Summary of a few of the many organisations that are active world-wide campaigning on Internet Privacy, Freedom of Information, and related library issues.
American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org) Active for more than 80 years old, the ACLU is one of the oldest organisations of its type dedicated to 'defending the Bill of Rights'. Based in New York is has an extensive website with links to TV ads as well as a large archive of text records. Information on the TIAS is available at http://www.aclu.org/Privacy/Privacylist.cfm?c=130. ACLU has been severely criticised by 'anti-porn' campaigners in the USA and especially for links with the ALA.
American Library Association (http://www.ala.org) . ALA are strongly supportive of the right to receive information, as enshrined in the First Amendment, and even to the extent of helping to challenge the proposed Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). This would require public libraries to install filters on their computers if they were to continue to receive federal funding. As usual, the lawyers are making a fortune and rhetoric is flying freely. It could only happen in the USA! One current debate is about the rights and responsibilities of the (private) ALA vs. traditional public library ethics and moral standards. The ALA has been severely criticised by 'citizen groups' concerned by its free-for-all policy of allowing children access to pornography and 'extreme' video tapes. Some 'anti-ALA' websites are listed below. One point in favour of The American Way is that at least it is permitted to have a two-sided and public debate about library matters!
Center for Democracy and Technology (http://www.cdt.org). Based in the USA and centred upon policy making for the Internet, the CDT overlaps with material used by EPIC and other US based organisations. Links are given to many interesting documents including a 1998 paper by a number of senior computer experts, and warning of the problems in having an overly complex surveillance system. Not for the casual reader, the paper is 'The Risks of Key Recovery, Key Escrow and Trusted Third Party Encryption' http://www.cdt.org/crypto/risks98.
CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (http://www.cilip.org.uk ). based in the UK, it represents mainly professional librarians. It has taken a refreshingly positive approach to supporting privacy within public libraries, but does not have to contend with the First Amendment problems besetting libraries in the USA (see ALA above). Several articles from its magazine Update are referenced in this website. Guaranteed safe for children!
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (http://www.cpsr.org), is a public interest alliance of computer scientists and others in the USA concerned about the impact of computer technology on Society. It aims to provide the public with realistic assessments of what computer systems can and cannot do, and how they might be misused in the process. Not for the casual reader, there is a lengthy report on filtering (pros, cons and problems) including its use in libraries. The report is at http://www.cpsr.org/filters/faq.html. (See also NCAC below).
Cyber-Rights and Cyber-Liberties. Based in the UK at the University of Leeds (but in no way affiliated to the university) http://www.cyber-rights.org it offers many links to other organisations and academic reports. Founded in 1997 it also offers free secure web based email. A link to information about the RIP in Britain is at http://www.cyber-rights.org/crypto/. One of the earliest reports on PSN (Processor Serial Numbers) in Intel Pentium III chips is available on-line, outlining concerns about maintaining (for example) the privacy of people working in 'repressive' countries if the unique serial numbers of the processors inside their computers could be accessed without their knowledge when using software or the Internet. The report is at http://www.cyber-rights.org/reports/intel-rep.htm.
ECHELON watch (http://www.echelonwatch.org) recently formed to provide news on ECHELON a world-wide surveillance system operated by the secretive US NSA with co-operation from UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (so it's probably not all bad). The site was launched by ACLU, EPIC and the Omega Foundation (based in the UK).
Electronic Frontier Foundation. (http://www.eff.org) One of the first of the 'Internet' campaigning bodies it is often featured in computer 'consumer' magazines as a champion of Internet freedom. Active for over 10 years, the site has a large amount of archive material and news stories. It claims to have 'one of the most linked to websites in the world'. Founded in response to claimed violations of rights by the US Secret Service it has maintained 'leading edge' status including in law suits defending third parties. The website includes links to (for example) the site showing the unedited execution of US journalist Daniel Pearl and lists of websites closed down following the 9/11 attacks. Extreme by UK standards, it's successes may indicate how the computer community world-wide may react to ever more oppressive government threats to privacy and personal freedom.
EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) http://www.epic.org. A major group in the USA, active in campaigning and filing lawsuits against the US Government. Cited as a 'public interest' organisation, it was founded in 1994 to focus attention on emerging civil liberties and privacy issues in the Internet age. EPIC have helped human rights organisations around the world to use encryption to protect their e-mail messages, thus helping to ensure communication without fear. They have a large Advisory Board that includes many distinguished lawyers and computer experts. The EPIC site ranks alongside those of Privacy International and GILC for anyone wanting an authoritative introduction to Internet privacy.
Essential Information ( http://www.essential.org ). Founded in 1982 by the campaigner Ralph Nader this organisation provides support and information on 'topics neglected by the mass media' to grassroots groups in the USA and Third World.
