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GILC Alert
Volume 2, Issue 8

September 29, 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] Former KGB Plans to Target E-mail Come Under Fire
[2] Chinese Dissident Charged Over Pro-Democracy Site
[3] Irish Republican Website Shut Down by ISP
[4] EC Releases Call for Tenders on "Safe Use of the Internet"
[5] Saudis to Gain Filtered Internet Access; Syrians To Go Online
[6] Cyber-rumors Abound in Malaysia Casting Doubts About Growth As Techno Giant
[7] Crypto Liberalization Campaign Launched in Australia
[8] Israel Passes First Freedom of Information law
[9] Canada Considers Net Content Regulations
[10] US Continues "Emergency" Crypto Export Controls
[11] Web Site Penalized for Privacy Protection Misrepresentations
[12] Upcoming GILC Conference in Budapest, 9/1998; Ottowa 10/98

[1] Former KGB Demands Access to All Electronic Communications in the Region

Former KGB officials have announced plans to mandate that all Russian Internet Service Providers provide them with access to all e-mail and Internet traffic flowing through the region, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The plan, "SORM," which stands for the system of technical means ensuring investigative action, states that the "actual technical requirements should be observed for each individual subscriber regardless of the type of his connection to the DTC networks (individual or collective)." Full text of SORM is available online at

Moreover, SORM requires service providers to make available all information about users habits, including the telephone number used for access to the Internet, network addresses used for reception or transmission of information, all real time information transmitted to the users.

According to news reports, the Russian government claims that access to e-mail and electronic communications is necessary to thwart criminal activity. Critics of the plan have blasted the plan saying that there has been no evidence to support the claim that such intrusive techniques are necessary or justifiable.

"SORM-2 is a return to the bad old days of the KGB in Russia," Electronic Frontier Foundation and GILC founding member, Barry Steinhardt said.

"The secret police wants to be able to monitor all electronic mail in order -- they say -- to get access to a few pieces. But given the history of Russia's misuse of the state security agencies, there is absolutely no reason to believe they will restrict their snooping to a few bad actors," Steinhardt said.

Under the plan, ISPs would be required to assume the costs for the KGB’s eavesdropping. Additionally, private companies in the region would also be forced to provide access and assume the costs for complying. The plan also requires that all providers must provide access to even encrypted communications and that "the possibility of unauthorized access to the data and software providing for ...SORM...interaction should be excluded."

However, critics have stated that the onerous requirements not only show that there is a lack of respect for fundamental rights, but that the Russian officials have little understanding of how difficult it is to control electronic communications.

GILC members have also said they encourage all Russians, especially human rights activists, to use foreign ISPs to secure their safety.

For additional news coverage see: Russia: Secret Police Lowering Iron Curtain On Internet , Radio Free Europe, By Julie Moffett

[2] Chinese Dissident Charged Over Pro-Democracy Site

Chinese officials continue their crackdown on human rights activities in the nation despite the visit by U.S. President Bill Clinton earlier this summer, and the claims made that they would improve their civil liberties position and that they would liberalize restrictions on the Internet.

"If he is convicted on these very serious charges, it would send a very chilling message to Internet users in China, particularly to dissidents who are using e-mail to communicate with others inside and outside the country," Bobson Wong, Director of the Digital Freedom Network, which is a member of GILC said.

Chinese officials arrested Lin Hai, computer expert, earlier this year and charged him with subversion because he allegedly provided a pro-democracy magazine with 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses. Hai may face a death sentence or a minimum of 10 years in prison if he is convicted, making him the first person, world-wide to be charged with use of the Internet for human rights/ political reasons.

Hai allegedly provided the e-mail addresses to a U.S.-based Chinese magazine, VIP Reference, said Wong. However, there is some chance that Hai’s sentence may not be as severe because of the pressure on Chinese officials to improve their human rights practices.

