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21 Aug, 2012

China: U.S. Must Hand Over Internet Control To The World

Although the travel & tourism industry has moved rapidly to capitalise on the business-generating opportunities of the Communications and Information Revolution, it is lagging way behind in understanding how this same revolution is impacting on safety, security, privacy, health, society and fundamental democratic human rights.

Actions being taken, or sometimes not taken, by governments, multinational corporations and security companies will have a deep and lasting impact on the way people live, work, travel and spend. Only a small handful of enlightened civil liberties groups, law schools and consumer watchdog organisations are trying to alert the public to dangers ahead and incorporate some check and balance mechanisms into the system.

This dispatch is a compilation of a number of recent developments that clearly show the nature of these emerging threats, the most important of which will be the ability of unknown people to monitor everything and anything, anytime, anywhere. For some, these are opportunities to know the customer and personalise the marketing pitch, for others these are gross violations of privacy that will create a society in which people will first be considered guilty until proven innocent.

Surveillance over facebook, Google, GPS tracking systems, CCTV cameras, etc., are all part of the gradual encroachment process. They will go well beyond hacking of email accounts, stolen identities and financial fraud.

In travel & tourism industry forums, the rah-rah discussions of social media opportunities steer entirely clear of the side-effects —  a typical head-in-the-sand attitude that will only change when the fine line between privacy, security, democratic freedoms and tourism promotion is crossed and some senior figure becomes a victim.

In the meanwhile, Travel Impact Newswire will remain at the forefront of the early-warning effort. Journalism with courage that other travel publications can never match.


Germany Reopens Privacy Investigation Into Facebook Facial Recognition Software

Dan Taglioli, August 16, 2012 [JURIST] — German data privacy authorities on Wednesday reopened [press release, PDF, in German] an investigation into facial recognition software used by Facebook [website; JURIST news archive] that automatically recognizes facial features in pictures and “tags” users when others upload photos of them. Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Johannes Caspar [official website, in German] claims that Facebook is illegally compiling a huge database [NYT report] of members’ photos without their consent, and the archive should be destroyed because European data protection laws require explicit consent of users for a company to employ such analytic software to compile a photographic database of human faces.

Facebook’s model works on an opt-out basis, automatically including users rather than having them opt-in to the feature up front. The original investigation was announced last year, but Caspar suspended the inquiry while Facebook was audited by Irish authorities at the social networking giant’s EU headquarters in Dublin. Facebook ultimately blocked the feature as of July 1, but only for new users. Caspar welcomed the decision but maintains that Facebook did not go far enough [BBC report] for compliance purposes.

Facebook has frequently been under scrutiny for violating privacy laws in Germany. Mirroring Caspar’s position, Patricia Rogosch, a research assistant for the EU Project CONSENT Institute for Information, Telecommunication and Media Law, wrote in August 2011 that the Facebook facial recognition feature violates European data protection laws because the software was introduced without notifying users and it requires users to opt out instead of opting in. In July 2010 Caspar initiated legal proceedings against Facebook for accessing and saving non-users’ personal information, stated the social networking site could be fined tens of thousands of euros for violating Germany’s strict privacy laws. Caspar was alerted that non-users had been contacted by Facebook because their e-mail addresses were listed in Facebook users’ e-mail contacts.

Consumer Watchdog Praises U.S. Judge’s Decision Rejecting Proposed Settlement In Facebook “Sponsored Stories” Privacy Settlement

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Aug. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Consumer Watchdog praised Judge Richard Seeborg’s rejection late Friday afternoon of a proposed settlement in a class action suit against Facebook for using its users’ personal information in “Sponsored Stories” advertisements without their consent.

“This decision does much to defend the integrity of the class action process,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director. “The way this deal was proposed there was no real benefit for class members.”

