GILC Actions 



 Free Speech 





 GILC Alert 

 Mailing List
 GILC Events 




 Mail GILC 

Home Page

US Site
European Mirror


GILC Alert
Volume 6, Issue 3

April 22, 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] Vietnam jails 3 over web articles
[2] US Supreme Court strikes down virtual images ban
[3] European Parliament rejects Net blocking
[4] Cuba reportedly bans computer sales
[5] Spanish LSSI bill provokes Net speech worries
[6] New report warns against Australian Net censor proposal
[7] Controversial crippleware bill finally unveiled
[8] Bahrain gov't censors opposition webpages
[9] New Chinese rules against "sensational" Net reporting
[10] ICANN faces more criticism, lawsuit
[11] Google Scientology weblinks controversy
[12] BT weblinks lawsuit runs into trouble
[13] Swedish newspaper site fined for chatboard comments
[14] Indian gov't plans ID-based web restrictions
[15] Study: most of world's population still offline


[16] US gov't holds off regulation of Verichip implant trackers
[17] New Japanese Net tapping case renews privacy fears
[18] Yahoo, Ebay privacy policy moves spark criticism
[19] New Zealand plan would mandate spyware installations
[20] D.I.R.T. spyware endangers Net privacy
[21] US gov't keylogging case ends without disclosure
[22] New Windows Media Player spies on users
[23] Big Brother Awards ceremonies held in UK, US
[24] EFF picks 3 new Pioneer Awards winners

[25] New GILC member: TEA (Hungary)

[1] Vietnam jails 3 over web articles

Son Hong Pham allegedly wrote and translated various pro-democracy papers that were then posted on the Information Superhighway. Vietnamese authorities had initially questioned him on this subject and confiscated various personal items, including computer equipment and numerous documents. When the government denied his requests to reclaim his belongings, he posted an open letter on the Internet to protest their decision. Subsequently, Vietnamese officials threw him in prison; no trial date has been announced yet.

Meanwhile, the government is keeping at least two other online dissidents behind bars. Tran Khue, a scholar and anti-corruption activist, had posted a letter on the Internet that called on Chinese leader Jiang Zemin to reassess portions of various Chinese-Vietnamese treaties. He was later placed under house arrest by Vietnamese authorities, and local police seized a number of his possessions, including his computer, cell phones and several papers. Meanwhile, Le Chi Quang, a computer instructor, was accused of passing along "dangerous information" across borders, and has been sent to a detention camp in northern Vietnam. This came not long after the online appearance of "Beware of the Northern Empire"-an essay he wrote that described the political environment in which the aforementioned treaties were signed.

The arrests have drawn strong protests from free speech advocates. Robert Menard, the general secretary of Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), said that the arrest of Son Hong Pham, "the third in just over a month, is a callous confirmation of the Vietnamese authorities' intention to censure freedom of expression on the Internet." Similar concerns have been expressed by other groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ-a GILC member), which has issued a letter condemning the Vietnamese government for its "efforts to silence individuals who criticize official policies."

An RSF statement regarding the three arrested dissidents is available at

The CPJ letter is posted at

[2] US Supreme Court strikes down virtual images ban

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a law against computerized images that are mere figments of the imagination is unconstitutional.

The case involved the so-called Child Pornography Protection Act (CPPA), which included a strict ban on any image that "appears to be" or "conveys the impression" of someone under 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. This ban applied even in instances where no model was used and the given picture was completely fictitious. The CPPA had drawn heavy fire from free speech advocates, who have argued that law essentially punishes thought.

The Supreme Court agreed with these advocates and ruled that the Act violated the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. In particular, the Court was troubled by the fact that the CPPA "prohibits speech despite its serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The statute proscribes the visual depiction of an idea-that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity-that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature throughout the ages." The Court suggested that the Act's broad language could cover such works as "a Renaissance painting depicting a scene from classical mythology," a picture in a psychology manual, as well as numerous films, including "Traffic," "American Beauty" and many adaptations of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". In short, the statute was unconstitutional because it abridged "the freedom to engage in a substantial amount of lawful speech."

The text of the Court's decision is available under

An ACLU press release regarding this case is posted at

[3] European Parliament rejects Net blocking

European politicians have voted against blocking access to websites as an effective way to regulate Internet content.

Earlier this month, the European Parliament approved a resolution (460 to 0, with 3 abstentions) stating that parents and legal guardians should be primarily responsible for protecting children online. The governing body also expressed concern over efforts to block user access to various questionable sites, saying that such moves could fragment cyberspace and prevent people from being able to view non-controversial online content.

