Why India is the world leader of internet shutdowns

Image copyright

Image caption

Protesters in Assam would have struggled to read a tweet from the PM telling them all was well last week

As protests over a controversial citizenship law rage across India, authorities resorted to shutting down the internet in cities where demonstrators flooded the streets. It was one more episode of a shutdown in a country which has seen the highest number of internet blocks in the world so far this year.

“I want to assure my brothers and sisters of Assam that they have nothing to worry after the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Bill. I want to assure them – no one can take away your rights, unique identity and beautiful culture. It will continue to flourish and grow,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on 12 December amid violent protests in the north-eastern state last week.

The only problem? There was no internet there on that day so it’s unclear whether any of the thousands of people protesting against a controversial citizenship law were able to read his tweet.

The irony of the situation caused a lot of comment, especially as it came alongside news that India is the world leader in internet shutdowns.

The internet has been shut down 93 times so far this year, according to the Internet Shutdown Tracker, a portal which tracks such incidents across the country.

Authorities usually order internet service providers to suspend services citing worsening law and order situation.

Ongoing protests against the citizenship law saw the internet not only blocked in Assam, but also in districts in West Bengal state as well as in the northern city of Aligarh in the last few weeks alone.

Officials in Delhi, which also witnessed violent protests, have not shut down internet services so far. The Indian capital is the political hub and also has a large number of businesses, and that could be the reason that officials have been reluctant to suspend internet services.

With protests showing little signs of abating, there is every chance that this number could increase before the end of the year.

But the shutdowns of the last few weeks have at least been temporary.

Broadband and mobile data services have been blocked for more than four months in Indian-administered Kashmir, with no signs of the situation changing.

Officials have said that it is necessary to “keep the peace” in the region, which was recently stripped of its semi-autonomous status, divided into two federally-governed territories and saw many of its political leaders detained.

Longer internet blackouts than this have occurred only in countries like China and Myanmar.

But it’s not just this year that India has led the way in blocking off access to the net.

It also saw the highest number of shutdowns in 2018 with 134 reported incidents. To put this in perspective, the second-highest country on the list was Pakistan – which saw 12 shutdowns last year.

Many Indians – who are part of one of the fastest growing internet markets in the world – have criticised what they perceive to be a clampdown on free speech and a “regressive” leadership whose knee-jerk reaction at the first sign of unrest is to suspend the internet.

Part of the criticism is sparked by the fact that Mr Modi made internet connectivity a major election plank before he won his first term as prime minister in 2014.

In fact, he championed a government initiative called Digital India, aimed at strengthening the country’s digital infrastructure.


I dream of a Digital India where access to information knows no barriers.

Mr Modi also said he wanted more than a billion Indians online and wanted to take cheap, high-speed broadband to rural areas to achieve this.

But the increasing number of shutdowns since he came to power in 2014 has prompted many to question whether this is what he means when he says he is “digitising India”.

India’s longest shutdowns:

  • 136 days and counting: Internet services were suspended on 4 August in Jammu and Kashmir this year
  • 133 days: An internet shutdown in Indian-administered Kashmir which lasted from 8 July to 19 November in 2016
  • 99 days: Authorities shut off the internet in India’s West Bengal state from 18 June to 25 September in 2017

Source link

Ofcom proposes locked-handset ban

Image copyright
Getty Images

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom is proposing a ban on the sale of locked handsets, to make it easier for consumers to switch between mobile phone networks.

It says BT/EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone are among providers that sell mobiles that cannot be used with alternative operators without being “unlocked”.

This requires a code provided by the original network.

And Ofcom says “nearly half” of customers find the process difficult.

Some operators charge for the service. Tesco, for example, charges £10 to unlock a pay-as-you-go handset that is less than a year old.

O2, Sky, Three and Virgin do not restrict customers to locked devices.

“By freeing mobile users from locked handsets, our plans would save people time, effort and money – and help them unlock a better deal,” Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell said.

Ofcom is now running a consultation on the proposals.

Three said it welcomed the plan and “urged” Ofcom to introduce it as soon as possible.

The watchdog also wants to make switching broadband provider easier, in line with new EU regulations.

