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GILC Alert
Volume 4, Issue 1

January 24, 2000


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] DVD consortium to ban Net discussions
[2] Australian webpage flees government censorship
[3] China may ban Windows 2000
[4] Haiti's Internet is back
[5] Israeli rabbis prohibit Internet use
[6] Possible Russian webpage restrictions
[7] Artist and ISP sue U.S. government, claim censorship
[8] US proposal: ban drug information on Web

Privacy and Encryption

[9] Thief steals 300,000 credit card numbers off Net
[10] US unveils new crypto rules
[11] New Zealand government admits to ECHELON participation
[12] Microsoft & Netscape browser security flawed
[13] EU sues countries over privacy protections
[14] US government recruits hackers
[15] New FTC Web privacy panel forming
[16] Dutch politician: Criminalize anonymous web-surfing
[17] EPIC report: E-businesses provide little privacy

Related GILC News

[18] New GILC members

[1] DVD consortium to ban Net discussions

Several new lawsuits threaten to stamp out technical discussions on the Internet.

One lawsuit was filed in California by the Digital Video Disc Content Control Association (DVD CCA), an ad hoc group which purportedly represents members of the DVD industry. The Association directed its attack against individuals who had provided links to (or had published) information about the DVD Content Scrambling System (CSS) on the World Wide Web. The posted information had been collected to help users with Linux operating systems play DVDs on their computer. The consortium claimed that these actions amounted to a breach of intellectual property law.

In response, the Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC) issued a member statement which decried the consortium's actions. In this statement, the cyberliberties coalition noted that the lawsuit "may have a harmful impact on free expression", and that "the information that the programmers posted is legal." In the statement, the signatories expressed the belief that "the DVD CCA is using intellectual property laws to subvert free speech in cyberspace."

The judge presiding over this case has issued a preliminary injunction, which prevents the defendant programmers from continuing Internet discussions of DVD standards.

In addition, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), another group which represents many major entertainment conglomerates (including Time Warner, Disney, and 20th Century Fox) has sued on similar grounds. The MPAA scored a victory on January 20, where a judge in New York forbid programmers from even providing links to webpages containing the contested material. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF--a GILC member), which represents the defendants in both the DVD CCA and MPAA cases, deplored the judge's ruling in a press release, noting that "the industry continues to inappropriately label speech about the technical insecurity of DVD as if it involved stealing digital copies of movies." EFF's Co-founder, John Gilmore, warned that the decision was "a major wake up call for the $30 billion Linux community". He also pointed out that if the ruling stands, "it will become illegal to build open source products that can interoperate and/or compete with proprietary ones for displaying copyrighted content."

To see a copy of the GILC member statement, visit

People interested in signing the statement should e-mail:

For more on the California ruling, see

To see EFF's press release on the New York ruling, visit

For a "Journalist's Fact Sheet" on these cases (compiled by supporters of inter-operability), see

For a copy of the DVD CCA's complaint,

Further coverage of the New York case is available from Jeff Howe, "DVD Hackers Take a Hit in NY", Wired News, January 21, 2000, at,1283,33816,00.html

[2] Australian webpage flees government censorship

The Australian government's new Internet content controls have forced at least one organization to move its website out of the country.

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA--a GILC member) has shifted its website over to a server in the United States. In the words of EFA webmaster Greg Taylor, "We don't want to feel restrained by what we write." He further noted that "Although we don't believe we have published anything that might be deemed illegal, our site could well contain material with adult themes, which requires an adult verification system to be implemented."

Taylor was referring to new Australian Internet laws that took effect on January 1, 2000. These laws create a complaint-based regime that, depending on the circumstances, would screen out websites based on film guidelines. Adult theme websites, which are defined to include "verbal references to ...suicide, crime, corruption, martial problems, emotional trauma, drug and alcohol dependency, death and serious illness, racism, [or] religious issues", would be likely candidates for censure. EFA had previously savaged these regulations as an "onerous" burden on free speech.

For EFA's press release on this subject, visit

For more details, see Roulla Yiacoumi, "EFA moves Website to US", Newswire, December 22, 1999, at

[3] China may ban Windows 2000

The Communist Chinese government may bar use of Windows 2000, according to a recent report.

Indeed, an official in China's Ministry of Information Industry has admitted to advising citizens to use domestic software, rather than Microsoft products. According to an article published in the Yangcheng Evening News, Chinese agencies would use a variant of Linux in lieu of Windows. The state-run Chinese Academy of Sciences has apparently developed a "Red Flag-Linux" operating system that has attracted considerable interest from other government agencies. An Academy director suggested that these moves were due to concerns over possible security flaws in Microsoft operating systems.

