from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: August 31, 2018

Christopher Sidoti, Marzuki Darusman and Radhika Coomaraswamy, members of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar attend a news conference on the publication of its final written report at the United Nations in Geneva. Denis Balibouse/Reuters

This week: Facebook's role in the Myanmar genocide, Telegram's privacy policy, and Huawei woes. 

August 31, 2018

Christopher Sidoti, Marzuki Darusman and Radhika Coomaraswamy, members of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar attend a news conference on the publication of its final written report at the United Nations in Geneva. Denis Balibouse/Reuters
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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. We didn't move fast, but definitely broke things. A United Nations fact finding report into the Myanmar government's persecution of Rohingya muslims found that Facebook was "a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate" in the country, and called the platform's removal of content "slow and ineffective." The report, which also called for the country's military leaders to be investigated for genocide, does not examine the extent to which Facebook content contributed to the killing, largely because the company did not provide the fact finding mission with data specific to the spread of hate speech in the country. Media reports over the last year suggest that the platform was critical to dehumanizing the Rohingya and enabled violence. In response, Facebook announced that it was banning twenty officials and organizations associated with Myanmar's military, including top military leaders--a first for the platform. Writing for the Register, Kieren McCarthy wonders why the company had to wait for the UN report to ban the military's pages when nothing was preventing it from acting sooner.

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2. Telegram gets a privacy policy. The instant messenger service Telegram has re-written its privacy policy, and has added a reference to its potential cooperation with law enforcement authorities. According to Section 8.3 of the new policy, "if Telegram receives a court order that confirms you're a terror suspect, we may disclose your IP address and phone number to the relevant authorities." Some in Russia are interpreting the new language as a capitulation to that country's security services, which have fought with Telegram over access to user messages and even obtained a court order to ban it--though it remains widely in use. The new policy, however, only applies to metadata of a communication, not the content of a message. In a blog post, Telegram founder Pavel Durov reassured Russian users in a blogpost, saying that the new policy "does not concern the situation in Russia" and told a separate outlet that it was required to comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. 

3. Huawei No wei. A week after Australia banned Huawei and ZTE from competing to build the country’s 5G mobile network, Japan is reportedly considering restricting telecommunication equipment from the two companies as well, and former senior Canadian national security officials have urged that country to do the same. The pressure comes as concern grows over China’s two largest telecommunication companies and whether the companies’ equipment could be used for Chinese espionage. In July, the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre said that it “is less confident” about the integrity of Huawei products. In the United States, suspicion that Huawei and ZTE are fronts for Chinese spying has been brewing for years. What’s missing—at least, in the public domain—is a smoking gun: actual instances of either company’s products enabling Chinese spying. At least for Huawei, the company’s problem might not be its technology, but its culture. As Elliott Zaagman wrote for the Lowy Institute, Huawei’s insular corporate culture is part of the reason why the company has repeatedly failed to address its trust deficit with important overseas markets.   

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