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While tech companies call for spying reform, telcos silent

On Monday, eight of the world's leading technology companies set aside their rivalries to issue a direct challenge to U.S. lawmakers: lead the world by example and fix America's broken surveillance state. Although the tech companies' statement sends a powerful message, notably absent from the letter's signatories is the appearance of a single telecommunications company, or telco.

China's Internet has changed fundamentally since Shi Tao was given a 10-year prison sentence in 2005. Shi's case was a marker of sorts--- the first high profile sentencing in China for online activity. The government says 40 percent of the population is online as of December 2012. That's 564 million people. In 2005, penetration was 8.5 per cent. Shi was detained in 2004 and sentenced on charges of "leaking state secrets abroad" for messages he wrote summarizing government restrictions on domestic media reporting on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. He used his Yahoo email account to post anonymous messages on a US-based pro-democracy forum. His unexpected release from prison on August 23 was announced Saturday in a statement from PEN International, an organization of writers.

CPJ, coalition press for information on surveillance

CPJ today joined an unprecedented coalition of leading Internet companies and civil liberty activists in the United States to press Washington to be more open about its massive and controversial surveillance programs.

In NSA surveillance debate, tech firms urge transparency

Some of the Internet companies at the heart of the outcry over U.S. government surveillance today joined with human rights and press freedom groups, including CPJ, in calling for greater government disclosure of electronic communications monitoring.

Secrecy, scale of PRISM raise alarms

President Barack Obama defends NSA surveillance activities. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Government surveillance of electronic communications "should be regarded as a highly intrusive act that potentially interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and privacy and threatens the foundations of a democratic society," Frank La Rue, U.N. special rapporteur for freedom of expression, warned in a report issued less than two months ago. "States should be completely transparent about the use and scope of communications surveillance techniques and powers." At the time, the report might have called to mind nations such as China and Iran with high levels of state surveillance. But today, following revelations of a broad, secret digital surveillance program led by the U.S. National Security Agency, La Rue's words seem instead to have been a prescient rebuke of U.S. policies. 

Singapore bloggers wary of news site license scheme

This screenshot shows Singapore Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim telling a BBC interviewer that new license regulations will ensure users see the 'right' content online. (BBC)

Singapore's Internet community is in backlash since the government announced on May 28 a new licensing scheme for "news websites"--a term it did not define--arguing that digital news platforms ought to be regulated on par with offline media. The government said the scheme would take effect June 1.

New York, May 29, 2013--Singapore's plan to impose licensing fees on news websites will further stifle the press in the city-state's already claustrophobic media atmosphere, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Facebook joins Global Network Initiative

With more than a billion users, Facebook is not only the biggest global social network but also an increasingly important forum for journalists. In some repressive countries it has even served as a publishing platform for journalists whose newspapers or news websites have been closed down. That is why journalists and bloggers should note today's news that after a year of standing on the threshold, Facebook has decided to step inside the Global Network Initiative tent.

Yahoo HTTPS mail not a moment too soon, nor too late

I remember sitting with a Yahoo employee in 2009, talking about the lack of protective encryption on Yahoo's Web mail accounts. Like many, the employee had been caught up in the news of how Iranians were using the Internet to document and protest the presidential elections in that country, and had grown worried about the possibility of governments intercepting Yahoo customer's emails without due process. As an immigrant from a repressive regime, he told me, he was aware of how much danger this posed. He said he was going to raise the topic internally.

Blog | UK
Parliament launched a scrutiny committee in a bid to cool down social debate over its communications data bill. (Luke MacGregor/Reuters)

"The rules of the game have changed," then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said after the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London as he announced that the U.K. government would clamp down on terrorists "whatever it takes." Now, the limits of such bold but vague intentions are on show as the draft Communications Data Bill undergoes pre-legislative scrutiny in a joint committee of British Members of Parliament and Peers. Is gathering digital data from the general population a necessary upgrade of law enforcement capabilities, as the British Government argues, or does it dilute the liberal tenets of British democracy for the sake of security? 

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