The decision has been met with applause from cyberliberties groups and industry leaders. Louisa Gosling, president of the European Internet Service Providers Association, said that her group was "very pleased that the Parliament has come out strongly against blocking, which is not only a technically disastrous solution, but also raises significant free speech and democratic concerns."

Indeed, the EP vote came soon after attempts in several European states to block offensive Internet content were met with scorn and derision. In Switzerland, several of the country's biggest Internet service providers (ISPs) accidentally denied access to websites hosted by a foreign competitor; ironically, the intended target, a neo-Nazi portal, had already disappeared from the World Wide Web. Many individuals and organizations, including the Swiss Internet User Group (SIUG-a GILC member), contended that the incident was further evidence of how Internet blocking could cause serious "collateral damage" to freedom of expression online. Meanwhile, in Germany, the local government of Dusseldorf is trying force ISPs to prevent users from reaching selected foreign sites. In protest, a coalition of groups and politicians, including the Chaos Computer Club (CCC-a GILC member), launched street demonstrations and a petition drive to defend free speech along the Information Superhighway.

An SIUG press release regarding blocking attempts by Swiss Internet service providers is posted under

For more on protests against Dusseldorf Internet blocking initiatives, visit the CCC website under

Additional information regarding the EP resolution is available via

Further background information is available from the European Parliament's website under

See Joris Evers, "European Parliament says no to Web site blocking," IDG News, April 12, 2002 at,1212,NAV47_STO70 115-,00.html

Read Tim Richardson, "Europe elbows Internet content 'blocking'," The Register (UK), April 11, 2002 at

For press coverage in German (Deutsch), read Stefan Krempl, "EU-Parlament gegen Webzensur und Site-Sperrung," Heise Online, April 12, 2002 at

[4] Cuba reportedly bans computer sales

For years, Cuba has limited the ability of its citizens to express themselves online. Now Cuban authorities have apparently gone a step further by barring nearly all sales of computers.

While details are still somewhat sketchy, several sources have indicated that the Cuban government has issued a new directive making it illegal to sell "computers, offset printer equipment, mimeographs, photocopiers, and any other mass printing medium, as well as their parts, pieces and accessories." The ban apparently covers sales to "natural born citizens" as well as "associations, foundations, civic and nonprofit societies." The directive reportedly goes on to mention that the Ministry of Internal Commerce may make exceptions in cases "where the acquisition of this equipment or parts, pieces and accessories is indispensable."

Cuban government spokespeople have given few straight answers when asked about the new rule. For example, after a reporter queried whether computer sales to the public were banned in Cuba, one official responded: "If we didn't have an embargo, there could be computers for everybody." However, several observers have suggested that the measure is designed to silence criticism of Cuba's leaders, especially through the Internet. Marta Roque from the Cuban Institute of Independent Economists, explained out that the government "knew that dissidents were buying computers and constructing Web sites." Even before the ban, individuals in Cuba who wished to speak freely online had faced numerous obstacles, including access restrictions, blocking of anti-government websites, surveillance and possible jail sentences.

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

See Thembi Mutch, "Cuba's PC dilemma," BBC News Online, April 6, 2002 at

Read Julia Scheeres, "Cuba Bans PC Sales to Public," Wired News, March 25, 2002 at,1294,51270,00.html

[5] Spanish LSSI bill provokes Net speech worries

Many politicians and cyberlibertarians have denounced a Spanish proposal that they say will seriously erode human rights on the Internet.

The LSSI bill (short for La Ley de Servicios de la Sociedad de la Informacion y de Comercio electronico) would essentially allow a "competent administrative authority" within the government to shut down websites unilaterally--a power that until now required court approval. The proposal's vague definitions would allow the Spanish officials to close sites for a wide variety of reasons, including economic factors (i.e. the site's owner uses the web for profit but don't pay any taxes) and public security reasons. Spanish government officials already have signaled that they plan to use these broad powers to control content along the Information Superhighway.

The bill has drawn heavy fire from opponents based on its potentially damaging impact on civil liberties (particularly freedom of speech). These critics have pointed out that although the LSSI proposal includes language stating that the act will not be used against Constitutionally protected civil rights, it does not require any specific measures be taken to prevent possible abuse.

The text of the LSSI bill (in PDF format) is available under

See "La oposicion denuncia que la Ley de Internet es inconstitucional e intervencionista," El Pais, April 11, 2002 at

[6] New report warns against Australian Net censor proposal

A new comparative law study has raised public concern over an Australian state proposal to restrict Internet content.