Meanwhile, several spokespeople from both Microsoft and the Chinese government have refused to confirm these reports of a Windows moratorium.

For further information, see "China to Ban Windows 2000?",, January 6, 2000, at

[4] Haiti's Internet is back

Much of Haiti has returned to the on-line world.

Several months ago, thousands of Internet users in the Caribbean nation lost access to the so-called "Information Superhighway". The shutdown was due to a dispute between the Haitian government and Alpha Network Communications (ACN). ACN had been Haiti's first and largest provider of Internet access. The national telephone monopoly, Telecommunications d'Haiti (also known as Teleco) and the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) had claimed ACN was illegally selling international telephone cards and providing international telephone service. ACN vigorously contested these charges, and many experts perceived the government's moves as an attempt to silence dissent and consolidate power.

Eventually, Justice Minister Camille Leblanc mediated a settlement between the two sides. Under the agreement, the government rescinded its main charge, and ACN was allowed to resume Internet operations.

For further details, read "Haitian ISP gets reconnected", Reuters, December 27, 1999, at

[5] Israeli rabbis prohibit Internet use

Key religious figures in Israel have banned their followers from using the Internet at home.

Several orthodox rabbis have issued strong edicts against forays into cyberspace. These commandments are based on the fear that the so-called "Information Superhighway" may subvert traditionally held Jewish views. The Council of Torah Sages voiced their belief that the Internet was the purveyor of "sin and abomination". It even went so far as to describe computer networks as "the world's leading cause of temptation".

This is not the first time the Council has ruled out the use of modern communication mediums. Thirty years ago, the Sages prohibited their followers from watching television. However, it is likely that most Israelis will use the Internet in spite of these decrees.

For more information, see Alan Philps, "Internet threat to Israel, say rabbis", Telegraph (UK), January 8, 2000.

[6] Possible Russian webpage restrictions

The Russian government is trying to tighten its grip on the Internet.

Last week an anonymous source from within Russian government admitted that to new scheme, in which all webpages that have been updated no less than once a year would be considered mass media. Under this system, the proprietors of such "mass media" pages would be forced to pay fees and comply with a confusing maze of stringent regulations.

Additionally, Leonid Reitman, the Russian minister of communication and information, has announced plans for a state-run system for issuing domain names. Previously, Reitman had expressed the view that the Russian government had the right to close "bad sites", and force mandatory licensing of websites.

Not surprisingly, several cyber-liberties groups have expressed apprehension over these plans, including Human Rights Network, Russia (a GILC member). It remains to be seen just how these new schemes will affect free speech in cyberspace.

To see the proposed Internet mass media regulations (in Russian), visit

For more details on possible Russian domain name restrictions, see

For the Human Rights Network's homepage (in Russian), visit

[7] Artist and ISP sue U.S. government, claim censorship

U.S. law enforcement officials pressured an Internet Service Provider (ISP) into censoring controversial materials, according to papers filed in a recent lawsuit.

These developments occurred after video artist Mike Zieper posted one of his works on the Internet. Zieper, who is also known as "Mike Z", filmed "Military Takeover" to document public fears of Y2K disasters. The movie was made in the style of Orson Welles' broadcast of "War of the Worlds", in that the film purported to be a news story, but was completely fictitious. Afterwards, agents from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. District Attorney's office told web host Mark Wieger to remove the offending website, suggesting that they had the right to do so due to security concerns.

Zieper and Wieger later sued the several U.S. officials, claiming that their right to free speech had been violated. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU--a GILC member), which represented the two men, charged "that [U.S.] government agents engaged in an officially sanctioned 'policy and practice' of suppressing constitutionally protected speech and due process rights when they sought to censor the film." The ensuing case may lead to court decrees as well as financial penalties against both the FBI and the U.S. District Attorney's office.

To see the ACLU's press release on this subject, visit

[8] US proposal: ban drug information on Web

A new bill in the United States would make it illegal to provide information on the Internet about drugs.

Among other things, the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 would make it "unlawful for any person ... to distribute by any means information pertaining to ... the manufacture or use of a controlled substance". Violators would face up to ten years in prison, as well as steep fines.

Critics have already deplored the bill, believing that it might chill public discussion of important issues. Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU--a GILC member) noted the Act "will criminalize protected free speech. It would throw in jail persons who merely talk about controlled substances even when they are describing legal conduct". Steinhardt further suggested that if the proposal is enacted, "it will become the subject of a powerful constitutional challenge."

