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GILC Alert
Volume 2, Issue 10

Novemeber 2, 1998


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.

[1] Serbian Government Continues Media Repression
[2] EU Data Privacy Law Takes Effect
[3] More News About Massive Spying System
[4] US Free Speech Groups Challenge New Net Censorship Law
[5] UK Crypto Plan May Call for Voluntary Key Recovery
[6] Japanese Plan Calls Content Labeling, ISP Censorship
[7] Chinese Block Access to News Sites
[8] GILC Member Asks UK Net Users Comment on Internet Watch Foundation
[9] Reports from GILC Conference "The Public Voice in the Development of Internet Policy"
[10] NGO Declaration at OECD Conference
[11] Other Resources Online

[1] Serbian Government Continues Media Repression

The Serbian government's clamp down on independent journalists continued this week as it adopted a restrictive information law that applies to all media and imposes severe penalties for any publication that "jeopardizes territorial integrity."

In the last month, after threats against the media, the Serbian government shut down two radio broadcasting stations and three independent newspapers, according to a letter to UN officials by Ann Cooper the Executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (a GILC member).

"Serb leaders have taken these actions after issuing a series of escalating threats of reprisals against independent journalists -- ranging from threatened abductions to promises of closures -- should NATO carry out air strikes. The independent media in Yugoslavia feel abandoned, and extremely vulnerable to continued attacks by the Serb government," Cooper stated.

The law's first victim is Slavko Curuvija, owner and chief editor of the magazine "Evropljanin" (European), who was charged on October 23. If convicted, Curuvija faces a fine of at least $100,000, reported GILC-Member Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Human Rights Watch also voiced concern about the detention of two Serbian journalists in Kosovo who are accused of spying by an armed ethnic Albanian group fighting for Kosovo's independence.

In response to the media shut downs, the Digital Freedom Network (DFN), (a GILC member) has begun publishing articles on its website written by journalists from the papers that have been banned in Belgrade. "It is crucial to publish the news to help them get their message out to the rest of the world," DFN Director Bobson Wong said.

The material is online at the Digital Freedom Network site along with the full text of the Serbian Law on Public Information collection of resources on this issue and an Action Alert protest letter at:

The Committee to Protect Journalists also provides information for web users to send a letter of protest to Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic at

Human Rights Watch information is online at:

[2] EU Privacy Directive Goes Into Effect

As the European Union Data Directive took effect this week, privacy advocates, consumers and industry alike are wondering what impact it will have on the flow of information across borders. The new law provides basic privacy rights for consumers and should encourage the development of privacy enhancing technologies. The data directive grew out of specific circumstances related to the integration of the European economies and the need to harmonize national privacy laws. It also reflects a widely held belief that privacy is a fundamental human right, entitled to full protection in law.

While some recent press reports suggested that the implementation of the Date Directive would be postponed, in fact the European Commission is going forward as planned. Under the EU rules, European citizens have a right to:

See any information about them and know how the information will be used;

access the information and make corrections;

be notified before the information is sold or shared elsewhere and choose who else can have access to the information; and

sue if a company is in violation of these conditions.

The EU Data Directive has been endorsed strongly by BEUC, the leading European Consumers Organization. In a letter this month to European Commission Member Mario Monti, BEUC Director Jim Murray wrote, "Our concern is with the personal data of European consumers which may be exported to the U.S. European consumers must not lose their specific protections when that data is exported. If the U.S. cannot give effective guarantees on this point, personal data should not be exported from the EU to the U.S."

Other countries are following Europe's lead. Canada is the most recent of several governments that have announced plans to adopt comprehensive privacy legislation to promote consumer confidence and encourage the development of new commercial services. The EU Data Directive has also been cited several times as contributing to the decision of EU member countries not to endorse the U.S.-promoted key escrow/key recovery encryption scheme.

Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, has indicated that PI will begin enforcement actions against firms that fail to comply with the requirements of the EU Directive as early as this year. Louise Sylvan, Vice President of Consumer International, has said that the international consumer organization will begin an evaluation this year of the adequacy of consumer privacy protection around the globe. In the United States opinion polls show public support for new privacy legislation.

