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GILC Activist Alert



>Current News and Activist Alerts:
>[1]  Former KGB Plans to Target E-mail Come Under Fire
>[2]  Chinese Dissident Charged Over Pro-Democracy Site
>[3]  Irish Republican Website Shut Down by ISP
>[4]  EC Releases Call for Tenders on "Safe Use of the Internet"
>[5]  Saudis to Gain Filtered Internet Access; Syrians To Go Online
>[6]  Cyber-rumors Abound in Malaysia Casting Doubts About Growth As
>     Techno Giant
>[7]  Crypto Liberalization Campaign Launched in Australia
>[8]  Israel Passes First Freedom of Information law
>[9]  Canada Considers Net Content Regulations
>[10] U.S. Continues "Emergency" Crypto Export Controls
>[11] Web Site Penalized for Privacy Protection Misrepresentations
>[12] Upcoming GILC Conferences in Budapest 9/98; Ottawa 10/98
>[1] Former KGB Demands Access to All Electronic Communications in the Region
>Former KGB officials have announced plans to mandate that all Russian
>Internet Service Providers provide them with access to all e-mail and
>Internet traffic flowing through the region, the Daily Telegraph reports.
>The plan, "SORM," which stands for the system of technical means ensuring
>investigative action, states that the "actual technical requirements should
>be observed for each individual subscriber regardless of the type of his
>connection to the DTC networks (individual or collective)."   Full text of
>SORM is available online at
>Moreover, SORM requires service providers to make available all information
>about users habits, including the telephone number used for access to the
>Internet, network addresses used for reception or transmission of
>information, all real time information transmitted to the users.
>According to news reports, the Russian government claims that access to
>e-mail and electronic communications is necessary to thwart criminal
>activity.  Critics of the plan have blasted the plan saying that there has
>been no evidence to support the claim that such intrusive techniques are
>necessary or justifiable.
>"SORM-2 is a return to the bad old days of the KGB in Russia," Electronic
>Frontier Foundation President and GILC founding member, Barry Steinhardt
>"The secret police wants to be able to monitor all electronic mail in order
>-- they say -- to get access to a few pieces. But given the history of
>Russia's misuse of the state security agencies, there is absolutely no
>reason to believe they will restrict their snooping to a few bad actors,"
>Steinhardt said.
>Under the plan, ISPs would  be required to assume the costs for the KGB's
>eavesdropping.  Additionally, private companies in the region would also be
>forced to provide access and assume the costs for complying.  The plan also
>requires that all providers must provide access to even encrypted
>communications and that "the possibility of unauthorized access to the data
>and software providing for ... SORM ... interaction should be excluded."
>However, critics have stated that the onerous requirements not only show
>that there is a lack of respect for fundamental rights, but that the Russian
>officials have little understanding of how difficult it is to control
>electronic communications.
>For additional news coverage see: Russia: Secret Police Lowering Iron
>Curtain On Internet , Radio Free Europe, By Julie Moffett
>[2] Chinese Dissident Charged Over Pro-Democracy Site
>Chinese officials continue their crackdown on human rights activities in the
>nation despite the visit by U.S. President Bill Clinton earlier this summer,
>and the claims made that they would improve their civil liberties position
>and that they would liberalize restrictions on the Internet.
>"If he is convicted on these very serious charges, it would send a very
>chilling message to Internet users in China, particularly to dissidents who
>are using e-mail to communicate with others inside and outside the country,"
>Bobson Wong, Director of the Digital Freedom Network, which is a member of
>GILC said.
>Chinese officials arrested Lin Hai, computer expert, earlier this year and
>charged him with subversion because he allegedly provided a pro-democracy
>magazine with 30,000 Chinese e-mail addresses.   Hai may face a death
>sentence or a minimum of 10 years in prison if he is convicted, making him
>the first person, world-wide to be charged with use of the Internet for
>human rights/political reasons.
>Hai allegedly provided the e-mail addresses to a U.S.-based Chinese
>magazine, VIP Reference, said Wong.  However, there is some chance that
>Hai’s sentence may not be as severe because of the pressure on Chinese
>officials to improve their human rights practices.
>GILC member organization, the Digital Freedom Network will be putting a
>model letter to Chinese officials on their site for GILC members to send
>pleas on behalf of Lin Hai.  If you would like to send your own letter, they
>may be sent to:
>President Jiang Zemin Guowuyuan
>9 Xihuangchang Genbeijie
>People's Republic of China
>Li Zhaoxing
>Ambassador of China
>Chinese Embassy to the United States
>2300 Connecticut Ave. NW
>Washington, DC 20008 U.S.A.
