Human Rights Principles and Communications Surveillance

The International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance was cooperatively written by privacy organizations and advocates around the world.  I’m posting the full statement (for which the Electronic Frontier Foundation created a website) for itself but also, since we’re a resource blog here, for the list of signatures on the document which gives a nice roundup of key groups active in this international concern. The hyperlinked list of  224 “Signatories” follows the fairly brief series of statements.

Publishing these principles is not the end of the conversation by any means. The site also collects news articles and essays from contributors worldwide about the Principles– reactions to, discussions about, etc.

Checking in with The Citizen Lab

Since political power as it relates to cyberspace is only becoming more central to our field, the Citizen Lab project at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto is worth keeping an eye on, if not getting actively involved with.

They describe themselves as “a ‘hothouse’ that combines the disciplines of political science, sociology, computer science, engineering, and graphic design. Our mission is to undertake advanced research and engage in development that monitors, analyses, and impacts the exercise of political power in cyberspace. We undertake this mission through collaborative partnerships with leading edge research centers, organizations, and individuals around the world, and through a unique “mixed methods” approach that combines technical analysis with intensive field research, qualitative social science, and legal and policy analysis methods undertaken by subject matter experts.”

In addition to designing censorship circumvention software, The Lab is a research partner in the OpenNet Initiative along with  the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University; and the SecDev Group (Ottawa) whose aim is to investigate, expose and analyze Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a methodologically sound, non-partisan fashion.

The Citizen Lab is prolific, too–thanks largely to Director of The Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and the Citizen Lab, Ronald J. Deibert (pictured).

Publications include monthly newsletters on internet surveillance from around the world:

Latin America and the Caribbean CyberWatch
Middle East and North Africa CyberWatch
Social Media CyberWatch
Southeast Asia CyberWatch

and a long list of research briefs and guides, books, case studies, and op-eds.

You can follow the Lab on Twitter.

Global Information Technology Report 2013

Just out, the World Economic Forum’s The Global Information Technology Report 2013: Growth and Jobs in a Hyperconnected World.

Since 2002 this annual report has “accompanied and monitored ICT advances over the last decade as well as raising awareness of the importance of ICT diffusion and usage for long-term competitiveness and societal well-being.”

The Report includes its much touted and anticipated Networked Readiness Index. More on this from the Executive summary: 

“In terms of the results (see the Networked Readiness Index Rankings provided on page xix), two groups of economies dominate the NRI: Northern European economies and the so-called Asian Tigers. Among the Northern European countries, four out of the five Nordic economies featured in the NRI—Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (in rank order)—continue to feature in the top 10. Iceland, the last of the Nordics, is not too far behind, at 17th place. The performance of this group in terms of readiness is particularly outstanding. All five Nordics feature in the top 10 of this subindex. Within this subindex, on the infrastructure and digital content pillar, four countries occupy the top
positions. As highlighted in the previous edition and in this Report, the gap between those countries and the ones in the Southern and Eastern parts of Europe is profound. A second group of economies that posts a remarkable performance are the Asian Tigers: Singapore, Taiwan (China), the Republic of Korea, and Hong Kong SAR. All boast outstanding business and innovation environments that are consistently ranked among the most conducive in the world. The Tigers also stand out for their governments’ leadership in promoting the digital agenda, and the impact of ICTs on society tends to be larger in these economies.”

This is a huge report, 384 pages worth of detailed country by country data.  The Readiness Index is quite detailed with a variety of factors feeding into the ranking. These include efficiency of legal systems for resolving disputes, intellectual property protection, electricity production, mobile network coverage, cellular and broadband tariffs, quality of math and science education, adult literacy rates, households with personal computers, business to business computer usage and many more. 


Mapping Digital Media: India

Mapping Digital Media: India is the latest Open Society Foundation report examining “global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media.” This 154-page report is part of a series covering 60 countries; each is evaluated in terms of how digital media  affect “core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs.” Since September of 2012, reports on Croatia, Slovenia, China, Spain, Central Africa have been published and March 2013 has produced reports on Kenya, and Bulgaria, and now India. 

For a perspective on “digital switchover” country by country from broadcast analog systems, especially as it effects democracy and freedom of expression, you’ll want to check in with these reports. 