For further information, see David Noack, "Bill Would Outlaw Internet Drug Information",, December 20, 1999, at

[9] Thief steals 300,000 credit card numbers off Net

A cyberthief has stolen 300,000 credit card numbers by breaking into the database of a major on-line retailer.

The scam artist, who is rumored to be somewhere in eastern Europe, penetrated the files of CD Universe, an American firm that sells compact discs over the Internet. After gathering the sensitive financial information of the company's customers, the intruder then tried to blackmail the company into paying him $100,000 US. When CD Universe refused, the thief began to reveal credit card information on the World Wide Web. The swindler has also claimed to have used some of the files to get money for his own purposes.

The United States law enforcement officials are now searching for the would-be blackmailer. However, the case has raised serious concerns over the way Internet companies handle their customers' personal information.

For further information, see John Markoff, "Thief Reveals Credit Card When Web Extortion Plot Fails", New York Times, January 10, 2000, page A1.

See also Chris Oakes, "Crack Exposes Holes in the Web", Wired News, January 11, 2000, at,1282,33563,00.html

[10] US unveils new crypto rules

The U.S. government has issued draft regulations that may ease restrictions on the sale of computer encryption software.

The new rules would relax barriers on the export of crypto to all but a handful of countries. American companies will now be able to sell their data-scrambling technology to customers in nearly every part of the globe. Previously, the U.S. banned the overseas shipment of encryption software stronger than 56 bits. The revised regime partially lifts this ban. However, restrictions will remain in place in regard to certain types of software. Furthermore, many types of encryption products will be subject to stringent reporting requirements.

Experts have been lukewarm in their response to these changes. Several GILC members, including the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), issued a joint press release on the subject. In their statement, the cyberliberties groups said that the "new encryption export regulations released by the U.S. Commerce Department fall short of the Clinton Administration's promise to deregulate the privacy-enhancing technology." Among other criticisms, the statement suggested that the reporting provisions might chill free speech on the Internet. The three organizations noted that "While the new regulations appear to permit free posting of encryption source code to Internet discussion lists, such posting may be illegal if the poster has 'reason to know' that it will be read by a person in one of the seven regulated countries (such as Cuba)."

A copy of the draft regulations can be seen at

For more information, see Ted Bridis, "Encryption Rules Unveiled",, January 12, 2000, at

For the ACLU's comments on encryption, visit

[11] New Zealand government admits to ECHELON participation

The New Zealand government has formally admitted to cooperating in a global surveillance system.

New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service (SIS) has stated that other nations have been utilizing its bases to gather information. SIS went on to justify this arrangement by saying that its "facilities are useful to and are accessible by the intelligence of New Zealand's intelligence partners." The Pacific nation previously had been rumored to be a part of a massive automated surveillance network known as ECHELON. ECHELON's other member nations purportedly include the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Several key politicians in New Zealand are now calling for further inquiries. Keith Locke of the Green Party voiced concerns "that foreign intelligence agencies are being allowed direct access to intercept" from SIS facilities. SIS contested these claims, saying that the New Zealand maintains control over all intercepted material.

For more details, visit "Calls for inquiry into spy bases", ONE News, December 28, 1999, at

[12] Microsoft & Netscape browser security flawed

Two of the most popular Internet browsers are apparently riddled with security weaknesses.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Communicator each have idiosyncrasies which render their users vulnerable to invasions of privacy. In the case of Internet Explorer, one flaw allows would-be snoops to scan through files on a user's hard drive. Other loopholes would let criminals alter settings on another network's server. Netscape's security woes apparently allow web site operators to see users' personal information as it is typed in.

Netscape is still investigating these problems; Microsoft is now offering new programs designed to fix the flaws in its Internet Explorer.

For further information, see Paul Festa, "Microsoft, Netscape facing browser bugs",, December 13, 1999, at

[13] EU sues countries over privacy protections

The European Union (EU) will sue several countries to force the enactment of stronger privacy laws.

France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg will face charges that they failed to comply with the EU's Data Protection Directive. The Directive provides individuals with a bundle of rights with which to protect their personal information. Under this system, citizens have the right to know when disclosures are made about them, particularly in regard to such things as credit ratings and political leanings.

These moves raise the specter of potential EU action against the United States. The European Union had previously sought stronger rules in the U.S. regarding the dissemination of personal data. The Directive prevents such data from being sent to countries deemed by the EU to have inadequate privacy protections. Officials from both the U.S. and the EU are hoping to have a compromise agreement by March.