In his decision in Fraley v. Facebook Justice Seeborg wrote: “In this instance there are sufficient questions regarding the proposed settlement that it would not be appropriate simply to grant the motion and postpone resolution of those issues to final approval.” Read the full Settlement here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/fraley_order.pdf

Consumer Watchdog had opposed the settlement saying that proposed deal “is not fair, adequate or reasonable and provides no direct or indirect benefit to class members.”

“Under the proposed settlement Facebook is poised to continue to misappropriate its users’ personal information without their consent,” wrote Laura Antonini, Consumer Watchdog staff attorney in objecting to the settlement. “Indeed, Facebook recently expanded Sponsored Stories to its mobile platform, an arena where the misappropriation of personal information has far reaching and potentially dangerous consequences; the proposed settlement does not address this major expansion.”

In his order Friday Judge Seeborg raised concerns about these area of the proposed deal:

— The propriety of a settlement that provides no monetary relief directly to class members.

— The amount of $10 million cy pres award, money going to charities. “Assuming that it may be appropriate to approve a settlement that provides for no cash distribution to class members in this case, the question will remain as to whether $10 million in cy pres recovery is fair, adequate, and reasonable,” the Judge wrote.

— The injunctive relief.

— The amount of attorney’s fees, which could total $10 million.

For more info: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

China: U.S. Must Hand Over Internet Control To The World

(People’s Daily Online) August 18, 2012 – The Internet has become one of the most important resources in the world in just a few decades, but the governance mechanism for such an important international resource is still dominated by a private sector organization and a single country.

The U.S. government said in a statement on July 1, 2005 that its Commerce Department would continue to support the work of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and indefinitely retain oversight of the Internet’s 13 root servers.

This indicated the U.S. decision to retain ultimate control over the global Internet, which enabled it to unilaterally close the Internet of another country. A suddenly paralyzed Internet would definitely cause huge social and economic losses to the country.

More and more countries are beginning to question the U.S. control over the world’s Internet as the international resource should be managed and supervised by all countries together. However, the United States has conducted a pre-emptive strike, and refused to give up control over the Internet in the name of protecting the resource. The refusal reflects its hegemonic mentality and double standards.

The United States controls and owns all cyberspaces in the world, and other countries can only lease Internet addresses and domain names from the United States, leading to the U.S. hegemonic monopoly over the world’s Internet.

During the Iraq War, the U.S. government in 2003 asked ICANN to terminate services relating to Iraq’s top-level domain name “.iq” and then all websites with the domain name “.iq” disappeared overnight. The United States has taken advantage of its control over the Internet to launch an invisible war against disobedient countries and to intimidate and threaten other countries.

The United States have repeatedly called for “protecting Internet freedom.” In fact, it is only protecting its own “Internet freedom” even at the expense of other countries. Ten of the global Internet’s 13 root servers are located in the United States, and the U.S. government can supervise the Internet for national security reasons according to the U.S. law. By doing so, the United States actually gains access to all information transmitted online, while other countries can do nothing about it.

Ultimate control over the Internet has been an important tool for the United States to promote its power politics and hegemony worldwide, and any other country may fall victim to this. As a big country on the Internet, China opposes the U.S. unreasonable and unilateral management of the Internet, and seeks to work with the international community to build a new international Internet governance system.

ACLU Sues FBI for New GPS Tracking Memos

By Adrienne Lucas, Legal Intern, Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

08/15/2012 – Today the ACLU filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to force the FBI to release two memos guiding the bureau’s policy on GPS tracking. The memos were written in the wake of the Supreme Court’s January decision in U.S. v. Jones, which held that the Fourth Amendment applies when the government secretly attaches a GPS device to a car and tracks its movements. (See today’s legal complaint, our original FOIA request (made July 18), and a blog post we wrote about that request).

The Jones decision shed some light on the proper use of GPS devices by law enforcement, but it leaves several issues unresolved. For instance, is GPS tracking the sort of search that obligates law enforcement agents to obtain a warrant based on probable cause? Is GPS use proper if an agent has a reasonable belief that a search would turn up evidence of wrongdoing? Does Jones apply to other types of searches, such as tracking the location of a cell phone?

