Last week, the European Parliament voted 348 to 274 to pass the Copyright Directive. Unless something truly extraordinary happens during the upcoming meeting of the European Council -- think of it as the Senate of the EU, where the governments of Member States are represented -- draconian and highly disruptive new rules on content licensing and monitoring will become EU law.
Last week, thanks to investigative reporting, we learned that Facebook discovered in January that it was storing millions of users’ passwords in plain text format, making them fully readable for thousands of its employees. Facebook has acknowledged that this was a serious security error and privacy breach on its side, as its systems, ideally, “are designed to mask passwords using techniques that make them unreadable”, and promised that it “will be notifying everyone whose passwords we have found were stored in this way.” There is no evidence that any of the thousand employees with access to these unencrypted passwords actually accessed them, but Facebook’s decision to remain mum reveals an important lesson for the overarching privacy and security policy debate. Importantly, data security incidents are a widespread problem that goes well beyond Facebook.
Last month, Facebook announced a draft charter for a future Oversight Board for Content Decisions. When implemented, the Oversight Board for Content Decisions, composed of independent experts, would be the last instance reviewer of important and disputed content moderation cases for the platform.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Facebook has decided to integrate the back-end infrastructures of its three fully-owned messaging products: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. At Public Knowledge, aware of the different nature, features, and conditions of use of these three services, we are carefully following the possible privacy and security and competition implications of this market-changing move.
If you follow global tech policy, you probably know that the European Union is in the process of adopting a Copyright Directive to update its copyright framework. The Copyright Directive is infamous on this side of the Atlantic because of the mandate for automated web filters contained in Article 13 of the same. Elsewhere, we’ve written about the harmful effects for free expression that Article 13 would have.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a United Nations (UN) agency originally created in 1865 to manage cross-national telegraphic communications, and is increasingly seen by its member states as the technology policy branch of the UN system. While to date it is formally responsible only for telecommunications issues, in recent years the ITU has hosted a global summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI), organized a workshop on e-payments and 5G, held a forum on the Internet of Things and Smart Cities, studied the economic impact of the so-called Over-The-Top (OTT) internet services such as WhatsApp or YouTube, developed a global cybersecurity index, and analyzed privacy in cloud computing. That, on top of ITU’s fundamental mandate and ongoing work to help connect the hundreds of millions who are still unconnected.
On April 12th, the Irish High Court elevated a series of questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ, the Supreme Court of the European Union) regarding the validity of key legal instruments used by American tech companies to process Europeans’ personal data. Judge Caroline Costello of the Irish High Court is concerned about the national surveillance practices of the United States and the level of privacy rights observed there.
Europe’s new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will enter into force in May 2018. Understandably, given that data breaches and privacy violations have been in the headlines lately -- and given that the GDPR will reshuffle privacy protection in Europe and beyond -- many in the United States are looking to the GDPR for ideas of what to do - and what not to do. We think that it would be impractical and ineffective to copy and paste the GDPR to U.S. law -- the institutions and legal systems are just too different.
Last week, Public Knowledge and the Organization of American States (OAS) organized a joint roundtable on “Cybersecurity and Civil Society in the Americas,” which took place at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the support of Open Society Foundations, the roundtable included civil society organizations from all over the Americans: Derechos Digitales, Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor (IDEC), ADC Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), Karisma, TEDIC, Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D), CodingRights, InternetLab, Datos Protegidos, Ipandetec, Hiperderecho, Access Now, New America, and more. It also included the active participation of high-ranking members of the Canadian, American, Colombian, and Guatemalan governments, the Brazilian Armed Forces, and private organizations.
Over the past several years, the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency specializing in information and communication technologies, has been discussing new ways to regulate internet services and applications. These apps include favorites like Skype, Signal, Line, Telegram, and Vimeo -- essentially most popular “over-the-top” (OTT) and streaming applications. These discussions will have serious consequences for both how you use the internet and your internet freedom. How we govern streaming services closely affects how we govern the internet itself. Expect this transformative internet governance conversation to escalate in the ITU and other arenas as we approach the ITU’s 2018 Plenipotentiary Conference, or “Plenipot”.
Public Knowledge is concerned by reports that the use of the internet is being restricted in Catalunya, which is expected to hold a referendum on its self-determination on the first of October. Spain’s Constitutional Court suspended the referendum after the Spanish government challenged its legality, arguing that the referendum goes against the 1978 Constitution, which states Spain is indivisible.
Imagine if Comcast owned iHeartradio, the New York Times, and AT&T. And in many places, your only option for an Internet Service Provider is Comcast. Your news would be provided by Comcast. Your cable TV: Comcast. Your favorite radio stations: also Comcast. Scary, right? Yet, that is exactly what will happen in South America’s second largest economy, Argentina, if the proposed merger of Cablevision (the telecom branch of Grupo Clarín, Argentina’s largest media conglomerate) and Telecom (one of the two telecommunications companies resulting from the privatization of Argentina’s national monopoly in 1990) goes through.
Last week, Public Knowledge signed a public release together with other organizations from the Americas on the limitations to fundamental rights online in Venezuela. We are following the developments in that country closely.
Yesterday, April 26, was World Intellectual Property Day. However, in many countries we see extremist proposals to expand copyright and intellectual property, which benefit only a handful of rightholders at the expense of the rest of society. That´s why, together with 13 civil society organizations from the Americas, we published an open letter calling on our governments to protect innovation, preserve fair access to technology and internet freedom, and use copyright to promote social justice.
Last week, the European Parliament (EP) passed a resolution manifesting concern over the EU-US Privacy Shield, a legal scheme that allows American companies to transfer personal data from the European Union to the United States. In a nutshell, the EP is worried that the U.S. government doesn’t take privacy protection seriously, and the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) make explicit reference to, among other things, the Trump administration’s undoing of the Federal Communication Commission’s broadband privacy rules.
Last weekend, left-wing candidate and political heir of President Rafael Correa Lenin Moreno was elected President of Ecuador. Now, President-elect Moreno has the opportunity to stop one of his predecessor’s most undemocratic practices: using copyright for political censorship. It’s time for some copyright glasnost, Lenin.
In International Women’s Day we reflect on the need for continuous work with the goal of achieving equal rights and opportunities for women. This year at Public Knowledge, we want to focus in the digital gap and call for the private and public sector to act decisively to close it.