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21st August

 Update: Another law claiming worldwide reach...

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The Global Ambitions of Pakistan's New Cyber-Crime Act
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in Pakistan...internet website blocking

Pakistan flag Despite near universal condemnation from Pakistan's tech experts; despite the efforts of a determined coalition of activists, and despite numerous attempts by alarmed politicians to patch its many flaws, Pakistan's Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB) last week passed into law. Its passage ends an eighteen month long battle between Pakistan's government, who saw the bill as a flagship element of their anti-terrorism agenda, and the technologists and civil liberties groups who slammed the bill as an incoherent mix of anti-speech, anti-privacy and anti-Internet provisions.

But the PECB isn't just a tragedy for free expression and privacy within Pakistan. Its broad reach has wider consequences for Pakistan nationals abroad, and international criminal law as it applies to the Net.

The new law creates broad crimes related to cyber-terrorism and its glorification online. It gives the authorities the opportunity to threaten, target and censor unpopular online speech in ways that go far beyond international standards or Pakistan's own free speech protections for offline media. Personal digital data will be collected and made available to the authorities without a warrant: the products of these data retention programs can then be handed to foreign powers without oversight.

PECB is generous to foreign intelligence agencies. It is far less tolerant of other foreigners, or of Pakistani nationals living abroad. Technologists and online speakers outside Pakistan should pay attention to the first clause of the new law :

  1. This Act may be called the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

  2. It extends to the whole of Pakistan.

  3. It shall apply to every citizen of Pakistan wherever he may be and also to every other person for the time being in Pakistan.

  4. It shall also apply to any act committed outside Pakistan by any person if the act constitutes an offence under this Act and affects a person, property, information system or data location in Pakistan.

Poorly-written cyber-crime laws criminalize these everyday and innocent actions by technology users, and the PECB is no exception. It criminalizes the violation of terms of service in some cases, and ramps up the penalties for many actions that would be seen as harmless or positive acts in the non-digital world, including unauthorized copying and access. Security researchers and consumers frequently conduct unauthorized acts of access and copying for legitimate and lawful reasons. They do it to exercise of their right of fair use, to exposing wrongdoing in government, or to protect the safety and privacy of the public. Violating website terms of service may be a violation of your agreement with that site, but no nation should turn those violations into felonies.

The PECB asserts an international jurisdiction for these new crimes. It says that if you are a Pakistan national abroad (over 8.5 million people, or 4% of Pakistan's total population) you too can be prosecuted for violating its vague statutes. And if a Pakistan court determines that you have violated one of the prohibitions listed in the PECB in such a way that it affects any Pakistani national, you can find yourself prosecuted in the Pakistan courts, no matter where you live.

Pakistan isn't alone in making such broad claims of jurisdiction. Some countries claim the power to prosecute a narrow set of serious crimes committed against their citizens abroad under international law's passive personality principle (the U.S. does so in some of its anti-terrorism laws). Other countries claim jurisdiction over the actions of its own nationals abroad under the active personality principle (for instance, in cases of treason.)

But Pakistan's cyber-crime law asserts both principles simultaneously, and explicitly applies them to all cyber-crime, both major and minor, defined in PECB. That includes creating a sense of insecurity in the [Pakistani] government (Ch.2, 10), offering services to change a computer's MAC address (Ch.2, 16), or building tools that let you listen to licensed radio spectrum (Ch.2, 13 and 17).

The universal application of such arbitrary laws could have practical consequences for the thousands of overseas Pakistanis working in the IT and infosecurity industries, as well for those in the Pakistan diaspora who wish to publicly critique Pakistani policies. It also continues the global jurisdictional trainwreck that surrounds digital issues, where every country demands that its laws apply and must be enforced across a borderless Internet.

Applying what has been described as the worst piece of cyber-crime legislation in the world to the world is a bold ambition, and the current Pakistani government's reach may well have exceeded its grasp, both under international law and its own constitutional limits. The broad coalition who fought PECB in the legislature will now seek to challenge it in the courts.

But until they win, Pakistan has overlaid yet another layer of vague and incompatible crimes over the Internet, and its own far-flung citizenry.


21st August

 Offsite Article: Wayback before 'outrage' was invented...

Link Here
wayback machine logo Wayback Machine discusses the ethics of censorship to prevent the outing of gays in intolerant lands

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20th August

 Offsite Article: Mass hacking questioned but mass communications snooping is ok...

Link Here  full story: Snooper's Charter Plus...2015 Cameron government expands the Snooper's Charter
gchq logo An independent review finds that the UK's mass-surveillance draft law grants spies incredible powers for no real reason

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19th August

 Update: New Zealand ISPs introduce optional website blocking services for families...

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And promises future upgrades to allow different censorship levels for different devices...
Link Here  full story: Internet Censorship in New Zealand...New Zealand considers internet blocking
vocus logo Several thousand New Zealand families have signed up to use an internet blocking service that is designed to prevent access to a wide range of websites with adult content.

Vocus, which owns the Slingshot, Orcon and Flip internet brands, began offering its network level family filter a few weeks ago. Stuff Fibre has announced it will also offer a blocking service, called Safe Zone, which its managing director Sam Morse said would be more flexible.

Vocus consumer manager Taryn Hamilton said parents often eschewed parental control software that they could install on individual computers and other devices, as it was complex, possible to circumvent and often did not cater well for smartphones. Hamilton said that the Vocus Family Filter instead blocks content at the network level so that the same level of censorship applies to all devices in a household. He added that parents could easily switch the filter on and off, if they chose, using their account password.

Vocus plans to provide the filter free for a year, after which it will charge $5 a month. Hamilton said Vocus' filter was being provided by United States company Fortinet and was designed to screen out:

  • R16+ nudity and pornography
  • sites featuring dating, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, gambling
  • websites about hacking, the dark web and other illegal activities
  • sites that promote self harm or suicide and known infected or hacked sites

Stuff Fibre managing director Sam Morse said its Safe Zone service would be more flexible. Rather than only having a single on/off switch , Safe Zone would come with a range of pre-configured profiles . Not long after launch, it would let customers configure settings differently for devices on a network so you will be able to decide what set-up you want for Johnny's iPhone ..


29th July

 Update: More extreme censorship...

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UAE makes VPNs and proxy servers illegal under threat of extreme fines
Link Here
UAE flag An edict from the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has effectively made it illegal for anyone in the country to use a VPN or secure proxy service.

Those caught could face jail time and fines of between 500,000 and 2,000,000 UAE dirham (US$136,130 and $544,521). The change was announced this week by the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a proclamation that amended federal laws.

The wording is ambiguous and technologically illiterate. Essentially, it seems, you are not allowed to use systems that hide the fact that you're committing a crime or covering one up. If you're routing your network traffic through a secure VPN or proxy server, you could be breaking the law and evading the eyes of the state, and that's now a big no-no.

You could claim you were using the VPN or proxy for legit reasons, and that no criminal activity was being committed or concealed, but since your packets were encrypted, you may have a hard time proving your innocence. The updated law now reads:

Whoever uses a fraudulent computer network protocol address (IP address) by using a false address or a third-party address by any other means for the purpose of committing a crime or preventing its discovery, shall be punished by temporary imprisonment and a fine of no less than Dhs 500,000 and not exceeding Dhs 2,000,000, or either of these two penalties.