Netizen Report: Security Edition

Image via Flickr user Defence Images (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Most of this report was researched, written, and edited by Tom Risen, Weiping Li, Renata Avila and Sarah Myers.

We begin this week’s Netizen Report in Washington DC, where supporters of the revised Cybersecurity Act of 2012 are pushing for a vote before Congress goes on break in August. The revised bill was released on Sunday by five senators including Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). New amendments would make any government cybersecurity standards optional. The bill would establish a National Cybersecurity Council to coordinate with network managers in critical infrastructure industries such as emergency services, energy, banking, health care and communications. Privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union support the amendments as an improvement, but have called for vigilance on privacy concerns ahead of a Senate vote. President Barack Obama also wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal supporting the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

The European Commission is considering similar cybersecurity requirements for critical infrastructure companies to report security breach notifications to the government and institute risk management. There is a public input forum on the upcoming EU Strategy on Cyber Security running until October 12.


The British government is calling on universities to apply for grants to operate two Centres of Doctoral Training in Cyber Security, which would be expected to deliver at least 24 graduates over a three year initial life span. The centers are expected to begin taking students in October of 2013.

In a similar effort to fill a cybersecurity skills gap, NATO has developed a Cyber Defense Awareness course for affiliated personnel.

Four months after gaming website Gamingo was hacked, eight million passwords, usernames and emails were published online on password-cracking forum Inside Pro. The user information was removed last week. Users of Gamingo can check on data breach alert website PwnedList if their information was included in the leak.


Privacy International is taking legal action against the British government for failing to control the export of surveillance technologies.

US government surveillance efforts conducted under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act have “at least once,” violated the Fourth Amendment providing freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, according to an information request made by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The US Department of Defense will monitor American media for disclosures of classified information, according to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. A letter from the Pentagon Press Association to Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey calls for assurance [pdf] that the government is not spying on their email or phone calls.


Twitter will appeal an order by a New York Criminal Court to turn over tweets made by Occupy Wall Street protester Malcom Harris from Sept. 15 to Dec. 31, 2011. In early July the court ruled Harris, who was arrested in an October protest on the Brooklyn Bridge, had no ability to challenge a subpoena of his Twitter account.

A new opt-in Google service called Google Now is intended to give Google users “just the right information at just the right time” by tracking their search engine patterns and offering cards with information related to user history and location, such as map directions after searching for a restaurant.

Online compliance training service company WeComply is offering an online course on European Union data privacy policies.

Apple's iOS App Store removed an application called Clueful, which reported on the behavior of 65,000 of the App Store's most popular apps. Apple would not specify why the app was removed. Since developer Bitdefender uploaded Clueful in May, the app found that 41 percent of apps studied could track locations, 33 percent stored user information without encryption and 18.6 percent of apps could access all user contact information.


The Chinese government is ordering media outlets to report only positive news about weekend floods that killed 37 people, according to the Beijing Times via Agence France-Presse. The scale of damage in the outskirts of the city suggests that the death toll could be higher than reported. On Tuesday more than 72,000 social media postings calling for donations were deleted.

Hong Kong’s government free wi-fi service was found by a local newspaper to be filtering access to several politically sensitive websites. Hong Kong retains free expression rights autonomous of mainland China, but a not yet published Internet service provider contract requires the wi-fi service to block indecent, obscene and illegal content.

The government of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, has blocked access to 1 million pornographic websites on Wednesday in an effort to commemorate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. This marks the second time in two years Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring has blocked pornography during Ramadan.


Brazilian journalist André Caramante received threats from supporters of former Sao Paulo military police commander Adriano Lopes Lucinda Telhada in response to an article he wrote condemning hate speech that Telhada posted on his Facebook page.

Three Vietnamese bloggers were injured by government officials who smashed their car window after following them home from a party. In a trend of repression against bloggers, a different group of three activists were sentenced to more than five years in prison last week on the charge of spreading anti-government propaganda. At least 18 people are currently detained in Vietnam for expressing their views freely online.

Artist and government critic Ai Weiwei lost his appeal to a $2.4 million tax evasion conviction. Weiwei spent 81 days in secret detention last year as the Chinese government rounded up dissidents and online activists to prevent a Chinese version of the Arab Spring.

National Policy

Newly approved laws in Costa Rica criminalize online behavior including imprisonment for false representation on social media. The revised criminal code, available here [Es] would jail bloggers and journalists who publish classified information, a provision which is earning a reputation as an “anti-WikiLeaks law.”

Google has been ordered to censor piracy-related terms such as ‘Torrent’, ‘RapidShare’ and ‘Megaupload’ by a French court in a case initiated by French music industry group SNEP. The court is not holding Google responsible for piracy related infringements conducted via the search engine.

California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris is forming a new Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit to prosecute companies who violate privacy laws. Harris plans to use the unit to enforce a recent agreement requiring privacy policies for mobile applications, which was signed by Apple, Google, Research In Motion, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Facebook.

Sovereigns of Cyberspace

YouTube is adding an option aimed at protecting the identity of protesters that would allow people to blur faces in any video.

Washington is the first state to offer voter registration and voter updates through Facebook. The new voter info application “My Vote” was created by Facebook and Microsoft, with the state of Washington processing the information.

Google has created a version of Gmail on SMS for users to text email in Africa. The application expands options for many Africans who access networks using mobile phones, but the app has been criticized because such a connection is not as secure as using a computer.

Microsoft is not confirming or denying allegations that changes made this year to peer-to-peer messaging service Skype allow backdoor monitoring of users. According to Skype’s privacy policy the company stores messages for 30 days and the company can disclose information to law enforcement agencies who request it.

The Chinese company Huawei has overtaken Ericsson as the world's largest telecom equipment vendor.

Internet governance

Seeking to create dialogue about a net neutrality law for the European Union, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes announced a public comment period to run through Oct. 15 about transparency, switching and internet traffic management. The public feedback will supplement a report issued in May by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications calling for a net neutrality law.  


Mexico’s Congress passed a resolution calling for newly elected President Enrique Peña Nieto to reject the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Mexico’s Ambassador to Japan, Claude Heller, signed the treaty on July 11 despite criticism by Mexico’s Senate that the treaty’s set of international online copyright laws could restrict users’ rights.

Netizen Activism

A march in Mexico City organized by Twitter-fueled activist group #YoSoy132 rallied approximately 32,000 people on Sunday in opposition to newly elected President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Because of a block on donations to WikiLeaks set up by VISA and MasterCard, the document-publishing website says its cash reserves are running out and it needs 1 million Euros to keep operating. To bypass the blockade, the Fund for the Defense of Net Neutrality set up an account to solicit funds via French credit card Carte Bleue, which partners with VISA and MasterCard.

The Internet Defense League launched a campaign on July 19 across the United States to fight legislation that would curtail Internet freedom and innovation. The group includes activist organizations that helped defeat the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Fight For the Future and the Open Technology Institute.

Cool Things

During the London 2012 Olympic Games, the London Eye ferris wheel will become a Twitter mood ring in a nightly 30 minute light show, reflecting popular sentiments of tweets with blinks of yellow for positive tweets, green for neutral and purple for negative.

China's online population is now 538 million people, increasing its lead as the world's largest nation online.

Pro wrestler Sean Morley, known Val Venis, is boycotting World Wrestling Entertainment because of the group’s support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

All e-books from science fiction and fantasy publisher Tor/Forge will now be sold without digital rights management limits against use of the e-book on certain devices.

The Creative Commons interactive license chooser for online content is now live.

Publications and Studies

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