The following resources are available online:

European Union Directive

Privacy International

Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have recently published a comprehensive report on behalf of GILC outlining the constitutional and legal conditions of privacy protection. "Privacy and Human Rights: An International Survey of Privacy Laws and Practice," it is available online at:

For links to recent articles on the EU Directive, visit the Privacy Site at:

Also, see "Oceans Apart on Privacy: Strict new European protection act poses a threat for US firms doing business there, 26 October 1998, San Jose Mercury News.

[3] More News on Massive US-EU Spying Apparatus Circulates

Since the European Parliament's announcement in September that it will commission a full report on the clandestine US-UK intelligence system called ECHELON even more information about the system is becoming public -- after decades of silence.

The first acknoweledgement by a government entity of the existence of the system was in an EU Parliament working report, entitled, "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control." The report was presented to the EU Parliament on 16 September and was followed by the adoption of a resolution to create "protective measures concerning economic information and effective encryption" to guard against abuse and threats to civil liberties posed by the clandestine system.

"Within Europe, all email, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland Fort Meade in Maryland...," the report stated. The report also claims that the Echelon system was first uncovered in the 1970's by a group of researchers in the UK.

Recently, a Dutch newspaper NRC put an addition to the working report used by the EU online:

The additions to the original report state that there are two separate mechanisms used for transatlantic electronic surveillance. One mechanism is as the UK/USA system comprising the activities of military intelligence agencies such as NSA-CIA in the USA subsuming GCHQ & MI6 in the UK operating a system known as ECHELON; and the second is the EU-FBI system which is links up various law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, police, customs, immigration and internal security.

NRC also states that since publication of the Interim report and circulation by the EU Parliament, allegations that the US benefited economically from ECHELON have also been uncovered.

NRC cites the Financial Mail as having reported that "key words identified by US experts include the names of inter-governmental trade organisations and business consortia bidding against US companies. The word 'block' is on the list to identify communications about offshore oil in area where the seabed has yet to be divided up into exploration blocks."

NRC also stated that there are suggestions that in 1990 the US broke into secret negotiations and persuaded Indonesia that US giant AT & T be included in a multi-billion dollar telecoms deal that at one point was going entirely to Japan's NEC.

In the US, a new report on the National Security Agency's top-secret spying network will also soon be sent to members of the Congress. The report -- "Echelon: America's Spy in the Sky" was produced by the Free Congress Foundation and details the history and workings of the NSA's global electronic surveillance system.

The parliamentary report is expected to focus on concerns that the system has been expanded and is being directed at the communications of European companies and elected officials. The Free Congress Foundation is urging the U.S. Congress to examine Echelon as carefully as the European Parliament has.

The NSA refuses to confirm nor deny Echelon's existence, but investigative journalists and civil liberties activists have uncovered a number of the system's details in recent years.

To learn more about Echelon, see:

Somebody's Listening, NEW STATESMAN , 12 August 1988;

1998 Nicky Hager, Covert Action Quarterly article on ECHELON:;

1998 European Parliament, STOA report, Assessment of the Technologies of Political Control

Exposing The Global Surveillance System

[4] US Free Speech Groups Challenge New Net Censorship Law

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation last week filed a court challenge in the US to a federal Internet censorship bill signed by President Clinton despite serious constitutional concerns raised by his own Justice Department.

The groups filed suit to enjoin enforcement of the law on behalf of a diverse group of plaintiffs, including the Internet Content Coalition, a member group including Time Inc., Warner Bros., C/NET and The New York Times Online; OBGYN.Net, a women's health website; Philadelphia Gay News; Salon Magazine; and the ACLU on behalf of its members including poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and ACLU President Nadine Strossen. The law will be effective in mid-November of this year if it is not enjoined.

During "round one" of this litigation, the ACLU, EFF and EPIC filed a challenge to the ill-fated Communications Decency Act, which was unanimously found unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court last year.

