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GILC Alert
Volume 7, Issue 8

November 17, 2003


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] New wave of Chinese Net dissident arrests
[2] Upcoming EuroDMCA may stifle Net free speech
[3] Flap over voting machine documents on the Web
[4] Hollywood sues more Net users
[5] Spyware maker launches legal attacks against critics
[6] US gov't orders crippling of digital TV systems
[7] College music-sharing system shutdown amidst copyright threats
[8] US gov't unveils limited copyright law exemptions
[9] US Supreme Court again reviews Net speech law
[10] Crippled DVDs prove unpopular
[11] US plan would restrict flow of mere facts
[12] New report on multiple digital divides released


[13] New law allows Singapore gov't cyber-attacks
[14] Information sought on MATRIX spy program
[15] New computer bug does not require opening of attachment
[16] AOL invades private computers, alters settings
[17] Lingerie retailer fined over e-privacy breach
[18] Finnish geographic kid Net tracking plan draws concern
[19] Big Brother Awards ceremonies held recently in 4 countries

[1] New wave of Chinese Net dissident arrests

The mainland Chinese government has renewed efforts to stifle criticism by detaining a slew of individuals who expressed themselves online.

As part of these efforts, government agents recently arrested at least 3 individuals for their Internet activities. Du Daobin, a civil servant who had posted many essays on the Information Superhighway regarding democracy and various human rights issues, was taken into custody on 29 October and accused of subversion after calling for protests in support of jailed dissident Liu Di. Fellow Internet activist Yan Jun was charged with subversion and reportedly beaten so severely in prison that he had to be hospitalized. Luo Yongzhong, who supposedly published online articles "attacking the socialist system," was ordered to spend the next 3 years in jail.

In addition, several other Chinese cyber-dissidents are undergoing protracted legal battles over their online writings. It has been revealed that Jiang Lijun, who was arrested over a year ago for alleged "incitement to subvert state power" and whose whereabouts were unknown for some time, will soon be tried behind closed doors in a Beijing tribunal. Furthermore, a court has rejected appeals on behalf of 4 other people (Xu Wei, Yang Zili, Jin Haike and Zhang Hongkai) who were each given multi-year prison sentences for expressing themselves in cyberspace. Still another online protestor, He Depu, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for his activities in connection with the banned Chinese Democracy Party and for posting supposedly subversive writings on the Internet. As for Liu Di, prosecutors reportedly have sent her case back to the police due to lack of evidence, which has fueled hope that she might be freed within the near future.

This harsh treatment of online dissidents has once again prompted sharp rebukes from human rights groups. Robert Menard, the secretary general of Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF-a GILC member), expressed "regret that the Chinese authorities have turned a deaf ear to the growing number of voices speaking out in China and abroad against their policy of cracking down on cyber-dissidents. In particular, Menard paid "homage to Du Daobin's courage and the impact of his symbolic protest in support of Liu Di. The simulated detention campaign was a model of peaceful protest and the arrest of its instigator is quite simply disgraceful." Similarly, Liu Qing, the president of Human Rights in China, called the Yan Jun case "yet another classic example of the Chinese government's suppression of free expression on the Internet."

Meanwhile, authorities in the Land of the Dragon are apparently seeking tighter control over cybercafes. According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Chinese leaders will move to ensure that government firms will takeover and consolidate ownership of the nation's Internet café chains, which number in the hundreds of thousands. Such establishments will also have to have to install spyware in order to monitor customers. Robert Menard explained: "By putting Internet cafés under the control of a few, partly state-owned companies and by standardising the surveillance equipment installed by the chain stores, the Chinese authorities are making it easier to censor the Internet. Centralising the management of points of Internet access will make it easier for the authorities to control users. This is a worrying precedent, which could serve as a model for other repressive governments to follow."