GILC member organization, the Digital Freedom Network will be putting a model letter to Chinese officials on their site for GILC members to send pleas on behalf of Lin Hai. If you would like to send your own letter, they may be sent to:

President Jiang Zemin
9 Xihuangchang Genbeijie
People’s Republic of China

Li Zhaoxing
Ambassador of China
Chinese Embassy to the United States
2300 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: +(1-202) 588-0032

Kofi Annan
Secretary General of the United Nations
Phone: +(1-212) 963-5012

[3] Irish Republican Website Shut Down by ISP

The website of the Irish Republican Web Action Committee, an Irish Republican Activist group was removed by its Internet Service Provider / host GeoCities. GeoCities claimed that the site was removed because it contained material that was in violation of the company’s content guidelines.

"We view this as a direct attempt to censor the Irish Republican Movement on the Internet, and we understand the ramifications of such censorship and will be in contact with civil libertarian lawyers on this latest issue of political censorship," members of the IRWAC said.

Members of IRWAC stated that the site shut down by GeoCities contained an index with links to republican prisoners, a republican online newspaper "The Dissenter," along with websites for the Josephine Hayden committee, the Irish Freedom Committee, and the 32 County Sovereignty Committee.

"Following the latest complete disaster in Omagh City County Tyrone, which has now reversed the Republican Movement to an even weaker position than it previously held, [we have been] withstanding increasing pressures form all corner of the political spectrum, and political enemies," group members said.

[4] EC Releases Call for Tenders on "Safe Use of the Internet"

A call for tenders has been published by the European Commission for preparatory actions in the framework of the proposed multi-annual Community Action Plan on Promoting the Safe Use of the Internet (OJ No S 147 of 1.8.1998, p. 32).

The call for proposals includes topics ranging from setting up hotlines in Member States and launching a European network of hotlines to gather information on illegal content, a feasibility study for a European system of content self-rating, review of European third-party filtering and rating software and services, and preparation of awareness actions taking into account the cultural and linguistic diversity of users (parents, teachers).

"While we certainly applaud the efforts to promote Internet education, it is our hope that the process does not lead to mandated self-rating or filtering, because these techniques are extremely crude and not only result in overblocking of important speech, but will limit the ability of individuals who publish either critical or idiosyncratic speech online," GILC members said.

Earlier this year, GILC members presented a statement calling for free speech protections during a conference entitled "Internet Content Self-Regulation Dialogue," 25th March 1998, in Paris.

"International human rights law enshrines the rights to freedom of expression and access to information. These core documents explicitly protect freedom of expression ‘without regard to borders,’" the GILC statement said.

Moreover, GILC members have criticized the use of blocking, filtering, and labeling techniques because they have been demonstrated to restrict freedom of expression and limit access to information. Specifically, such techniques can prevent individuals from using the Internet to exchange information on topics that may be controversial or unpopular, enable the development of country profiles to facilitate a global/universal rating system desired by governments, block access to content on entire domains, block access to Internet content available at any domain or page which contains a specific key-word or character string in the URL, and over-ride self-rating labels provided by content creators and providers.

For more information on the problems with government-mandated use of blocking, filtering, and label systems, visit the GILC websites at

Tender documents from the European Commission should be requested by 14 September 1998 from fax +352 4301 34079. The deadline for submission of tenders is 24 September 1998.

[5] Saudis to Gain Filtered Internet Access; Syrians To Go Online

Saudis will finally be able to gain local Internet access by the year’s end, according to an exclusive news report by Reuters for CNET NEWS.COM.

However, access will be filtered to prohibit access to "inappropriate content" such as pornography, Reuters stated. Currently, Saudis can only get online access by dialing up to international networks, a costly way to gain online access.

Neighboring countries have also installed similar filtering firewalls on networks to prevent access to controversial information. Under the new plan, the Saudi government will issue licenses to authorized Internet Service Providers.

In similar news, the Syrian government will also begin permitting Internet access, Reuters reports.

"The Internet is vital for scientific research, for commerce, for economy," Saadalla Agha el Kalaa, a spokesman for the Syrian Computer Society said in an interview with Reuters.

Kalaa told Reuters that the government's reluctance to provide online access in Syria reflects social concern about Internet content rather than political fears about the free exchange of information.

Although Kalaa told Reuters that it will be up to parents rather than government to censor content, he expressed concern about the impact of uncensored content -- especially sexually explicit material will have.

[6] Cyber-rumors Abound in Malaysia Casting Doubts About Growth As Techno Giant

Although the Malaysian Government has announced plans to create a multi-billion dollar high tech industrial center despite serious financial crisis in the region, the plans have become even more uncertain after the detainment of three individuals because they allegedly spread cyber-rumors of riots in the region.