The project, which was performed by Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA-a GILC member), compared a Net censor bill currently being considered by the government of New South Wales (NSW) with Internet speech laws in other countries. The bill would make it a crime to provide online information deemed unsuitable for children, even if the information was only made available to adults. The legislation also contained procedural rules (including a shift in the burden of proof to defendants in Internet cases) that might lead to harsher treatment of online artists than their offline counterparts.

After extensive research, EFA was "unable to find any indication that any country broadly comparable to Australia (in terms of democratic political systems and cultures) has, or intends to introduce, Internet censorship laws as restrictive as the provisions of the NSW Bill, nor as restrictive as existing Commonwealth legislation. While numerous countries have laws of general application applicable to Internet content such as child pornography or incitement to racial hatred, they do not prohibit or otherwise restrict provision of 'matter unsuitable for minors' on the Internet." Moreover, the report found a great deal of evidence that demonstrated "the ineffectiveness of national censorship laws to protect children (or adults) on the Internet."

EFA had initiated the study in response to a request from NSW parliamentary leaders. According to EFA Executive Director Irene Graham, it is now likely that the proposal's language will be changed: "We're hoping they decide to just disappear this bill into the wide blue yonder... but I'd be very surprised if they don't at least recommend amendments to it."

The EFA report is posted under

See Kate Mackenzie, "Censor laws 'in their own world'," Australian IT, April 3, 2002 at,7204,4063481^15306^^nbv^,00.html

[7] Controversial crippleware bill finally unveiled

After months of speculation, a United States politician has introduced a bill that critics say will jeopardize free speech online.

The proposal, submitted by U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings, would force the installation of copy protection routines within new consumer electronic products. Under this scheme, within a year of the bill's passage, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission would start a process to require the implementation of anti-copying "security system standards." According to various legal experts, the bill's broad definition of "digital media devices" could cover a wide variety of hardware items (from high definition television sets to cellular phones) as well as software. The proposal would also force interactive computer services to implement such security standards for any copyright material stored or transmitted through their networks and ban the sale or trafficking of "nonconforming digital media devices." Moreover, the bill would essentially make it a crime to "knowingly remove or alter any standard security technology" or to "knowingly ... make available to the public any copyrighted material where the security measure associated with a standard security technology has been removed or altered, without the authority of the copyright owner." Violators could face jail time and heavy fines.

The so-called "crippleware" bill (officially titled The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act) is already receiving a hostile reception from a variety of groups, ranging from electronics makers to cyberliberties organizations. One concern is that proposal will not provide sufficient protection for the ability of individuals to make legitimate use of copyrighted works; Joe Kraus of warned that the proposal "allows Hollywood to pursue a policy of taking away consumers' fair use rights." In addition, Robin Gross from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) argued that the bill "would basically give Hollywood veto power over the design of new technologies." Several industry trade groups have also come out against the proposal, including the Information Technology Association of America and the Business Software Alliance. These concerns have led at least one politician, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, to express his opposition to the measure. Meanwhile, a nearly identical bill may soon be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The text of the Hollings bill is available under

Read "Net users out to sink anti-piracy bill," Reuters, April 10, 2002 at

See Brad King, "Slagging Over Sagging CD Sales," Wired News, April 17, 2002 at,1294,51880,00.html

Read Mike Musgrove, "Hollings Proposes Copyright Defense," Washington Post, March 22, 2002, page E3 at

See also Declan McCullagh, "Anti-Copy Bill Slams Coders," Wired News, March 22, 2002 at,1294,51274,00.html

For coverage in German (Deutsch), read Florian Rotzer, "Kopierschutztechnik in alle digitalen Gerate," Heise Telepolis, March 22, 2002 at

[8] Bahrain gov't censors opposition webpages

Bahrain officials have barred access to a number of websites in advance of local and national elections.

Reports indicate that the list of targeted groups includes several organizations, such as the British-based Bahrain Freedom Movement, that are opposed to the current government regime. Bahrain's Information Minister, Nabeel Yacoub al-Hamer, stated that while he and fellow government officials "welcome and are open for criticism, ... we don't accept offences or inciting sectarian strife." The Ministers' statement was an apparent reference to the fact that Bahrain's ruling family and the majority of the kingdom's population come from different religious sects.

The move came as the country prepares for elections within the next few months. One opposition spokesperson charged that this act of censorship "stains the good image of Bahrain," and demanded that the ban be lifted. However, Yacoub al-Hamer has said that the restrictions will stay in place, at least until the contents of the sites in question are altered.

See "Bahrain blocks opposition websites," BBC News Online, March 26, 2002 at

The Bahrain Freedom Movement homepage is located at

[9] New Chinese rules against "sensational" Net reporting

Authorities in mainland China have issued a new set of legal directives that may further chill free speech online.