>Fax: +(1-202) 588-0032
>E-mail: webmaster@china-embassy.org
>Kofi Annan
>Secretary General of the United Nations
>Phone: +(1-212) 963-5012
>[3]  Irish Republican Website Shut Down by ISP
>The website of the Irish Republican Web Action Committee, an Irish
>Republican Activist group was removed by its Internet Service Provider /
>host GeoCities.  GeoCities claimed that the site was removed because it
>contained material that was in violation of the company’s content
>"We view this as a direct attempt to censor the Irish Republican Movement on
>the Internet, and we understand the ramifications of such censorship and
>will be in contact with civil libertarian lawyers on this latest issue of
>political censorship," members of the IRWAC said.
>Members of IRWAC stated that the site shut down by GeoCities contained an
>index with links to republican prisoners, a republican online newspaper "The
>Dissenter," along with  websites for the Josephine Hayden committee, the
>Irish Freedom Committee, and the 32 County Sovereignty Committee.
>[4]  EC Releases Call for Tenders on "Safe Use of the Internet"
>A call for tenders has been published by the European Commission for
>preparatory actions in the framework of the proposed multi-annual Community
>Action Plan on Promoting the Safe Use of the Internet (OJ No S 147 of
>1.8.1998, p. 32).
>The call for proposals includes topics ranging from setting up hotlines in
>Member States and launching a European network of hotlines to gather
>information on illegal content, a feasibility study for a European system of
>content self-rating, review of European third-party filtering and rating
>software and services,  and preparation of awareness actions taking into
>account the cultural and linguistic diversity of users (parents, teachers).
>"While we certainly applaud the efforts to promote Internet education, it is
>our hope that the process does not lead to mandated self-rating or
>filtering, because these techniques are extremely crude and not only result
>in overblocking of important speech, but will limit the ability of
>individuals who publish either critical or idiosyncratic speech online,"
>David Sobel, General Counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center
>(EPIC) (a founding member of GILC) said.
>Earlier this year, GILC members presented a statement calling for free
>speech protections during a conference entitled "Internet Content
>Self-Regulation Dialogue," 25th March 1998, in Paris.
>"International human rights law enshrines the rights to freedom of
>expression and access to information. These core documents explicitly
>protect freedom of expression -- without regard to borders’"  the GILC
>statement said.
>Moreover, GILC members have criticized the governmental use of blocking,
>filtering, and labeling techniques because they have been demonstrated to
>restrict freedom of expression and limit access to information.
>Specifically, such techniques can prevent individuals from using the
>Internet to exchange information on topics that may be controversial or
>unpopular, enable the development of country profiles to facilitate a
>global/universal rating system desired by governments, block access to
>content on entire domains, block access to Internet content available at any
>domain or page which contains a specific key-word or character string in the
>URL, and over-ride self-rating labels provided by content creators and
>For more information on the problems with government-mandated use of
>blocking, filtering, and label systems, visit the GILC websites at
>Tender documents from the European Commission should be requested by 14
>September 1998 from fax +352 4301 34079. The deadline for submission of
>tenders is 24 September 1998.
>[5] Saudis to Gain Filtered Internet Access; Syrians To Go Online
>Saudis will finally be able to gain local Internet access by the year's end,
>according to an exclusive news report by Reuters for CNET NEWS.COM.
>However, access will be filtered to prohibit access to "inappropriate
>content" such as pornography, Reuters stated.  Currently, Saudis can only
>get online access by dialing up to international networks, a costly way to
>gain online access.
>Neighboring countries have also installed similar filtering firewalls on
>networks to prevent access to controversial information.  Under the new
>plan, the Saudi government will issue licenses to authorized Internet
>Service Providers.
>In similar news, the Syrian government will also begin permitting Internet
>access, Reuters reports.
>"The Internet is vital for scientific research, for commerce, for economy,"
>Saadalla Agha el Kalaa, a spokesman for the Syrian Computer Society said in
>an interview with Reuters.
>Kalaa told Reuters that the government's reluctance to provide online access
>in Syria reflects social concern about Internet content rather than
>political fears about the free exchange of  information.
>Although Kalaa told Reuters that it will be up to parents rather than
>government to censor content, he expressed concern about the impact of
>uncensored content -- especially sexually explicit material will have.
>[6]  Cyber-rumors Abound in Malaysia Casting Doubts About Growth As Techno
>     Giant
>Although the Malaysian Government has announced plans to create a
>multi-billion dollar high tech industrial center despite serious financial
>crisis in the region, the plans have become even more uncertain after the
>detainment of three individuals because they allegedly spread cyber-rumors
>of riots in the region.
