Monthly Archives: May 2014

Facebook Alleged To Be Temporarily Blocked In Thailand To Curb Online Criticism Of The Military

Facebook Alleged To Be Temporarily Blocked In Thailand To Curb Online Criticism Of The MilitaryBlocking of social media websites has become a trend in few countries. Most of the time such blocking takes place to suppress public opinion and this violates the right to speech and expression of the netizens. The latest to add to the list of social media websites blocking nation is Thailand that recently blocked Facebook for a period of 30 minutes. Such blocking violates civil liberties protection in cyberspace as such blocking is not undertaken in compliance with a valid and constitutional law.

As per a media report, Thai Facebook users were shocked on Wednesday to find that the Information Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry blocked access to the site at the request of the military, but the junta blamed the brief shutdown on a technical problem. However, a senior ICT ministry official confirmed the site had been blocked to thwart the spread of online criticism of the military in the wake of a May 22 coup.

”We have blocked Facebook temporarily and tomorrow we will call a meeting with other social media, like Twitter and Instagram, to ask for cooperation from them”, Surachai Srisaracam, permanent secretary of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry, told Reuters. “Right now there’s a campaign to ask for people to stage protests against the army so we need to ask for cooperation from social media to help us stop the spread of critical messages about the coup”, he said.

Meanwhile the military council has denied any such blocking exercise and said that they have no policy to block Facebook and they have assigned the ICT ministry to set up a supervisory committee to follow social media and investigate and solve problems. Military spokesperson has attributed the non access to some technical problems with the internet gateway.

Google Is Creating A Cloud Based WiFi Network For Small And Medium Size Companies

Google Is Creating A Cloud Based WiFi Network For Small And Medium Size CompaniesGoogle is never afraid of exploring new avenues and experimenting with new products and services. For instance, products and services like Google glass, Google voice, etc are of great utility although they may create few regulatory issues as well. However, these minor hiccups never prevented Google form exploring new markets and introducing newer products and services.

The latest to add to this list of Google is the proposed cloud based WiFi network. This way Google would create its own Internet infrastructure that can have wide ranging ramifications for the global ICT and telecom industry. For a company like Google, which can grow only if users have access to easy, fast and cheap web connections, one of the biggest problems is the poor internet infrastructure across the world. If successful, Google can create nation-wide or even global Wi-Fi network.

Google has partnered with Ruckus Wireless to create a cloud-based WiFi network for small and medium size companies. The network can launch as early as “this summer”. Google and Ruckus are building a Wi-Fi infrastructure that will allow any small installation – like a pizza shop or a dentist’s office – to join the network and connect to hundreds or even hundreds of thousands other small businesses to offer people a universal Wi-Fi zone. The businesses will have to buy their own Wi-Fi gear – probably made by Ruckus – and bandwidth to connect to the Google’s network. But once they are connected, the Wi-Fi access on their network would be remotely controlled by Google’s cloud service.

While initially, the bandwidth for Google’s Wi-Fi network will be supplied by businesses, it is possible that in future Google may merge the network with a few technologies it is testing. Google is working on enabling internet access in remote areas through high-altitude balloons and drones. If successfully, the company may beam bandwidth for its Wi-Fi network through strategically placed balloons or drones.

As far as India is concerned, Google will face privacy issues and data protection compliance requirements (PDF). Further, regulatory issues of cloud computing, virtualisation, encryption, etc would also pose some trouble for Google in India.  However, nothing would be more challenging than tackling the tricky issues of conflict of laws in cyberspace that are vexing Google in India and other jurisdictions as on date.

Samsung’s Smartwatch Can Make And Receive Calls Without Being Tethered To A Smartphone

Samsung’s Smartwatch Can Make And Receive Calls Without Being Tethered To A SmartphoneSamsung is planning to introduce a smartwatch that can act as a stand-alone phone. This smartwatch will be able to make and receive calls without being tethered to a smartphone. It will also take photos, send email and come with GPS, Bluetooth and a heart monitor. Samsung’s new watch-phone, which will come with a SIM card, will be one of a handful of stand-alone devices on the market, and the only one yet from a major manufacturer.

Samsung is already in talks with telecom carriers in the U.S., South Korea and Europe about the watch-phone, and hopes to unveil the gadget between June and July. It will run on Samsung’s homegrown operating system, Tizen, which was co-developed with Intel Corp.

