Perspectives



The Breaching Trust report that investigated the filtering and surveillance of Tom-Skype continues to generate interest. Today both the Globe and Mail and the New York Times mention the report.

The Globe focused on innovation in research coming our of Canadian Universities, which is a very interesting perspective. One of things that make research at the Citizen Lab so exciting is the ability to use unconventional methods.

The NYT article is about the “global code of conduct” that technology companies and human rights groups have been working on for some time now. It provides guides, for companies like Skype, that aim to “avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression.” It also sets up “accountability mechanisms” so that compliance can be evaluated.

In effect this is what I have been doing (see Search Monitor and Breaching Trust) independently. While rightfully labeled as a “first step” the significance of this initiative should not be minimized. I’ll have to wait and see the official documents scheduled to be released tomorrow, but I believe that these principles will help my research by providing benchmark — to which these companies have voluntarily agreed — with which I can evaluate their actual behavior. Hopefully, it will also encourage companies to be more transparent about their practices which definitely helps me interrogate their practices with increased accuracy.

Snips from the articles:

In shadowy Web world, schools are on the case – The Globe and Mail

Through its monitoring, the Citizen Lab discovered swaths of text that failed to make it to intended recipients. The messages had been stored in databases run by the Chinese partner of Skype, Tom Online Inc. Citizen Lab found this thanks to Tom’s apparent lax security, which allowed the Lab to find both encrypted information and the key that would allow them to decrypt it on a publicly accessible Web page.

Big Tech Companies Back Global Plan to Shield Online Speech – The New York Times

Currently Google, Microsoft’s MSN division and Yahoo’s Chinese affiliate are all cooperating with the Chinese government’s demands that search results be filtered. This month, Canadian researchers revealed that the Chinese version of the Skype Internet chat and telephony client had been modified to permit the logging of chat sessions and storage of the information on server computers belonging to Skype’s Chinese partner, Tom, a wireless and Internet company.

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