The Chinese government has issued new guidelines that, among other things, bar press coverage of several issues. Chinese officials discouraged reporting on such subjects as Taiwan, AIDS outbreaks and racial tensions. Beijing also warned journalists not to propagate Western perspectives and values, disclose internal government information, encourage people to sue ruling party leaders or write sensational articles. The rules were contained in a report that specifically criticized members of the press for posting news items on the Information Superhighway.

The commandments represent just the latest in a series of moves by mainland Chinese authorities to stifle dissent over the Internet. Indeed, the new regime reiterates some of the points made by past Chinese speech restrictions. For example, private websites cannot publish "news" about high-ranking Chinese officials or their families without prior approval from the government. In addition, all reports on important official policies are required to use standardized language provided by the state Xinhua news agency.

Read "Beijing reins in media with new rules," Straits Times, February 25, 2002 at

[10] ICANN faces more criticism, lawsuit

The organization tasked with running the Internet domain name system is facing added criticism and even a lawsuit over its inner workings.

Many observers have savaged a decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) not to hold public elections. The decision was made at a March 2002 meeting in Ghana, where ICANN's Board of Directors passed a resolution that failed to set a date for a new electoral cycle. The measure simply suggested that Internet users should self-organize, without explicitly providing for direct participation in ICANN decision-making through voting. Moreover, the resolution suggested that ICANN should be reorganized along the lines of proposals such as the one espoused by the organization's President, M. Stuart Lynn. Lynn has pushed a scheme that would, among other things, permanently eliminate ICANN At-Large public elections. Rob Courtney from the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT-a GILC member) said his group "was disappointed and genuinely disheartened by the board's continued failure to commit itself to public representation," adding that ICANN had refused "to take what we thought were relatively reasonable steps to ensure public participation on the board."

The Lynn proposal, which had been publicly released in late February 2002, has received particularly strong condemnation from around the world. A coalition of Japanese non-profit organizations, labor unionists, academics and reporters issued a joint statement arguing that the scheme "wipes out all the efforts made over the last couple of years to realize a global democracy on ICANN issues." European domain name registrars have also expressed their vehement disapproval of the plan. In addition, several ranking United States Congressmen issued a letter charging that proposals such as the Lynn plan "will make ICANN even less democratic, open, and accountable than it is today," and that ICANN management should not be allowed "to retreat on any future prospects for open, democratic, private sector-led management of certain limited technical Internet functions." The U.S. Congress now plans to hold oversight hearings on this subject.

Meanwhile, ICANN is being sued by one of its own publicly elected Board members. Karl Auerbach, who is being represented in this action by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member), alleges that the domain management body has violated California laws, as well as its own rules, by restricting his access to ICANN corporate records.

An EFF press release on the Auerbach lawsuit is available under 18_eff_icann_pr.html

See "Net body sued by own official," BBC News Online, March 20, 2002 at
The text of the aforementioned ICANN resolution is posted at

Read David McGuire, "Lawmakers Criticize Net Governance Restructuring Plan," Newsbytes, March 14, 2002 at

See also Declan McCullagh, "Congress to Enter ICANN Fray," Wired News, March 14, 2002 at,1294,51041,00.html

The Japanese statement opposing the Lynn proposal is available under

For German (Deutsch) coverage of protests from European domain registries against the Lynn proposal, see "RIPE an ICANN: Selbstverwaltung ist machbar," Heise Online, March 4, 2002 at

[11] Google Scientology weblinks controversy

Faced with legal threats, one of the world's most popular Internet search engines took down, then partially restored links to a website that protests a controversial religious organization.

The site in question, contains materials that criticize the Church of Scientology. A lawyer representing the Scientologists sent a letter to Google claiming that's activities violated the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and demanded that the search engine remove any links to the site. At first, Google complied with the Church's demand and deleted links to numerous Xenu-related webpages. However, at least some of the listings reappeared on Google several days later.Free speech advocates have expressed concern over this apparent attempt to silence online criticism through claims of copyright infringement. Robin Gross from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) noted that the Google controversy was not the first time this had happened: "A lot of the cases using copyright to quell critics are Church of Scientology cases."

For the latest details, see David McGuire, "Google Provides Scientology Warnings To Free Speech Site," Newsbytes, April 12, 2002 at

Read "Google restores Scientology links," Reuters, March 22, 2002 at

See Declan McCullagh, "Google Yanks Anti-Church Sites," Wired News, March 21, 2002 at,1294,51233,00.html

For coverage in German (Deutsch), see "Google hat Scientology-Kritiker wieder im Index," Heise Online, March 22, 2002 at

[12] BT weblinks lawsuit runs into trouble

An attempt by a major British conglomerate to establish intellectual property rights over all weblinks has hit a serious snag.

