The press review catalogues press articles related to la Quadrature's issues, compiled by its volunteers.
See also our French press review.
[...] A new NSA document published today by The Intercept sheds considerable light on [the question of the involvement of non-USA governments with the global NSA surveillance programme]. The classified document contains an internal NSA interview with an official from the SIGINT Operations Group in NSA’s Foreign Affairs Directorate. Titled “What Are We After with Our Third Party Relationships? — And What Do They Want from Us, Generally Speaking?”, the discussion explores the NSA’s cooperative relationship with its surveillance partners. Upon being asked whether political shifts within those nations affect the NSA’s relationships, the SIGINT official explains why such changes generally have no effect: because only a handful of military officials in those countries are aware of the spying activities. Few, if any, elected leaders have any knowledge of the surveillance. [...]
[Forbes] 'Privacy Will Be Something Only The Upscale Enjoy': 15 Predictions About Our Digital Future
The World Wide Web, birthed in a paper authored by Sir Tim Berners-Lee on March 12th, 1989, turns 25 today. After some gawky adolescent years, filled with fraud, lawlessness and technicolor gifs, it’s emerged as the defining force of today’s world. [...]
We all understand, at least subconsciously, that things are changing quickly. But what will the world really look like in 10 years? In a report released yesterday, titled Digital Life in 2025, the Pew Research Center attempts to answer that question via a poll of 2600 technology experts. The end result is a collection of 15 predictions—eight positive, six negative, and one sort of neutral recommendation regarding societal planning going forward. [...]
The dark side, according to the report, includes a potentially destabilizing uptick in global inequality, along with a serious reduction in privacy. The report also warns of an increased potential for large-scale abuse (think NSA, and the sophisticated hacking attacks directed at companies like Target), and the risk of backlash from governments and organizations lashing out in the face of rapid change. [...]
Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process.
The classified files – provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware “implants.” The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.
In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.
Two of the biggest stories over the last year have been data protection and - of course - Edward Snowden's revelations of massive spying by the NSA and GCHQ on all online activity in Europe (and elsewhere). As it happens, both of these important issues are coming to a head this week: after a preliminary debate tomorrow, on Wednesday the European Parliament will vote on both (draft agenda.) That means we still have time to drop them a friendly email today asking them to support strong privacy and civil liberties in Europe.
[...] another important new document that you might like to read before contacting your MEPs is this testimony [.pdf] from Edward Snowden to the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee.
[...] the NSA has been pressuring European governments to change their laws to make them more convenient for surveillance purposes - which means less protection for European rights. The NSA also plays off EU nations against each other [...]
You know when you break up with someone and they just don’t get the message? A few months later, they’re trying again, [...] They ask you for drinks, just to “catch up,” you know? And then they talk about the way things used to be, and if only you two could try again. And you’re like, “What part of ‘I never want you to be a part of my life’ did you not understand?”
The copyright lobbyists in D.C. are following this ex-boyfriend playbook.
Let’s begin with the breakup. Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Tumblr, YouTube, Reddit, WordPress, and Facebook aren’t responsible for the copyright infringement of each of their millions of users, so long as they take down specific posts, videos, or images when notified by copyright holders. But copyright holders thought that wasn’t good enough. They wanted to take down whole websites, not just particular posts, and without ever going to court. In 2011, they proposed a bill [...] called SOPA. [...]
To draw attention to "broken" copyright law, the editor of a popular news site turned the tables on a leading German political party. Finding the government's Social Democratic Party using a Creative Commons work without permission, he sent them a troll-style settlement demand - and got paid.
“After some back and forth, because there were two images on the two websites, 1,800 euros was remitted to me,” [Sebastian] Heiser [Editor at Taz.de] says. [...]
Underlining the state of today’s “great copyright”, of the 1,800 euros paid ($2,497) Heiser only pocketed 696 euros ($965) since the remaining 1,104 euros ($1,531) went into his lawyer’s bank acccount. Of course, SPD would’ve had to pay legal fees too, estimated at another 1,100 euros.
Total outlay 2,900 euros ($4,023). Amount paid to copyright holder – less than a quarter of that.
[TechDirt] Snowden Gives Testimony To European Parliament Inquiry Into Mass Surveillance, Asks For EU Asylum
A few weeks back, we reported that the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee planned to send some questions to Edward Snowden as part of its inquiry on electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens. He's now replied to these, prefacing them with a short statement (pdf -- embedded below.) Although there are no major revelations -- he specifically states that he will not be disclosing anything not already published -- it does contain many important clarifications and interesting comments. [...]
[...] 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.