Internet Censorship: A Game of Cat and Mouse

In light of Google Ideas’ uProxy tool announcement, Annenberg-Oxford 2013 alumnus Temitope Lawal reviews governments’ employment of censorship and surveillance online, and the growing efforts by internet users to circumvent these restrictions to fulfill their right to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy.

Recently, Google Ideas announced that it developed a tool called uProxy, a peer-to-peer service that allows people living under controlling regimes to bypass government censorship and surveillance software by establishing internet connections with trusted persons living in open internet states. Currently, more than 25 countries, notably China, Iran and Syria, have institutionalised different types of internet controls to restrict online speech and information access. In Iran, for example, foreign media sites are often blocked, redirected or hijacked.[i] Even with existing circumvention tools, sites such as Voice of America and Kaleme cannot be accessed within the country. China’s highly sophisticated filtering technologies, collectively known as the Great Firewall of China, also enable the practice of blocking foreign websites, blogs and social media platforms. Meanwhile the Turkish government continues to actively monitor and filter content posted on Twitter since anti-government protests in June.

Unlike other circumvention technologies, such as Ultrasurf, Tor and Phiphon, uProxy users selectively share their internet connection with trusted friends. The extension will allow two people who know each other, and are already in touch via chat or email platforms, to share their connection in a way that resembles a virtual private network (VPN). A user in Syria, for example, could…

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Internet Dementia – European Court Judgment and the ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Christian Möller, a Fall 2014 CGCS Listing Scholar, overviews and analyzes the recent European Court Judgement on the ‘right to be forgotten.’

The Spanish Case

In 1998, Mario Costeja González, a Spanish citizen from El Escorial near the Spanish capital Madrid, was about to be forced into the foreclosure sale of his property due to social security debts, a fact that, on page 23, was also reported by the regional La Vanguardia newspaper. Although the proceedings were concluded and resolved, for years to come a Google search of González’s name brought up the newspaper notice of the foreclosure.

In 2009, González filed a complaint with the Spanish Data Protection Agency (or Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, short AEPD) against La Vanguardia and Google Spain, asking for an injunction against both the newspaper and search engine. The AEPD dismissed the claim against the newspaper (which was under a legal obligation to publish the official notice), but issued an injunction against Google Spain SL and Google Inc. to delete the data from the search engine’s index. Google appealed to the AEPD, whichreferred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxemburg.

On May 13, 2014, the ECJ ruled that Google must remove links to outdated or irrelevant personal information from search results upon request. The Court found that individuals have a right to control their private data and that they have the right to request that information be ‘forgotten’ when the results show links to information that…

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The GovLab Selected Curation of Articles on Net-Governance: Issue 78

//The Selected Curation of Articles on Net-governance (the SCAN) is a weekly digest on internet governance news, reports, and events produced by the Governance Lab @NYU (the GovLab) as part of the GovLab’s Living Labs on Smarter Governance project. The SCAN is cross-posted weekly from the GovLab on the Internet Policy Observatory. The original posting of the GovLab SCAN- Issue 78, June 5, 2015 can be found here.

Highlights:

  • A new briefing by Amnesty International and Privacy International lays out a 7-point plan for the post-Snowden revelations era, with recommendations for legal and policy reform, corporate due diligence, and international standards
  • The Paraguayan Senate defeated a mandatory data retention bill that would have compelled local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months
  • Last Sunday night, the provisions of the Patriot Act that allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct a bulk data collection program expired. The future of the program will be decided this week by the Senate

Latest Developments

Bogado, David and Katitza Rodriguez. Victory: Turning the Tide Against Online Spying in Paraguay.Electronic Frontier Foundation. June 4, 2015.

  • In this blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation boasts of a recent victory in Paraguay, where the Senate “defeated a mandatory data retention bill that would have compelled local ISPs to retain communications and location details of every user for a period of 12 months.” The bill was introduced last year, and through a coordinated campaign by EFF, TEDIC and Amnesty Paraguay, the Chamber of Deputies unanimously…

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‘Dear Google’: An Open Letter from 80 Academics on the ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Internet Policy Observatory affiliate Christian Möller discusses the May 13th open letter to Google signed by eighty scholars. The letter asks Google for more transparency on how it processes ‘right to be forgotten’ (RTBF) requests. To view the complete letter click here.

A year ago, in March 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that Google and other search engines function as ‘controllers’ of personal information as laid out in the European Data Protection Directive (DPD). Responsibilities of those controllers include an obligation to keep data that provides identifying information about individuals for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data were collected or for which they are further processed.

Search engines, according to the ECJ ruling, must remove links to outdated or irrelevant personal information from search results upon request. The Court found that individuals have a right to control their private data and that they have the right to request that information be ‘forgotten’ when the results show links to information that is no longer accurate or relevant. It also established that Google’s search engine results are fully subject to European data privacy law.

In an initial reaction after the ruling, Google called the judgment ‘disappointing,’ saying that it ‘went too far’. Following the ECJ ruling, however, the company followed the Court decision and has set up a form to submit removal requests. On the day of form’s release, Google reportedly received more than 12,000 removal requests. To date, Google says that it has received more than 250,000 requests to delist links and has evaluated more than 930,000 URLS  for removal. According to a Google transparency report, 41 percent of those URLs have been removed and 59 percent have not been removed. That sums up to roughly 380,000 URLs removed from Google search results because of RTBF requests.

At the same time, search engines are still struggling with the question of how to react to the Court ruling. Google has established an Advisory Council to help handle requests from Europeans claiming their ‘right to be forgotten’ and has published a transparence report and answers to frequently asked questions on the topic.

The Advisory Council published a report in January 2015 after…

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