Archives for November 2017

Corporate Accountability News Highlights: New report finds increase in mobile network shutdowns, livestreaming and VPN restrictions; Somaliland blocks social media during elections; YouTube broadens extremist content takedown policy

Corporate Accountability News Highlights is a regular series by Ranking Digital Rights highlighting key news related to tech companies, freedom of expression, and privacy issues around the world.

New report finds increase in mobile network shutdowns, livestreaming and VPN restrictions

Government-ordered mobile network shutdowns have reached a new high, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom on the Net report, released last week. The organization found that half of the network shutdowns over the past year were mobile network-specific, and “often in areas populated by ethnic or religious minorities.” The report also identified a rise in the number of government restrictions on live video broadcasting platforms, particularly during political protests, and blocking Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), which may be used to circumvent censorship or browse the internet more securely. Research showed that 14 countries currently have some type of restriction on VPNs, with six of those countries having introduced new restrictions within the past year.

The increase in government efforts to control communications networks and to ban anonymous activity online poses risks to human rights around the world. Governments should respect and protect human rights, and work with the private sector and civil society to ensure that legal and regulatory frameworks enable companies to respect users’ freedom of expression and privacy rights. As noted in our Corporate Accountability Index, corporate accountability can only be achieved when governments are also held accountable. Continue Reading

Corporate Accountability News Highlights: Russia increases pressure on foreign companies, Thailand to require mobile phone biometric identity verification, and U.S. Department of Justice limits use of gag orders for user data requests

Corporate Accountability News Highlights is a regular series by Ranking Digital Rights highlighting key news related to tech companies, freedom of expression, and privacy issues around the world.

Russia increases pressure on foreign companies to comply with data localization law

BalticServers.com via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Russian authorities have increased pressure on foreign companies to comply with a data localization law. Russia’s telecommunications regulator has said it will investigate whether or not Facebook is complying with the law, which requires data operators processing personal data of Russian citizens to do so using servers within Russia. Authorities previously announced that Facebook will be blocked next year if the company does not comply with the law. Russian authorities said that Twitter planned to comply with the law by the middle of 2018, according to the Telegraph. Twitter declined to comment, the Telegraph reported.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns over mandatory data localization laws, particularly in countries such as Russia, where authorities may have direct access to communications data. The data localization law is one example of how authorities in Russia are increasing restrictions on online privacy. Messaging app Telegram was recently fined for refusing to turn over encryption keys which would have allowed authorities to decrypt and access the contents of user communications, and in August, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting tools, including VPNs, that allow users to access banned websites, and another law requiring users of chat apps to verify their identities.Continue Reading