attack

A recent court ruling may restrict government investigators in the United States from using a relatively new surveillance tool-computer viruses.

The case involves a computer specialist who planted a SubSeven computer virus in a file located on an Internet newsgroup. The virus was then used to break into and search the computers of people who downloaded the file. The specialist then sent the collected information to law enforcement agents. In one such instance, Federal officials encouraged the specialist send still more information, which led to criminal prosecution. The entire operation was done without a court's permission.

In the criminal case, the presiding judge suppressed the evidence, saying that computer surveillance virus tactic violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which bans the government from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. Although the specialist may have begun the operation on his own, the judge ruled, "By requesting that (the hacker) send the information, the FBI indicated its approval of whatever methods (the hacker) had used to obtain the information." Law professor Orin Kerr explained that the decision "makes it clear that law enforcement needs a search warrant" in order to carry out such activities.

Read Lisa M. Bowman, "Judge rules cops' hacker went too far," CNet News, 14 November 2002 at

[21] US court allow blind police Net searches

A Federal appeals court in the United States has held that the government goes to an Internet service provider (ISP) to search a customer's email account, police officers don't have be present.

The case centers on a police-initiated search of a Yahoo email account, where the relevant law enforcement agents did not actually go to the provider's premises, but faxed a search warrant to the company from several thousands of kilometers away. Despite this absence of police, the Yahoo technicians performed the search on the government's behalf. At trial, the presiding judge held that, since the police failed to physically appear at Yahoo's offices at the time of the warrant was served, the search was illegal. However, the appeals court reversed, holding that, among other things, the U.S. Constitution "does not explicitly require official presence during a warrant's execution."

The dispute had drawn interest from a number of privacy experts. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member) had previously filed legal papers with the appeals court, noting that requiring "an officer's presence at the service of a search warrant" was a procedural safeguard that had been in place "since the 1700s to safeguard individuals from unwarranted intrusion upon their privacy by government officials, and to discourage governmental abuse of power by ensuring guarantees of trustworthiness and accountability." EPIC counseled that this procedural safeguard should be retained, particularly since "emerging technological innovations pose new challenges to personal privacy. ... [T]he characteristics of the Internet do not negate the requirement of an officer's presence for the service of a warrant." EPIC has since filed additional papers in support of a request for the appeals court to reconsider its ruling, saying that the decision "essentially creates a regime in which a police officer presence has been eliminated from the warrant process can be invaded simply by turning on a fax machine."

Background materials on the case are available via

Read Lisa M. Bowman, "Court OKs faxed warrants," CNet News, 18 November 2002 at

[22] Swiss Big Brother Awards ceremony held

In Switzerland, a host of reputed menaces to individual privacy have become the newest recipients of Big Brother Awards. These prizes are given out by Privacy International (a GILC member) and affiliated groups in several nations. "Orwells" are given out to government agencies, companies and initiatives that have done most to invade personal privacy. Special awards are also given to individuals and organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to the protection of privacy.

Winners included the Zurich Cantonal Police for its Joufara II tracing and journaling database; Q-Sys St Gall for subjecting nursing home residents to a battery of some 250 questions regarding their personalities and altering nursing levels based on the responses; Adrien de Werra, head of the Special Affairs unit of the national Ministry of Environment, Traffic, Energy and Communication, who has demanded expansion of "Federal law concerning the monitoring of postal and telecommunication traffic" and Club de Berne, a secretive association which reportedly includes representatives from intelligence services of some 15 countries. Bert Setzer received a Winkelried Award for protecting privacy through his development of a customer rebate card that includes special anonymizing features. The event was sponsored by the Swiss Internet User Group (a GILC member) and Archiv Schnüffelstaat Schweiz.

For more on the Swiss Big Brother Awards, click

For further information regarding Big Brother Awards around the world, visit the Privacy International (a GILC member) website under

[23] New GILC member: AEL & EFFI

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign recently added two new members: Electronic Frontier Finland and Association Electronique Libre (Belgium). EFFI has made numerous efforts to protect computer users' civil liberties; among other things, the group organized the Finnish Big Brother Awards to spotlight some of the country's greatest threats to individual privacy. AEL is dedicated to promoting fundamental rights in the information society and cyberspace; towards that end, it has campaigned heavily against various government data retention proposals.

EFFI's official home page is located at

For more information about AEL, click


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