Welcome to the Media Law Roundup, a weekly digest of developing media news stories from around the world. This week’s issue covers German Trojan spyware, Turkey’s television censorship, and more.
German government to use Trojan spyware to monitor citizens, DEUTSCHE WELLE
On February 22, the German interior ministry announced that the government approved the usage of Trojans to monitor suspected citizens. Trojans, also known as malware, are software programs commonly used by hackers to gain access to users’ computers and data. Government officials will first need to get approval from the court system before using the malware technology to hack into a citizen’s computer, laptop, and cell phone. Konstantin von Notz, Deputy head of the Green party which opposes the government’s use of Trojan spyware, stated on social media, “We do understand the needs of security officials, but still, in a country under the rule of law, the means don’t justify the end.” In 2008, the German Constitutional Court ruled that the government can only obtain remote access to a citizen’s computer if there is life-threatening danger or serious suspicion of criminal activity against the state.
Baidu browser collects mounds of user, device data, SECURITYWEEK
According to a report published by Citizen Lab on February 23, Chinese versions of the Baidu browser send unencrypted data to the company’s servers. The Android version of the Baidu browser collects and sends user data such as GPS coordinates, search terms, and URLs visited. Both the Chinese and international browser. The Chinese Windows version collects and leaks CPU model number, hard drive serial number, and URLs visited, whereas the international Windows browser is encrypted. The browser also allows users to proxy requests for certain sites and circumvent the Chinese firewall. The report states that both browsers lack sufficient protections for software updates, leaving users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, which may lead to harmful third-party code. When approached by Citizen Lab, Baidu responded, “We’re grateful of Citizen Lab for being mindful of data security in transmission and we have already made substantial progress toward ensuring that any such transmission will be secure.” For more details, read the report here.
Since early January, a group of Burmese hackers known as the Blink Hacker Group have attacked Thai government websites and stolen data. The group has stated in Facebook posts and an email interview that it was attacking Thailand in retaliation for sentencing two Burmese to death for the murder of two British backpackers late last year. They have published data from government websites they’ve hacked, declaring that these databases “should be made public.” A spokesperson for the Royal Thai Police, Dechnarong Suthicharnbancha, said the hacks have minimally impacted police websites. “It was only a nuisance. We got the websites running again with no trouble at all,” said Suthicharnbancha. The Blink Hacker Group has also targeted domestic media groups that criticize government policies or support Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
On February 22, the Rwandan telecom firm Tigo Rwanda signed onto the Connected Women Commitment Initiative, which aims to reduce the gender gap in mobile internet and mobile money services. According to a statement released by the firm, Tigo Rwanda is the only telecom firm to sign the commitment and has pledged to increase the percentage of women accessing its mobile financial platform Tigo Cash from 39% of total users to 45% by 2020. Tigo Rwanda CEO Tongai Maramba acknowledged the vital role women play in their families’ financial management and believes that access to Tigo Cash can help. “Increasing women’s access to mobile financial services will in turn allow them to improve their quality of life, that of their families and that of their communities,” Maramba said.
On February 26, Turkey’s satellite provider Turksat stopped broadcasts of IMC TV at the request of an Ankara prosecutor over fears that the channel supported a terrorist group. The leading coordinator of IMC TV, Eyup Burc, believes that this was a baseless political decision. “In Turkey, everything contrary to the official view is tossed into the terrorism bag,” Burc said. The channel cut off mid-broadcast during a live interview with Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, editors of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet. The editors were freed after spending 92 days in prison for video footage they claim shows the Turkish intelligence agency sending weapons to Syria. “This was done deliberately, to send a message to the media: that Can Dundar and Erdem Gul may have been released due to the public outcry, but that doesn’t mean the government is retreating from its course,” Burc said. IMC covers several controversial issues such as the Kurdish conflict, social issues, environmental protests, and speeches by opposition politicians. Burc said that IMC would continue its online programming while they attempt to get the broadcast back up and running.
The UK’s Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, introduced in November 2015, was redrafted on March 1 in response to criticism from experts. While the new bill includes new provisions for user privacy, it expands surveillance powers for the police. The police will now have increased access to the Internet Connection Records, a full list of every website that a person has visited. Interview service providers will be required to save browsing histories of all users for a year, which authorities can receive access to. In earlier versions of the bill, police were restricted to seeing illegal sites people visited, whereas now the police will have full access to a person’s browsing history without needed a search warrant. The new draft also requires messaging apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage to remove end-to-end encryption, which allows people to communicate securely. Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, criticized the Home Office for failing to address privacy concerns in the bill. “The continued inclusion of powers for bulk interception and bulk equipment interference – hacking by any other name – leaves the right to privacy dangerously undermined and the security of our infrastructure at risk. Despite this, the Home Office stands by its claim that the Bill represents “world-leading” legislation. It is truly world-leading, for all the wrong reasons,” Hosein said.