Last week consumer group Which? said customers could save £120 a year by making a change.

Source link

YouTuber PewDiePie to take break from platform as ‘very tired’

YouTuber PewDiePie has announced he will be taking a break from the video-sharing platform, saying he is “very tired”.

With 102 million subscribers, the Swedish vlogger and comedian was for many years the platform’s most popular star but was overtaken earlier this year by T-Series, an Indian record label which now has around 120 million subscribers.

PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, is known for his video-game commentary, but has also been the centre of controversy due to accusations of racism and antisemitism.

Sharing his decision in a video, PewDiePie said: “I am taking a break from YouTube next year,” he said. “I wanted to say it in advance because I made up my mind. I’m tired. I’m feeling very tired. I don’t know if you can tell. Just so you know, early next year I’ll be away for a little while. I’ll explain that later but I wanted to give a heads-up.”

In 2017, he used the n-word against another player during a live gaming stream. He apologised, saying he “didn’t mean that in a bad way”.

In the same year, Disney ended its joint venture with Kjellberg after antisemitic references were found in several of his videos – including people holding up a sign that read: “Death to all Jews.”

He responded by saying he was “trying to show how crazy the modern world is”, adding that he had paid two men from India through Fiverr, a freelance marketplace, to make the sign.

The YouTuber has been embraced by the far right, including the Christchurch shooter, who killed 51 people in a New Zealand mosque while livestreaming and telling viewers to “subscribe to PewDiePie”.

The 30-year-old said that he felt “absolutely sickened” to be mentioned by the gunman. He removed some of his videos following the shooting, saying he now understood some of his jokes to be “ultimately offensive”.

This year, following backlash against his offensive content, the vlogger promised to donate $50,000 (£37,500) to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a non-profit that fights antisemitism. However, he then withdrew the pledge after his fans spread conspiracy theories that he had been forced to make the donation.

“I made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised to instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about,” Kjellberg said in a video. “Which is 100% my fault.”

Source link

Facebook scraps phone number friend recommendations

Image copyright

Facebook is to stop using members’ phone numbers in its friends recommendation system in 2020 following concern about privacy implications.

Users can choose to have a code sent to their mobile phones when logging in to make access harder for hackers.

But Facebook admitted it also fed the numbers into targeted advertising and friend recommendation systems.

The company says it will have completed the changes – part of a settlement with US regulators – during 2020.

What did Facebook do?

Most of the social networks now offer two-factor authentication – also known as two-step authentication – to enhance account security.

It makes it harder for attackers to break into an online account because they need both the password and a one-off code sent to the account-holder’s mobile phone.

But in 2018, it was revealed that Facebook was also using the phone numbers to target advertising – and to power its People You May Know feature, which recommends potential Facebook friends.

Privacy advocates and security researchers criticised the social network, saying the practice was deceptive and could erode trust in two-factor authentication.

How does People You May Know work?

People You May Know is designed to identify people you might want to add to your Facebook friends list.

It uses a variety of signals to work out whether you have met somebody, including:

  • having lots of mutual friends on Facebook
  • being tagged in a photo together
  • being in the same “network”, such as a workplace or school

However, Facebook and Messenger can also collect contact information from your smartphone’s address book.

That means Facebook can identify people who have saved your number in their address book, and can encourage you to add them as a friend.

It used the phone numbers people provided for two-factor authentication to make these connections.

When will Facebook stop doing this?

Facebook has promised to make privacy changes as part of a $5bn (£3.8bn) settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

It said it had stopped using members’ security phone numbers for advertising in June 2019.

It will stop using the numbers for friend suggestions in Cambodia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Libya and Pakistan in the next few days.

Facebook told the news agency Reuters that the change would take effect globally in 2020.

However, anybody who has already set up two-factor authentication will have to disable it and delete their phone number from the system, and then switch it back on.

Source link

Uber passengers reported over 3,000 sexual assaults last year

More than 3,000 Uber passengers reported sexual assaults in 2018, the ride-sharing company revealed in its first-ever safety report on Friday. Nine passengers were murdered and 58 riders were killed in crashes last year, the report said.