A Federal judge in the United States has issued a preliminary ruling that casts doubt on whether a British Telecom (BT) patent covers Internet linking technology. BT alleged that it possessed intellectual property rights over all weblinks, based on a patent it filed nearly thirty years ago. The communications giant is now attempting to collect licensing fees from American Internet service provider Prodigy. BT hopes that, pending a successful outcome in this case, it will be able launch more lawsuits in the hopes of amassing additional royalties.

However, Judge Colleen McMahon expressed misgivings about many of BT's arguments. For example, portions of her ruling suggest that BT's patent actually applies to centralized computer systems, rather than decentralized networks such as the Internet: "In this patent, the computer is a single device, in one location. It is referred to as 'central' because it is connected to numerous physically separate stations, called 'remote terminals,' by the telephone lines of a telephone network. So there is a computer, connected to many remote terminals."

Read Matt Loney, "BT hit with ruling in patent case," CNet News, March 14, 2002 at

The text of BT's patent is posted under
&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1='4873662'.WKU.&OS=PN/4873662&RS=PN/4 873662

[13] Swedish newspaper site fined for chatboard comments

A court ruling against Sweden's largest newspaper may have serious implications on Internet free speech.

AftonBladet republishes many articles from its print edition on its website. The site includes a chatboard feature allowing readers to post their own comments online. In October 2000, four user comments were posted to an AftonBladet chat area on the Middle East that allegedly contained neo-Nazi sentiments. Although the comments were quickly removed, a Swedish court nevertheless held the newspaper liable for violating national laws against hate speech, and fined the site's editor, Kalle Jungkvist.

A number of experts are worried that the verdict may have a detrimental impact on freedom of expression through the Information Superhighway. Specifically, the ruling sets a precedent allowing website operators to be punished for speech activities over which they have little or no control. Indeed, some observers believe that the decision will force unmoderated online chat areas, at least in Sweden, to shutdown for fear of liability.

Read Drew Cullen, "It's bloody hard to run a forum," The Register (UK), March 8, 2002 at

[14] Indian gov't plans ID-based web restrictions

Want to surf the web? Please show us your ID card first.

That's apparently the approach being suggested by a committee in India. The panel, which was created by the Mumbai High Court, has recommended a series of measures to prevent the viewing of controversial content. These measures include forcing cybercafe customers to show photo identification cards and retaining personal information about them. The committee also is urging such establishments to track their users' online activities, so that law enforcement agents can hunt them down. These recommendations could be adopted by the High Court within a month or so.

Opponents of the proposal fear that ordinary Internet users will be intimidated from participating in online discussions. One cybercafe owner complained that, should the panel's recommendations be implemented, "[e]ven those who want to just check their mails will think twice before entering my cafe. Nobody wants to share his personal details or telephone numbers with some stranger in a cafe."

See Manu Joseph, "Café Owners or Porn Police," Wired News, February 25, 2002 at,1294,50615,00.html

[15] Study: most of world's population still offline

Recent estimates suggest that less than ten percent of the world's population can log on to the Information Superhighway.

According to a survey by Nielsen NetRatings, approximately 500 million people worldwide have home Internet access. While this represents an increase from several months ago, it pales in comparison to the total number of people living on the planet, which stands at over 6 billion, according to United Nations estimates.

The same survey also indicated that the level of Internet penetration varies greatly from region to region. The number of Internet users in Canada and the United States together (over 191 million) still exceeds the number of users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa combined (around 134 million). Other geographical areas are even further behind; despite recent surges, Latin America's Internet population currently stands at a mere 20 million people.

Read Dick Kelsey, "Global Net Population At Half-Billion - NetRatings," Newsbytes, March 6, 2002 at

For more information from the United Nations concerning world populations statistics, click

[16] US gov't holds off regulation of Verichip implant trackers

A controversial biometric device that may allow children to be tracked via the Internet is one step closer to implementation.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided for the time being not to regulate Verichip. This device, manufactured by Applied Digital Systems (ADS), can carry individualized data (such as a person's name, current condition, medical records and unique identification number) and is designed to be imbedded under a person's skin. When a special external scanner is pointed at a Verichip, "a number is displayed by the scanner" and the stored information is transmitted "via telephone or Internet." The company is marketing its product for such purposes as "identification, various law enforcement and defense uses and search and rescue." ADS hopes to begin testing the device on a U.S. family, including a 14-year-old boy.

