By Shuangjun Wang
Twenty-five years ago, British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Today, he’s calling for a new – or very old, depending on how you look at it – invention to complement his first. In an interview with the BBC, Berners-Lee advocated for a global Constitution and Bill of Rights to protect Internet users everywhere from what he perceives to be a declining level of user freedom and independence on the Internet, especially in light of the privacy issues raised by governments’ “mining” of personal data.
Having such a charter will force governments to recognize that Internet user privacy and data protection are “so important, so much part of our lives, that [they] become on a level with human rights,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald, quoting Berners-Lee. The British computer scientist also proposes that lawmakers create a codified system of rights to ensure “no surveillance without suspicion, that our digital communication and behavior are treated with the same respect and legal due process that we expect for our offline communication and behavior,” reports Cambridge News. To make his Magna Carta a reality, Berners-Lee has established Web We Want, a campaign focused on initiating national dialogues about Internet usage and privacy rights and on drafting legislation for an “Internet Users’ Bill of Rights.”
Facebook v. Power Ventures celebrates its six-year anniversary in the Ninth Circuit
In 2013, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ordered Power Ventures, a now bankrupt social network aggregation tool, to pay Facebook $3 million after that court found that Power Ventures had violated 18 U.S.C. § 1030 (2008) (“Computer Fraud and Abuse Act” or “CFAA”), 15 U.S.C. ch. 103 (2003) (“CAN-SPAM Act“), and 13 Cal. Penal § 502 (2001) for accessing Facebook data after Facebook had blocked Power Ventures’ IP addresses. Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures, Inc., No. 8-cv-5780 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 25, 2013) hosted by Leagle.
Power Ventures has appealed the ruling in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) has filed another amicus brief in order to highlight the “dangers” of upholding Facebook’s claims. Circumventing IP-address blocks typically falls within the scope of “hacking” under the CFAA. According to the EFF, however, because Power Ventures was only a social network aggregating tool, Facebook users were the ones accessing their own Facebook data through Power Ventures’ servers. Criminalizing such aggregators would stunt technological innovation and market competition. In addition, Congress targeted large-scale spammers with CAN-SPAM Act. According to the EFF, if the Ninth Circuit affirms the district court’s decision, that precedent will bring all Facebook users who advertise with Facebook Events under the Act’s scope of liability.
Google’s new encryption sends data through China’s Great Firewall
Tech companies such as Google and Facebook have advertised user privacy as their number one priority for some time, but, as reported by The New York Times, privacy activists and security specialists question the companies’ actual efforts at privacy protection.
Google has taken a step in the right direction by combating government surveillance and censorship of search engines in China. According to SiliconValley.com, Google began working late last year to automatically encrypt searches as part of the global expansion of its privacy technology plan. Google’s automatic encryption – which will take effect in the coming weeks – will prevent the Chinese government from screening searches and eliminating potentially politically controversial hits.
Although Google’s market share in China is only an estimated 10%, its move to subvert and bypass the “Great Firewall of China“ is an initiative that Google hopes will catch on and “encourage the industry to adopt stronger security standards,” reports The Register. Automatic encryption of search terms will not only prevent the government from identifying search terms and censoring hits, it will also protect users’ personal information and data from being immediately available to third parties.