For the latest details in the Liu Di case, see "China web dissident 'soon free'," BBC News Online, 17 November 2003 at

Read Hamish McDonald, "Internet mouse is trapped," Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 2003 at

See also Robert Marquand, "The 'mouse' that caused an uproar in China," Christian Science Monitor, 6 November 2003 edition at

Additional details regarding He Depu as well as the recent appeals court hearing are available from the RSF website at

Read "Internet dissidents lose appeal over sentence," ABC News Online (AU), 10 November 2003 at

For more on the arrest of Du Daobin, visit the RSF website under http:/ /

Further information regarding the case of Yan Jun is available from the Human Rights in China website at

For further information in German (Deutsch) about the case of Yan Jun, read "Erneut Internet-Aktivist in China vor Gericht gestellt," Heise Online, 29 October 2003 at

For more about the sentencing of Luo Yongzhong, visit the RSF website under

For more concerning the Jiang Lijun case, click

See also "China stellt erneut Internet-Aktivisten vor Gericht," Heise Online, 4 November 2003 at

Further details regarding new Chinese cybercafe restrictions are posted at

See "China to consolidate Net cafes," CNETAsia, 27 October 2003 at

For coverage in German (Deutsch), read "China will Internet-Cafes unter Kontrolle Bringen," Heise Online, 27 October 2003 at

[2] Upcoming EuroDMCA may stifle Net free speech

Controversy continues to swirl over a European proposal that would expand the powers of intellectual property holders.

The draft European Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive supposedly will simplify the enforcement of copyrights, patents, and trademarks throughout the continent. Among other things, the Directive would ban the use, manufacture, importation and distribution of "illegal technical devices" that could circumvent technologies designed to protect any industrial property right. The proposal also includes provisions that essentially would give intellectual property holders broad subpoena powers to collect personal information. The proposal's general outlines have drawn comparisons to the much-maligned United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which contains broadly similar language. Indeed, a recent analysis commissioned by the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR-a GILC member) dubbed the Directive a "EuroDMCA" that could serious harm to individual users.

After heavy criticism from a number of groups, nearly 200 amendments to the Directive were proposed, and voting on the entire proposal was delayed. However, not all of the amendments would water down the bill; one of them, proposed by European Parliament Member (MEP) Janelly Fourtou, would make it a crime to engage in noncommercial use of otherwise protected works without prior authorization, including Internet peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. Besides alarming defenders of free speech, Fourtou's actions have also drawn serious conflict-of-interest accusations, since she is also the wife of entertainment magnate Jean-Rene Fourtou, whose company, Vivendi Universal, would ostensibly be one of the primary beneficiaries of the proposal if it is approved.

Meanwhile, another notorious copyright law has taken effect in Britain. The new law was approved several years ago supposedly to bring United Kingdom into compliance with a European Union Copyright Directive (which has still yet to be implemented in 9 of the 15 European Union member nations). FIPR's Ian Brown warned: "The main problem with the directive is that it goes further with copyright than copyright has ever gone before. Copyright had always focused on people infringing rights and making copies. This goes further and says that any kind of technology that can help you do that is now illegal. The record companies are trying all sorts of ways to try to prevent copying - such as releasing CDs that you can listen to on a hi-fi but can't on a PC because it won't read it. The EUCD says it is illegal to break those copyright mechanisms even if you do it for a perfectly valid reason. So, if you buy a CD and want to listen to it on your PC at work, which is quite legitimate, yo!
u can't."

For further information, visit the website of IP Justice (a GILC member) under

Read Barry Fox, "Loophole claimed in new European copyright laws," New Scientist, 14 November 2003 at

See Mark Ward, "Why that mix CD might be illegal," BBC News Online, 10 November 2003 at

The FIPR-commissioned analysis of the EuroDMCA is posted under

Read "How the web turned into a minefield," The Guardian (UK), 27 October 2003 at,12597,1071541,00.html

See also "U.K. copyright law goes into effect," Reuters, 31 October 2003 at

[3] Flap over voting machine documents on the Web

An embattled voting machine company has lashed out at its critics with legal threats.

For some time now, elections experts have questioned the security of machines manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. These concerns have been fueled by several documents recently posted online that contained information regarding vulnerabilities in Diebold voting software, including email warnings from Diebold technicians about various security flaws. Diebold then threatened lawsuits against various groups and individuals who either hosted or provided weblinks to those documents, claiming their actions constituted copyright infringement. The list of targeted groups included Online Policy Group (OPG-a GILC member), which hosted an Independent Media Group site that had weblinks to the Diebold papers in question.

In response, OPG, along with two college students who also received legal threats from Diebold, have filed a lawsuit, hoping to stop the election machine company from issuing further legal threats against Internet service providers (ISPs). OPG spokesperson David Weekly explained: "As an ISP committed to free speech, we are affirming our users' right to link to information that's critical to the debate on the reliability of electronic voting machines. The court now has the opportunity to defend free speech by helping protect small publishers and ISPs from frivolous legal threats by large corporations." Cindy Cohn from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member), which is representing OPG in this case, argued: "Instead of paying lawyers to threaten its critics, Diebold should invest in creating electronic voting machines that include voter-verified paper ballots and other security protections."