These incidents, which include 229 rapes, represent just a fraction of the more than 1.3bn rides Uber facilitated in the US in the past year, but they come at a time when the company is increasingly under scrutiny for worker and rider safety conditions.

“The numbers are jarring and hard to digest,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, told the New York Times. “What it says is that Uber is a reflection of the society it serves.”

In 2017, the company counted 2,936 reported sexual assaults during 1bn US trips. Uber bases its numbers on reports from riders and drivers, meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.

The ride-hailing company noted that drivers and riders were both attacked, and that some assaults occurred between riders.

“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common,” Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, tweeted about the report. “Some people will appreciate how much we’ve done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right.”

To read the rest of this article please visit this source link

Apple is challenged over iPhone location settings!

Brian Krebs, a security researcher, found that the Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro tracks users’ locations even when is set to not to do so.

According to Mr Krebs, the phone continues to collect data regarding their user’s position even when the location sharing option is turned off in every individual app.

For Apple this is an “expected behaviour” and not a security issue as it allows their users to have more control over their sharing location with the apps they choose.

This means that a person can choose to have their location switched on for maps and off for everything else.

 Mr Krebs wrote on his blog that “One of the more curious behaviours of Apple’s new iPhone 11 Pro is that it intermittently seeks the user’s location information even when all applications and system services on the phone are individually set to never request this data.”

Mr Krebs contacted Apple to report the issue by sharing a video which showed that the location services icon appears on the top corner even though every app and system service on his phone was set to “never request” his location.

The engineer who took the call, informed Mr Krebs that some system services do not have a switch in the phone settings, meaning that they are permanently on!

That, argued Mr Krebs “seems at odds with the company’s own privacy policy”.

To read the full article please visit the Source link

Ajit Pai: the man who could destroy the open internet

Ajit Pai: the man who could destroy the open internet

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has a reputation as a nice guy who remembers co-workers’ birthdays and their children’s names.

After he was targeted by trolls on Twitter, he took it in good humor, participating in a video where he read and responded to “mean tweets”.

Pai reads mean tweets

This is the man who could destroy the open internet.

Pai, a 44-year-old Republican attorney, is spearheading the Trump administration’s regulatory rollback of net neutrality protections.

Net neutrality, which some have described as the “first amendment of the internet”, is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) treat everyone’s data equally – whether that’s an email from your mother, an episode of House of Cards on Netflix or a bank transfer. It means that cable ISPs such as Comcast, AT&T or Verizon don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly and which sites get blocked or throttled based on which content providers pay a premium.

As the comedian John Oliver puts it: “ISPs should not be able to engage in any fuckery that limits or manipulates the choices you make online.”

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to more strictly regulate ISPs and to enshrine in law the principles of net neutrality. The vote reclassified wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers as title II “common carriers”, a public utility-type designation that gives the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors and more closely regulate the industry.

But Trump’s FCC, with Pai at the helm, wants to repeal the rules.

The son of Indian immigrants who came to the US to work as doctors in rural Kansas, Pai went to Harvard University, where he studied social studies before getting his law degree from the University of Chicago. Aside from his two years working as associate general counsel at Verizon, Pai has spent most of his career in government.

Pai was nominated for a Republican party position on the FCC by Barack Obama in 2011 and was reconfirmed by the US Senate in 2o12. After his four-year term, Donald Trump made Pai the chairman of the FCC, where he’s been an advocate for less regulation.

Ajit Pai and the over-sized mug he described as “infamous”

Pai argues that if the US introduced strong net neutrality protections, authoritarian states would have an excuse to clamp down on online freedoms – in spite of the fact that authoritarian states don’t need an excuse to do so. He also says that legislation should only be applied if there’s a market failure. However, as Pai has said, “nothing is broken” and the rules were established on “hypothetical harms and hysterical prophecies of doom”.

Beyond that, he argues that the broadband market is more competitive than the search engine market, despite the fact that 76% of people have either zero or one fixed ISP offering industry-standard broadband speeds. Google might have a huge market share, but there are many other options available to anyone with an internet connection. Many Americans have just one option for their home broadband provider.

Pai’s views echo those of the big broadband companies. That might have something to do with the huge sums AT&T, Comcast and Verizon throw toward lobbying, collectively spending $11m in the first quarter of 2017.

