In Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF], researchers from INRIA, NICTA and University College London parse through 600GB worth of leaked logfiles from seven Blue Coat SG-9000 proxies used by the Syrian government to censor and surveil its national Internet connections. They find that the Assad regime's censorship is more subtle and targeted than that of China and Iran, with heavy censorship of instant messaging, but lighter blocking of social media. They also report on Syrians' use of proxies, Tor, and Bittorrent to evade national censorship. It's the first comprehensive public look at the network censorship practiced in Syria.
Censorship in the Wild: Analyzing Web Filtering in Syria [PDF]
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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Earlier this week, EFF published a scorecard for rating Obama's NSA reforms. Now that the reforms have been announced, it's time to measure them up. They don't fare well, I'm afraid. Here's a roundup of commentary from privacy leaders around the world, expressing disappointment (if not surprise) at Obama's half-hearted reining in of the surveillance state.
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Emmanuel Goldstein from 2600 Magazine sez, "It shouldn't be that surprising, but Volume Three of The Hacker Digest contains all kinds of news items and articles concerning the National Security Agency, its attempts to control encryption, and the threat of surveillance. This was the hacker world of 1986."
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A spectacular PSA from the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls on Americans to join in a rally against mass surveillance on Oct 26, featuring everyone from Phil Donahue and John Cusak to Molly Crabapple and David Segal, as well as Congressmen like John Conyers, prominent whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg, Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, and a many others, making the case for limiting government surveillance. It's a spectacular video, and I'd take it as a personal favor if you'd tell your friends about it and show it around.
A Rally Against Mass Surveillance
Rainey from EFF sez, "On the weekend of October 26 -- the 12th anniversary of the signing of the USA PATRIOT Act -- thousands of people from across the political spectrum will unite in Washington, D.C. to take a stand against unconstitutional surveillance. Groups like EFF, ACLU and reddit are using the event to pressure Congress to stop mass spying -- and dropping off a petition with over 500,000 signatures to show they're serious. There will be speakers, privacy experts, and lots of music - including YACHT, the indie pop duo that's sweeping the nation with its new song, 'Party at the NSA.'"
Our Avram takes to Making Light to tell the remarkable story of a model who found herself sitting next to a lecherous married man on an airplane, and who crowdsourced a name-and-shame campaign for him on Twitter that uncovered his identity. Avram makes the point that this is more science fictional than most science fiction:
Ms Stetten is a twenty-something model living in New York (though possibly not a native). Yesterday she was on a plane when the fellow sitting next to her, wearing a wedding ring, tried hitting on her. She turned him down, and tweeted about it. He kept at it.
Over the course of the conversation, Brian mentioned not just his first name, but also that he’s an actor, and born in Oklahoma. Eventually he brought up that he’d just been working on a project with Matthew McConaughey, and that’s all it takes nowadays. Inside a minute, one of Stetten’s followers had found him on the IMDB.
Things got worse for Brian from there — lied about his marriage, turned out to be lying about being “clean and sober”, etc. The story’s been picked up by a Hollywood gossip site, so I imagine he’s got some ’splainin’ to do back home. I’m interested in this not so much for the sake of schadenfreude about some actor I’d never heard of (although it is fun) as for the implications for science fiction. How much have you read recently that gives you that glimpse of the possibilities of heavily networked societies? How many authors (other than Charlie Stross) are really writing about the possibilities of a crowd-sourced panopticon? And how many are still living in the ’70s?
A little bird tells me…