To read an EFF press release regarding the case, click

For video and audio coverage of this story, go to "ISP Defies Electronic Voting Machine Maker's Copyright Claims," Democracy Now, 30 October 2003 at

See Declan McCullagh, "Students buck DMCA threat," CNET News, 3 November 2003 at

See also Kim Zetter, "E-Vote Protests Gains Momentum," Wired News, 29 October 2003 at,1294,61002,00.html

[4] Hollywood sues more Net users

Hollywood has gone after more people over their online file-sharing activities in a second wave of lawsuits.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has now sued 80 Internet users who they claim have engaged in copyright infringement by sharing music files online. The RIAA had already filed lawsuits against 261 other alleged file-sharers earlier this year, although it is not clear whether all of these people were actual infringers. Indeed, one of the lawsuits had to be dropped when it was discovered that the intended target was a 65-year-old grandmother, Sarah Ward, who never had downloaded music through the Information Superhighway and did not have any other family members living at home who might have done so. In this second wave, the Association contacted the individuals in question beforehand, urging them to enter a settlement or otherwise face litigation; 124 people settled under this arrangement. In addition, such lawsuit blitzes may soon reach overseas. The RIAA's Korean counterpart, the Recording Industry Association of Korea, is considering whether to sue user's of Soribada, Korea's leading peer-to-peer music sharing service.

A number of groups (including cyberliberties organizations and Internet service providers) have criticized these moves. Fred von Lohmann from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) charged: "Suing your customers one at a time is not a business model. And in the meantime, the RIAA is trampling on privacy and proposing legislation that's dangerous to the Internet generally. We still don't think this is a solution. It may not be paying any dividends other than ruining the lives of those who are arbitrarily singled out."

These concerns were bolstered by a new study by the NPD Group indicating that the RIAA's actions have led to ill will among Internet users against the entertainment industry. The author of the study, Russ Crupnick, noted that while the lawsuit blitz has led some 2 million households to delete all music files from their computers, consumers are "resenting it. ... [T]he real work of winning back the hearts and minds of consumers must begin."

See Benny Evangelista, "Millions deleted downloads," San Francisco Chronicle, 5 November 2003, page B1 at

Read Katie Dean, "RIAA Sues 80 More Swappers," Wired News, 30 October 2003 at,1412,61028,00.html

For coverage in German (Deutsch), see "US-Musikindustrie klagt weiter," Heise Online, 31 October 2003 at

For more details concerning the legal disputes surrounding Soribada, read Kim Sung-jin, "Online Music Exchange Battle Heads for Second Round," Korea Times, 29 October 2003 at

[5] Spyware maker launches legal attacks against critics

The maker of computer program that secretly spies on its users is now using lawsuits in an apparent attempt to silence its opponents.

The controversial Gator advertising utility is often surreptitiously bundled with other downloaded computer programs and can be installed with little notice to the user, particularly if the given machine's web browser uses low security settings. Once in place, Gator tracks a user's Internet usage and displays advertisements based on this information. For example, as explained in a recent study, the program watches the terms people enter into the Google search engine and serves up ads pursuant to those terms. Gator also targets specific host names and even federal government websites for advertising opportunities.

The emergence of Gator and other spyware programs has spawned a cottage industry for developing software to remove such programs from people's computers as well as sparking heated discussion over the impact of Gator-type routines on individual privacy. However, the manufacturer of Gator (which recently changed its name to Claria sued one of these firms, PC Pitstop, claiming that the company had engaged in defamation, among other things. PC Pitstop eventually settled the lawsuit; while the terms of the settlement were not publicly revealed, the company did remove several articles from its website that had titles such as the "Gator Boycott List" and the "Gator Quiz."

These latest developments have prompted concern from various cyber-rights experts as well as industry figures. A spokesperson at one anti-spyware firm (which declined to be named) explained: "There is this feeling out there that [Claria] won the lawsuit, and people are starting to get scared. We haven't been sued, but we've heard that other companies are being sued for saying this and that, so we've changed our language."

