The press review catalogues press articles related to la Quadrature's issues, compiled by its volunteers.
See also our French press review.
[...] It took way too many years to get those [Feynman Lectures on Physics] lectures online after (you guessed it) a fight over copyrights. However, online the lectures went and now it appears that publisher Perseus is unfortunately using the DMCA to block attempts to make the works accessible via Kindle or EPUB formats.
Das hoch umstrittene transatlantische Freihandelsabkommen steht auf der Kippe. Der Widerstand ist offenbar auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks so groß, dass die TTIP-Gespräche vorerst zu scheitern drohen.
Tot ist das TTIP-Freihandelsabkommen noch nicht - aber es sieht nicht gut aus für das derzeit ehrgeizigste transatlantische Projekt.
Schuld daran sind politische Bedenken auf beiden Seiten des Atlantiks sowie wachsender Widerstand in der Zivilgesellschaft, der sogar die Begeisterung von Wirtschaftsvertretern für das ehrgeizige Projekt gemindert hat.
Lightning conference that Ante gave at the 30C3, the 30th Chaos communication conference of the German CCC, in Hamburg on 28 December 2013.
Investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) gives multinationals the right to sue states before special tribunals if changes in law may lead to lower profits than expected. Multinationals can challenge environmental policies, health policies and reform of copyright and patent law. A growing number of civil society groups see ISDS as a threat to democracy.
How does the ISDS system work?
International trade and investment agreements give foreign investors greater rights than citizens and local companies, even expected future profits are protected.
On top of that, investor-to-state dispute settlement gives foreign investors the right to bypass the local court system and use international arbitration. Tribunals consisting of three investment lawyers decide the cases. These tribunals can overturn decisions of supreme courts.
Let me give three examples.
After the nuclear disaster in Japan, the German government decided to close down two nuclear reactors. The Swedish company Vattenfall now claims 3.7 billion euro using investor-to-state dispute settlement.
Second example: Australia introduced health warnings on tobacco packaging. Tobacco company Philip Morris claimed that their trade marks lost value, and sued Australia in local courts. Philip Morris lost the court case and then started an ISDS arbitration case. As a result, Australia decided not to sign treaties with ISDS clauses any more.
Third example: Canada made some minor adjustments to its patent system to ascertain better access to medicine. United States pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly now claims 500 million dollar in ISDS arbitration.
Arbitrators have enormous powers. They also have a negative incentive. Unlike judges, they are paid by the hour or by the day, very well paid. They have an incentive to let cases drag on. And they have an incentive to make the system more important by taking multinational friendly decisions.
The negative incentive has negative consequences. The legal costs are skyrocketing, in some cases the legal costs are more than 30 million dollar. The number of cases is rising sharply. The damages are rising.
Arbitrators wear many hats. They may also act as government official negotiating investment treaties, corporate lobbyist advocating investor-to-state dispute settlement, council defending the interest of corporations, media commentator and professor. The editorial boards of key journals consist of 50 to 100 percent arbitrators. (CEO and TNI, 2012)
International investors and investment lawyers are natural allies. The small community of arbitrators is a captive in-crowd (they share ideas and interests with the investors). A very powerful captive in-crowd.
The ISDS tribunals can overturn decisions of supreme courts. ISDS is best understood as a transfer of sovereignty. It gives investors equal standing to states. And it gives investment lawers the power to decide in conflicts between investors and states.
Investors and investment lawyers are natural allies. So, in conflicts between investors and states, the natural allies of investors take the decisions. The system is fundamentally flawed.
There is no excuse for this. Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz points out that companies can take an insurance against expropriation:
"There is no reason that foreign-owned property should be better protected than property owned by a country’s own citizens. Moreover, if constitutional guarantees are not enough to convince investors (...) foreigners can always avail themselves of expropriation insurance provided by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (a division of the World Bank) or numerous national organizations providing such insurance." (Joseph Stiglitz, 2013)
He also explains what is really behind ISDS:
"But those supporting the investment agreements are not really concerned about protecting property rights, anyway. The real goal is to restrict governments’ ability to regulate and tax corporations – that is, to restrict their ability to impose responsibilities, not just uphold rights. Corporations are attempting to achieve by stealth – through secretly negotiated trade agreements – what they could not attain in an open political process."
ISDS threatens our ability to reform copyright and patent law, to protect our privacy, to protect our health and environment. Vital interests are at stake.