Family Friendly Libraries (http://www.fflibraries.org). A campaign group centred on family values, the site is currently (Jan 2003) being rebuilt under the management of Citizens for Community Values. Amateurish in 'look and feel' compared to with some of the major sites, they nevertheless have some interesting articles available, especially 'Seduction of the American Public Library'. This charts, (as they see it and you might see it) the decline in standards and the wrong-headed approach of ALA in taking a 'free-for-all' stance on pornography, including free access for children to 'age-inappropriate' material. If you lived in England you would probably never have guessed libraries could have been such centres of heated debate. Well worth a look to get the other side of the ALA argument. The paper highlighted in red above is recommended reading.
Foundation for Information Policy Research. (http://www.fipr.org ) Based in London, FIPR has fought the RIP Act in the UK and issues policy papers. It was honoured at the 2000 UK Big Brother Awards for its campaign work. The Internet security expert Phil Zimmermann recently joined its Advisory Council. (see below for more details on PZ).
Global Internet Liberties Campaign - see below for more details. An umbrella group with an extensive website. A first port of call for anyone interested in obtaining a rapid overview of the subject. Supported by George Soros, it has a strong human rights bias and a world-wide perspective. GILC lists nearly 70 member organisations and is a recognised on-line civil liberties coalition for the world. An on-line newsletter GILC-alert is available. Comprehensive, dedicated to Human Rights and with a growing membership. A statement on so-called stealth blocking is included on the website at http://www.gilc.org/speech/stealth_blocking.html.
International Council on Archives (http://www.ica.org). An archive site of most use to professional librarians and others. Dedicated to 'preserving, protecting and enhancing the memory of the world' and with phrases like 'archival heritage of humanity' in its website, it could become recommended bedtime reading for stressed out reference librarians everywhere.
Internet Watch Foundation (http://www.iwf.org.uk). A self-regulating industry body that will investigate alleged abuses of the Internet and illegal content. It has recently been criticised by Internet 'freedom' groups.
Library Watch (used to be http://www.netwinds.com/library) An online campaign group centred upon protecting children who use libraries, it appears to centre on a heated debate in Medina County. The central argument was (is?) about children being allowed unfettered access to extreme pornography and violent video/sound material, and with library staff citing the ALA guidelines as a defence. Highly critical of the ALA and 'taxpayer funded pornography for kids', the site was last updated in June 2002 and may now be of only historical interest. It includes the disturbing story of a librarian 'forced to quit her job' for refusing to make pornography freely available to children. The site has been unavailable from Sept 2003. An organisation with similar aims is the National Coalition for Protection of Children and Families.
National Coalition Against Censorship (http://www.ncac.org) A large website run by a campaigning organisation with much talk of 'censorship' and 'freedom of expression'. Contains a discussion of the effects on libraries of PATRIOT and TIPS (both aimed at collecting and collating data on the innocent without their knowledge or approval) and a huge discussion paper on filtering. This outlines the merits (or lack of them according to ncac) of 19 different software products. In a nutshell, filtering denies access to some genuine websites, and this cannot be denied. So to allow access to these sites, libraries must not filter anything thus allowing children access to the most deranged material - and in any case there is no evidence it harms them. Who would be a librarian? The paper is at http://www.ncac.org/issues/internetfilters.html - they should offer a prize for people who manage to read all of it. For a shorter general discussion based around problems in a few US libraries see http://www.ncac.org/issues/holland.html.
Peacefire (http://www.peacefire.org). A student and geek-oriented website, it includes news and discussion of software to decode blocked site lists. Obviously run by or for computer devotees the site contains a lot of material on the accuracy (or otherwise) of filtering and blocking software such as NetNanny and SafeSurf, including the (apparently true) story of the Flesh Public Library that installed NetNanny only to have its own website blocked. The library's benefactor had been a Mr Flesh. They had to change the domain name. It could probably only happen in the USA. Also a story about a student who was awarded $60,000 for being wrongly banned from school grounds and using school computers for (alleged) minor violations. The lawyers probably took most of the money (as usual).
Privacyrights at http://www.privacyrights.org is one of many smaller 'consumer centred' organisations assisting people across a wide range of problems where access to information has a bearing. Based in San Diego California it is included here merely as an example of the many smaller US-based sites.
Privacy International (http://www.privacyinternational.org) A major group based in UK and USA, it recently published a joint report with EPIC that singled Britain out amongst developed countries in having an 'anti-privacy pathology' within government. The report 'Privacy and Human Rights 2002' identified a trend towards mass surveillance of the population and catalogues allegations of illegal spying and surveillance by UK agencies. The 2003 report is now available. The report can be downloaded as three large pdf files. This is a major and eye-catching website with lots of information and links, including pages charting the development of the RIP in the UK and how it is superseding the Interception of Communications Act of 1985 - and giving a huge range of bodies access to web browsing logs with no need to apply for an interception warrant. Privacy International recently criticised the use of fingerprints in school libraries in the UK as a part of book loan procedures. Given that the systems in use encoded the prints into a number that could not be 'reverse engineered' back to a print and used elsewhere, the systems seem benign. However, it is comforting to know that companies active in the surveillance field are themselves being watched! PI has also been active in highlighting the 'downsides' of Identity Cards.