Read Paul Festa, "See you later, anti-Gators?" CNET News, 22 October 2003 at

For coverage in German (Deutsch), see "Gator will sich nicht Spyware-Hersteller nennen lassen," Heise Online, 23 October 2003 at

To read the aforementioned study, click

See Stefanie Olsen, "Gator sheds skin, renames itself," CNET News, 29 October 2003 at

See also "Spyware-Hersteller Gator will nicht mehr Gator heissen," Heise Online, 30 October 2003 at

[6] US gov't orders crippling of digital TV systems

United States government regulators have issued an order that critics say will needlessly restrict the ability of consumers to enjoy digital television broadcasts as well as the Internet.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued new rules requiring makers of digital television equipment to accept broadcasts with a special copy-protection signal, known as a broadcast flag. Under this scheme, such equipment would detect flagged digital TV shows and prevent consumers from disseminating such material, including through the Information Superhighway. The rule applies to such items as digital video cassette recorders, DVD players and personal computers. The FCC order did not mandate a specific broadcast flag technology and instead laid out a certification process for such systems; the deadline for compliance is 1 July 2005.

Many observers, including free speech advocates and consumer electronics manufacturers, have disparaged the FCC's decision. Mike Godwin from Public Knowledge pointed out: "It's clear the scheme is fundamentally flawed as we are aiming to protecting content by re-architecting devices. It's a costly approach to protect copyrighted works in the digital world. You can't write to a DVD that plays in a legacy player. We buy electronics with the idea of connecting them to each other." Godwin cautioned that the FCC decision indicates "we're going in the opposite direction."

A special archive of information regarding the broadcast flag issue is available from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) under

To read an FCC press release regarding this decision (in PDF format), click

More of Commissioner Copps' comments are posted (in PDF format) at

Read Rita Chang, "FCC Endorses Built-In Copy Controls," Medill News Service, 4 November 2003 at,aid,113285,00.asp

[7] College music-sharing system shutdown amidst copyright threats

A prominent university has halted use of an innovative music-sharing system for fear of copyright lawsuits.

The Library Access to Music Project service, which was developed two students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), allowed music broadcasts throughout the school's campus via MIT's internal analog cable television network. Such files, which were to be licensed through a company called Loudeye, could then be downloaded onto users' computers or burned onto CDs. However, just hours after the system was unveiled, several record industry conglomerates voiced objections to it, claiming it violated their copyrights. Universal Music Group, for example, rather than lauding the students for their technical prowess, moaned that it was "unfortunate that MIT launched a service in an attempt to avoid paying recording artists, union musicians, and record labels." Loudeye later claimed that it had not actually provided MIT with licenses for music from various music labels, including Universal. MIT subsequently suspended the LAMP service; in a statement, the university said the suspension was temporary and that it was pursuing "clarifying discussions with Loudeye, the record labels, and music publishers. MIT continues to be committed to developing a fully licensed service."

Many experts see the decision as yet another symbol of the way copyright laws are being used to thwart new methods of digital expression. Professor Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School questioned whether current legal standards provide sufficient protection for scientists: "It doesn't seem that MIT was trying to steal anything, but rather to simply hew to the letter of the law in an incredibly Byzantine area."

The LAMP website is located at

Read John Schwartz, "MIT shutters its music-serving site," New York Times, 3 November 2003 at

For coverage in German (Deutsch), read Claus Jahnel, "Pirat wider Willen," Heise Telepolis, 5 November 2003 at

[8] US gov't unveils limited copyright law exemptions

The United States government has rolled out exemptions to a heavily criticized copyright law, but critics charge that more relief is needed.

The U.S. Library of Congress (LoC) has issued regulations that essentially limit the reach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which, among other things, prohibits circumvention of copy-protection schemes. The DMCA includes a provision allowing the LoC to exempt any "particular class of works" from this anticircumvention ban to allow noninfringing uses that would otherwise be "adversely affected." Last week, the LoC announced that 4 categories of information would be exempted, including (1) "Compilations consisting of lists of Internet locations blocked by commercially marketed filtering software applications that are intended to prevent access to domains, websites or portions of websites," (2) "Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete," (3) "Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access," and (4) "Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work ... contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the ebook's read-aloud function and that prevent the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a 'specialized format.'"

Many cyberliberties experts feel that the Library of Congress did not go far enough with its exemptions, and should have included such activities as making full use of public domain movies on DVDs, playing foreign DVDs on U.S. machines and playing copy-protected audio CDs that malfunction to stop playback. Gwen Hinze from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF-a GILC member) complained: "Consumers are the real losers in today's ruling, because the Librarian of Congress is ignoring the rights of nearly everyone who has purchased CDs and DVDs. We're disappointed that the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress did not recognize the significant impact that the DMCA is having on millions of consumers' ability to make reasonable uses of digital media they've purchased."