Blogging About Bitly

That’s right, this post is about Bitly Enterprise, a company that advises about half of the Fortune 500 and over 75% of the world’s largest media companies on how to get the most out of social media. Luckily for the resource environment there is the bitly Blog that sometimes does these great data posts.  The latest points to  breakdown of traffic from social networks by country  where nifty interactive world map illustrates how the proportion of a country’s traffic from the social network you select (out of 16 so far, including Weibo, vk, etc.) compares to the proportion for the world as a whole. On a lighter note, last month prior to the Oscars, the bitly science team decided to mine their data for best picture and nominee popularity in social media.  There is also the Bitly Enterprise Blog that is more focused on social media news, including a Bitly Brief each week of important stories around the web. Mind you, these blogs are mainly for marketers, but they know and we know that includes the broader rubric, “content sellers,” which pretty much speaks to us all.

Big Data–To Be Wowed or Wary: Two Views

I was lucky to be able to drop in on the Big Data Workshop here at the Annenberg School, Big Data and the Transformation of the Public Information Environment: Implications for Public Health (March 19, 2013), where panelists from academic and commercial sectors met to discuss the new information ecosystem (think tidal wave) produced from social media–Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr and the like.  While most everyone in the room was either already working with this data–collecting it, asking questions of it, re-purposing it–or has designs on such, there is also a general buzz in the culture about the power and uses of big data. I’d like to recommend two books that tug in opposing directions on the topic. Neither of these are academic books per se but academics and non-academics are reading them. The first is upbeat and visionary:  Big Data: A Revolultion That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier. Writes Lawrence Lessig, “Every decade, there are a handful of books that change the way you look at everything. This is one of those books. Society has begun to recon the change that big data will bring. This book is an incredibly important start. ” And speaking of tidal waves, Clay Shirky’s metaphor about water may a good way to think about big data. “Just as water is wet in a way that individual water molecules aren’t, big data can reveal information in a way that individual bits of data can’t. The authors show us the surprising ways that enormous, complex, and messy collections of data can be used to predict everything from shopping patterns to flu outbreaks.”

But Evgeny Morozov isn’t buying any of this in To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. Observes the New Scientist: “Evgeny Morozov does a good job of dispelling ‘big data’ hype…If Silicon Valley is a party, Evgeny Morozov is the guy who turns up late and spoils the fun. The valley loves ambitious entrepreneurs with world-changing ideas. Morozov is, in his own words, an ‘Eastern European curmudgeon. He’s wary of quick fixes and irritated by hype. He’s the guy who saunters over to the technophiles gathered around the punch bowl and tells them…how misguided they are. Morozov should be invited all the same, because he brings a caustic yet thoughtful skepticism that is usually missing from debates about technology.” 
Throughout the book two dominant ideologies, solutionism and “Internet-centrism,” are questioned. Morozov contends that Silicon Valley’s promise of eternal amelioration has blunted our ability to do this questioning. Who today is mad enough to challenge the virtues of eliminating hypocrisy from politics? Or of providing more information–the direct result of self-tracking–to facilitate decision making? Or of finding new incentives to get people interested in saving humanity, fighting climate change, or participating in politics? Or of decreasing crime? To question the appropriateness of such interventions, it seems, is to question the Enlightenment itself. And yet I feel that such questioning is necessary. Hence the premise of this book: Silicon Valley’s quest to fit us all into a digital straightjacket by promoting efficiency, transparency, certitude and perfection–and, by extension, eliminating their evil twins of friction, opacity, ambiguity, and imperfection–will prove to be prohibitively expensive in the long run…this high cost remains hidden from public view and will remain so as long as we, in our mindless pursuit of this silicon Eden, fail to radically question our infatuation with a set of technologies that are often lumped together under the deceptive label of “the Internet“…Imperfection, ambiguity, opacity, disorder and the opportunity to err, to sin, to do the wrong thing, all of these are constitutive of human freedom, and any concentrated attempt to root them out will root out that freedom as well.–Introduction (p. xiii–xiv)
As I write this these titles are not at Van Pelt yet; they will be soon. But I bought Annenberg copies so if anyone wants to intercept them before I send them off for cataloging, let me know.

Rights in Data Handbook

As John Wilks and Alec Christie, editors of the RIGHTS IN DATA HANDBOOK, explain, there has been a lot of attention focused on data privacy and data protection (indeed their team at DLA Piper issued a handbook on the subject in March of last year, Data Protection Laws of the World Handbook), but “the issue of IP rights in data and databases has traditionally received almost no attention.” The RIGHTS Handbook (January 2013 edition) is here to fill the gap.

