Centre for Internet & Society

Welcome to the newsletter issue of July 2012 from the Centre for Internet & Society (CIS). The present issue features a constitutional analysis of the Information Technology (Intermediaries' Guidelines) Rules notified in April 2011, an analysis of the Indian Draft DNA Profiling Act and CIS statement on Exceptions and Limitations for Libraries and Archives made at WIPO.

Jobs

CIS is seeking applications from interested candidates for the following posts:

To apply for the posts of Programme Director and Programme Officers, please send your resume to Sunil Abraham ([email protected]) or Pranesh Prakash ([email protected]) with three references.

Internet Governance

The Internet Governance programme conducts research around the various social, technical, and political underpinnings of global and national Internet governance, and includes online privacy, freedom of speech, and Internet governance mechanisms and processes:

Featured Research

  • Constitutional Analysis of the Information Technology (Intermediaries' Guidelines) Rules, 2011 (by Ujwala Uppaluri): Ujwala Uppaluri provides a constitutional analysis of the Information Technology (Intermediaries' Guidelines) Rules notified in April 2011, and examines its compatibility with Articles 14, 19, 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • Overview and Concerns Regarding the Indian Draft DNA Profiling Act (by GeneWatch UK & the Council for Responsible Genetics, US): The 2007 DNA Profiling Bill pending before the Parliament attempts to create an ambitious centralized DNA bank that would store DNA records of virtually anyone who comes within any proximity to the criminal justice system. The Bill contains provisions limiting access to and use of information contained in the database, and provides for the deletion of a person’s DNA profile upon their acquittal.

Columns

  • Internet Censorship: Anonymous Can’t be Just Harmful Hackers (Nishant Shah, FirstPost, July 13, 2012): If there was ever an interesting time for people concerned with freedom of speech and expression to live in, it is now, and it is definitely in India. It has been a series of battles the last couple of years, where a slightly out-dated government machinery has been trying to control and contain the burgeoning online spaces, only to be put in their place by the new-age tech-ninjas that have risen as the new heroes in our digital times.
  • Open letter to Hillary Clinton on Internet Freedom (Sunil Abraham, Thinking Aloud, July 17, 2012): Sunil Abraham’s open letter to Hillary Clinton was based on a presentation made during a panel discussion at a Google sponsored conference titled Internet at Liberty 2012 in Washington DC on May 24, 2012. The present article published in Thinking Aloud is an updated version of the blog entry published by CIS earlier this year.

Event Report

  • Privacy Matters — Medical Privacy (Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration, Pune, June 30, 2012): Privacy India in partnership with the Indian Network for People living with HIV/AIDS, CIS, IDRC, and Society in Action Group with support from London-based Privacy International, held a public discussion on "Medical Privacy". Elonnai Hickok introduced the draft book Privacy in India: A Policy Guide that Privacy India had been compiling. The participants discussed medical privacy in India, the legal aspects of medical privacy, Supreme Court views on medical negligence, confidentiality and privacy, best practices on medical privacy in various health settings, etc.

Ongoing Event

  • The Asian Edge: 2012 Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School: The 2nd Biannual Inter Asia Cultural Studies (IACS) Summer School is being hosted in Bangalore, India by CIS and the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society. The IACS Summer School brings together South and East Asian experts from different disciplines as faculty for graduate and advanced research students to engage with key issues of larger social, cultural and political concerns in cultural studies in Asia.

Upcoming Event

  • Role of the US Tech Companies in Government Surveillance: A Lecture by Christopher Soghoian (Centre for Internet and Society, 194, 2-C Cross, Domlur Stage II, Bangalore (Near Domlur Club and the TERI Complex)): Your internet, phone and web application providers are all, for the most part, in bed with US and other foreign government agencies. They all routinely disclose their customers' communications and other private data to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Worse, firms like Google and Microsoft specifically log data in order to assist the government — How? — Find out — Christopher Soghoian will give a lecture on the role companies play in assisting government surveillance.

Events Organised

  • Privacy Matters — Consumer Privacy (India International Centre, New Delhi, July 7, 2012): Privacy India, in partnership with the Centre for Internet & Society, International Development Research Centre, Society in Action Group and Privacy International, invite you to a public conference focused on discussing the challenges and concerns to consumer privacy in India.
  • The Fifth Elephant (NIMHANS Convention Centre, Bangalore, July 27 and 28, 2012): The event was organised by HasGeek and supported by CIS. The first day covered the technology track and talks from business and industry were held on the following day.