Although Samsung may find some success in this regard in the developed nations yet it may not be successful in developing countries like India due to regulatory and other concerns.

Further, the intelligence and security agencies would be quick to flash the national security and law and order card to defeat any such attempt of Samsung in Asian countries, especially India.

The cyber law due diligence (PDF) and cyber security due diligence issues would also surface in India in due course of time. If the recent prosecutions of companies like Google, Target Corporation, EBay, etc are considered, it is clear that Samsung would be required to comply with many techno legal compliances around the world that it has not contemplated till now.

Nevertheless this is a commendable effort on the part of Samsung and we at Perry4Law would be glad to see it explore Indian markets very soon.

ITU Hosts Second Advisory Board Meeting Of M-Powering Development Initiative

ITU Hosts Second Advisory Board Meeting Of M-Powering Development InitiativeThe Second Advisory Board Meeting of the m-Powering Development Initiative was recently opened aiming at using the reach of mobile tele-connectivity to achieve long-term sustainable development.

The m-Powering Development Initiative is an international, multi-stakeholder platform that seeks to leverage the ubiquity of mobile technology beyond basic communications. Its objective is to capitalize on the availability of mobile networks to strengthen economies and offer new opportunities to improve health, education, governance, banking, sport and commerce.

“The initiative is designed to leverage the potential of mobile technology across markets and countries worldwide, especially in remote areas of the world,” said ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré.

Today’s meeting, which follows the First Advisory Board Meeting held in October 2013,  reviewed and assessed the progress made in the areas of m-Learning, m-Health, m-Commerce, m-Sports, Business Models and Advocacy and discussed the future work programme.

The Advisory Board was assisted by six working groups, which were established for each theme to bring in the expertise from various sectors. The working groups reviewed ongoing initiatives and activities in their respective fields, identified key stakeholders and elaborated real life examples and best practices that can be replicated and scaled up.

“Today we took further steps as we heard about concrete proposals on the way forward to m-Power development,” said Mr Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau. “I strongly believe that these early steps will pave the way to great things and positive change in people’s lives and I look forward to translating our words into actions.”

The Advisory Board, which meets twice a year, is chaired by Mr Sam Pitroda, Founder of C-SAM, Inc. and Adviser to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation. It is composed of leaders in the telecom fraternity with a track record of making a real difference in the field of m-Powering development. This includes eminent personalities from diverse backgrounds with a range of interests and expertise in the mobile industry.

“Today you may find mobile phones being used even in the most remote areas,” Pitroda said. “We should really focus on using mobile connectivity for development. Development related to m-learning, m-health and m-commerce are some key areas for inclusive growth for all.”

The Advisory Board will meet again later this year to review progress and address other strategic issues.

China Would Investigate Foreign IT Products And Services To Protect National Security And Ensure Economic And Social Development

China Would Investigate Foreign IT Products And Services To Protect National Security And Ensure Economic And Social DevelopmentChina has been on the receiving end for long. Whether it is allegations of embedded backdoors in the telecom equipments and hardware of Chinese telecom companies or cyber warfare and cyber espionage allegations, China has always remained on the receiving end. The recent allegations by United States of cyber spying by China against U.S. companies have further added heat to the already strained relationships between China and U.S. China is already struggling to resolve territory related disputes with adjacent countries and these allegations of U.S. would further cause stress to China.

The effect of all these developments can already be seen in the policy decisions of China. For instance, China has decided that it would investigate providers of important IT products and services to protect “national security” and “economic and social development” of China. The companies that would be unable to satisfy Chinese concerns would not be allowed to operate in Chinese territories. In fact, products that do not meet security requirements will be banned.

China has already banned new central government computers from using Windows 8 and is working in the direction of making the use of existing Windows XP more secure. China may also explore the possibility of using indigenously made operating systems and cyber security softwares.

The proposed investigations would check product security and seek to prevent suppliers from illegally gathering, storing or processing user data. “For a long time, governments and enterprises of a few countries have gathered sensitive information on a large scale, taking advantage of their monopoly in the market and technological edge”, Jiang Jun, spokesman for the State Council Information Office says.

