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Flickr Filtered in Iran,UAE: Resistance February 17, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Censorship, Information policy, Middle East, Political Technology.
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Internet users in the United Arab Emirates and Iran discovered some time ago that their access to Flickr, the popular social networking-photo archive site had been blocked yet again, for the third time. In the UAE, the major Internet service provider, Etisalat, is the responsible party. But dedicated photojournalists and ordinary users alike may have a new technological countermeasure, a free Firefox extension called Access Flickr that is the brainchild of Hamed Saber, an Iranian with a technical bent, an ingrained opposition to Big Brother, and a belief that “no one has the right to censor anything for me”.

In a Global Voices interview with Sami Ben Gharbia, Saber said that he was unaware of any similar Firefox extension specifically designed to circumvent censorship. The idea was to create something similar to Tor, but more accessible. Saber says that the tool is “so simple.. not sophisticated and powerful like Tor.” It sounds easy enough:


This extension just substitutes some parameters in HTTP request header
before sending it, and after receiving the response, again it
substitutes some other parameters in the HTTP response header. The
source code is not encoded, and the extension is open source, anyone
can read the simple source code!

Source: globalvoicesonline.org

Other forms of resistance to internet filtering in Iran ( Filtering Country Study) and the UAE( Filtering Country Study) are spearheaded by the Open Net Initiative. Because the technology is simple, the obvious solution for the censors is to block the extension- and what will Saber do if that happens?

He’ll just develop another “bypassing way.”

With people like Saber in the world, we can all take heart. We are , collectively, smarter than they are.

Related Link: Freedom for UAE Flickr Users Petition UAE

Tags: vs | users | Filter | Extension | Community | Citizens | access | United Arab Emirates | Technology | saber | Middle East | Iran | internet | hamed | Flickr | Africa


FBI Reduces Lost Weapons ,Stolen Laptops Increase February 13, 2007

Posted by publicpolitics in Information policy, Weapons.
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The FBI reported the loss or theft of 354 weapons and 315 lost or stolen laptops in a 28 month period from 1999-2001. The Office of the Inspector General and the FBI found that alarming, and issued several sets of recommendation. Today, the OIG reports that the situation has improved. During a follow up audit, 160 laptops and 160 weapons went missing, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.

To determine whether the FBI has made progress in reducing its number of lost and stolen weapons and laptop computers, we compared the rate of loss identified in our 2002 audit to the rate found in this follow-up audit. Our prior audit found that over a 28-month period the FBI reported 354 weapons and 317 laptop computers as lost or stolen. Our follow-up audit found that over a 44-month period the FBI reported 160 weapons and 160 laptop computers as lost or stolen. We determined that, except for stolen laptop computers, the rate of loss for each property category decreased…”

Source: docuticker.com

The follow up audit was conducted over a period of 44 months2002- (2005), so the more relevant statistic is the monthly loss or theft rate by category. During the new audit period, the FBI lost 1.09 functional weapons (down from 3.82) per month,and 2.14 functional weapons were stolen( down from 3.75). The monthly loss of functional training weapons dropped from 5 per month to less than 1, while the number of stolen training weapons was zero in both audit periods.

During the first audit, the monthly rate of lost laptop computers was an astonishing 10.71 per month. Although this number fell to 2.54 per month in the new audit , the real surprise is an increase in the number of stolen laptops, from an average of 0.61 per month to an even 1.00. That’s quite a percentage increase.

The FBI objects to the inclusion of 43 of the weapons included in the newest audit because the loss occurred before the follow up audit period. The OIG auditors rejected this rationale because the weapons did not enter the FBI’ s property loss reporting system until after the audit started and excluding them would have given “the appearance that the FBI had fewer lost or stolen weapons than was actually the case.””

Read the Report(PDF)

Tags: wireless | weapons | Subscribe | Stolen | report | Rate | Loss | Laptop | Follow-Up | computers | audit | Politics | DocuTicker

Google Books: Evil or Not? December 20, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Coporate Policies, Information policy, Libraries, Technology.
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Already facing a legal challenge for alleged copyright infringement,
Google’s crusade to build a digital library has triggered a
philosophical debate with an alternative project promising better
online access to the world’s books, art and historical documents.

