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NSA spies on human rights groups, including those in the USA

During video testimony to the Council of Europe, whistleblower Edward Snowden reiterated that the NSA targets human rights groups, including those in the USA, for surveillance. It uses its Xkeyscore technology to "fingerprint" communications from these groups and targets them for deep surveillance. Groups that have been targeted in this way include UNICEF and many others. Cory 23

EU's highest court strikes down mass surveillance under the Data Retention Directive

The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, has invalidated the European Parliament's Data Retention Directive, which required phone companies and ISPs to store your clicks, email subjects and to/from info, your location data, and other sensitive "metadata" for up to two years. The ECJ cited the UN Human Rights Committee's condemnation of this sort of data-retention and its call for the USA to halt its surveillance. We have Digital Rights Ireland and AK Vorrat Austria to thank for the ruling.

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Open net gets a huge boost in the EU: net neutrality and no roaming fees

Andrew sez, "The fight for the Open Web and Net Neutrality won a big one today after the EU Parliament voted to approve EU Parliamentarian Marietje Schaacke's proposal to codify Net Neutrality in EU law. Here's her statement after the winning vote:"

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Pirate Bay founder runs for MEP

Peter "brokep" Sunde, co-founder of the Pirate Bay and Flattr, a service that allows fans to pay artists, is running for the European Parliament on the Pirate Party ticket (what else?). If I lived in Finland, I'd vote for him without a second thought. Cory 1

Europe's first library-powered fablab

Jeroen writes, "about a project I'm working on: FryskLab, Europe's first library-powered FabLab. We're using a mobile lab facility to bring making and 21st century skills to primary and secondary education, trying to find solutions for local socio-economic challenges" Cory 1

Edward Snowden's magnificent testimony to the EU

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has submitted written testimony [PDF] to an EU committee investigating mass surveillance. Glyn Moody's Techdirt post gives a great tl;dr summary of the document, but you should really read it for yourself. It's ten single-spaced pages, but Snowden turns out to be an extremely talented writer who beautifully lays out his arguments, managing the trick of being dispassionate while simultaneously conveying the import of his subject matter.

Snowden makes the point that his testimony doesn't disclose anything that the press hasn't already published, but there's been so much that it's worth reviewing some of it. He directs our attention to something I'd missed: the NSA's Foreign Affairs Division (FAD) spends an extraordinary amount of time lobbying EU nations (and other countries) to change their laws so that the NSA can legally spy on everyone in the country. What's more, they cook these deals -- for example, they'll get German permission to listen in on everything by non-Germans and get a Danish deal that covers all the non-Danes, but since the Internet backbones traverse both countries, they can spy on Germans in Denmark and Danes in Germany. As Snowden says, "The surest way for any nation to become subject to unnecessary surveillance is to allow its spies to dictate its policy."

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EU elections: ask candidates to sign digital rights pledge

Kirsten From Edri writes, "European Digital Rights (EDRi) has launched WePromise.EU to put digital civil rights on the agenda of the European election. The platform is based on a two-sided promise: On the one hand, parliamentary candidates will be able to endorse a ten point 'Charter of Digital Rights' that supports an open digital environment. On the other, citizens across Europe can in turn sign the petition and promise to vote for candidates that have endorsed the Charter."

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890 word Daily Mail immigrant panic story contains 13 vile lies


The Daily Mail is an awful, racist, hard-right UK newspaper, notorious for scare stories (see, for example, this exhaustive index of things that the Fail claims will give you cancer) and generally terrible reporting.

But even in amidst all that notorious history of deceit and hate, the Mail attained something of a new low recently, with its "reporting" on the supposed wave of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants. According to the Mail, these people were poised to invade the UK on January 1, 2014, when those countries' EU membership would entitle their citizens travel throughout the EU and seek work without visas.

Jon Danzig, an investigative BBC journalist, plucked one of the many such stories out of the paper's pages, a mere 890 words' worth, and, with the help of a colleague in Romania, found 13 lies. He pressed the Mail to substantiate its story, and, failing to receive a satisfactory reply, he filed a formal complaint with the Press Complaints Commission.

The Mail's xenophobic campaign against Bulgarians and Romanians has been instrumental in shifting both Labour and the Tories to adopting inhumane policies, in order to pander to people who've been terrorised into a false belief that somehow migrants are coming to both take away British jobs and collect benefits (that is, to work and not work simultaneously).

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European Court of Human Rights will hear case about GCHQ spying


This is huge news: the European Court of Human Rights has agreed to hear a challenge to bulk Internet surveillance by the UK spy agency GCHQ. The case was brought by Big Brother Watch, the Open Rights Group and English PEN, and German Internet activist Constanze Kurz. This is a rare instance of "impact litigation" in the UK, where a bad law or practice can be ended swiftly and decisively by having a court hear a test-case about the law and rule on its constitutionality. This tactic has been incredibly effective in the US -- EFF's famous Bernstein victory, which legalized strong cryptography, is a good example -- but has been less available to UK activists.