>"I think the message that the Malaysian government is sent out when they
>detained those individuals is that they are not prepared to adhere to
>international principles of human rights, and that other countries,
>particularly Western countries, should be very cautious about doing business
>there," said GILC founding member and President of the Electronic Frontier
>Foundation, Barry Steinhardt.
>According to reports by the San Jose Mercury News, a local official said
>"the alleged culprits were tracked down with the help of technology experts
>who sorted through thousands of e-mail messages and traced the offending
>ones back to their source. The investigation is continuing and more arrests
>are expected."
>The rumors were circulated via e-mail and allegedly said that
>"machete-wielding Indonesian immigrants were running amok and attacking
>ethnic Chinese in the city's Chow Kit district, the site of a vicious race
>riot in 1969," stated the San Jose Mercury News Report.
>In addition, according to reports, the rumors lead to widespread distress
>among citizens fearing that they were true because of the nation’s historic
>tensions between ethnic minorities.
>[7]  Crypto Liberalization Campaign Launched in Australia
>The Electronic Frontiers Australia announced the launch of its campaign
>calling for the abolition of all controls on cryptography in Australia this
>"The current export controls are a failure because strong cryptography
>software is already widely available throughout the world. Furthermore the
>regulations are stifling Australian initiatives in developing secure
>communications protocols," EFA spokesperson Greg Taylor said.
>"Far from achieving their purpose of preventing criminal activity, the
>restrictions on deployment of strong cryptography increase the risk of
>criminal attack on vital infrastructure such as banking and the electricity
>supply system," Taylor said.
>EFA intends to contact every Senator and Member of Parliament to bring them
>up-to-date on the importance of cryptography to Australia's future in the
>Information Age, he added.
>The Australian Defence Department, which is responsible for administering
>export controls under the terms of the Wassenaar Arrangement, has extended
>Australia's compliance with the agreement by encouraging key recovery
>"backdoors" in systems proposed for export licensing.  This is despite
>extensive international evidence that key recovery systems of the type
>proposed by law enforcement agencies are fundamentally unworkable and a risk
>to data security," said Taylor.
>"How would Australian citizens react if they were required to lodge copies
>of their home and office door keys with a government agency, so as to enable
>law enforcement authorities to search their personal files without their
>knowledge? Yet that is a close analogy to current Australian policy on
>encryption software."
>EFA members said that Australia should take the lead by proposing that
>cryptography goods be dropped from the terms of the Wassenaar Arrangement,
>an international regime to control trade in high-grade munitions.
>Australian Federal Coalition policy opposes heavy-handed attempts to ban
>strong encryption techniques, and the other major Federal parties have also
>supported relaxation of current controls.  Furthermore, the Prime Minister
>announced in March that Australia would adopt the OECD Cryptography
>guidelines, which are regarded as far more acceptable than existing
>However, in spite of the promising statements, "Australia persists with a
>cold-war mentality when it comes to actually implementing policy," Taylor
>For further information, contact:
>Greg Taylor - Brisbane   07 3370 6362   E-mail:  gtaylor@efa.org.au
>[8] Israel Passes First Freedom of Information law
>With the passage of a new law, for the first time in their history, Israelis
>will be entitled to access government held information, according to the
>Jerusalem Post.
>Environmental groups in Israel have called the new Freedom of Information
>Law a tremendous victory and anticipate gaining access to information that
>has traditionally been considered private property by ministries and other
>official bureaus.
>For further information, contact The Coalition for Freedom of Information --
> http://www.nif.org/cfi/foipeng.html -- which was one of the organizations
>responsible for getting the law through the Knesset.
>[9] Canada Considers Net Content Regulations
>The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced
>that it is considering content regulations for the Internet earlier this
>month, according GILC member Electronic Frontiers Canada.
>According to reports, the CRTC said regulation could Canadian culture or
>protect minors from online sites containing obscenity, pornography and hate
>EFC President David Jones criticized plans for Internet content restrictions
>in a speech earlier this year saying,  "[i]f we dumb-down the Net to a level
>that is appropriate for five-year-olds, we will no longer have an
>'Information Superhigway'; instead, we'll have a digital Sesame street.
>That's not the solution."
>The CRTC will accept submissions from the public on possible Internet
>content regulation until Oct. 1 and Oct. 21, and then commence a public
>hearing beginning Nov. 23 in Hull.
