Tag Archives: SOPA

Internet Blackout Day Starts in Protest Against PIPA and SOPA

Today, Wednesday January 18 2012, is Internet Blackout Day, a movement which has caught the attention of the world’s media, that aims to raise awareness of legislation known as PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and how this legislation is a threat to online privacy, threatens freedom of speech, and hampers Internet innovation.

Scores of websites from personal blogs to big sites like Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit, Tucows, and BoingBoing have joined the campaingn to protest against SOPA and PIPA by blacking out their websites for 24 hours. Today’s visitors to the English Wikipedia site will be presented with messages intended to raise awareness about the proposed legislation, and encouraging them to share their views with their elected representatives, and via social media.

So what is the problem? In a nutshell it is Hollywood versus people downloading films and music for free. These big media companies and their allies in Congress are billing the legislation as a new way to battle online copyright infringement. But it will do little to stop infringement online. What it will do is compromise online privacy and inhibit online expression.

Under the proposed legislation government and private parties would be granted unprecedented power to interfere with the Internet’s underlying infrastructure. The government would be able to force ISPs and search engines to block users’ attempts to reach certain websites. But the USA doesn’t own the Internet, it is global. As Tucows wrote on their site “a ‘Made in the USA’ solution will no more work to stop the problems talked of than would one made in any other single nation state. Worse, the US has been at the forefront of ensuring that the Internet has remained free and a platform for innovation for the last fifteen years.” Even the White House has stated that it “will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

First Amendment expert Marvin Ammori points out, “The language is pretty vague, but it appears all these companies must monitor their sites for anti-circumvention so they are not subject to court actions ‘enjoining’ them from continuing to provide ‘such product or service.” And according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF), venture capitalists have said en masse they won’t invest in online startups if PIPA and SOPA pass.

Under PIPA the government will have the power to make US Internet providers block access to infringing domain names as well as have the ability to sue US-based search engines, directories, or even blogs and forums, to have links to these sites removed. To the wrong judge (one who probably hasn’t even used the Internet), innovative sites like Tumblr, SoundCloud, even YouTube in its early days, could be seen as piracy heavens because mixed in with the self expression, art and calls for freedom of speech will be TV footage, movie clips and music.

The recent social uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya all used the Internet and social media to allow citizen to speak out against injustice. If the US passes laws like SOPA and PIPA then it looses any right to criticize freedom of speech in other countries and it provides a model for unscrupulous governments to adopt similar laws and hinder free expression.

Please take action by contacting Congress through the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s action center. It only takes a moment and it can make a big difference.

Other sites of interest are: http://americancensorship.org/ and http://fightforthefuture.org/pipa/.

GoDaddy, The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Privacy Tips for 2012

As 2011 comes to a close our thoughts move to 2012 and what it has in store for us. Leaving aside the customary promises of diets and to be better, we should each take a moment to consider the digital footprint we left in 2011 and how we can better protect our privacy (and the privacy of our families) during 2012. The coming year will see greater battles for online privacy than any previous year. Social networking will continue to dominate and I predict that there will be at least two major online privacy scandals during the next twelve months.

The legislative outlook is bleak for 2012. The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary is currently considering the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or  H.R. 3261 as it is officially known. Although the act is well intentioned (in that it wants to stop piracy), the act is badly put together. Its broad language allows almost any attempt by a private individual to protect his or hers online privacy as an attempt to cover illegal activities. Today, GoDaddy announced it was withdrawing its support for SOPA in response to a boycott urging users to migrate away from the domain name register. GoDaddy now joins a long list of those objecting to SOPA. Earlier this year Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to important members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” Also the European Parliament has adopted a resolution stressing “the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.”

While the politicians blunder about, there are many things that each individual can do, so here are our top privacy tips for 2012:

  • Time to change your passwords. Been using the same password for the last few years? It is time to change. Your password is the single barrier between you and online criminals. Should they manage to break into your email, eBay or PayPal accounts (not to mention any online financial services you use) they will be able to duplicate your identity as well as steal money from your accounts. Make sure your password are strong and contain more than just letters (e.g. good passwords contain letters, numbers, and symbols).
  • Shutdown any unused accounts. Did you sign up for a website for service in 2011 and in fact don’t use it. Close the account. Unused online accounts are a liability and could be used by hackers as a stepping stone to your more important accounts.
  • Become more unfriendly! The “problem” with social networks is that everyone wants to be your friend. Do you really want an ex-colleague from a place where you worked 10 years ago to see your family photos? The pressure is to accept all and any friend invitations. Don’t. Go through your list and remove anyone that isn’t close or can’t be trusted 100% with your holiday snaps.
  • Start 2012 with the aim to minimize personal information sharing. Only fill in the mandatory fields on any web form. Many forms ask for lost of unnecessary information, but only certain fields are mandatory (normally marked with an asterisk). Don’t trust websites with your personal information (just look at the mess Facebook has made of its users privacy). Don’t give more information than needed.
  • Make sure your online shopping is encrypted. Make sure you are using the latest version of your web browser and check that you are using a secure site if you need to enter your credit card details. Look for a padlock symbol in the bottom right of the browser window and check that the website address begins with ‘https://’. Modern browsers (like Chrome and Mozilla) support Extended Validation SSL Certificates, and the address bar willturn green when you are on a secure site.
  • Beware of identity theft attempts during 2012’s big events. There are lots of big global events scheduled for 2012 including Super Bowl XLVI, the London Olympics, and the 57th US presidential election. It is “traditional” for cyber criminals to launch phishing scams during these events. Beware of bogus retailers setup for identity theft attempts or email scams that contain links or attachments which take users to malicious websites or spread malware.
  • Enhance your PC’s security. Use privacy tools like Hide My IPCookie Crumble and Firewall Fortify to protect your online privacy. You should also strongly consider using a virtual private network (VPN) like FoxyVPN.