#IMWeekly: October 10, 2014

by adrienne debigare

United States: Twitter sues the US federal government to disclose Internet surveillance requests

Twitter officially filed suit against the federal government Tuesday, alleging an infringement of the company’s 1st Amendment rights. The suit is the most extreme reaction by a company affected by the Snowden leaks. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Yahoo and Microsoft all reached a settlement in January, though the actual amount of transparency now afforded is controversial. Currently companies can provide broad swaths of data ranges; for instance 0-999 government information requests is one range. Twitter is advocating for more granular reporting, after the government denied the company’s request to publish their most recent transparency report, citing the amount of information they hoped to share publically.

United States: Adobe E-readers collect your reading history and send the data back to Adobe

The Adobe Digital Editions and PDF reader is sending vast amounts of user data back to Adobe via an unencrypted http pathway. Adobe claims this data is, “collected solely for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models by publishers,” meaning that the intended use is to track DRM and lending of EPUB books on the platform. However, DE is currently sending a plenitude of information back to the company, including the entire contents of the user’s library, how many pages she has read, and the plain text of the document. Additionally Ars Technica reports, “a review of Adobe's terms of use for DE found no mention of the logging feature or how long the data was stored by Adobe.”

This revelation is particularly unsettling because the Adobe Overdrive software (part of Digital Editions) is in wide use at public libraries across the country. Librarians have long been staunch supporters of privacy and the open access to information. The Washington Post recently published an article detailing their work to combat censorship and the impingement of government on citizens’ right to privacy. In the wake of this Adobe vulnerability, it remains to be seen how this very large user group will react, though Ars Technica spoke with the deputy director of the American Librarians Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Deborah Caldwell, who said "’We are looking at this, and very concerned about this,’ and if the data were to pertain to any library transactions, ‘we would want this information encrypted and private.’"

Hong Kong: Umbrella Revolution and anonymous social media

Hong Kong’s recent protests for a truly democratic election in 2017, called the Umbrella Revolution or Occupy Central by some, has been making headlines for the past several weeks. But beyond the photos of tear gas and police in riot gear is and interesting case study of clever communication methods. In a country whose digital ecosystem is completely controlled by the government, the participants of the Umbrella Revolution have had to combat Internet outages, widespread media censorship and, in some cases, a spreading of misinformation.

As a result protesters have turned to a myriad of digital media platforms, from Facebook to Weibo. Most interestingly is the all-but-unknown app called FireChat, which builds an anonymous mesh network from nearby phones to enable communication during complete blackouts.

United States: Meeting between Silicon Valley execs and Sen. Ron Wydan to discuss the future of Internet regulation

Sen. Ron Wydan (D-OR) brought together executives from some of Silicon Valley’s heaviest hitters this week for a panel discussion, “to talk about the economic impact of U.S. digital surveillance as it affects international attitudes toward American Internet companies.” (ITWorld) Representatives from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Dropbox and venture capital firm Greylock Partners gathered at Palo Alto High School to dissect the repercussions of the vast surveillance policies of the federal government. “If this occurs, Google’s [Eric] Schmidt warned, “‘the simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the internet.’”

Estonia: Estonia to be first country to offer E-residency

Estonia plans to become the first country to offer e-residency. What, exactly, that entails remains to be seen, but their informational leaflet touts “secure access to Estonia’s digital services and an opportunity to give digital signatures in an electronic environment.” Though e-residency does not give the owner legal residency, and the ID card cannot be used for actual identification, the benefits seem to be most applicable to international business owners or individuals who need a means for accessing Estonian data or signing legal documents. For now, the only way to receive an ID card is to visit a Police and Border Guard station in Estonia, but the leaflet claims that the process should be available in local Estonian embassies by 2015.

Chatter on Y-Combinator’s Hacker News suggests that entrepreneurs may find this innovation particularly attractive. Estonia is considered one of the most technologically advanced societies in Europe, with some of the world’s fastest broadband speeds, online general election voting and as the birthplace of Skype (http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/01/lessons-from-the-worlds-most-tech-savvy-government/283341/), so it’s no wonder that those living on the bleeding edge might find an innovation like e-residency and a country like Estonia the perfect place for the incubation of their next great idea.

#imweekly is a weekly round-up of news about Internet content controls and activity around the world. To read more, click here.