The FDA said that ADS does not need its approval to being implanting Verichips, so long as they are used for identification purposes. The FDA suggested that it might step in pending future developments; one agency spokesperson explained that "if they put medical records in, we would be concerned about the use." ADS now plans to issue Verichips that only contain identification numbers-a move that may still have serious privacy implications (such as the possible use of such numbers to collect and access massive personal information databases concerning affected individuals). Nor did the FDA specifically address concerns from several experts as to the practicality of the entire scheme.

See "US accepts 'Big Brother' chip implant," BBC News Online, April 4, 2002 at

See also "Company to Sell Implantable Chip," Associated Press, April 4, 2002 at

[17] New Japanese Net tapping case renews privacy fears

A new case has heightened public doubts over a relatively new Japanese wiretapping law

Enacted in August 2000, the statute allowed Japanese law enforcement officials to intercept various forms of communication, including private email messages. The law was highly controversial due to its apparently detrimental impact on individual privacy as well as its lack of procedural safeguards against abuse. Indeed, privacy advocates noted that the measure contained no restrictions on the use of these records for database purposes and no real restriction on the types of devices can be used for wiretapping (which some experts say will allow the unchecked use of unnecessarily intrusive surveillance tools).

Recently, the Japanese Metropolitan Police Department brought a case that highlighted the government's first use of the powers granted to it under the Wiretapping law. Japanese authorities intercepted mobile phone conversations and gained access to messages stored on a particular website as part of a criminal drug investigation. However, Japanese privacy groups have criticized this move for a variety of reasons, including the fact that wiretapping was not actually necessary in this particular instance. Moreover, these organizations have expressed disapproval over the government's use of surveillance for comparatively minor offenses, rather than exercising greater discretion and reserving such invasive powers for more serious crimes.

Read "Controversial wiretapping law nets first victims," Mainichi Shimbun, March 30, 2002 at

See "Wiretaps lead to first arrests," Asahi Shimbun, April 1, 2002 at

For further information on Japanese government Internet spying devices, click

[18] Yahoo, Ebay privacy policy moves spark criticism

Attempts by several major Internet companies to alter the way they handle personal information have drawn fire from consumer advocates.

For example, Internet portal giant Yahoo has revised its privacy policy, making it easier for the firm to give out customer data. Under these changes, among other things, Yahoo could give up personal information if it is bought out by another business; such information would be handled under the buyer's data handling rules, whatever those rules may be. In addition, Yahoo now is automatically assuming that its users want advertising from the company's many divisions; customers have 60 days to say otherwise.

Yahoo's changes come not long after Ebay tried to alter its main privacy policy. The redrafted statement would have permitted the company to overrule privacy statements it made elsewhere, even on other parts of the website ("If there is a conflict between the terms and conditions in this privacy policy and other privacy representations that may appear on our site ... you agree that the terms and conditions of this privacy policy shall control."). A number of privacy experts raised red flags over the amendment; Jason Catlett of Junkbusters complained: "It's unfair of companies to put up rosy pictures of their privacy practices in one place or in their PR materials, and then disclaim them in their fine print. This would have eroded consumer rights." Since then, Ebay has further revised the document, telling users to refer to its main privacy statement if they have any questions as to the company's personal data practices.

Meanwhile, a recent study indicates that the failure of corporations to provide sufficient protection for individual privacy is having a significant negative economic impact. The report, entitled "Privacy, Consumers, and Costs," suggests that "Internet retail sales lost due to privacy concerns may be as much as [U.S.] $18 billion. ... The privacy toll includes costs associated with higher prices, stopping junk mail and telemarketing calls, avoiding identity theft and protecting privacy on the Internet. A privacy sensitive family could spend between $200 and $300 and many hours annually to protect their privacy." The document goes on to suggest that "privacy cost studies sponsored by the business community suffer from a variety of defects," and that the "absence of privacy rules imposes expenses on businesses that many industry-sponsored studies ignore when calculating the costs of privacy."

Read Michelle Delio, "Yahoo's 'Opt-Out' Angers Users," Wired News, April 2, 2002 at,1294,51461,00.html

See Jim Hu, "Yahoo revises privacy policy," CNet News, March 28, 2002 at

For information in German (Deutsch), read "Unerwunschte Anrufe von Yahoo!?" Spiegel Online, April 3, 2002 at,1518,190058,00.html

Read Michael Bartlett, "Ebay Backs Down On Privacy Policy Clause," March 20, 2002 at

See also "EBay backs down on privacy charges," Associated Press, March 20, 2002 at,7204,3986889%5E15318%5E%5Enbv%5E, 00.html

"Privacy, Consumers, and Costs" is posted at

[19] New Zealand plan would mandate spyware installations

The government of New Zealand is drafting a proposal to force the installation of surveillance devices into computer networks.