This handbook provides a high-level summary, with links to relevant sources of  the different types of protection which are available for data and databases in 12 key global jurisdictions. For each jurisdiction we consider three categories of  database which may benefit from protection: original databases, databases in which investment has been made, and confidential databases. –Introduction

Besides the three categories of databases for each global jurisdiction, Significant Recent Cases relating to database rights are cited as well as Upcoming Legislative Changes. Each area of jurisdiction concludes with “Top Tips for Database Owners”–obviously useful for potential database owners but interesting as well to outsiders (academics dare we say?) looking to get a sense of what the issues are comparatively. 

Introducing Journal of Digital and Media Literacy

An interesting new journal to follow (by all, it’s open access) is Journal of Digital and Media Literacy. Writes Editor  Alexis Carreiro, in Issue One’s Introduction to the Journal: 

Broadly defined, digital and media literacy refers to the ability to access, share, analyze, create, reflect upon, and act with media and digital information.1 These literacies are at the heart of modern communities. The Journal of Digital and Media Literacy explores the connection of media fluency to culture and civic engagement. It examines the ways people use technology to create, sustain, and impact communities on local, national, and global levels….Our content is descriptive and prescriptive in regards to how civic leaders, media practitioners, scholars, and educators engage with all aspects of digital and media literacy throughout the communities in which they work, live, and serve. The result, we hope, is that this work will help these groups and others raise the digital media literacy rates of their own communities…

The world of traditional academic publishing is changing. We are excited to be part of that change. Publishing short and long-form academic articles alongside digital projects encourages readers to think of digital media as a source of information and an infrastructure for dialogue and discourse. Media content and form are linked. We hope our blended approach to content and format encourages JDML readers to consider how the infrastructure (the images, hyperlinks, audio, and overall design) contributes to the ideas and arguments presented here.  Online journals like ours are part of an increasing trend to expand the notion of academic publishing online.2 We see this as an exciting opportunity. We believe that peer-reviewed scholarship can be inclusive and we welcome you to the conversation.

Articles in the maiden issue include a case study on a project of the Educational Video Center in New York examining how well its digital media literacy progam promotes civic engagement, the ways in which governments and civic organizations can design engagement processes that take advantage of the affordances of the civic web in order to cultivate meaningful digital citizenship, another case study that focuses on how a global group of university students understand community in the digital age, and media ecologies of health literacy.

I’m already liking the section of this vibrant journal called Editor’s Choice Links. I’m boning up on peerology from a link to the official Peerology Handbook-which is a handbook for self-learners that asks the question: “what does a motivated group of self-learners need to know to agree on a subject or skill, find and qualify the best learning resources about that topic, select and use appropriate communication media to co-learn it?” But I digress…this post is about JDML…check it out.

Digital Humanities Tools

It’s useful for Communications scholars to keep an eye on the digital humanities arena these days, if not get in there with both feet. To that end I want to do some reposting here, thanks to Mitch Fraas, Bollinger Fellow for Library Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. In October, writing for a great new Penn Libraries blog Apps on Tap, he contributed My Five: Top digital humanities tools from Mitch Fraas. So far it’s been the blog’s most circulated post. 

If you want more from Mitch, check out his Digital Humanities Resource Guide which includes more text mining tools, text corpora resources (Google and beyond), and a sampling of other digital humanities projects.

A Mountain of Tweets at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress just put out a White Paper on the status of their Twitter Archive which was started in 2010 with tweets from 2006-10, and continues with a streaming operation set up for tweets post 2010 to the present.We’re talking 170 billion tweets so far, with a growth rate of 140 tweets harvested per day.

While they have received over 400 serious research requests they are not yet ready to provide research access to the archive.  Explains the paper: “Currently, executing a single search of just the fixed 2006-2010 archive on the Library’s systems could take 24 hours.  This is an inadequate situation in which to begin offering access to researchers, as it so severely limits the number of possible searches.”  It’s no easy problem to solve, either as it will take an extensive infrastructure overhaul of their servers which is cost-prohibitive for a public institution such as theirs.  In the meantime, they are developing a “basic level of access that can be implemented while archival access technologies catch up”–which doesn’t tell us a whole lot but it will be interesting to follow for sure.