"I think the message that the Malaysian government is sent out when they detained those individuals is that they are not prepared to adhere to international principles of human rights, and that other countries, particularly Western countries, should be very cautious about doing business there,'' said GILC founding member and President of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Barry Steinhardt.

According to reports by the San Jose Mercury News, a local official said "the alleged culprits were tracked down with the help of technology experts who sorted through thousands of e-mail messages and traced the offending ones back to their source. The investigation is continuing and more arrests are expected."

The rumors were circulated via e-mail and allegedly said that "machete-wielding Indonesian immigrants were running amok and attacking ethnic Chinese in the city's Chow Kit district, the site of a vicious race riot in 1969," stated the San Jose Mercury News Report.

In addition, according to reports, the rumors led to widespread distress among citizens fearing that they were true because of the nation’s historic tensions between ethnic minorities.

While some human rights activists said that swift action to dispel rumors was warranted, they sharply criticized the government’s heavy handed response in tracking down the suspects. "GILC believes that the answer to bad speech is more speech -- not indefinitely detaining alleged rumor mongers. The Malaysian government has demonstrated that big brother is in the wires and that technology companies should be cautious about establishing businesses there."

[7] Crypto Liberalization Campaign Launched in Australia

The Electronic Frontiers Australia announced the launch of its campaign calling for the abolition of all controls on cryptography in Australia this summer.

"The current export controls are a failure because strong cryptography software is already widely available throughout the world. Furthermore the regulations are stifling Australian initiatives in developing secure communications protocols," EFA spokesperson Greg Taylor said.

"Far from achieving their purpose of preventing criminal activity, the restrictions on deployment of strong cryptography increase the risk of criminal attack on vital infrastructure such as banking and the electricity supply system," Taylor said.

EFA intends to contact every Senator and Member of Parliament to bring them up-to-date on the importance of cryptography to Australia's future in the Information Age, he added.

The Australian Defence Department, which is responsible for administering export controls under the terms of the Wassenaar Arrangement, has extended Australia's compliance with the agreement by encouraging key recovery "backdoors" in systems proposed for export licensing. This is despite extensive international evidence that key recovery systems of the type proposed by law enforcement agencies are fundamentally unworkable and a risk to data security." said Taylor.

"How would Australian citizens react if they were required to lodge copies of their home and office door keys with a government agency, so as to enable law enforcement authorities to search their personal files without their knowledge? Yet that is a close analogy to current Australian policy on encryption software."

EFA members said that Australia should take the lead by proposing that cryptography goods be dropped from the terms of the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international regime to control trade in high-grade munitions.

Australian Federal Coalition policy opposes heavy-handed attempts to ban strong encryption techniques, and the other major Federal parties have also supported relaxation of current controls. Furthermore, the Prime Minister announced in March that Australia would adopt the OECD Cryptography guidelines, which are regarded as far more acceptable than existing controls.

However, in spite of the promising statements, "Australia persists with a cold-war mentality when it comes to actually implementing policy," Taylor said.

For further information, contact:

Greg Taylor - Brisbane 07 3370 6362 E-mail:
Kim Heitman - Perth 08 9458 2790 E-mail:
Danny Yee - Sydney 02 9351 5159 E-mail:

Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc

[8] Israel Passes First Freedom of Information law

With the passage of a new law, for the first time in their history, Israelis will be entitled to access government held information, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Environmental groups in Israel have called the new Freedom of Information Law a tremendous victory and anticipate gaining access to information that has traditionally been considered private property by ministries and other official bureaus.

For further information, contact the Israel Union for Environmental Defense - - which was one of the organizations responsible for getting the law through the Knesset.

[9] Canada Considers Net Content Regulations

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced that it is considering content regulations for the Internet earlier this month, according GILC member Electronic Frontiers Canada.

According to reports, the CRTC said regulation could Canadian culture or protect minors from online sites containing obscenity, pornography and hate speech.

EFC President David Jones criticized plans for Internet content restrictions in a speech earlier this year saying, "[i]f we dumb-down the Net to a level that is appropriate for five-year-olds, we will no longer have an 'Information Superhigway'; instead, we'll have a digital Sesame street. That's not the solution."