The Library of Congress order is available via

To read an EFF press release on this subject, click

Read Katie Dean, "New Ways to Skirt DMCA ... Legally!" Wired News, 29 October 2003 at,1294,60996,00.html

See John Borland, "Feds grant DMCA exceptions," CNET News, 28 October 2003 at

For coverage in German (Deutsch), read "Copyright Office formuliert Ausnahmen vom Urheberrecht," Heise Online, 29 October 2003 at

[9] US Supreme Court again reviews Net speech law

The United States Supreme Court will once again consider whether a controversial Internet censorship law is unconstitutional.

The case revolves around the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), which made it a crime to use the Internet to pass along "for commercial purposes" information considered "harmful to minors." COPA was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member) on behalf of 17 groups and individuals, including fellow GILC members the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. When the case reached the Supreme Court, the majority held (in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas) that "COPA's reliance on community standards to identify 'material that is harmful to minors' does not by itself render the statute substantially overbroad" and therefore violate U.S. constitutional free speech protections. However, the Court maintained a ban on COPA enforcement and sent the case back to a lower appeals court for further examination of whether COPA might be an unconstitutional restriction on free expression for other reasons.

Earlier this year, a Federal appeals court once again struck down COPA as unconstitutional. Among other things, the 3-judge panel held that "while COPA penalizes publishers for making available improper material for minors, at the same time it impermissibly burdens a wide range of speech and exhibits otherwise protected for adults." The panel also found fault with the statute's vague standards with regard to what was suitable for minors, saying that the law did not take into account the concept that "materials that have 'serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value' for a sixteen-year-old" may not "have the same value for a minor who is three years old. ... Web publishers who seek to determine whether their Web sites will run afoul of COPA cannot tell which of these 'minors' should be considered in deciding the particular content of their Internet postings."

The U.S. Justice Department has since appealed the panel's latest ruling, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from both sides in early 2004. However, a number of experts are skeptical about this latest attempt to revive COPA will succeed. A final decision is expected by next June.

To read the latest appeals court ruling (in PDF format), click

The text of the Supreme Court's prior COPA decision is available under

See "US court revisits net porn law," BBC News Online, 14 October 2003 at

[10] Crippled DVDs prove unpopular

One of Hollywood's latest ideas to thwart pirates has not only proven unpopular among consumers, but also managed to irritate environmentalists.

EZ-Ds are special DVDs that expire after 48 hours. After their packaging is opened, a resin on the discs reacts with the air and slowly deteriorates, rendering it unplayable after two days. Flexplay Technologies, the company that manufactures EZ-Ds, is marketing the discs for "no return, no late fee movie rental" services. EZ-Ds have received the blessing of Buena Vista Entertainment, a subsidiary of media giant Disney, which has launched a test program to sell the discs in stores across the United States.

However, EZ-Ds have so far proven to be a marketing bust for a variety of reasons. Retailers have found it hard to convince consumers to pay about USD 6 for a disc that will last only 2 days. One store manager said he had only sold one-eighth of the discs in stock, explaining that many customers don't "like the idea that it self-destructs in 48 hours. I think a lot of them are worried about the quality of the DVD for that price. Seeing as how it self-destructs, can it really be that good?" In addition, several environmentalist groups have launched street protests outside various establishments that sell EZ-Ds (as well as phone and postcard campaigns), saying that the discs needlessly create more waste. Moreover, questions remain over the effect that these and other so-called "crippleware" technologies will have on free speech and fair use.

See Katie Dean, "Two-Day DVDs a Slow Sale," Wired News, 28 October 2003 at,1294,60983,00.html

[11] US plan would restrict flow of mere facts

Lawmakers in the United States are considering a proposal that would extend copyright-style restrictions on mere facts.

The "Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act" would essentially bar people from knowingly making available "a quantitatively substantial part of the information in a database" created or maintained by another person without that other person's permission. The proposal is broadly worded and would apply databases stored in digital form, including such information as Internet search engine results. Violators could be sued in civil court. A subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives has given its blessing to the bill; a committee vote on the legislation may come within the next few months.