>Submissions must be filed in hard copy and addressed to the
>Secretary-General, CRTC, Ottawa, K1A 0N2. The CRTC also encourages parties
>to include, with the hard version of their submissions, a copy on diskette,
>or to file copies electronically to nmedia@crtc.gc.ca
>The CRTC's notice is posted at:
><http://www.crtc.gc.ca/ENG/bcasting/notice/1998/p9882_0.txt >
>For more information, see: CRTC's Press Release on this issue at:
>Electronic Frontiers Canada:
>[10] Web Site Penalized for Privacy Protection Misrepresentations
>GeoCities, a popular U.S.-based site on the World Wide Web, has agreed to
>settle charges brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it
>misrepresented the purposes for which it was collecting personal identifying
>information from children and adults.
>Privacy advocates have said that the case only supports their claims that
>the U.S.'s continued reliance on industry self regulation is meaningless
>because there is little no accountability to the public for such
>misrepresentations or potential privacy violations. Leading privacy
>advocates and consumer groups have repeatedly warned Americans that their
>privacy remains dangerously unprotected by industry and government.
>Earlier this year, GILC founding member the Electronic Privacy Information
>Center released the second of its reports on the failure of efforts to
>protect privacy in the US, entitled, Surfer Beware II.
>The report included a survey of web sites and their privacy practices and
>found that only 20 percent (eight sites) of the sites had any semblance of a
>privacy notice. Of these eight sites, only four (10 percent of the total)
>had specifically "advertised" privacy policy pages or statements. Three
>sites had "security and privacy" statements which focused on the security of
>transactions rather than the use of collected information. And the remaining
>site only had a small sentence relating to privacy.
>The case against GeoCities is the first of its kind brought in the U.S. on
>the issue of Internet privacy violations.  Under the settlement, GeoCities
>has agreed to post on its site a clear and prominent Privacy Notice, telling
>consumers what information is being collected and for what purpose, to whom
>it will be disclosed, and how consumers can access and remove the
>GeoCities also would have to obtain parental consent before collecting
>information from children 12 and under.
>"GeoCities misled its customers, both children and adults, by not telling
>the truth about how it was using their personal information," said Jodie
>Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "This case
>is a message to all Internet marketers that statements about their
>information collection practices must be accurate and complete. The FTC will
>continue to monitor these Internet sites and bring enforcement actions when
>it's appropriate. GeoCities should be commended for stepping forward and
>agreeing to undertake important privacy protections for consumers. I hope
>that other Web sites will follow GeoCities' lead in implementing these
>Through this registration process, GeoCities created a database that
>included e-mail and postal addresses, member interest areas, and
>demographics including income, education, gender, marital status and
>occupation, the FTC said. According to the agency, this information created
>target markets for advertisers and resulted in disclosure of personal
>identifying information of children and adults to third-party marketers.
>Privacy groups have continued putting pressure on the U.S. government to
>pass privacy legislation to ensure that fair information practices are
>enforceable, especially in light of the EU Privacy Directive that goes into
>effect this October.  Under the Directive, the failure of sites to meet the
>requirements for privacy protection may result in a prohibition against the
>sites from doing business in EU member states.
>For more information on online privacy visit: http://www.gilc.org/privacy/
>[11] Upcoming GILC Conference in Budapest 9/98, Ottawa 10/98
>GILC in cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for
>Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the
>Hungarian Human Rights Center, is coordinating a conference on The Outlook
>for Freedom, Privacy and Civil Society on the Internet in Central and
>Eastern Europe.
>The Outlook for Freedom conference will take place in Budapest, Hungary from
>September 4th-6th, 1998. The goal of the conference is to bring together the
>human rights community, technology industry, and government leaders from
>around the world to explore the Internet's potential to promote civil
>society and the means for protecting freedom of expression and privacy
>issues in the new medium.
>In addition to a series of seminars that will provide regarding the
>Internet's role in sustaining a civil society, preserving freedom, and
>protecting privacy, technical training on Internet use will be offered to
>nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
>Registration information is on the GILC site at:
>GILC and Privacy International will also hold a conference, The Public Voice
>in the Development of Internet Policy, in Ottawa, Canada. October 7, 1998.
>For Registration Information: e-mail: info@gilc.org
>About the GILC Activist Alert
>The GILC Activist Alert is the newsletter of the Global Internet Liberty
>Campaign, an international coalition of organizations working to protect and
>enhance online civil liberties and human rights. Organizations are invited
>to join GILC by contacting us at gilc@gilc.org. To alert members about
>threats to cyber liberties, please contact coalition members from your
>country or send a message to the GILC address.
>For information about this alert Contact:
>A. Cassidy Sehgal
>American Civil Liberties Union
>125 Broad Street
>New York, New York 10004
>Links to all information in this alert can be found at: http://www.gilc.org/
>You may re-print the GILC ACTIVIST ALERT and freely distribute it.
>To subscribe to the alert, please send an email to gilc-announce@gilc.org
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