This second round challenges the new so-called "Child Online Protection Act" makes it a federal crime to "knowingly" communicate "for commercial purposes" material considered "harmful to minors." Penalties include fines of up to $50,000 for each day of violation, and up to six months in prison if convicted of a crime. The government also has the option to bring a civil suit against individuals under a lower standard of proof, with the same financial penalty of up to $50,000 per violation.

Despite lawmakers' claims that the new bill is "narrowly tailored" to apply only to minors, ACLU Staff Attorney Ann Beeson said that the constitutional flaws in this law are identical to the flaws that led the Supreme Court to strike down the CDA.

"Whether you call it the 'Communications Decency Act' or the 'Congress Doesn't Understand the Internet Act,' it is still unconstitutional and it still reduces the Internet to what is fit for a six-year-old," said Beeson, a member of the original ACLU v. Reno legal team.

Although proponents claim that the law applies only to commercial websites, nonetheless, the groups said in legal papers, the law "bans a wide range of protected expression that is provided for free on the Web by organizations and entities who also happen to be communicating on the Web 'for commercial purposes.'"

Members of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign reacted with serious concern over the passage of the new US net censorship law. In an open letter signed by 25 members of GILC and sent to the Clinton Administration, the groups stated their opposition to the new law:

"Any restrictive action taken by the United States government would not only fail to prevent the distribution of material to users in the local jurisdiction, but constitute a direct assault on the rights and other interests of Internet users, consumers and producers of content in other jurisdictions, who are not subject to the Child Online Protection Act."

"So far the main dangers and threats for cyber-speech came from the land of free speech - the United States. Censorious legislation such as the CDA and CDA II would set up a dangerous precedent for similar legislation in modern and developing societies including the UK," said Yaman Akdeniz, director of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK), who signed the GILC statement.

ACLU, EPIC and EFF jointly sponsor the Blue Ribbon Campaign for Online Freedom of Expression to provide Netizens a platform for voicing their concerns over continuing governmental attempts to censor the Internet. Visitors of the Campaign site can fax Attorney General Janet Reno a "don't enforce the new law" message and join the campaign by exhibiting the Blue Ribbon logo on their own Web sites. More information is available at:

A complete list of plaintiffs can be found along with the complaint at

For the full text of the GILC statement, see:

[5] UK Crypto Plan Puts Pressure on Industry for Keys

At the International Commerce Exchange on 19th October the UK Department of Trade and Industry announced plans for forthcoming controls on encryption services. The new legislation is designed to force escrow of confidentiality keys on UK netizens, according to the Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain (CACIB), a GILC member.

Under the law, companies providing encryption services, including digital signatures, are advised to apply for a license. The license will not be mandatory, however, digital signatures issued without a licenced certificate will not be automatically legally binding under the law.

Thus, individuals using an "unlicensed" signature will have to go to court to prove the authenticity -- adding enormous costs, CACIB stated.

According to the CACIB, the intent of these two proposals is to force businesses to use licenced services, for fear of huge legal bills every time they have to go to court over a contract.

"The government wants a copy of the key to everyone's computer (called key escrow), so they can read your email if they think you might be committing a crime. Ironically this will make you much more liable to hackers and thieves," according to an analysis of the bill released by CACIB on the group's website at:

[6] Japanese Agency Calls for Content Labeling, ISP Censorship

The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) committee called for labeling of online content and for Internet Service Providers to block accessibility to "harmful information," the Kyodo News Service reported on 22 October.

The NPA's research committee proposed that web sites label content using broad categories such as ''for adults'' or ''for general public'' stating that "harmful information on the Internet not only fosters juvenile crime and sexual delinquency, but if left as it is, it could also invite international criticism," according to the Kyodo News story.

According to the report, a new Japanese law regulating the adult entertainment business will go into effect next April and will restrict commercial sites from providing pornographic information online.

Members of GILC have previously fought against content labeling and blocking measures arguing that such techniques violate international human rights principles that protect freedom speech and can be used by repressive governments to censor the flow of information.

Criticizing a similar plan endorsed by the EU Parliament, Rigo Wenning of Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft (FITUG) said, "content labeling is not an appropriate answer to the problems of illegal and harmful content. It does not provide a solution, that fits with the liberty of speech necessary in a democratic society."