The two memos we’ve asked for may show how the FBI has resolved these unanswered questions. We know about the memos’ existence from a talk given by FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann in February. He said that one memo focuses exclusively on the use of GPS tracking, and suggested that it covers questions like whether Jones applies to other forms of transportation like airplanes and boats, and whether it applies at international borders. Weissmann said the other memo sets forth the FBI’s guidance on how Jones applies to other evidence-gathering techniques, beyond GPS.

It is no secret that the FBI is a powerful agency with influence over other law enforcement agencies. At the time of the Jones decision, the FBI had 3,000 GPS devices in use. The bureau says its mission is to perform “responsibilities in a way that is responsive to the needs of the public and faithful to the Constitution of the United States.” In line with that mission, the American public should know how those GPS devices and other evidence gathering technology are being used. The FBI should release the two memos on the Jones decision to allow the American public to know how the agency will handle future investigations.

Catherine Crump, our attorney on this case, had this to add: Collecting personal data is increasingly easy for the government to do but hard for citizens to detect, so it’s more important than ever for the American public to know the rules that law enforcement is operating under, especially when it comes to location tracking. Knowing the FBI’s position on what it can and can’t do in investigations is essential if America’s privacy laws are going to keep up with technology.

Congress is currently considering a bill supported by the ACLU, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (the GPS Act), that would require law enforcement to get a warrant to access a person’s location information through GPS or cell phone tracking. (You can click here to send a message asking Congress to support the GPS Act.)

Asian CCTV Market Prospects Explored

LONDON-August 17, 2012 -(BUSINESS WIRE)–Due to increasing concerns over security & safety, the video surveillance market has been experiencing significant expansion from pole to pole. The demand for technically advanced surveillance systems has also grown in Asian countries, thereby, creating huge opportunities for closed circuit television (CCTV) manufacturers, operators, and distributors. Forecasts say Asia will gain significant share in the global CCTV market by the end of 2014, with India and China taking the lead.

Mobile video surveillance is a fast growing segment in the video surveillance market. China alone is anticipated to account for about 26% of the total IP-based video surveillance market by 2014-end. In India too, the overall outlook for IP surveillance looks positive and promising, with consumers shifting from traditional analog CCTV to IP surveillance.

New market research study “Booming CCTV Market in Asia Forecast to 2014” developed by RNCOS E-Services is created to present an objective outlook of the CCTV market in such Asian countries as China, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan. Furthermore, the report takes an up-close look at the competitive landscape by studying the profiles of the leading companies, including Bosch, Samsung and Sony, which are operating in the Asian CCTV marketplace.

Indian Government Blocks 245 Webpages for Inflammatory Content;  Hosting of Provocative and Harmful Content Being Monitored

Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, 20-August, 2012 – A lot of inflammatory and harmful content/information has been found to be appearing on the social networking sites hosted outside the country. Bulk of the content/information, which contained images and videos mostly morphed, aimed at targeting people of North East. Most of the content were taken from events unrelated to the incident occurred in Assam. Hosting of such morphed image/video led to a lot of inciting comments from users on the blogs hosting such morphed images/videos and circulation of hate SMSes. It disturbed the peace and harmony among the communities leading to public disorder and exodus of North Eastern people from some parts of the country.

Considering the sensitivity and after effects of such inflammatory and harmful content hosted on the social networking sites, the Department of Electronics & Information Technology had issued an advisory on 17th August 2012 to all the intermediaries including national and international social networking sites, advising them to take necessary action to disable such inflammatory and hateful content hosted on their websites on priority basis. The Department of Electronics & Information Technology also called a meeting of the representatives of international social networking sites based in India and advised them to take all possible action to disable such content immediately.

