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Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan invests in Internet surveillance company that backstops notorious dictatorships

The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) has joined a private equity consortium that acquired the notorious Internet surveillance company BlueCoat, yoking teachers' retirement security to the fortunes of a company that has systematically assisted some of the world's most brutal dictatorships to censor and surveil their citizenry. Blue Coat has blood on its hands, people rounded up and tortured and even killed thanks to it and products like it, and it's a disgrace for teachers -- whose professional ethics embrace freedom, intellectual inquiry, and fairness -- to be part of the financial exit strategy for the people who founded and ran that company.

Ron Deibert and Sarah McKune from the University of Toronto's CitizenLab and Munk School of Global Affairs have written an op-ed in the Toronto Star, detailing some of BlueCoat's ethical unsuitablity, and the fact that the OTPP went into the transaction having been thoroughly briefed on what they were getting into.

If you'd like to read more about BlueCoat, check out CitizenLab's excellent report: "Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools."

Now, a year later, Citizen Lab has released a new report, Planet Blue Coat: Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools. Using a combination of technical interrogation methods, our researchers scanned the Internet to look for signature evidence of Blue Coat products. While our investigation was not exhaustive and provided only a limited window of visibility into the deployment of such tools, what we were able to find raises serious concerns.

We uncovered 61 Blue Coat ProxySG and 316 Blue Coat PacketShaper devices, which are designed to filter online content and inspect and control network traffic. While legitimate for some purposes, these capabilities can also be used for mass censorship and surveillance of a country’s Internet users. It is noteworthy in this respect that 61 of these Blue Coat appliances are on public or government networks in countries with a history of concerns over human rights, surveillance and censorship (see the work of the OpenNet Initiative documenting such concerns).

Specifically, we found the ProxySG product, designed to filter access to information online, in Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. We found the PacketShaper appliance, capable of deep packet inspection and mass surveillance, in Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela.

Teachers’ pension plan invests in Internet surveillance firm. (Thanks, Mom!)

Public Catholic school suspends students for wearing pro-choice stickers

Seven students at a publicly funded Catholic school* in Thunder Bay, Ontario have been suspended from school for wearing homemade pro-choice t-shirts on a day that the school administration had devoted to a "pro-life" Day of Silence. 23 kids wore the shirts, and seven refused to remove them when instructed to do so by the school's administration. Five of the seven were sent home for the day; two others were given two-day suspensions for swearing at teachers during the heated discussion of their protest.
The St. Patrick's Catholic High School students were either sent home or suspended for refusing to remove green pieces of tape with the word "choice" during a pro-life event Thursday, organized by a school chaplain and a student group, in which students sported similar labels with the word "life."

Among the students sent home was Alexandria Szeglet, 15, who initiated the protest after telling her mother that morning she disagreed with the event. Ann Szeglet responded, "Be peaceful about it. Don't make it a big deal."

"I was really respectful, but I just think the school goes a little further than a high school should [in] saying prolife," Alexandria said.

*Ontario's public education system is split into four subsystems: French, English, French-Catholic and English-Catholic; it's a product of the delicate negotiation that led to the merger of French and English Canada in the nineteenth century. Catholic schools receive a double-dose of funds, one from the taxpayers, the other from the Church. I sometimes do talks at Catholic schools when I tour in Canada; interestingly, the last couple schools I've been to had a large number of girls in hijabs and boys who self-identified as Muslim. When I asked a teacher why Muslim parents would enroll their children in a Catholic school, she said that sex education in the Catholic system is less explicit and thorough than in the secular schools, so conservative Muslim parents enroll their children and instruct them to ignore all religious elements of the school.

Pro-choice stickers lead to student suspensions (Thanks, NoDeg, via Submitterator)

(Image: CBC/Strombo)

TVOntario's online archive, including Prisoners of Gravity!

TVOntario, a public broadcaster in Ontario, Canada, has released an enormous archive of its programming online. There's even some very funny and awkward video of me with bad hair in the mid-1990s, before I cut processed carbs out of my diet and lost 80lbs (alas, the episodes of Bits and Bytes, a computer show that my dad appeared on in the early 1980s don't appear to have been archived). Best of all is the collection of Prisoners of Gravity clips -- this being just about the best TV show ever made about science fiction literature.

Welcome to TVO's Public Archive! (Thanks, InfoDocket, via Submitterator!)