This September, GILC released a report "Regardless Of Frontiers: Protecting The Human Right to Freedom of Expression on the Global Internet," that concluded that the Internet's uniquely open, global, decentralized and user-controlled nature, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights agreements should be read as offering especially strong protection to freedom of expression on-line.

For more information, see the "Statement on Filtering, Ratings Systems and the Impact of Self-Regulation and Filtering on Human Rights to Freedom of Expression" to the OECD by various members of GILC. The statement discusses to role of ISPs, anonymity, self-regulation and freedom of expression.

[7] Chinese Restrict Access to News Sites

China Net, a state-controlled Internet service provider in Beijing, is blocking access to various websites, including the BBC's non-commercial web service, the BBC reported. A Chinese official reportedly confirmed the blocks but said he could not explain why certain content is restricted.

Western experts in Beijing say the police submit lists of banned Websites to the Internet providers, who then block them, the BBC reported, adding that banned sites include those maintained by some Western news organisations, as well as several containing pornographic or dissident material.

Chinese censors have also banned the report written by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr to the US Congress because "officials disliked its salacious details and worried that its contents would somehow damage improving Chinese-U.S. relations," according to the Associated Press. The report joins "a long list of proscribed publications ranging from soft-porn magazines ... to the subtly subversive novels of Chinese lowlifes by Wang Shuo."

The BBC's Beijing Correspondent, James Miles, says the blocking of Internet sites is of limited effectiveness since users can easily configure Internet software to access banned sites through a proxy server.

However, since users are required to register with the police, they can be punished for retrieving information deemed pornographic or harmful to social order, he added.

[8] GILC Member Asks UK Net Users Comment on Internet Watch Foundation Review

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) (a GILC member) encouraged British Internet users to express their views about the Internet Watch Foundation, a self-regulatory body set up initially as a hotline but which is also involved with the development of rating systems for Internet content at a UK level.

The review of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will be conducted by business advisory firm KPMG and City solicitors Denton Hall through a confidential Web site - - to encourage the public to express their views on illegal content on the Internet and the work of the IWF. The final report by KPMG and Denton Hall will be submitted to the Department of Trade and Industry ("DTI") in December 1998.

Yaman Akdeniz, director of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) and the author of two "Who Watches the Watchmen" reports which were critical of the activities of the IWF, stating: "It is good to give a chance to public for comments but the review at is only limited to the activities of the IWF as far as illegal content is concerned. The involvement of the IWF as an industry based body with important public policy issues such as the development of rating and filtering systems are omitted."

"Although the IWF acts as a private self regulatory body, its actions directly involve public matters and the IWF is involved with the UK government's policy making process. No decisions should be taken without proper public consultation and an open and transparent environment," he said.

Akdeniz also noted that the website created by the reviewing firm is rated with a PICS label used by the RSACi system favoured by the IWF. However, the site also encourages anonymous submissions despite IWF and DTI Safety-Net proposals charging anonymous use of the Internet as a danger.

For more information, see, Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Report: "Who Watches the Watchmen: Part II - Accountability & Effective Self-Regulation in the Information Age," September 1998 at;

Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Report, "Who Watches the Watchmen: Internet Content Rating Systems, and Privatised Censorship," November 1997,

The review site is located online at

[9] GILC Conference Reports:

More than 140 people from all over the world attended the GILC conference "The Public Voice in the Development of Internet Policy" in Ottawa, Canada on October 7. The conference occurred prior to an OECD Ministerial conference on electronic commerce.

John Manley, the Canadian Minister of Industry and chair of the OECD conference on Electronic Commerce, opened the Public Voice conference and thanked GILC for bringing together NGOs. Mr. Manley stated that the GILC conference presented an excellent opportunity to bring diverse public interest groups together in a structured forum to discuss the development of global policy for electronic commerce.