Such inflammatory and harmful content continued to appear on the social networking sites despite the advisory and request made by the Department of Electronics & Information Technology. The circulation of hate messages and availability of inflammatory and harmful content led to disturbance of peace and harmony at several places in the country causing threat to life and national security. The web pages hosting such content inciting violence and creating law & order problem were identified.

Keeping in view the sensitivity and need for restoring peace, harmony and public order, the Government on recommendation of Ministry of Home Affairs issued orders under section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000 directing intermediaries including international social networking sites to block 76 web pages on 18.08.2012, 80 web pages on 19.8.2012 and 89 web pages on 20.8.2012.

These intermediaries and international social networking sites were also requested to provide registration details and access logs of the person who uploaded such content. The initial response from international social networking sites indicates that such content have been hosted from outside the country and to a large extent from a neighboring country (Pakistan). An intermediary social networking site has responded that the up-loaders of the inflammatory and hateful content are outside the jurisdiction of the country, thereby implying that they are not obliged to take any constructive step to deal with it. The proxy servers and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services which hide the user identity operating from number of countries appear to have been used for uploading the content. The agencies are continuously monitoring hosting of such inflammatory and harmful content.

The Department of Electronics & Information Technology has been working with international social networking sites on this issue. However, a lot more and quicker action is expected from them to address such a sensitive issue which concern restoring peace, harmony, public order and national security.

Indian Home Minister Expresses Concern on Social Media Networking Sites being Misused by Elements Based in Pakistan

Ministry of Home Affairs, 19-August, 2012 – Union Home Minister Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde has expressed concern to his Pakistani counterpart over the issue of social media-networking sites being misused by elements based in Pakistan to circulate false pictures and stories so as to whip up communal sentiments in India and has sought Pakistan’s full cooperation in checking and neutralizing such elements. Mr. Shinde expressed these views when Mr. Rehman Malik, Interior Minister of Pakistan spoke to him today over telephone. This was the first direct contact between the two Ministers.

Mr. Shinde thanked Mr. Malik and conveyed his Eid wishes to him and the people of Pakistan. The Union Home Minister expressed the hope that the occasion would herald an improvement in Indo-Pak relations.

The Interior Minister of Pakistan briefly spoke of the pending issues between the two Ministries and re-iterated his commitment to bring the masterminds and perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack to justice. He assured full mutual cooperation in this matter. Mr. Rehman Malik also invited Mr. Shinde to visit Pakistan to sign the revised Visa agreement which has now been agreed to by both sides.

Both concluded the discussion by agreeing to continue the mutual cooperation and to work towards rooting out terrorism in all its form and manifestation.

Pong Applauds GAO’s Call for FCC to Review Cell Phone Radiation Guidelines, Calls for Withdrawal of FCC’s “Safe” Designation Pending Further Review

LEESBURG, Va.-August 20, 2012 -(BUSINESS WIRE)–Pong Research Corporation applauds the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) report calling for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to update its cell phone radiation exposure and testing guidelines.

According to the GAO report, the current standards—in place since 1997 (some 4 years before the first smartphones became commercially available)—“may not reflect the latest research,” “may not identify maximum exposure [to radiation] in all possible usage conditions,” and, notably, fail to test for use of phones against the body—which “could result in RF [radio frequency] energy exposure higher than the FCC limit.”

Since most people today use and carry their phones against their bodies, consumers likely are unknowingly and consistently exposed to radiation levels above the FCC safety limit. The FCC’s web site however still informs consumers that cell phones tested by these very same FCC standards, are “safe.”

Pong today filed a letter with the FCC that elucidated that real radiation absorption actually experienced by consumers is likely substantially higher than current government limits, including from some of the most popular devices on the market. Pong’s letter also explained how the FCC’s current device testing guidelines likely underestimate the real absorption rate of radiation by children. Pong, finally, urged changes to the FCC’s web site consistent with the GAO Report and other recent developments, in order properly to inform consumers of the potential health effects of electro-magnetic radiation exposure, so that consumers can best exercise precautions. A copy of Pong’s letter is filed in the FCC’s WT Docket No. 03-137.