The proposal has generated serious anxiety among free speech and fair use advocates, who believe it will deter information transfers, including discussions online, for fear of legal liability. Public Knowledge issued a statement calling the plan "deeply flawed" and said it "further strikes at the very heart of the public interest in an informed democracy." The bill has also rankled several prominent politicians, who believe it is unnecessary. U.S. Representative Rick Boucher labeled the measure "the classic solution in search of a problem."

To read the text of the bill, click

The Public Knowledge statement is posted under

Read "Database protection bill advances in Congress," CNET News, 16 October 2003 at

[12] New report on multiple digital divides released

A new report ominously warns that not only is the digital divide "here for some time to come," but the divide "is large, multifaceted, and, in some ways, is not shrinking."

Entitled "Charting and Bridging Digital Divides," the report investigates levels of Internet access and usage in eight countries, including China, Korea, Mexico, Germany and United States. The authors of the study discovered that while "the Internet has grown rapidly and hugely in the last decade," this growth was very "uneven. ... Rather than shrinking with expanding Internet use, the global digital divide between developed countries and developing nations continues to be huge." Thus, "only 10 percent of the world's population was on the Internet in 2002, and 88 percent of these Internet users resided in industrialized countries." The document also highlights how this digital divide extends beyond the question of whether someone in a given country can access the Internet, but also to questions concerning technological access (such as broadband access rather than dialup), technological literacy, social access (meaning such factors as income, gender and language barriers) and social use (including censorship and high access costs). The report notes how the largest digital divide "is between better-educated, affluent, younger, English-speaking men in developed countries and less-educated, poor, older, non-English-speaking women in underdeveloped rural areas."

The study concludes that there is a "Need for Nuanced Understanding and Action" to solve these problems: "A simple commitment to 'close the digital divide' will not do. This is not simple, but simplistic. There is no one digital divide. ... [B]ridging the digital divide is more complicated than merely providing computers and Internet connections. ... The question is how disadvantaged individuals and groups could be enabled to obtain the necessary resources and afford the leapfrog into a digital future. It is clear that without intervention, the global digital divide will take many years to close within developing countries and between the developing and the developed world. ... To turn the global digital divide into digital dividends for most people in less-developed countries will be a long way with many bumps in the road."

The report is available (in PDF format) under

[13] New law allows Singapore gov't cyber-attacks

Criticism is mounting over new legal standards that will allow Singaporean government agents to attack and disrupt individuals' computers.

Those standards came in the form of an amendment to the country's Computer Misuse Act. The measure will empower the government to conduct heavier surveillance of electronic networks and to engage in "pre-emptive" action, as well as arrest people who it deems suspicious. Individuals who run afoul of the new law may face three years in prison as well as heavy fines. One member of parliament, Ho Geok Choo, explained that the now-amended Computer Misuse Act is "very much like the cyber-space equivalent of the internal security act", a much-maligned statute that allows criminal suspects to be held for indefinite periods without a trial.

Many observers believe the amendment will have deleterious impact on civil liberties in cyberspace, and will be used by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) to silence its opponents. Chee Soon Juan, the Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party warned that the new measure "sends a chilling message to the people that the Government can on any pretext arrest and imprison anyone whom it suspects to be a hacker. Given the appalling record of the PAP and its use of the Internal Security Act to detain without trial its political opponents and civil society leaders, the introduction of the new cyber-law will curtail the development of democracy and freedom of speech in Singapore even more. ... This new law must be exposed for what it is - another disguised attempt by the ruling party to control the use of the Internet by Singaporeans and to curtail the spread of discussion and dissent in Singapore's cyberspace."

For more remarks from Chee Soon Juan, click

Further analysis is available from Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF-a GILC member) under

See John Burton, "Singapore tightens control over internet," Financial Times, 12 November 2003 at

Read "Singapore tackles 'cyber-terror'," BBC News Online, 11 November 2003 at

 [14] Information sought on MATRIX spy program

Efforts are underway to reveal more details regarding a controversial United States government-sponsored data-trawling project.

The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (called the MATRIX for short) is a computer network reportedly designed to allow government agents to scan and analyze massive amounts of personal data, in order to predict and prevent terrorist acts. The precise list of information sources for this system has yet to be released, but reportedly includes data from police files and commercial data merchants, and can pick out tidbits such as a person's name, address, hair color and current geographic location. The system is currently being developed by several states with financial support from various U.S. Federal agencies. Officials familiar with the project have admitted that the system has a number of flaws; Phil Ramer, a special agent in charge of intelligence in the state of Florida, said the MATRIX is "scary" and could be abused.