According to Mr. Manley, the GILC concerns have been heard by the OECD ministers and there is a link between the two conferences and the OECD conference should benefit from a diversity of voices regardless of frontiers. In his conclusion Mr. Manley emphasized the importance of a "global village," and showed his desire to have a "cyber marketplace" which is available to wealthy and poor. "We gather from many countries to develop e-commerce in the global village. Our challenge is much broader today. Access to the Internet should be available to all and at a stage where half of the world population did not make a telephone call, this remains a very important challenge for consumers and suppliers."

Mr. Manley was followed by David Johnston, the former Chair of the Canadian Information Highway Advisory Council and former Provost of McGill University. According to Mr. Johnston, "we need to establish an environment where innovation can thrive, which recognizes that ideas and innovation are keys to wealth creation and institutional adoption, where change is not feared and strangled." Also governments are challenged to adopt themselves in the information age and better understanding of the new technologies are needed.

Other panels included discussions on Consumer Protection, Free Speech and Access, Privacy and Encryption and Human Rights Online.

Another highlight included a speech by Stephen Lau, the privacy commissioner for Hong Kong. Mr. Lau spoke about the need to protect dignity in the on-line world.

Complete conference reports are available at the conference report page:

[10] NGO Declaration at OECD Conference

Consumer, labor, civil liberties, and research organizations joined together recently in support of a letter addressed to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Ministers on the future of Internet policy. Representatives of more than twenty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from eight countries signed the statement.

The NGOs urged the establishment of a permanent Public Interest Advisory Committee (PIAC), similar in type and function to business and labor groups that currently advise the OECD. The group said that the Committee should include representatives of public interest groups in the fields of human rights and democracy, privacy and data protection, consumer protection, and access. The group said that the promotion of electronic commerce "must be considered within the broader framework of protection of human rights, the promotion and strengthening of democratic institutions, and the provision of affordable access to advanced communication services." The group made the following recommendations to the OECD:

- Authentication and certification: All OECD member countries should implement and enforce the 1992 OECD Guidelines for the Security of Information Systems, particularly the Principles on Democracy, Ethics, and Proportionality. These issues must be considered within the context of consumer protection and privacy protection.

- Cryptography: The OECD should promote implementation of the Cryptography Guidelines of 1997 and urge the removal of all controls on the use and export of encryption and other privacy enhancing techniques.

- Protection of privacy: The OECD should urge member states to implement fully and develop means to enforce the Privacy Guidelines of 1980 because self-regulation has failed to provide adequate assurance. The group further recommended efforts to promote anonymity and minimize the collection of personal information so as to promote consumer confidence.

- Consumer protection: The OECD should support the establishment of minimum standards for consumer protection, including the simplification of contracts, means for cancellation, effective complaint mechanisms, limits on consumer liability, non-enforceability of unreasonable contract provisions, recourse at least to the laws and courts of their home country, and cooperation among governments in support of legal redress.

- Intellectual property protection should be based upon mechanisms that are least intrusive to personal privacy, and least restrictive for the development of new technologies.

- Internet governance should foster Internet governance structures that reflect democratic values and are transparent and publicly accountable to users. Standards processes should be open and should foster competition.

- The creation of a tax advisory group which includes government and business must also include public interest groups.

- Impacts on employment must be evaluated and taken fully into account in all discussions and negotiations.

Finally, the group recommended continued support for the OECD Committee for Consumer Policy.

The following versions of the NGO letter are available: (English) (French)

[11] Other Resources Online:

The French Conseil d'Etat report (The Internet and digital Networks) is now available in English as well as other official documents and reports:

The report in French, in HTML is online at:

The report in English in HTML:

Also see, the special issue of IRIS' newsletter commenting this report


The GILC News Alert is the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty Campaign, an international coalition of organizations working to protect and enhance online civil liberties and human rights. Organizations are invited to join GILC by contacting us at To alert members about threats to cyber liberties, please contact members from your country or send a message to the general GILC address.

To submit information about upcoming events, new activist tools and news stories, contact: GILC Coordinator, American Civil Liberties Union 125 Broad Street 17thFloor, New York, New York 10004 USA. email:

More information about GILC members and news is available at You may re-print or redistribute the GILC NEWS ALERT freely. To subscribe to the alert, please send an mail to with the following message in the body: subscribe gilc-announce