What can we do?
European countries signed many bilateral investment treaties, but since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU gained competence. From now on, the European Commission will negotiate and the European Parliament has a veto. We have a unique chance now to get things right. Consumer and environmental groups already did a lot of work. The parliament is critical about ISDS. The digital community can help to tip the scale.
Note that adding safeguards to the system is not enough. A powerful captive incrowd can always find a way around safeguards. The only solution is exclusion, no investor-to-state dispute settlement in EU trade agreements.
Next year, there will be elections for the European Parliament. I suggest we try to keep proponents of investor-to-state dispute settlement out of the parliament.
Lightning conference that Emily and Baba gave at the 30C3, the 30th Chaos communication conference of the German CCC, in Hamburg on 28 December 2013.
Hacking (with) care is a versatile, collaborative initiative which purpose is to bring balance, embodiment, body & soul awareness and care to the hackers' communities, living by the shared ethics of goodness for all, joyful creativity, freedom and sharing of knowledge.
Hacking (with) care explores questions relative to hackers' psychological and physical well-being and health, and looks at how a sense of freedom in the technological realms can relate to a sense of freedom in one's life. We seek to encourage vitality and (data)love potentialities to blossom both on and away from keyboards. We also feel we want to return the favor to those who, often behind their computers, care for all of us by engaging everyday in straining battles for freedom.
See also: http://hackingwithcare.in/
Over the past eight years Germany has earned a reputation as a leader when it comes to file-sharing settlement demands and last year was no different. New stats reveal 446 rightsholders sent 109,000 threat letters in 2013, seeking a cool 90.3 million euros ($124m) in compensation.
The file-sharing settlement business has humble roots, but is now turning into big business. As revealed last week, Rightscorp is growing its operation in leaps and bounds, obtaining tens of thousands of settlements from US-based users on behalf of rightsholders.
It was hoped that new legislation (Improper Business Practices Act) introduced last October would assist by imposing transparency requirements on law firms sending out letters and capping the amounts they can claim. But according to Christian Solmecke [of the Wilde Beuger Solmecke law firm], the law firms involved have adjusted accordingly.
[...] President Obama nominated Robert Holleyman as deputy U.S. trade representative. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Holleyman will help lead the effort to pass the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. [...] Holleyman is a former lobbyist who led efforts to pass the Stop Online Piracy Act legislation, better known as SOPA [...] Holleyman [...] is no friend of open source. Coupled with the European Commission's admission that it wants to bring in a "Christmas list" of new demands in the area of intellectual monopolies, that makes TTIP all-the-more dangerous for both free software and online freedom. [...]
Alongside that bad news, we've also had some good news in the shape of two significant leaks of relevant documents. One concerns the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA), which I discussed recently. [...] The leaked section concerns intellectual monopolies. [...]
The other leak is the European Commission's draft proposal on trade in services, investment and e-commerce for the TTIP negotiations [.pdf] [...] it still offers some useful insight into the Commission's general thinking as regards TTIP. That's also true of its latest official document, entitled "EU-US Trade Agreement - The Facts" [.pdf]
Even staunch privacy advocates are concluding that it's impossible to protect personal data completely. The best hope for online privacy, they say, lies in legal safeguards that prevent abuse.
Collecting huge amounts of information about all of us and then using supercomputers to sift through, analyze and study it — this is a reality of modern life, and it can be a tremendously powerful thing.
Researchers can use techniques like those to identify genetic markers linked to breast cancer, better understand climate change or figure out how to combat hospital infections.
The collection of personal information has become so ubiquitous that even staunch privacy advocates now say it's impossible to build a protective wall around your all personal data. Rather, they say, expectations for privacy have to be redefined.
Danny Weitzner, who organized a privacy workshop at MIT with White House officials and researchers Monday, says he sees lots of promise in analyzing information — but he's not blind to how big business and the government could abuse it.
"Some marketers have discovered that a very good proxy for a high credit score is found in people who buy furniture coasters," says Weitzner, who used to advise the White House on technology and privacy and helped write the administration's proposed privacy bill of rights.
Yes, that's right, furniture coasters — those little felt pads you put underneath chair legs. Turns out that if you use them, you are probably a better credit risk. And credit scores can be used for all sorts of things, like employment decisions and getting an apartment.
There are rules for how those scores can be used; if someone checks your credit, generally they have to get your permission to do it. But that's not the case if they use a proxy for your credit score — like furniture coasters.