Privacy advocates have expressed serious concern over the MATRIX, which has drawn comparisons to the infamous Federal Terrorism Information Awareness project (previously named Total Information Awareness). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU-a GILC member), in conjunction with several of its state affiliates, has filed public records requests (at both the Federal and state levels) to find out more information about the MATRIX. Among other things, these requests call for the government to turn over records regarding the system's specifications, what personal data is accessed and/or used by the MATRIX, how the MATRIX has been used and what legal analyses of the MATRIX have been performed.

For more information regarding the MATRIX public records requests, click

Read Anita Ramasatry, "Why We Should Fear the Matrix," Findlaw, 5 November 2003 at

[15] New computer bug does not require opening of attachment

A new computer bug that more easily activated than other digital pests is raising eyebrows among Internet security experts.

The Flea (also known as Fortnight) worm is often disguised as a signature file in HTML-formatted email messages, unlike so many other computer bugs that are embedded in files attached to such messages. Flea, which uses Visual Basic Script, can thus infect a computer when the user reads the message, rather than requiring users to affirmatively open the attachment for an infection to occur. When a Flea-laced message is opened, the relevant user is sent to a webpage and is forced to download a malicious program that can reset the Internet browser and email settings on the target computer. Certain email programs, notably Microsoft's Outlook Express, are particularly vulnerable.

Flea is just one of several new computer bugs that have once again raised concerns over whether Microsoft is doing enough to protect the privacy of computer users. The Sober worm, which comes in the form of an email attachment, affects several versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system and uses different subject lines (in German and English) to disguise itself. Sober includes a faulty error message to give victims a false sense of security as well as a message lauding the creator of still another computer bug: the Sobig worm.

For more on the Flea computer bug, read "Flea bugs Windows users," The Register (UK), 24 October 2003 at

See also

For coverage in Spanish (Espanol), see "Nuevo virus que infecta sin necesidad de ejecutar nada,", 26 October 2003 at

For more on the Sober worm, see "New Windows virus hits computers," BBC News Online, 28 October 2003 at

[16] AOL invades private computers, alters settings

A major Internet service provider (ISP) has entered many of its users' computers and changed the settings on their machines without their knowledge, drawing concern from various online security experts.

Specifically, AOL deactivated a messaging program that is present on many Windows operating system-based machines. The program has been used by computer technicians and certain applications to notify users of events (such as the fact that print job is finished) or problems (network shutdowns). AOL disabled the messaging mechanism (through a proprietary auto-update program) by closing various Internet ports, claiming the targeted mechanism helps spammers. However, AOL's actions may also have a negative impact on other programs that use those ports, and affected users (an estimated 15 million people) weren't notified of the change.

The seemingly heavy-handed manner with which AOL entered its users' machines has left many observers feeling uneasy. Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Internet Security Inc. warned that AOL had set "a very dangerous precedent in having companies go into your computer and turn things on and off. From there it's easy to turn off competitors' services."

Read "AOL's Covert War on Pop-Up Spam," Associated Press, 23 October 2003 at

[17] Lingerie retailer fined over e-privacy breach

A major retailer of intimate apparel has been fined after personal details regarding several of its customers were exposed online.

The case involved a special feature of the Victoria's Secret website that allowed customers to check the status of their respective orders. One of these individuals discovered that, because of a flaw in the program, it was possible to see information regarding other people's orders. The types of information that were revealed in this manner included clothing sizes and prices as well as customer names and addresses.

Victoria's Secret subsequently settled an investigation into the matter by the New York State Attorney General. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to pay a fine of USD 50 000, and will provide refunds or store credits to New York customers who were affected by the breach. Additionally, the retailer will initiate a new security program to prevent future privacy glitches and take on an external auditor who will perform annual reviews.

See "Victoria's Secret Reveals Too Much," Associated Press, 22 October 2003 at

[18] Finnish geographic kid Net tracking plan draws concern

The government of Finland is considering a proposal that will allow tracking of children using a combined mobile phone and Internet system.

Under this scheme, children would carry cellular phonesets whose geographic locations could be determined by triangulating their signals. This geolocational data would then be disseminated through the Information Superhighway. A number of details regarding the proposal remain vague, including how access to such data will be restricted and what uses may be made of child geolocational information once received. Nevertheless, the plan has drawn widespread support among policy makers in the Scandinavian country, even if it has yet to be voted upon by the Finnish legislature.