In addition to suggesting updates to the FCC testing guidelines, the GAO also reported that, “while the overall body of research has not demonstrated adverse health effects, some individual studies suggest possible effects.” With respect to potential health impact from cell phone use, GAO stated “the research is not conclusive because findings from some studies have suggested a possible association with certain types of tumors, including cancerous tumors.” The GAO further stated that FDA and others maintain the conclusion that “insufficient information was available to conclude mobile phones posed no risk.”

“The current government guidelines, in place since 1997, are antiquated, and lead users to conclude that cell phones are ‘safe’ to a scientific certainty—a notion that the findings of the World Health Organization, and the GAO report itself, appear to contradict,” said Dr. Shannon Kennedy, President and CEO of Pong. “We should instead implement testing standards that reflect ‘real world’ usage patterns, protect vulnerable populations such as children, consider the biological effects of radiation in testing methodology, and encourage and inform consumers on how to exercise precautions and achieve the lowest possible radiation exposures,” Dr. Kennedy commented. “Also, given the uncertainty, until further study is completed and the FCC’s testing guidelines are updated, rather than informing consumers that cell phones are ‘safe,’ government should instead provide consumers with as much information as possible, including as to how to best exercise precautions.”

Pong manufactures the only cell phone and tablet cases proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce users’ radiation exposure or “SAR” by up to 95% below FCC and international safety limits, while at the same time optimizing signal strength and conserving battery life.

Current FCC guidelines assume a one-size-fits-all measurement. SAR limits, which measure only the thermal or heating properties of devices, are benchmarked against a 6’2” 200-pound man who would be much less vulnerable to mobile phone radiation than smaller adults and children. A further and significant flaw lies with how the current guidelines are measured: by holding the cell phone between 1.5 and 2.5 centimeters (or 1 inch) away from the body. This method gives an inaccurate reading of radiation exposure, since almost all consumers hold their phones against their heads and bodies. “If measured for real life situations, the results would likely show that devices such as cell phones and tablets routinely exceed the radiation exposure allowed by current limits,” Dr. Kennedy said.

“It was encouraging to see the GAO mention this FCC testing discrepancy in its report,” Dr. Kennedy said. “If we’re going to be scientifically honest, SAR must be measured the same way most people use their phones. In our experience, most consumers are surprised to learn that their iPhone manual tells them their phone may exceed FCC radiation exposure guidelines if they hold it less than 5/8 of an inch away from their body.”

For more information, visit www.pongresearch.com.

NYPD Called Upon To Clarify First Amendment Rights For Photojournalists

PHILADELPHIA- August 17, 2012-(BUSINESS WIRE)–The American Society of Media Photographers and its New York chapter have been closely monitoring recent incidents in New York City involving unlawful actions by law enforcement officers against photojournalists and other citizens who have photographed NYPD activities.

Accordingly, ASMP urges New York City’s officials to follow the recent examples of other cities such as Boston, Baltimore and Washington D.C., where law enforcement officials have issued statements and/or directives that reflect a better and clearer understanding of the Constitution and the First Amendment rights.

“ASMP believes that it is crucial that photographers everywhere are able to provide the public with complete and accurate documentation of law enforcement activities. We are pleased to learn that the NYPD is conducting its own internal affairs investigation regarding several incidents involving the harassment and detention of photographers,” said ASMP General Counsel Victor S. Perlman. “It is important that all law enforcement officers understand that photography is not a crime and photographers are not criminals.” A number of ASMP members have recently come forward to report their experiences with law enforcement officers who used unnecessary force and interfered with their First Amendment rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

ASMP asks that New York City officials issue a statement that reminds its law enforcement officers and other citizens of how important it is to have transparency in police activities. ASMP stands in alliance with the National Press Photographers Association in its call to raise the current standards of practice in New York City.

More information: http://www.asmp.org/.