Privacy at http://privacy.org is based at Penn State University in the USA. It is a joint venture of EPIC and Privacy International and has an up to date site with links to national and international news stories. One recent example of violation of privacy is cited in Press reports where a man fixed a GPS tracker to a woman's car and was thus able to pinpoint her location at any time. This is typical of small-town news in the USA, but highlights the type of technology that is now available (even if it is illegal to use it!). A cbs news reference to use of GPS technology for stalking is at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/02/06/national/main539596.shtml
Privacyresources in the USA http://www.privacyresources.org provides a list of other organisations and information on remail and encryption options. It is operated by the same company that sells SecureNym email services with the option to use PGP or other encryption.
Statewatch at http://www.statewatch.org was founded in 1991 to encourage investigation and reporting of civil liberties and 'openness' issues across the European Union. It is composed of lawyers, academics and researchers as well as journalists and community activists.
Zimmermann (Phil). An expert on encryption and a 'hero' of Internet gurus, Phil Zimmermann achieved world-wide fame during the early 1990s (including on programmes transmitted by BBC television in the UK) when the US government tried to prosecute him for releasing PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), an encryption system that uses matched public and private keys. The beauty of the system is that messages can be encrypted using a public key (one you can send openly to anyone who wishes to send you a secure message) and although anyone else can know this key, it doesn't matter because the encryption process is irreversible. To de-encrypt messages you need a corresponding private key (which cannot be deduced from the public key). PGP is not to be confused with systems preferred by Government where they hold a special key that can unlock data encrypted by different 'public' keys held by both sender and recipient. Issued as freeware, PGP is now the most widely used system for ensuring that emails can only be read by their intended recipients. A website outlining the career of PZ and the technical basis for PGP can be viewed at http://www.philzimmermann.com. Congratulations may also be sent via this site (but he's probably had enough already). WARNING: PGP is apparently incompatible with Windows XP and may crash your system.
Links to anonymous email sites.
The field of remail and fakemail seems to change almost month by month. Systems are available (usually at a small cost) that enable sending emails whilst disguising the source. There are plenty of reasons why this type of service should be available and a few why it should not! Internet gurus tend to support their availability, especially given the 'traceability' of ordinary e-mail by a huge range of organisations and including in countries where dissent is not allowed. Sites that give more information include the following. http://www.pgp.com/products/freeware , http://www.nai.com , http://www.strassmann.com , but for a more up to date list, search google!
Relevant legal points include that the RIP in the UK can be used to force disclosure of the plain text of encrypted message including the decrypt keys, and on pain of imprisonment. Also, home computers and any networked computer will usually store details of all emails sent even if they are deleted. Software is now available that claims to wipe the appropriate areas of a hard drive - but nothing available to the home user can clean up the records of an ISP server. Anyone using computers for 'illegal' downloading or sending confidential data or messages via e-mail should be aware that
"at least 4 separate records of deleted
e-mails usually exist,
and if the FBI wants to find one, it will"
To which it is necessary perhaps only to add that the records may exist for years. The golden rule seems to be that if you need to keep something a secret, don't use e-mail unless you really know what you are doing, which you probably don't.
Other sites connected with human rights include the following:
Liberty (National Council for Civil Liberties) at http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk . Based in London (UK) Liberty has been working since the 1930s to defend civil liberties and to promote human rights. They take up important test cases and campaign inside and outside Parliament. Legal advice can be offered to groups or individuals.
A much smaller and unconnected organisation also based in London and centred upon campaigning against censorship on the Internet is at http://www.liberty.org.uk.
Amnesty International operates world-wide with representation in over 140 countries. It was started in 1961 by a British lawyer who read about two Portuguese students who had been sentenced to 7 years imprisonment for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom. Once condemned as "one of the larger lunacies of our time" it is now internationally respected. http://www.amnesty.org
Most of the data shown on this webpage has been extracted from sites listed by the GILC (Global Internet Liberty Campaign). http://www.gilc.org. GILC is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute - a part of the Soros Foundations Network set up by the billionaire financier George Soros. This has an annual spend of around $450 million and is active in more than 50 countries, often in partnership with both governmental and non-governmental organisations. It is a testimony to what can be achieved in one lifetime. More at http://www.soros.org
To end on a positive note, the Information Commissioner in the UK, (then Richard Thomas) suggested a national debate on retention of personal data. There is increasing unease about the amount that is now collected and the degree with which it is shared between various computer systems. The website is www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk and the email address mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are hundreds of collections of articles on internet privacy. One of these is maintained by Wired magazine at http://www.wired.com/news/privacy.
One of the newer guides to children and the internet is here:
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