Besides the apparent privacy implications of the legislation, there are concerns that, if implemented, the scheme may have a damaging psychological impact on youth. One expert, Frank Furedi, warned that such tracking schemes teach children "to be scared of life, to distrust everyone. And that has to have a negative impact in the long run."

Read Clare Murphy, "Tracking down your child," BBC News Online, 28 October 2003 at

[19] Big Brother Awards ceremonies held recently in 4 countries

Big Brother Awards ceremonies were held recently in Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Austria. These awards, which are under the auspices of Privacy International (a GILC member), are meant to publicize some of the most significant threats to personal privacy.

In Germany, winners included a subsidiary of Deutsche Post that required employees to see a doctor if they reported sick for longer than two weeks and to waive their right to medical confidentiality. A special Politics prize was given to the German states, Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate and Thuringia "for their efforts, riding on the issue of fighting terrorism, to tighten their states' police laws, allowing for drastic restrictions of elementary basic rights and liberties affecting a large number of unsuspicious people." In the category of Consumer Protection, Metro AG's Future Store Initiative received an award for "propagating the use of transponders or so-called RFIDs ('Radio Frequency Identification' devices) in super markets." Other winners included GEZ (for their surveillance efforts in order to collect public radio and TV license fees), Berlin's Senator of the Interior ("for his more than dubious justification for the use of the so-called 'silent SMS' by!

Berlin police"), T-Mobile ("for storing the IP [Internet protocol] addresses of customers with flat rate contracts") and the United States government (for coercing "European and especially German airlines into granting various US authorities access to the vast amount of data related to the bookings of all passengers travelling to or via the United States").

Meanwhile, the Spanish Chapter of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR-a GILC member) organized the second ever Big Brother Awards Spain ceremony in Pamplona. One of the winners was the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (MCYT) for the controversial LSSI (short for La Ley de Servicios de la Sociedad de la Informacion y de Comercio electronico), which included the first mandatory data retention provision in Europe and imposed potentially heavy fines for various types of Internet activity. A Private Sector Prize and People's Choice Award went to Xabier Ribas, a PriceWaterhouseCoopers lawyer who threatened to sue ninety-five thousand Spanish users of peer-to-peer software in a fashion similar to that of the Recording Industry Association of America (see item [4] above). An Intrusive Technologies Prize was awarded to Microsoft for Palladium (now known as Next-Generation Secure Computing Base or NGSCB), which many experts fear will be used to control everything that users can do on their machines. On the flipside, a Mariana Pineda Prize was given to Proinnova, a group that battled fiercely against the latest European Union Directive on software patents.

In Switzerland, one of the big winners was the Swiss Ministry of Defence, which asked recruits highly intrusive questions about such subjects as their sexual preferences. Examining magistrate Treccani from Lausanne, who ordered mobile phone providers to hand over all traffic data from various specified base stations, also garnered a Big Brother Award. On the positive side, Rebekka Salome was honored (for revealing the existence of a secret database containing information about customers of the Winterthur insurance company) along with activist Daniel Costantino (who brought the aforementioned Swiss Defence Ministry recruit questioning system to light) and Anina Ruest (for her "SuPerVillainizer" program, which disrupts email surveillance routines through disinformation).

At the Austrian Big Brother Awards, the European Commission and Janelly Fourtou had the dubious distinction of being joint winners (in the Politics category) for their efforts regarding the controversial draft Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive (see item [2] above). Other awardees included the European Patent Bureau (for awarding patents to ideas and methods in information technology) and the Austrian postal service (for taking addresses provided by people who had requested mail forwarding after having recently moved and selling those addresses to direct marketing firms). On a happier note, for the first time in five years, a positive prize was given out; the so-called "defensor libertatis" award was presented to historian and well known television journalist Peter Huemer for his defense of civil rights in the information age and the freedom of communication.

The official German Big Brother Awards site is located at

See "Datenkraken-Oscars: Gebuehren fuer Big Brother," Heise Online, 24 October 2003 at

To visit the official Spanish Big Brother Awards site, click

The Swiss Big Brother Awards website is located at

For more on the Austrian Big Brother Awards, see

Read Brigitte Zarzer, "Schweinische 'Big Brother Awards'-Verleihung in Oesterreich," Heise Telepolis, 27 October 2003 at

See also


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