The exact language of the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Bill has yet to be revealed. However, it will apparently force Internet service providers and other telecom companies to make their systems "interception-capable." The scheme would make it easier for government agents (such as the police, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau) to capture private emails and voice messages. Assuming the bill is approved, these standards would have to be implemented within a time window of 18 months to 5 years.

New Zealand Associate Minister of Justice Paul Swain claimed that the new legislation would bring his country "into line with legal requirements already in place in a number of different countries including the United States." Indeed, the general outlines of the bill bear a certain resemblance to the controversial U.S. Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which has been savaged by many privacy advocates.

Read Adam Creed, "New Zealand 'Interception' Laws To Cover ISPs," Newsbytes, March 21, 2002 at

See Kate Mackenzie, "ISPs forced to spy on email," Australian IT, March 22, 2002 at,7204,3999829%5E15306%5E%5Enbv%5E, 00.html

For further background on CALEA, visit the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member) website under

[20] DIRT spyware endangers Net privacy

Several documents have appeared regarding a secretive program that utilizes computer viruses to help spy on Internet users.

According to these documents, the Data Interception by Remote Transmission system (DIRT) works by sending the targeted person a virus that is hidden within an innocent-looking file, such as a Microsoft Word document or Excel spreadsheet. Once the virus enters the person's computer, it quietly monitors all keystrokes and transmits the information back to the attacker via email. The system has apparently been offered to several government agencies, including authorities in Ukraine, Egypt and the United States

The program is apparently similar to several other surveillance tools that are currently being developed. A couple months ago, the U.S. government confirmed that it was in the process of creating a new Magic Lantern Internet spy system that worked in virtually the same fashion as DIRT. Revelations about Magic Lantern have caused concern among politicians and cyberliberties experts over the device's potential impact on individual privacy.

See Thomas C. Greene, "Super DIRT Trojan to infect indiscriminately," The Register (UK), March 18, 2002 at

Read Kevin Poulsen, "D.I.R.T. Spyware Exposed on Web," Security Focus, March 14, 2002 at

For more on Magic Lantern, read Robert MacMillan, "Lawmaker Wants Magic Lantern Information From FBI," Newsbytes, January 14, 2002 at

[21] US gov't keylogging case ends without disclosure

The end of a closely watched case that involved a secret United States government surveillance technique has left many questions unanswered.

Nicodemo Scarfo is an alleged mobster who was targeted by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for wiretapping purposes. FBI agents decided to go beyond traditional surveillance methods and installed a device on the keyboard of Scarfo's home computer that apparently recorded every letter and character he typed. The exact nature and capabilities of these taps is unclear; at the behest of the presiding judge, the government provided the defense with only an unclassified summary of the keylogging method. The court later held that the government had broken no laws in using this technique, and refused to suppress any evidence gathered through its use. Eventually, Scarfo pled guilty as part of an arrangement with Federal authorities and no further information about the keylogging system were released.

David Sobel from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC-a GILC member) warned that the Scarfo episode "gave us the first glimpse of very sophisticated government investigative techniques that are likely to become more common. Increasingly, the courts are going to be confronted with the privacy and constitutional issues raised by the use of these advanced new techniques. What the Scarfo case shows is that the techniques are going to be classified, which makes a full examination of how they work much more difficult."

Further information on this case is available from the EPIC website under

Read "Plea turns legal heat off PC surveillance," Reuters, February 28, 2002 at

[22] New Windows Media Player spies on users

Recent research suggests that the newest version of Microsoft's Media Player logs information about its users' playing habits and transmits the data to the company's headquarters.

Security expert Richard M. Smith documented this tracking routine. Previously, he had discovered that early versions of Windows Media Player could send out unique digital identification markers over the Internet. Further investigations revealed that the latest edition, version 8, sends an analogous marker to Microsoft's website whenever a given user tries to read DVD chapter information on the person's computer. Microsoft then provides information on the particular DVD chapter and notes this in a log file stored on the user's machine. The corresponding Microsoft privacy policy does not mention this specific practice, although it does allude to a similar scheme regarding compact discs.

It is unclear whether this collection of data is illegal. Smith pointed out that the "Video Privacy Protection Act of the United States prevents video rental stores from using movie titles for direct marketing purposes. The letter of this law does not apply to Microsoft because they are not a video rental store. However, clearly the spirit of the law is that companies should not be using movie title information for marketing purposes." A Microsoft spokesperson has since claimed: "No personally identifying information is ever transferred to Microsoft as a result of DVD playback, and any information that is transferred cannot be combined with any other sources of information to identify users."