For additional information, see "EU takes five states to court over Internet privacy", Reuters, January 11, 2000, at

See also Thomas Weyr, "Stalled US-EU Privacy Negotiations Set New March Deadline", DM News, January 12, 2000, at

[14] US government recruits hackers

The U.S. government is looking for a few good hackers.

The U.S. Space Command is developing new ways to sabotage enemy computers. These attack plans are scheduled to be completed by October, and would target critical systems such as air defense networks. However, even senior officials within the U.S military were unclear as to the proper scope and possible effects of these efforts.

In addition, President Clinton has proposed the creation of a Federal Cyber Service. This new agency would recruit the brightest computer science students to work for the U.S. government. These programmers would then help protect against computer attacks from terrorists or foreign governments.

For further information, see Declan McCullagh, "A'Hacking the Military Will Go", Wired News, January 5, 2000, at,1294,33443,00.html

See also Greg Miller, "Reno to Discuss Plan to Bolster Efforts Against Cyber-Crime", Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2000, at

[15] New FTC Web privacy panel forming

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is creating a new committee to explore on-line privacy issues.

According to its official press release, this Advisory Committee on Online Access and Security will consider "the parameters of reasonable access to personal information and adequate security to protect such information". Furthermore, this new group will prepare "a written report presenting options for implementation of these fair information practices and the costs and benefits of each option."

The first meeting of this panel is scheduled for February 4, and is supposed to conclude its work no later than May 31.

For the FTC's press release, see

[16] Dutch politician: Criminalize anonymous web-surfing

Want to protect your privacy on the Internet? Try telling that to Oussama Cherribi.

Cherribi, a Dutch Member of Parliament, has stated that "Anonymous web surfing should be a criminal offense, and unlimited anonymity should become a penal offense." His remarks were apparently in response to an announcement by Internet service provider XS4ALL (a GILC member). The provider has decided to participate in Freedom, a project run by Zero Knowledge Systems designed to protect user privacy through a complex series of measures that includes encryption and server re-routing. Cherribi even went so far as to suggest that XS4ALL's actions might violate state security.

For more information (in Dutch), see Joris Evers, "VVD: 'Anonimiteit op internet moet strafbaar worden'", WebWereld, December 16, 1999, at

For an English summary (written in part by Ted Byfield of nettime, courtesy of Ulf Moller and Axel Horns), see "Anonymous web-surfing should be a criminal offense", Bitbucket, January 7, 2000 at

XS4ALL's home page is located at:

[17] EPIC report: E-businesses provide little privacy

According to a new report, many dot-com companies don't do a very good job of protecting their customers' privacy.

The report was recently issued by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC--a GILC member). As part of its investigation, EPIC looked at "100 of the most popular shopping websites on the Internet", including Amazon and Ebay and many others. Specifically, the project involved studying how these websites handled personal information and the policies they followed, if any, for protecting this data.

EPIC discovered that while many websites provided privacy statements, few companies actually honored their promises to the letter. The report noted that virtually every website surveyed collected personal information about their users, and most of these firms used various techniques to track customers. Furthermore, EPIC found many privacy policies to be "confusing, incomplete and inconsistent", a problem which "might frustrate consumers who are trying to determine which websites provide the best privacy protection."

EPIC's survey, "Surfer Beware III: Privacy Policies Without Privacy Protection", can be seen at:

[18] New GILC members

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign welcomes two new members into the fold: Austrian VIBE and NaST.

Austrian VIBE (Verein der Internet Benutzer, meaning Internet User Group) has been involved with several campaigns to support freedom of expression and privacy rights in cyberspace. They have fought strenuously against government intrusive measures such as ENFOPOL. Additionally, they have helped sponsor various events such as the Austrian Big Brother Awards to spotlight some of the biggest threats to individual privacy in the information age. VIBE has also collaborated with several other GILC members, including quintessenz and FITUG, to support "Free Software for a Free World", a campaign to protect free speech from the abuses of intellectual property law.

NaST (Japanese Net workers Against Surveillance Taskforce) is the first member of GILC from the Land of the Rising Sun. Over the past few years, the group has led the fight against various proposals which might unnecessarily expand the Japanese government's reach into cyberspace. NaST also has sponsored several events to educate the public about various Internet liberty issues.

Austrian VIBE's home page (in German) is located at

For more information about NaST and their fight against new wiretap laws (in Japanese), visit


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