Other critics have called Internet content regulations a disaster, saying that it will lead to the homogenization of online speech. "There views on the Internet are as diverse as human thought -- content regulation will only lead to the punishment of idiosyncratic speech and communications by dissidents and human rights activists around the world," said GILC members from the ACLU.

The CRTC will accept submissions from the public on possible Internet content regulation until Oct. 1 and Oct. 21, and then commence a public hearing beginning Nov. 23 in Hull.

Submissions must be filed in hard copy and addressed to the Secretary-General, CRTC, Ottawa, K1A 0N2. The CRTC also encourages parties to include, with the hard version of their submissions, a copy on diskette, or to file copies electronically to

The CRTC's notice is posted at:

For more information, see:

CRTC’s Press Release on this issue, at
Electronic Frontiers Canada:

[10] Web Site Penalized for Privacy Protection Misrepresentations

GeoCities, a popular U.S.-based site on the World Wide Web, has agreed to settle charges brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it misrepresented the purposes for which it was collecting personal identifying information from children and adults.

Privacy advocates have said that the case only supports their claims that the U.S.’s continued reliance on industry self regulation is meaningless because there is little no accountability to the public for such misrepresentations or potential privacy violations. Leading privacy advocates and consumer groups have repeatedly warned Americans that their privacy remains dangerously unprotected by industry and government.

Earlier this year, GILC founding member the Electronic Privacy Information Center released the second of its reports on the failure of efforts to protect privacy in the US, entitled, Surfer Beware II.

The report included a survey of web sites and their privacy practices and found that only 20 percent (eight sites) of the sites had any semblance of a privacy notice. Of these eight sites, only four (10 percent of the total) had specifically "advertised" privacy policy pages or statements. Three sites had "security and privacy" statements which focused on the security of transactions rather than the use of collected information. And the remaining site only had a small sentence relating to privacy.

The case against GeoCities is the first of its kind brought in the U.S. on the issue of Internet privacy violations. Under the settlement, GeoCities has agreed to post on its site a clear and prominent Privacy Notice, telling consumers what information is being collected and for what purpose, to whom it will be disclosed, and how consumers can access and remove the information.

GeoCities also would have to obtain parental consent before collecting information from children 12 and under.

"GeoCities misled its customers, both children and adults, by not telling the truth about how it was using their personal information," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "This case is a message to all Internet marketers that statements about their information collection practices must be accurate and complete. The FTC will continue to monitor these Internet sites and bring enforcement actions when it's appropriate. GeoCities should be commended for stepping forward and agreeing to undertake important privacy protections for consumers. I hope that other Web sites will follow GeoCities' lead in implementing these protections."

Through this registration process, GeoCities created a database that included e-mail and postal addresses, member interest areas, and demographics including income, education, gender, marital status and occupation, the FTC said. According to the agency, this information created target markets for advertisers and resulted in disclosure of personal identifying information of children and adults to third-party marketers.

Privacy groups have continued putting pressure on the U.S. government to pass privacy legislation to ensure that fair information practices are enforceable, especially in light of the EU Privacy Directive that goes into effect this October. Under the Directive, the failure of sites to meet the requirements for privacy protection may result in a prohibition against the sites from doing business in EU member states.

For more information on online privacy visit:

[11] Upcoming GILC Conference in Brussels, 9/98, Ottowa 10/98

GILC in cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Hungarian Human Rights Center, is coordinating a conference on The Outlook for Freedom, Privacy and Civil Society on the Internet in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Outlook for Freedom conference will take place in Budapest, Hungary from September 4th-6th, 1998. The goal of the conference is to bring together the human rights community, technology industry, and government leaders from around the world to explore the Internet's potential to promote civil society and the means for protecting freedom of expression and privacy issues in the new medium.

In addition to a series of seminars that will provide regarding the Internet's role in sustaining a civil society, preserving freedom, and protecting privacy, technical training on Internet use will be offered to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Registration information is on the GILC site at:

GILC and Privacy International will also hold a conference, The Public Voice in the Development of Internet Policy, in Ottawa, Canada. October 7, 1998.


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