See Steven Bonisteel, "Privacy Watchdog Says Windows XP Software Logs DVD Play," Newsbytes, February 21, 2002 at

See also D. Ian Hopper, "Windows spies on musical taste," Associated Press, February 21, 2002 at,7204,3816902%5E15321%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html

[23] Big Brother Awards ceremonies held in UK, US

Privacy International (PI-a GILC member) recently held its Big Brother Awards in Britain and the United States. These prizes are designed to publicize some of the most serious threats to individual privacy. Simon Davies, the groups' leader, commented: "During the judging process, it has become clear that government agencies and companies have stooped to an all-time low in the wilful violation of our privacy. We have been almost overwhelmed this year by a flood of new entries, many of which involve technologies and techniques that are beyond the control of law, and outside of the comprehension of policy makers."

United Kingdom winners included a proposal by the British National Criminal Intelligence Service to retain all user communications data (deemed the Most Appalling Project). A scheme to force the nationwide adoption of citizen identification cards (complete with a massive personal data sharing system) was branded a Lifetime Menace. The Norwich Union insurance company garnered a Most Invasive Organisation Award for a project designed to follow vehicles using satellites, while the Most Heinous Government Organisation, the British Department for Education and Skills, had created a special system to track students. Finally, British Cabinet Secretary Sir Richard Wilson was labeled the Worst Public Servant for "his long standing commitment to opposing freedom of information, data protection and ministerial accountability." On the other hand, five Winstons were given out to defenders of individual privacy, including included Ilka Schroeder for her efforts to expose the global communications surveillance network known as ECHELON.

Meanwhile, the United States government received the lion's share of this year's American Big Brother awards, including Most Invasive Proposal (for the Expanded Computer Assisted Passenger Screening Program's plan to profile and spy on travelers), Worst Public Official (to Attorney General John Ashcroft for attacking privacy and freedom of information) and Lifetime Menace (to Admiral John Poindexter and the new Office of Information Awareness). Oracle CEO Larry Ellison won an Orwell as the Greatest Corporate Invader for pushing a National ID Card plan using his software. The list of Brandeis recipients (for their support of privacy rights) included California state senator Jackie Speier, Warren Leach and the editorial page of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Big Brother Awards UK 2002 homepage is located under

See "Net monitoring scheme under fire," BBC News Online, March 4, 2002 at

Read Matt Loney, "Big Brother Awards highlight digital privacy threats," ZDNet UK, March 5, 2002 at,,t269-s2105551,00.html

For coverage in German (Deutsch), read Manu Luksch, "Big Brother Awards UK 2002," Heise Telepolis, March 7, 2002 at

The Big Brother Awards US 2002 homepage is located under

See "The 'Big Brother' Awards," CBS News, April 19, 2002 at

[24] EFF picks 3 new Pioneer Awards winners

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) recently chose its newest Pioneer Awards laureates. These awards are given out each to "individuals who have made significant and influential contributions to the development of computer-mediated communications or to the empowerment of individuals in using computers and the Internet."

The winners for 2002 are Dan Gilmore, Beth Givens and Jon Johansen. Mr. Gilmore writes for the San Jose Mercury News and has been commended for his ability "to spot a story and begin to cover it weeks before other reporters see its importance" while explaining "the intricacies of the complex and often esoteric conflicts facing cyberspace today." Ms. Givens is "the founder and director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit advocacy, research, and consumer education program," which "maintains a complaint/information hotline on informational privacy issues - the only one of its kind in the country - and publishes a series of guides on a variety of informational privacy issues." Jon Johansen wrote DeCSS-a program designed to help Linux users play DVDs on their computers; the program has since become the focus of several high-profile Internet free speech cases.

Further information is available from the EFF website under

[25] New GILC member: TEA (Hungary)

The Global Internet Liberty Campaign recently welcomed a new member into the fold: TEA (Technika az Emberert Alapitvány-Technology for People Group). Founded in January 2001, this Hungarian organization has worked to raise public awareness regarding online privacy issues. Among other things, it publishes a weekly Hungarian-language privacy newsletter and sponsored the first-ever Hungarian Big Brother Awards. It is currently planning a scientific study of privacy problems in Eastern Europe.

For more information on TEA's activities, click


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:

Christopher Chiu
GILC Coordinator
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street, 17th Floor
New York, New York 10004

Or 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 e-mail to

with the following message in the body:
subscribe gilc-announce