Events Participated

News & Media Coverage

  • A Net of Hatred (Samar Khurshid, Hindustan Times, July 14, 2012): “The problem is...that internet conversations become extreme. Liberals don’t get embroiled in heated arguments while fundamentalists, dedicated to extreme ideologies, tend to win out." Web censorship...is in vain as the net is too vast to control.”— Pranesh Prakash.
  • Post-website attack, cops hot on pursuit of Anonymous hackers (The Times of India, July 11, 2012): “Anonymous consists of a large bunch of activists who gained some credibility in India after they organised offline protests. But this operation doesn't serve any purpose and brings down their credibility as details of those who filed complaints have been revealed.” — Pranesh Prakash.
  • The kids are all on Facebook (Shikha Kumar, Daily News & Analysis, July 8, 2012): “Children’s interaction online should always be under parental supervision. Censorship and control is not the responsibility of the government, but of parents.” — Sunil Abraham.
  • Freedom debate takes a new course (Deepa Kurup, The Hindu, July 1, 2012): “Under Indian copyright law, ISPs cannot be liable for copyright infringement committed by their users. So while it is good that the court clarified that its order was limited in its scope, it is possible to read even this as going far beyond that which is allowed under the law.” — Pranesh Prakash.

Access to Knowledge

The Access to Knowledge programme addresses the harms caused to consumers, developing countries, human rights, and creativity/innovation from excessive regimes of copyright, patents, and other such monopolistic rights over knowledge:

WIPO

CIS participated at the 24th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyrights and Related Rights held in Geneva from July 16 to 25, 2012. The outcomes are listed below:

International Press Coverage

  • U.S. support sought for treaty to allow blind people access to copyrighted works (Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, July 24, 2012): “The vast majority of visually disabled people live in poor, developing countries where very little money is spent on converting books into accessible formats, while they are much more readily available elsewhere...The treaty would end the book famine that they currently face.” — Pranesh Prakash.
  • US and EU blocking treaty to give blind people access to books (Paige McClanahan, The Guardian, July 30, 2012): “We in developing countries have found our voice and we are not going to back down. When people are demanding their basic rights, no power in the world is strong enough to stop them getting what they want.”— Rahul Cherian.

National Press Coverage

  • EU stalls treaty talks to allow copyright waiver for print disabilities (The Hindu, Priscilla Jebaraj, July 25, 2012): “[The treaty] would allow organisations working for the blind to import and export accessible works without seeking the copyright holder's permission, since very little money is spent in developing countries on converting books into accessible formats, while they are much more readily available elsewhere.” — Pranesh Prakash.

Accessibility

India has an estimated 70 million disabled persons who are unable to read printed materials due to some form of physical, sensory, cognitive or other disability. The disabled need accessible content, devices and interfaces facilitated via copyright law and electronic accessibility policies:

Blog Entry

Openness

The 'Openness' programme critically examines alternatives to existing regimes of intellectual property rights, and transparency and accountability. Under this programme, we study Open Government Data, Open Access to Scholarly Literature, Open Access to Law, Open Content, Open Standards, and Free/Libre/Open Source Software:

Blog Entries

  • Unpacking Openness: From Seemingly Transparent to Definitely Opaque: Nishant Shah was in Netherlands recently and as part of his trip had given a public lecture to an audience at Kennisland. One of the respondents wrote a small write-up of the talk. This was originally published on the Kennisland website on July 25, 2012.
  • 2012 Conference on Trends in Knowledge Information Dynamics (by Rebecca Schild): The 2012 Conference on Trends in Knowledge Information Dynamics convened a panel on Open Access. There was consensus amongst the panelist that the “big question” facing the open access movement no longer remains "if" or "why" open access, but rather "how" open access. The panel proved instructive for shifting the discussion away from ideology towards concrete questions facing the open access agenda and its implementation.
  • Open Government Data (by Pranesh Prakash): Pranesh Prakash provides an analysis of the chapter that CIS published in this report with Transparency & Accountability Initiative.

Grant Award


Digital Natives

Digital Natives with a Cause? examines the changing landscape of social change and political participation in light of the role that young people play through digital and Internet technologies, in emerging information societies. Consolidating knowledge from Asia, Africa and Latin America, it builds a global network of knowledge partners who critically engage with discourse on youth, technology and social change, and look at alternative practices and ideas in the Global South:

Book Review

Digital Natives Newsletter

  • Citizen Activism the Past Decade: The deadline for contribution to the Digital Natives newsletter expires on August 15. Nilofar Ansher gives a list of topics that contributors can explore in this blog entry.

