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US consumers to get online bill of privacy rights

“The Obama administration is pushing for a “bill of rights” to protect the privacy of people using the internet. The proposals were outlined by Lawrence Strickling, head of the telecoms arm of the commerce department, at a hearing of the senate commerce committee in Washington DC.

Politicians and privacy groups are increasingly concerned about the mass of information being acquired online by firms including Facebook, Google and Twitter. Strickling told the committee that a privacy bill of rights should outline basic levels of protection and ensure the regulators had the authority to enforce those expectations.”

From The Guardian

Julian Assange tells students that the web is the greatest spying machine ever

“The internet is the “greatest spying machine the world has ever seen” and is not a technology that necessarily favours the freedom of speech, the WikiLeaks co-founder, Julian Assange, has claimed in a rare public appearance.

Assange acknowledged that the web could allow greater government transparency and better co-operation between activists, but said it gave authorities their best ever opportunity to monitor and catch dissidents.

While Assange was skeptical about the role played by Facebook and Twitter in fomenting unrest in the Middle East, he argued that cables released by WikiLeaks played a key role by forcing the US government not to back former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.”

From The Guardian

Facebook Users Who Are Under Age Raise Concerns

“SAN FRANCISCO — The fake ID has gone digital, and spread to elementary school.

Across the nation, millions of young people are lying about their ages so they can create accounts on popular sites like Facebook and Myspace. These sites require users to be 13 or older, to avoid federal regulations that apply to sites with younger members. But to children, that rule is a minor obstacle that stands between them and what everybody else is doing.”

From The New York Times

The new media: Between revolution and repression – Net solidarity takes on censorship

“The year 2010 firmly established the role of social networks and the Internet as mobilization and news transmission tools. In 2010 alone, 250 million Internet users joined Facebook and by the end of the year, the social network had 600 million members. In September that year, 175 million people were Twitter users – 100 million more than in the previous year.

The Internet remains above all a tool used for the better or the worse. In the most closed countries, it creates a space of freedom which would not otherwise exist. Its potential to disseminate news irritates dictators and eludes traditional censorship methods. Some regimes use it – mainly on Facebook and Twitter – to monitor dissidents and infiltrate their networks.”

From Reporters Without Borders

China’s Facebook Syndrome

“Since 2009, China has blocked Facebook, the world’s largest online social media network. This year, Renren, one of China’s largest social networks, plans to raise $500 million on the New York Stock Exchange (NYX). So a Chinese social network can tap U.S. capital markets, but American social networks can’t tap Chinese consumer markets. Does that sound fair?

If Facebook grew corn or built cars, the cry would go out that China was putting up barriers to trade. That hasn’t happened because U.S. officials and politicians have typically viewed China’s Internet censorship as a human rights, not a trade, problem. That’s changing—slowly. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which negotiates trade deals, has been reviewing the idea of Internet censorship as a trade barrier at least since 2007.”

From Bloomsberg Business Week

Data Mining: How Companies Now Know Everything About You

“Three hours after I gave my name and e-mail address to Michael Fertik, the CEO of Reputation.com, he called me back and read my Social Security number to me. ‘We had it a couple of hours ago,’ he said. ‘I was just too busy to call.’

In the past few months, I have been told many more-interesting facts about myself than my Social Security number. I’ve gathered a bit of the vast amount of data that’s being collected both online and off by companies in stealth — taken from the websites I look at, the stuff I buy, my Facebook photos, my warranty cards, my customer-reward cards, the songs I listen to online, surveys I was guilted into filling out and magazines I subscribe to.”

From TIME

Arab Protests Spark Internet Uprising in Burma

“Inspired by protesters in the Arab world, Burma’s democracy activists have set off an online revolution to oppose their junta-led government braving its Internet censorship and security upgrade.

Political activists inside and outside Burma are using the Internet to denounce the military dictatorship and call for true democracy, Ba Kaung, a journalist with a Thailand-based Burmese news agency, The Irrawaddy, told The Christian Post.

Kaung said two days after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned from office under pressure from protesters, activists in Burma’s former capital Rangoon created a page on Facebook, “Just Do It Against Military Dictatorship.” The page now has over 1,500 supporters, mostly Burmese.”

From The Christian Post

Chinese blogger angered over losing Facebook account

“Anti, a popular online commentator whose legal name is Zhao Jing, said in an interview Tuesday that his Facebook account was suddenly canceled in January. Company officials told him by e-mail that Facebook has a strict policy against pseudonyms and that he must use the name issued on his government ID.

Anti argues that his professional identity as Michael Anti has been established for more than a decade, with published articles and essays.

Anti said there is a long tradition in China for writers and journalists to take pen names, partly as protection from retaliation from authorities. If Facebook requires the use of real names, that could potentially put Chinese citizens in danger, he said.”

From The Globe and Mail

Sites Like Twitter Absent From Free Speech Pact

“When Google, Yahoo and Microsoft signed a code of conduct intended to protect online free speech and privacy in restrictive countries, the debate over censorship by China was raging, and Internet companies operating there were under fire for putting profit ahead of principle.

It seemed the perfect rallying moment for a core cause, and the companies hoped that other technology firms would follow their lead. But three years later, the effort known as the Global Network Initiative has failed to attract any corporate members beyond the original three, limiting its impact and raising questions about its potential as a viable force for change.

At the same time, the recent Middle East uprisings have highlighted the crucial role technology can play in the world’s most closed societies, which leaders of the initiative say makes their efforts even more important.”

From The New York Times

In China, Strolling for Reform

““A single spark can start a prairie fire,” Chairman Mao famously declared, and a collective of young mainland- and overseas-based Chinese activists are taking his words to heart, using high-tech crowd-rallying techniques to organize spontaneous demonstrations in dozens of cities across China.

The growing protest movement, inspired by the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, was launched with an announcement on the Chinese-language news site boxun.com, based in Durham, North Carolina, and for which we serve as translators.

The lesson from past crackdowns was to apply even more decentralized tactics. Today’s organizers — who seek to launch a “molihua” (jasmine) revolution — have used social networks like Sina Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), Facebook and Google groups to spark public meetings in large cities in every province over the past two weeks.”

From The New York Times