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EU invites Snowden testimony

The EU's Civil Liberties Committee has MEPs seek video link with Snowden for NSA spying probeinvited Edward Snowden to give it testimony by video-link from Russia. Cory 1

URGENT: Input needed on EU copyright consultation

Ásta Helgadóttir, reserve MP for the Icelandic Pirate Party, writes, "The European copyright reform is here -- and we have the chance to influence policy reform in this area for the first time in at least 15 years, and there is no way to say when this chance will come around again. The European Commission has opened up for consultation on their proposal for legislation (which then will be sent to the European Parliament) and you, as an individual, alien or organization can give your honest opinion about whatever copyright has done, good or bad, for and to you in the past decades.

The European Commission does not want too many replies at all. The EC has given an extremely short consultation period: only 60 days for 80 questions. It has not provided any translations of this document, and in addition the language used is very technical. Not all Europeans are able to read English, and one thing is for sure: The upcoming copyright reform is going to affect them. The timing, Christmas and holiday period, when people are sure to be busy with other matters, is also strategic. The Commission has rejected pleas on extending the consultation period and providing translations at least in French, German and Polish.

I believe this consultation is important for the future of culture and knowledge in Europe. We cannot make peer-to-peer filesharing illegal -- that is how we, in modern times, share culture, information and knowledge. To make people liable for the content of webpages they link to is just absurd. The objective of copyright should not be to make normal usage and sharing of culture criminal -- but that is a likely outcome of the European copyright reform, unless we make ourselves heard.

Go to www.copywrongs.eu and answer the questions which are important to you. You do not have to answer all the questions, only the ones that matter to you.

The original consultation can be found here, and there's a simplified version here.

The deadline is 5 February 2014. Until then, we should provide the European Commission with as many responses as possible!

Amelia Andersdotter, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party, and I, Ásta Helgadóttir, reserve MP for the Icelandic Pirate Party, had a workshop on the Copyright Consultation at the 30C3 in Hamburg. We didn't have a clear idea of what the results should be, just that we wanted to motivate as many as possible to answer the consultation. One of the outcomes of that workshop was www.copywrongs.eu, something way beyond what Amelia and I had ever dreamt of. The great people from the Pirate Party Austria, Wikimedia in Germany and Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, all really deserve lots of praise for such hard work.

Help reform copyright! (Thanks, Ásta!)

Euroteens embarrassed to be seen on Facebook

But their parents insist they use it, so their personal lives can be scrutinized by the olds. They'd prefer to be on Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat. "Facebook is basically dead and buried," says Daniel Miller, who led the extensive study. Cory 21

EU politicans who got raises worked less; MEPs with pay-cuts worked more

In Salaries and Work Effort: An Analysis of the European Union Parliamentarians [PDF], a paper by professors Naci Mocan and Duha Altindag in the latest Economics Journal, the researchers take advantage of a recent change in the pay of Members of the European Parliament to examine the relationship between pay and work.

Until 2009, each EU nation chose how much to pay its MEPs, and salaries were highly variant. When they were harmonized in 2009, some MEPs got paycuts, other got raises. The researchers examined MEPs' behavior before and after, and concluded that the MEPs who got raises did less work (attending meetings and sessions) than they had under lower salary conditions; while MEPs who took cuts started showing up for work more.

The UK just gave massive, above-inflation raises to its MPs, and part of the argument was that you have to pay for quality. That proposition does not appear to accord with the data.

The unique event allowed the economists to compare the effects of pay rises and decreases on MEPs' performances between July 2004 and December 2011. From this they drew a startling conclusion: MEPs who got an increase ended up attending fewer meetings, while those who had a pay cut raised their attendance rate. Each percentage increase in salary resulted in a decrease of around 0.04% in the number of days an MEP attended parliament. For example, the average French MEP, whose salary increased from about €76,000 to €92,000, ended up missing an additional parliamentary meeting a year.

"We find that a decrease in salaries motivates parliamentarians to increase their attendance," the economists write. The increase in salary also had a negative impact on the number of written or oral questions asked by parliamentarians.

"European parliamentarians are responsible for passing laws that govern the member countries," the two academics write. "They have control over the EU budget and they supervise the other EU institutions. So given the significance of the job, it might be presumed that the effort MEPs put into their work would not be influenced by their salary. The results of our analysis show that this is not the case."

Paying politicians too much harms their work ethic, study claims [Jamie Doward/The Guardian]

EU to UK: don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out

A poll of voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland finds the UK's position in the EU in a precarious state. It's well understood that there's widespread hostility to EU membership in the UK, with the xenophobic (and racist, and sexist, and unbelievably cruel) UK Independence Party gaining ground and the UK Tories fighting back by espousing eugenics and swearing to renegotiate the UK's position in Europe.

But what's news is the sentiment in Europe, where voters are indifferent-to-hostile to the UK, and seemingly prepared for the country to make an exit from the European Parliament. Only 9% of Germans and 15% of French voters polled think that the UK is a force for good in the EU (Poles were more bullish, but still decidedly lacklustre, at 33%).

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Europeans: help stop the export of digital arms from the EU!


Marietje Schaake, the EU's most tech-savvy MEP, writes, "Recently I launched a global campaign against the trade in digital arms from the EU: stopdigitalarms.eu It is unacceptable that EU-made technologies are still exported, deployed and operated by European companies to third countries without oversight."

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