Privacy News Roundup 25 October 2016

China wants to use online data to rank citizens

The Communist Party of China has said it wants to give all of its citizens a score under its “Internet Plus” program, which would reflect on every aspect of their online lives. The government has said it is an effort to encourage good behaviour by amassing online data, where people with a low score would be denied certain freedoms such as loans or travel.

All online behaviour would be monitored and then citizens would be awarded a single score that measures how “trustworthy” people are. Users could be “marked down” for things such as defaulting on a loan, criticizing the ruling party, running a red light or failing to care for your parents properly. The score would become the ultimate defining feature, determining whether or not citizens can borrow money, get children into the best schools or travel abroad.

This could be China in 2020 if the introduction of its extensive plan to develop a social credit system goes ahead. According to the government, they hope to build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious”.

Many are concerned that the plan constitutes a 21st century police state, given smartphones, e-commerce and social media are so ubiquitous in Chinese society with 700 million people online. The plan also includes the monitoring of official records, including judicial, tax, banking, employment and police records. In addition, teachers, doctors, businesses and local government could be scored by citizens for professionalism and probity.

“China is moving towards a totalitarian society, where the government controls and affects individuals’ private lives,” said Beijing-based novelist and social commentator Murong Xuecun. “This is like Big Brother, who has all your information and can harm you in any way he wants,” he added.

Some believe that the social credit system is an attempt to control the sprawling and the poorly-regulated market economy in China. Particularly, reprimanded companies that sell poisoned food, counterfeit medicine, and to expose doctors taking bribes. Lian Weiliang, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission said “Fraud has become ever more common in society,” and that “Swindlers have to pay a price”.

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The Chinese government wants to score its citizens based on accumulated online data. Source: Public Domain Pictures.

Anti-piracy groups agree to bolster international cooperation

Government officials and representatives from anti-piracy groups from the US, Europe and Russia met in Brussels this week to discuss “Combating Internet Piracy: International Practice”, and agreed on the need for international cooperation and the strengthening of copyright legislation. Anti-piracy groups have grown alongside the growth of the internet to become a multi-agency, cross-continent operation, with governments and copyright holders looking to share information and resources.

The International Roundtable discussion in Brussels saw government officials from Europe and Russia come together with representatives from the US. According to documents released by Russian telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, translated by the MPA, the discussion concerned a “lack of intellectual property protection causes significant economic damage to individual rights holders and the global economy.”

The group agreed that consumers are negatively impacted from enjoying entertainment in a safe environment since pirate sites are “are a fertile ground for identity theft, viruses, malware or spyware.”

A summary of the discussion reads: “In particular, participants acknowledged the need to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against IPR violations on the Internet and to continue sharing experiences in improving legislation, and law enforcement practice in combating copyright infringement in the digital environment in the EU, Russian Federation, and USA.”

Poland police confiscates hundreds of computers over piracy allegations

In Poland, police have reportedly seized hundreds of computers on the basis of piracy allegations. It is believed that up to 40,000 people could be affected in total.

Last summer, Poland became embroiled in a vicious copyright battle. Alleged KickassTorrents founder Artem Vaulin was arrested in the country though he continues to fight extradition to the U.S.

Allegations were brought forward by copyright owners searching through torrent networks for infringing IP addresses. Through this method, companies fish out infringers, some of whom are prepared to pay a settlement fee instead of facing a legal battle. In most cases the issue is a civil matter but in Poland the police are more seriously involved.

Poland torrents
Police in Poland have seized hundreds of computers in an effort to crack down on alleged piracy.

According to reports, police seized hundreds of computers allegedly involved in the sharing of a comedy movie called “Screwed”.

“We have established 2,600 downloads of the film. This applies to about 900 computers,” the District Prosecutor’s Office in Szczecin told local news outlet TVN24.

The prosecutor’s office said that the seizures were made to protect evidence and stop infringement though many are concerned that the seizures are causing problems. TVN24 reports that across Poland 40,000 people might have downloaded the movie.

It’s unclear as of yet who obtained the IP addresses and whether or not the evidence has been subjected to independent scrutiny. It’s also unclear whether the case has a legal basis. It is believed that the people being targeted not only downloaded but also redistributed content online, but this would include regular BitTorrent users who download and upload content.

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