Columns

  • Across Borders (Nishant Shah, Indian Express, July 5, 2012): “Digital Natives are not only a mobile-wielding generation, but also a mobile generation. They are fluid, not necessarily tied to the geographies of their origin, and often imagine themselves, as travelling across different networks and systems, like the information traffic on the internet. This dislocation of the fixity of where we are from and who we are is one of the most exciting results of the digital turn.”
  • Revisiting Techno-euphoria (Nishant Shah, DML Central, July 5, 2012): “The gadgets and tools we use are, actually, only material manifestations of the digital — which operates at the level of a paradigm or a context, through which we are slowly reshaping the material, social, and cultural notions of who we are and how we connect to the world around us.”

Event Participated

  • 10th International ISTR Conference (Universita Degli Studi Di Siena, Italy, July 10 – 13, 2012): Nishant Shah was a panelist in the session, "Theoretical Grounding of Civic Driven Change". He gave a public lecture on Beyond Normative Citizenships: Exploring the ‘New’ in Digital Activism.

Telecom

While the potential for growth and returns exist for telecommunications in India, a range of issues need to be addressed. One aspect is more extensive rural coverage and the other is a countrywide access to broadband which is low. Both require effective and efficient use of networks and resources, including spectrum:

Building Knowledge and Capacity around Telecommunication Policy in India

Ford Foundation has given a grant of USD 200,000 to CIS to build expertise in the area of telecommunications in India. The following are the latest outputs:

  • Fixed Line Telephones (by Jürgen Kock): This module discusses the features and the various stages of the development of fixed line telephones, its early history, the basic principle of a fixed line telephone system, plain old telephone service, digital telephones, cordless phones to today's features of fixed line telephones.
  • Different Forms of Video Communication (by Tina Mani): In this module, Tina Mani takes us through some of the common forms of video communication such as video calling, video conferencing, telepresence and video sharing.
  • Broadband Policy, 2004 (by Snehashish Ghosh): In this module, Snehashish Ghosh tells us that the Policy was laid down by the Government of India in order to realize the potential of broadband services. It aimed at enhancing the quality of life by implementation of tele-education, tele-medicine, e-governance, entertainment, etc.
  • Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, 1955 (by Snehashish Ghosh): In this module, Snehashish examines the purpose of the legislation, the persons affected by it, the administrative bodies which come under the Act, the penalties (including the consequences in case of non-compliance), appeal process and the debates surrounding the legislation.
  • The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 (by Snehashish Ghosh): In this module, Snehashish Ghosh throws light on the main objective of the Act — that of regulating the possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus.

RTI Application

  • Use of DPI Technology by ISPs — Response by the Department of Telecommunications : Smiti Mujumdar on behalf of CIS filed requests under the Right to Information with the Department of Telecommunications, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, BSNL and MTNL, asking a number of questions related to the use of Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology by Internet Service Providers (ISP) in India and corresponding regulations. A scanned version of the response from the Department of Telecommunications is hosted online.

Column in Business Standard

  • Decision Analysis for Interest Rates (Shyam Ponappa, Business Standard, July 5, 2012): The discipline of systematic evaluation through applying process-flow and decision analysis — in this example, of financial logic — can help make reasoned, practical decisions, whether for interest rates, or for resolving issues in power supply, or in telecommunications, spectrum and broadband.

About CIS

CIS was registered as a society in Bangalore in 2008. As an independent, non-profit research organisation, it runs different policy research programmes such as Accessibility, Access to Knowledge, Openness, Internet Governance, and Telecom. Over the last four years our policy research programmes have resulted in outputs such as the e-Accessibility Policy Handbook for Persons with Disabilities with ITU and G3ict, and Digital Alternatives with a Cause?, Thinkathon Position Papers and the Digital Natives with a Cause? Report with Hivos. With the Government of India we have done policy research for Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, etc., on WIPO Treaties, Copyright Bill, NIA Bill, etc.

CIS is an accredited NGO at WIPO and has given policy briefs to delegations from various countries, our Programme Manager, Nirmita Narasimhan won the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities from the Government of India and also received the NIVH Excellence Award.

Follow us elsewhere

CIS is grateful to its donors, Ford Foundation, Privacy International, UK, Hans Foundation and the Kusuma Trust which was founded by Anurag Dikshit and Soma Pujari, philanthropists of Indian origin, for its core funding and support for most of its projects.