I have been asked recently about my thoughts on Gaza several times. Though I’m trying not to follow anything more than I can handle lately, given the turn up of Revolution in Egypt, another story. But anyway, here is my analysis of what usually happens, from a very personal, non-expert at all, point of view.
The following post is an essay written by yours truly at the end of the Internet Governance Capacity Building Program (IGCBP).
Anonymity is derived from the Greek word, anonymia, meaning “without a name” or “namelessness.” It is used for various purposes: charity, activism, art, press, and also criminal activities. The conversation and conflict of interest between the security apparatus and concerned citizens each time a new means of communication is developed, continually increasing as technology advances over time. The more sophisticated technology gets, the more advanced anonymity becomes, and the more challenging it is for Internet service providers to be in line with privacy laws in some countries. This challenge also provides more opportunity for the security apparatus to be more controlling and thus the situation for them becomes more critical and challenging.
Anonymity offers a safe haven to activists for the freedom of expression and oppression against minorities. Activists can use tools like Virtual Private Networks (Wikipedia, 2014) aka VPNs, TOR, secure email (Wikipedia, 2014), KeyScramblers (TechRepublic, 2010) and other secure means (Google Play Store, 2013) of communications, in attempts to cover their tracks to hide from authoritarian governments, like in the cases of Egypt (DemoracyNow, 2011), Syria (NewScientist, 2012) and Tunisia (The Atlantic, 2011).
Anonymity preserves user privacy, as defined and structured in EU data privacy laws. For example, Facebook—which has terms of services that requires users to use their real name to create an account—has been challenged by a German court ruling demanding Facebook to alter their TOS to be in line with German privacy laws that allow anonymity, with Ireland following suit. Facebook is criticising this approach, calling it a waste of taxpayers’ money (WSJ, 2013). Data privacy via anonymity is available in services like YouTube via face blurring (YouTube Blog, 2012), as well as Google Street View (Google Street View Privacy and Security policy, no date).
Minority groups, like religious minorities as well as the LGBT (EFF, 2014) community, often find themselves under oppression, either social and / or from the state. The last resort of these communities is the anonymous online world, where they find the ability to freely organise and discuss their issues away from eyes and ears of their oppressors.
Anonymity greatly limits security risks (EFF, 2010), as any technology with backdoors will always enable a third party. This third party can be the security apparatus, and also gives the chance to intruders to abuse this kind of data. This data can range from biometrics of citizens to highly sensitive officials to military secrets.
Business wise, users’ data should be protected by anonymity, especially credit cards information and users’ purchasing habits (EFF, 2010). Or else the business, as well as the consumer, will suffer economic losses when the user information falls into the wrong hands. This kind of security breach can put the whole economy in jeopardy. The FBI directly investigates these kind of breaches even outside their own soil, as they did in Egypt. (Egypt Independent, 2009)
Anonymity is a big supporting factor for innovation. As EFF puts it: Facebook and Skype would be dead if the government built a system that surveilled everything online. (EFF, 2010)
Anonymity can increases the quality of discussions in online platforms, as found in research by Disqus (Disqus, no date) which concluded that 61% of 500 million comments were posted under pseudonyms and they were “liked” more than “real name” commentators.
Anonymity also supports voting integrity (EFF, 2013), because if voters’ identity were known this could eventually lead to compromising the integrity of any poll or elections, and would greatly influence voters. In scientific studies, reporting results when describing individual cases should be done anonymously. (Jacob Palme and Mikael Berglund. 2003)
On the other side of the debate, anonymity greatly reduces the ability of advertisers to reach their targeted markets, such as in games and social networks, as they won’t find enough relevant data to direct their campaigns. Anonymity also allows bullying and defamation with impunity in discussion groups (Guy Clapperton, 2013). It can also erode credibility in arguments (Dan Gilmour, 2009). In the worst cases, anonymity is a disguise for criminals to carry out malicious acts.
I find myself supporting anonymity on the Internet, for the following reasons. Anonymity values freedom over fear, and I think a truly democratic and healthy society should always value freedom over fear. Fear characterises societies living under authoritarian regimes and oppressive societies, a kind of oppression that will also hinder academic and business innovation, and will eventually lead to violations of human rights.
Most researchers, speakers and academics who voice themselves against anonymity place their judgement based on a specific case they witnessed, such as bullying, without proving through enough data, as the resulting crime might have many other factors that are hard to research, like psychological factors in character and psychological environment.
Regarding the point of criminals using anonymity for covering their tracks and preventing the security apparatus from investigating crimes, a study mentioned that in the US in 2009, the US government reported only once the need to break the encryption out of 2376 wiretaps resulted from court orders, (Wired, 2009). Even in that case, investigators were able to continue the investigation without breaking into the encryption. This study defies any point made by governments or researchers that criminals make good use of encryption to protect their criminal activity, and defies governments’ calls for backdoors to eliminate anonymity.