The big telecommunications companies also argue that the rules are too heavy-handed and will stifle investment in infrastructure – although they say the opposite when talking to their investors. Instead of being regulated like utilities, these companies say they’d prefer to self-regulate until net neutrality protections can be passed by Congress.

That hasn’t worked out well for consumers so far: during negotiations with Netflix in 2014, Comcast and Verizon throttled streaming speeds by up to 30% on average – until Netflix decided to cough up cash through “paid prioritization” deals. These types of deals were scrapped under the 2015 legislation. Internet providers have also given technical advantages to their own streaming services, as AT&T did with DirectTV in 2016.

Pretty much everyone outside the large cable companies supports the FCC’s net neutrality rules. In an uncharacteristic display of unity, large companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook have joined forces with smaller companies such as Reddit, Netflix, Vimeo and Etsy and activists including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU and Demand Progress to protest the proposed rollback. They are among the 200 organizations to participate in a day of action on 12 July in an attempt to get their users to contact Congress and the FCC and demand that net neutrality be protected.

“Ajit Pai may think big cable’s interests are more important than the public’s, but the day of action makes it clear that few outside the boardrooms of Comcast or AT&T agree,” said Pierce Stanley of Demand Progress. “A majority of Americans support net neutrality, and their voices will be heard loud and clear when we take back the internet from Pai and his cronies.”

After Wednesday’s day of action, members of the public will have until 18 July to send comments to the FCC. Replies to those comments are due by 16 August, after which the FCC will make a final decision.

Source link

What is net neutrality and why does it matter?

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) treat everyone’s data equally – whether that’s an email from your mother, a bank transfer, or a streamed episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. It means that ISPs don’t get to choose which data is sent more quickly, and which sites get blocked or throttled (for example, slowing the delivery of a TV show because it is streamed by a video company that competes with a subsidiary of the ISP) and who has to pay extra. For this reason, some have described net neutrality as the “first amendment of the internet”.

“Net neutrality is basically the principle that keeps the internet open. Without it, big cable companies will be able to slow down certain websites and pick winners and losers on the internet,” said Mark Stanley from Demand Progress, one of the activist groups organizing the day of action.

What is the difference between an internet service provider (ISP) and a content provider?

ISPs, such as Verizon, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, CenturyLink and Cox, provide you with access to the internet. Content companies include Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. In some cases, ISPs are also content providers: for example, Comcast owns NBCUniversal and delivers TV shows through its Xfinity internet service.

Why is net neutrality under threat?

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to more strictly regulate ISPs and to enshrine in law the principles of net neutrality.

The vote reclassified wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers as title II “common carriers”, a public utility-type designation that gives the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors and more closely regulate the industry.

How does Australia plans to access encrypted messages?

The Australian government is proposing a legislation that will compel technology companies to provide access to users’ messages, regardless of whether they have been encrypted.

The attorney general, George Brandis, said: “What we are proposing to do, if we can’t get the voluntary cooperation we are seeking, is to extend the existing law that says to individuals, citizens and to companies that in certain circumstances you have an obligation to assist law enforcement if it is in within your power to do so.”

Here is how encrypted messaging currently works:

I use an app, such as WhatsApp, to type a message to Darren on my phone. Before sending the message to Darren, my phone encrypts the message specifically for Darren using what is called a “public key”. Now, the message can only be read by Darren using his “private key”, which corresponds to the public key the message was encrypted with.

WhatsApp’s server doesn’t have access to the private keys of either user, and so cannot decrypt the message. The situation is the same for other apps that use end-to-end encryption, such as Signal and iMessage.

With a warrant the proposed legislation could compel companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook, to provide access to messages from phones and other devices.

There are several ways this could occur.

  1. One way is that at the point of message encryption the message is not just encrypted for the recipient’s key but also with a key belonging to the technology company that makes the app. Then the technology company would be able to decrypt the message, store it and then later provide this to law enforcement agencies. This amounts to what most people would call a “backdoor” – that is a method introduced, usually by the manufacturer, that allows someone to bypass a security system.
  2. Another way is to circumvent the encryption entirely, by copying the message before it is encrypted or after it is decrypted. This requires either the phone operating system or the messaging application to be modified to record what someone is typing, and then store the unencrypted message for later retrieval or send it to another server.