A small number of governments and businesses “take advantage of technological monopolies to collect sensitive data on a large scale” from the Chinese government, business and institutions, Xinhua added, saying there had been extensive wiretapping and security breaches. Xinhua did not give details of which governments or businesses it was referring to but U.S. security standards for information technology were not transparent or clear-cut, Xinhua added.

Right To Be Forgotten Needed Under Laws Of India

Right To Be Forgotten Under Laws Of IndiaIn a recent landmark decision the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has held that Google cannot deny the Right to Be Forgotten to its users. This decision would further strengthen the efforts of European Union to protect privacy rights and data protection amid global e-surveillance practices. The result of this decision is that the Right to Be Forgotten can now be enforced against Google in Europe. In fact, takedown requests have already been made to Google and companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, etc are also exploring various legal possibilities in this regard.

Google has termed this decision as amounting to censorship. However, Google itself has been engaging in censorship around the world and this stand of Google cannot be supported.

Google can already be approached for removal of objectionable contents as per the laws of United States. However, this is a problematic solution as Google refuses to obey laws of other countries, including India. While Indian government is taking Google lightly yet many individuals have dragged Google to Indian Courts on numerous occasions. Google is presently fighting an online defamation case at Supreme Court of India. Nevertheless the attitude of Google vis-à-vis compliance with Indian laws is more on the side of defiance than compliance.

Foreign companies and websites do so easily in India as Indian government has not taken “Techno Legal Steps” against them. As a result Companies like Google, Facebook, etc are openly Violating Indian Laws and “Blatantly Refusing” to entertain and respect Indian Legal Requests for Information.

Even the much hyped Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) has its own “Limitations” to make the offending People/Companies liable as per Indian Laws. For instance, recently U.S. blocked India’s MLAT attempt to make Google, Facebook, etc to comply with Indian Laws. So what would Indian Government do if these Companies and Websites do not comply with Indian Laws and if they cannot be “Compelled” to comply with Indian Laws through MLAT and other mechanisms as well?

Foreign companies and websites have been ignoring the cyber law due diligence (PDF) and internet intermediary liability as prescribed by Information technology Act, 2000 (IT Act 2000). It is common among these companies to deny compliance under the IT Act 2000 and ask for court orders for even those compliance requirements that have been prescribed by different laws of India. As a result, cyber litigations against foreign companies are going to increase in the near future.

Indian courts must ensure that Google complies with Indian laws. Indian legislature and Indian courts must also ensure that right to be forgotten must also be made part and parcel of the proposed privacy law of India.

RBI Postpones The Implementation Of Biometric Authentication For Credit Card Swipe Machines And ATMs

RBI Postpones The Implementation Of Biometric Authentication For Credit Card Swipe Machines And ATMsReserve Bank of India (RBI) has been stressing hard to introduce biometric based services and features for various banking related purposes. This is clearly a misguided and waste exercise as RBI is contemplating utilising the Aadhar number as a base for biometric authentication. There is no second opinion that Aadhar project is not only illegal and unconstitutional but it is also an unreliable and insecure methodology.

In fact, the Aadhar project has already been challenged in numerous courts and even the Supreme Court of India has held that Aadhar card cannot be made mandatory for availing public services. Even the banks in India have refused to obey the dictates of RBI to use Aadhar numbers for various purposes.

Surprisingly, RBI has suggested in the past to use Aadhaar number/card/data by all new ATMs and point of sale (POS) machines. Clearly this direction of RBI was illegal and in clear violation of the direction of Supreme Court of India. That is the reason why Banks in India are simply ignoring the same and they are well within their rights to do so as RBI cannot force them to invest in illegal and unlawful projects.

Now even the RBI seems to have understood this legal and technological position. In a move that will bring relief to banks and credit card issuing companies, the RBI has put on hold an order requiring all future credit card swipe machines and ATMs to be capable of biometric authentication. RBI has instead decided to launch a pilot project where issuers of prepaid cards are allowed cash withdrawals on the basis of biometric authentication. However, even this decision of RBI is not free from legal complications and this decision may also be revised by RBI in the near future.

The move comes in the wake of banks complaining that implementing biometric authentication across all point of sales terminals (credit card swipe machines) was proving to be a challenge. The first issue was that there were not many suppliers in the market. Secondly, their tests showed that the authorization using fingerprints took up to 20 seconds on a 3G connection as against less than five seconds earlier.