Judgement day for German privacy and media freedom cases

Tomorrow, human rights judges will deliver judgements in two complaints which raise important media freedom and privacy issues in Germany.The European Court of Human Rights will deliver two Grand Chamber judgments, in the cases of Axel Springer AG v. Germany application no. 39954/08 and Von Hannover v. Germany no. 2 application nos. 40660/08 and 60641/08, at a public hearing in Strasbourg on Tuesday 7 February at 10h CET.Both cases concern the publication in the media of articles and, in the second case, of photos depicting the private life of well-known people.

Read: Human Rights Europe.


Why privacy is essential for free speech to thrive

The revolution in freedom of expression online has radically changed the relationship between free speech and privacy. Traditionally, the two rights have been seen in conflict or at best balanced against each other. Yet it is now no longer possible to enjoy freedom of expression online without considering how to protect one’s personal information. Privacy is essential if free speech is to thrive.

More on: Privacy International.

SOPA Boycotts and the False Ideals of the Web

To my friends in the “open” Internet movement, I have to ask: what did you think would happen? We in Silicon Valley undermined copyright to make commerce become more about services instead of content — more about our code instead of their files. The inevitable endgame was always that we would lose control of our own personal content, our own files. We haven’t just weakened Hollywood and old-fashioned publishers. We’ve weakened ourselves.

See: Jaron Lanier on NYTimes.com.

Adam Thierer on Vint Cerf on Why Internet Access Is Not a Human Right + A Few More Reasons

So, while I appreciate and agree with Cerf’s humorous point that “Today, if I were granted a right to have a horse, I’m not sure where I would put it,” the more interesting question is this: If government would have decreed long ago that everyone had a right to a horse, would that have meant everyone actually got one? Recall that despite a similar mandate for telephony and billions upon billions in spending / transfers, we never had more than 94% of the nation served with basic telephone service. If everyone did actually get a horse via a hypothetical Horse Entitlement System, how efficient was that program and the resulting bureaucracy / regulatory apparatus? Who picked up the bill? Did it discourage entry by more efficient vendors? Did it discourage innovations that might have served the public better? Did the program outlive its usefulness and become a drag on innovation /productivity. Was the system gamed or captured? I can only imagine the lobbying that would have ensued from the horse industry once trains, cars, and airplanes became a disruptive threat!

via Vint Cerf on Why Internet Access Is Not a Human Right + A Few More Reasons.

10 Main Internet Governance Developments in 2011

  1. The Internet gets highly political
  2. Internet governance moves to the premier league of global politics
  3. Clearer positioning of the main players
  4. A shift in Internet governance direction, from technology (IT, telecom) to political ministries (diplomacy, prime ministerial cabinets)
  5. Cybersecurity takes centre stage
  6. Online human rights come into focus
  7.  ICANN’s soul-searching
  8. Internet blackout in Egypt
  9. Avalanche of Internet principles
  10. SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act)


See: 10 Main Internet Governance Developments in 2011.

iFreedom conference in the Hague

The Internet Freedom (iFreedom) Conference in The Hague kicked off today. Eric Schmidt, Hilary Clinton and several EU officials took the stage to express their opinions.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t hear much new. Everyone is pro openness, pro innovation, etc. Those are all easy words. The US Government actions with regard to IP enforcement online (SOPA) and Google making a distinction between broadband and mobile Internet with regard to Net Neutrality, clearly illustrate the debate is more nuanced in practice. Additionally, multiple privacy related scandals in 2011 (iPhone’s location tracking, Carrier IQ’s keystroke monitoring, the revelation of extremely intrusive surveillance technologies) have demonstrated the great power imbalance and only foster distrust in the government and private sector.

It will be interesting to see if the panels and debates tomorrow will bring to light new things. At the very least, these kinds of conferences  bring together influential people in a pro-freedom environment. Let’s hope (positive) results will follow… .

For more info on the conference, and to follow the live stream, click here. Also see Google’s own report (the company co-hosted the event) and a video of Hilary Clinton’s Speech.