In the end, NGOs and activists should push back on governments’ and security apparatus’ efforts to put backdoors to eliminate anonymity as this only serves granting more authoritarian powers to both democratic and authoritarian governments, crippling human rights, freedom of Internet, academic freedoms, governments’ transparency and accountability—as well as technological and business innovation online and in the real world. This can be done in some sort of coalitions as well as lobbies that are formed after the formation of these coalitions, to push the parliaments of the world to prioritise not only state security, but also human rights preservation
-VPN [Wikipedia] (2014) Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network [Accessed 09 February 2014]
-TOR project (no date) Available at https://www.torproject.org/ [Accessed 09 February 2014]
-Pretty Good Privacy (2014) Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Good_Privacy [Accessed 09 February 2014]
-KeyScrambler: [TechRepublic] How keystroke encryption works to thwart keylogging threat (2010) available at http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/it-security/keyscrambler-how-keystroke-encryption-works-to-thwart-keylogging-threats/ [Accessed 09 February 2014]
-TextSecure [Google Play Store] (2013) available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcrime.securesms&hl=en [Accessed 09 February 2014]
-RedPhone [Google Play Store] (2013) available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcrime.redphone&hl=en
[Accessed 09 February 2014]
-Democracy Now (2011) Digital Darkness: U.S., U.K. Companies Help Egyptian Regime Shut Down Telecommunications and Identify Dissident Voices available at http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/2/1/digital_darkness_us_uk_companies_help [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-NewScientist (2012) Assad masses Syrian cyber army in online crackdown available at http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21506-assad-masses-syrian-cyber-army-in-online-crackdown.html#.UwI1TfmSzHk [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-The Atlantic (2011) The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks available at http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/01/the-inside-story-of-how-facebook-responded-to-tunisian-hacks/70044/ [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-WSJ (2013) The Debate Over Online Anonymity available at http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323468604578245841828280344 [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-Official Youtube Blog (2012) Face blurring: when footage requires anonymity available at http://youtube-global.blogspot.ae/2012/07/face-blurring-when-footage-requires.html [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-Google (no date) Street View Privacy and Security policy available at http://www.google.com/intl/en/maps/about/behind-the-scenes/streetview/privacy/#streetview [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-EFF (2014) Digital Freedom Is an LGBT Issue available at https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/02/digital-freedom-lgbt-issue [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-EFF (2010) Eight Epic Failures of Regulating Cryptography available at https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2010/10/eight-epic-failures-regulating-cryptography [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-Mohamed ElGohary (2009) Phrying the online Phishers Egypt Independent 25 November available at http://www.egyptindependent.com/news/phrying-online-phishers [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-Disqus (no date) pseudonyms research available at http://disqus.com/research/pseudonyms/ [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-EFF (2013) Supreme Court of India -- Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails Must Be Used available at https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/10/supreme-court-india-voter-verifiable-paper-audit-trails-must-be-used [Accessed 10 February 2014]
-Jacob Palme and Mikael Berglund (2003) Swedish Institutionen för data: Anonymity on the Internet available at http://people.dsv.su.se/~jpalme/society/anonymity.html [Accessed 11 February 2014]
-Guy Clapperton (2013) E&T Magazine: Debate: Should we have the right to anonymity online? available at http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2013/09/debate.cfm [Accessed 11 February 2014]
-Dan Gilmour (2009) The Guardian -- Comment Is Free: No name, less credibility available at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/aug/28/skanks-google-blogging-internet-gillmor [Accessed 11 February 2014]
Check out the paper here.
Completed my Advanced course in Internet Governance certificate from Diplo Foundation, scoring 94%
This is the second and last post for GV Board Elections posts.
As I became elected to be the staff representative in Global Voices Board elections. Global Voices staff are heads of Global Voices’ departments (i.e. Global Voices, Rising Voices, Advox, and Lingua) as well as heads of editorial and translation team (i.e. regional editors, language editors and Lingua editors). I send the following letter to Global Voices:
I can’t express how thrilled I am to have your votes, which express your trust and emphasize the responsibility I now hold, for achieving better communication, better representation, and more robust contributing-flow among Global Voices staff; GV sectors heads as well as GV regional, language, topics and Lingua editors.
Thanks again everyone!
Lots of love,
This post will be a first in the series for GV Board Elections posts.
WHY I’M RUNNING FOR THE GV BOARD ELECTIONS?
I would like to be on the board to help in pushing Global Voices position forward in:
- Social Media expression by helping editors and authors cover more under-represented areas and people on the Internet, while at the same time making it less time and effort consuming and more fun.
- I also want to assure GV’s position as innovation platform through more utilization of Rising Voices, helping it to be a more important player in the field of training individuals and communities in need.
- I would help in making Lingua be a language enriching and preservation platform, and
- support Advox to be an umbrella for online advocacy communities around the world.
After contributing for Global Voices for 5 years, as a volunteer and as staff, I know that Global Voices has a great potential to be a leader in these fields.