This is very similar to the way that criminals use programs known as “keyloggers” to steal people’s passwords and other details, and is also a method used by intelligence agencies to get around encrypted messaging.

Various security researchers have expressed concern that if companies did install backdoors that allow them to decrypt messages, this would have significant security implications for the general public. Once discovered, it’s possible that any backdoor method could be exploited for criminal purposes, compromising the privacy of all users of a service.

It’s also likely that people concerned about security and privacy would simply stop using the services of any company that introduces methods to decrypt or record messages, and switch to other means of secure communication.

For example, in addition to using encrypted messaging apps, members of the terrorist group Isis have also been known to use simple, open-source encryption software to encrypt files which can then be transferred conventionally. It’s hard to see how the government’s legislation could address methods such as this, given the basic function of encrypting and decrypting files is done by mathematical algorithms.

This situation led tech reporter Asha McLean from ZDnet to ask the prime minister: “Won’t the laws of mathematics trump the laws of Australia? And then aren’t you also forcing people onto decentralised systems as a result?”

To which Turnbull replied: “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia.”

Just how the law of Australia will override mathematics is still unclear.

Source link

Did you notice the Google SOS Alerts on search results and maps?

Did you notice the Google SOS Alerts on search results and maps?

Google has begun rounding up details about unfolding natural disasters, terrorism and different crises inside its Search and Maps instruments.

Visitors will be shown updates from authorities, information articles, emergency phone numbers and different helpful info in a single place.

The SOS Alerts facility can be set to trigger cell notifications to these close by to affected areas.

Nevertheless, Google remains to be searching for companions to enhance the service.

The initiative builds on earlier emergency response efforts from the US agency, together with its Individual Finder and Disaster Map instruments.

However this time, reasonably than requiring customers to go to particular sections of its website, SOS Alerts makes an attempt to convey key details about incidents instantly into two of Google’s most used companies.

Overseas phrases

When activated, the Maps device reveals, amongst different issues, areas that ought to be averted, which roads have been closed and locations customers can search refuge.

Knowledge gathered from the agency’s crowdsourced Waze mapping platform additionally makes it attainable to see the place site visitors jams, accidents and different issues have been reported by the general public.

The extent of element proven throughout the Search device is dependent upon whether or not the particular person finishing up the question is near the incident.

If close by, they’re offered with hyperlinks to official alerts, tweets from first responders, and helpful quick phrases within the native language.
Google Search customers will likely be proven completely different particulars relying on how near they’re to the catastrophe

These looking from afar are proven much less element until they click on for extra info, however they could even be informed how one can make donations to charities concerned in clean-up operations, if Google believes it to be applicable.

“In conditions of disaster, the necessity for info is essential,” Yossi Matias, the agency’s vice-president of engineering, informed the BBC.

“Folks must know what is going on on – something that could be associated to their security, or any motion they need to be taking.”

He added that Google had arrange a devoted workforce to resolve which occasions warranted an SOS Alert, however declined to disclose how many individuals had been assigned to it.

Fb – which affords a parallel service to let members within the neighborhood of a catastrophe inform pals they’re secure – has at times been criticised for activating it under “inappropriate” circumstances.

Android and iOS customers can choose to be despatched alerts if they’re detected to be near an occasion

Google has joined forces with authorities our bodies, the Pink Cross and varied weather-forecasting organisations to assist present SOS Alerts in 12 countries. They embrace native organisations within the US, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and Canada.

However it has but to safe companions within the UK and different European nations.

SOS Alerts will nonetheless cowl occasions there, however will include much less info as a consequence till information-sharing preparations are struck.

“In occasions of disaster, increasingly individuals are turning to on-line sources of data to search out out what to do,” Omar Abou-Samra from the Worldwide Federation of Pink Cross informed the BBC.

“Designed to be shared in tandem with public alerts, the service offers localised lifesaving info that folks can instantly act on to guard themselves and their households.”

Source link