"No one's ever going to tell you when they turn you down for a job that it's because they pulled up your data broker report," says Julia Angwin, author of the new book Dragnet Nation. "Right now, the problem is you can't tell when your data is being used against you, so there is this kind of feeling of fear."
Angwin covered privacy and technology at the Wall Street Journal for years. In her book, she chronicles her attempt to erase her own digital trail and prevent it from ever being used against her. She spent thousands of dollars on gadgets and software to keep her identity secret, and hundreds of hours tracking down stashes of data about her — then begging companies to erase it.
In the end, she failed.
"After spending a year doing this, I felt this is not something any normal person would do or should do," Angwin says. "It's too much work, and I didn't actually achieve many of my goals."
Danny Weitzner says we can never turn back the clock. None of us will ever be able to disappear. But he insists that privacy isn't dead — at least, not his definition of privacy.
"There is a tendency to think that privacy is synonymous with secrecy," he says. "That if you can keep your personal information secret then you have privacy. But if you don't, if it's not secret anymore — if third parties hold your personal information, then somehow you have lost all your privacy.
"I personally reject that notion of privacy," Weitzner adds. He says protecting privacy in the digital age means creating rules that require governments and businesses to be transparent about how they use our information.
Weitzner envisions a world where big databases are audited to prevent abuse, including those at the NSA and financial reports, and where encryption technology ensures that research involving troves of sensitive personal information don't open windows into individuals' personal lives.
Surprisingly, Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for privacy-related issues at the ACLU, agrees.
"This can't be a discussion about how one side wants to stop global warming by doing a better analysis of huge information on our energy use and the other side cares about privacy," he says. "That can't be the way the debate is framed."
Calabrese says he can't kill off the big data business; it's too late. In fact, he says, we probably don't want to anyway. But with the right rules and technologies, maybe we can get it under control.
A European Commission survey of 28,000 Internet users found that a quarter reported content blocking, the Commission revealed Thursday. The survey found that 41 percent experience problems watching video on a mobile device and 37 percent on a fixed Internet connection. Other services with which users experienced problems include music streaming, playing online games and voice over IP. The news comes as the debate over a new E.U. “net neutrality” law continues.
“When you buy an internet subscription you should get access to all content. That is what the open Internet should be, and all Europeans should have access to it,” said Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, in a statement on Thursday. She believes that her proposals for the Telecoms Regulation will guarantee an open Internet.
However digital rights activists have argued that the proposed new law does exactly the opposite. “At the same time as proposing text which will undermine net neutrality in Europe, Commissioner Kroes is energetically claiming that she supports it. Anyone not familiar with the file would be mistaken for believing her,” said Joe McNamee from EDRi (a European digital rights group). […]
Julia Angwin might want to cut Edward Snowden some royalty checks. As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal from 2000 to 2013, Angwin reported for years about the intersection of privacy and new technology. She began work on “Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance” long before Snowden began shocking the world with his leaked tales of NSA surveillance. But the timing of the publication of her new book couldn’t have ended up being more propitious. At a moment when, largely due to Snowden’s efforts, public interest in and concern over privacy issues is at an all-time high, Angwin has arrived with a deeply researched book that is completely of the moment.
Angwin spoke to Salon from New York, where she is now on the staff of the nonprofit investigative journalism outfit ProPublica.
Imagining a hackathon concocts images of young hackers high on coffee, red-eyed after a sleepless night, trying to illegally hijack websites. But the reality is much more prosaic. A hackathon gets developers together with, depending on the goal, complementary profiles to fulfil a project within a given time – generally 24 or 48 hours. In this case the goal was trying to make sense of reams of data released by European institutions. It’s especially important with the European elections on the horizon. […]
On the other side of the room, Thomas Bouchet, from the French organization La Quadrature du Net, with a volunteer’s help, improves the organisation’s Memopol tool, designed to track MEPs’ voting habits. […]
All participants share one concern. It shows on the stickers that cover the laptops and which can be heard in every conversation: open data. Open data is data accessible to the public, in a reusable digital format under an open license. For these free-software lovers, this is second nature to them. Many of them believe this is a fundamental element of political transparency and therefore of democracy. All the NGOs present – Democracy International, Transparency International, La Quadrature du Net or Access Info – state that accessing public data and especially European institutions data is a matter of information freedom. […]