During the fourth Arab Bloggers Meeting that I attended recently in Amman, Jordan, an idea of an independent project struck me. The project should be aimed to build a database of all NGOs, websites and blogs specialized, or have a specialized section, in digital rights. This database will be in the form of a blog aggregator using a WordPress blog, for the purpose of republishing rather than publishing in itself.
The target of this aggregator is NGOs and bloggers interested in republishing content. The final goal is making the circle of bloggers and trainers bigger than it is right now, as well as establishing a more networked community than it is right now. What inspired me to this idea is the lack of knowledge and organization among the digital Egyptian society in specific, and in the Arab Digital Society in general. As we, digital activists, do not know each other, and in case we knew each other, we do not follow what we do. This eventually leads to many lost opportunities for cooperation.
Another reason for this project is the extreme centralization of activism. So, for example, many activists know what is happening in Cairo (Not even the rest of the Egypt), and to a lesser extent what is happening in Syria. Nobody knows what is happening in the Gulf, like Bahrain, UAE, and Saudi, or in North Africa, like Mauritania or Morocco or Algeria, or even Tunisia, the Bouazizi country. I also wonder a lot, what should be the motive for non-Egyptian activists to be in solidarity with an Egyptian suffering human rights violations in their countries, while we, as Egyptian activists, do not know or do no care what is happening to non-Egyptians in Egypt and beyond?
I’m not saying this is the fault of non-Egyptians, I understand the exhaustion we are suffering since the end of 2011 till now, but I’m aiming through this simple project to be a step towards making the circle of bloggers and trainers bigger. To increase their networking as well as the opportunities to know the real needs. How to use the Internet to deal with real needs. I think this issue gets really challenging when there is no “real” networking between activists from across the region.
I put here a form for all NGOs and bloggers who are interested in being in the blog aggregator:
If you were not following Egyptian affairs last few days you should read this piece, as according to AP: “Prosecutors have questioned officials in one of Egypt’s largest telecommunications companies (@VodafoneEgypt) over an online advertisement featuring a puppet (called Abla Fahita), which a controversial (pro-government activist, not a blogger, so much for AP reporting) blogger has accused of delivering a coded message linked to the Muslim Brotherhood group, the company said Wednesday.” More is available on the WP.
On a more a serious note, earlier in November Bloomberg published that “Telecom Egypt May Buy Vodafone Local Division When 4G Is Offered“. Personally I don’t want for this acquiring to happen, since it will decrease/eliminate competition in mobile/4G emerging market. Egypt is a very hungry market for Internet and with current cap in DSL lines as well as failing infrastructure in sub-urban Cairo (filled with wireless telephone lines, which are not ready for even DSL, only same-old-Dial-up), 4G will be a damn big market.
The million dollar question here, as Vodafone actually wants to buy the government stakes, is this BS accusation a dirty step for blackmailing/forcing Vodafone Egypt to comply to what the government wants?
Apparently, this country decided to show us more and more of its ugly faces. I am writing this post in solidarity with the fierce fighter Mahinour ElMasry. Mahinour is sentenced to jail for 2 years for peaceful protesting. Mahinour is one of the first victims of the notorious protesting law, with hinders the right of assembly and many other rights. The regime understood that the masses in the streets are the makers of change. They are trying to cartel them again, to imprison them with a wicked notion of “persevering the stability and peace of the society”. Those in power forget that the main reason for unrest is INJUSTICE, DESPOTISM, TYRANNY, and POVERTY.
I have, or had, a friend, whom I knew for several years.
I’m so picky in choosing friends, ever since I began choosing them. I usually, almost always, realized wrong choices after a very short time of beginning the friendship, except that particular one. When someone comes close to me, I not only give them support, I give them part of my soul. Whenever I see them better, or see them succeed, or see them recover from a mischief, I see part of my soul in them. I don’t usually have good relations with far family members. Instead, I tend to choose those I like to be close to.
That friend, whom I knew for several years, had all my support throughout our friendship, hoping they will be an important person in some part of their life. Part of this importance, is to succeed to holding their integrity intact, to believe in justice, to observe before following one of the cattles scattered right now in this volatile time. To not defend people with blood on their hands under any justification. But that dream just died immaturely, leaving a big hole in me. That hole is increasing with the struggle to keep or lose this friendship which had big hopes. It is like a beholden boy gone rouge against everything you believed in, everything that you fought for. When that moment comes, when I should end this friendship, and the moment is near, it will be like betraying your own boy after nurturing him for so long. I never felt that intense internal struggle before, and I don’t want anyone to feel it.
If you have a passion for arts, and you are looking for a place to nurture this passion, then The Workshops in Maadi is perhaps the best place to go. Learning in an interactive and amusing environment is what The Workshops offers. Indeed, the management of The Workshops believes that education has to be fun, and that for education to be productive and enjoyable, instructors must actively engage students in a two-way, dynamic educational process.