Michael Liedtke, AP

Google has made tremendous inroads in scanning books from several libraries, including Harvard and the University of California. Google will not say how many books it has scanned so far, but admits to scanning about 3,000 books per day. The problem, according to a new coalition called the Open Content Alliance, is that Google wants the books to appear only on Google’s search engine. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has just awarded the Internet Archive, a leading member of the Open Content Alliance, a $1 million dollar grant to create digital copies of items owned by the Boston Public Library, the Getty Research Institute, and the Johns Hopkins University Library. Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle has been critical of Google’s restrictions on scanned books, and the grant represents the culmination of efforts to call attention to the situation.

Google says that its scanning arrangements are a fair deal because agreements with providers do not restrict them from entering into other digitizing arrangements. And to make matters more complicated, Microsoft and Yahoo are both members of the OCA, and Microsoft recently launched its own scanning initiative, marked by its own exclusivity deal.

The OCA ‘s Kahle is disappointed by Microsoft’s move, but he is more worried about the aggregate power of Google, as well he might be. Google, as its present corporate arrangements with publishers show, is not entirely evil, but it does represent an accumulated clout that will probably outlast the ideals of its founders. An organization such as the OCA, as long as it plays no favorites, is better placed to ensure the future availability of a world wide library than is any corporate entity simply because at the end of the day, a corporate entity is strictly responsible only to share holders, while an alliance of publishers and librarians can hold and maintain a less restrictive charter. In view of Microsoft’s creation of its own exclusive book search, the company’s participation in the OCA is a kind of PR exercise at best.

And of course, there are dozens of other digitizing projects that have been well underway for years: the most important and the most open of these is Project Gutenberg, alibrary of free e-books with expired copyrights. Perhaps the ultimate answer is to divide and conquer, but in that scenario the corporate behemoths will eventually control the information, with truly open source projects picking up the remnants. It is true that politics remains too important to be left to politicians,and it is probably true that the future world library is too important to be left in the hands of one or two corporations, even if they aren’t evil.

Tags: livraries | digitizing | Project Gutenberg | Open Content Alliiance | Kahle | SCANNING | books | Yale | Yahoo | Microsoft | Harvard | Google

Information War: Feds Close Science Libraries December 12, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in Health and Science Policy, Information policy, Libraries, U.S. Congress.
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The NASA library in Greenbelt, Md., was part of John C. Mather’s daily routine for years leading up to the astrophysicist’s 2006 Nobel Prize for shedding new light on the Big Bang theory of universal origin. He researched existing space hardware and instrumentation there while designing a satellite that collected data for his prize-winning discovery.

So when he learned that federal officials were planning to close the library, Mather was stunned.

Tim Reiterman

Last week, I blogged about the EPA libraries closing, but it turns out the story is more complicated- and more menacing. Tim Reiterman of the L.A. Times calls the recent shuttering of federal research libraries a “quiet war on information.” And the story is changing. The explanation for the EPA libraries last week was that some libraries were being shut down as an attempt to modernize them-specifically, to digitize their holdings in the name of greater access.This week, America is waking up to find that not only were the pesky EPA libraries closed, but that the General Services Administration headquarters library , where investigators explore real estate, communications, and aspects of government finance was closed earlier this year, along with the Department of Energy headquarters(!) library.

The Bush administration has a lukewarm attitude to scientific research of all kinds, apart from weapons research, and most scientists knew that a long time ago. It takes some doing, however, to evoke the ire of the American Library Association. Emily Sheketoff, head of the ALA’s Washington office, claims that “crucial information generated with taxpayer dollars is now not available to the scientists and the public who need it.This is the beginning of the elimination of all these government libraries. I think you have an administration that does not have a commitment to access to information.”

The hardest hit agency, the EPA, has asked the GAO to investigate the reduction of its $7 million library budget by $2.5. The EPA claims that all EPA generated documents would be online by January, and that the other 51,000 reports would be digitized in two years. A copy of each book would be kept for interlibrary loan purposes.

Critics say that research will be slowed and perhaps prevented . Book dispersal problems, lost inventory, the high cost of or impossibility of digitizing some copyrighted items all loom as possible obstacles, just as the nation prepares for what is certain to be the most vigorous debate in several years about climate change and alternative fuels.

Members of Congress have voiced their opposition to the closure of the EPA libraries in the form of a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson signed by ranking members of several legislative committees, including the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Science, the Committee on Government Reform, and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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