from Net Politics and Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program

Cyber Week in Review: July 1, 2016

Lu Wei Cyber Net Politics CFR

July 1, 2016

Lu Wei Cyber Net Politics CFR
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Here is a quick round-up of this week’s technology headlines and related stories you may have missed:

1. Fretting over Chinese tech regulations as China’s internet czar steps down. In a surprising move, the head of the Chinese Cyberspace Administration, Lu Wei, departed from his position on Thursday, according to Xinhua. A firm defender of state control of the internet, Lu bolstered China’s vision of "internet sovereignty” with foreign companies, and remained adamant that they abide by Chinese law in the name of preserving social stability. He was also behind efforts to promote new regulations imposing data localization requirements and mandating that foreign technology imported in the country be "secure and controllable." Those regulations obtained a second reading this week in the Chinese legislature, leading the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to express their concern. Lu’s iron grip on social media was a pillar of the Chinese state’s manipulation of social networks for party propaganda and censorship. It is unclear why Lu stepped down, though there are rumors that he may be tapped to lead the communist party’s propaganda department. He will be replaced by his current deputy, Xu Lin, who worked directly under President Xi when he was still party secretary of Shanghai in 2007.

2. German intelligence agency calls out China, Russia, and Iran cyber espionage. Germany’s domestic security agency (BfV) released its annual report and was surprisingly frank about the state-sponsored cyber threats facing the country. According to a translation provided by Kings College Professor Thomas Rid, China is moving away from cyber operations that vacuum as much information as possible and getting more discrete in its targeting; and Russian operations try to shape German public opinion online and target German universities, research institutes and companies for espionage purposes. BfV also identified Iran as another threat, with a “high likelihood” that intelligence services perpetrated attacks through “excellent social engineering.” The BfV’s findings are consistent with those of other western intelligence agencies but provide additional detail generally not found in public reporting.

3. Indian Supreme Court dismisses petition to ban WhatsApp. In line with Brazil’s recent repeal of a temporary ban on WhatsApp, India’s Supreme Court rejected a public interest petition to ban the messenger service. The petition targeted apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and Viber, claiming that end-to-end encryption features are a threat to national security and called for companies to share encryption keys during investigations. The Court dismissed the petition and redirected the plaintiff to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal. With over 1 billion users, WhatsApp is the largest online messaging service with deployed end-to-end encryption. Since the roll out, Google and Facebook have said that they will roll out encryption, albeit optional, on their respective Allo and Messenger app.

4. Belgium is indifferent to Facebook’s hand in the cookie jar. The Belgian Commission for the Protection of Privacy (CPP) overturned a Belgian court’s 2015 decision that prohibited Facebook from tracking individuals on the web. Facebook uses cookies on websites that feature its "Like" and "Share" buttons that track visitors to those websites, irrespective of whether they are Facebook users or logged into their Facebook accounts. Although the CPP handed a Facebook a win, it did so on technical grounds, noting that Belgian courts don’t have jurisdiction to rule on privacy matters involving a foreign company (Facebook’s European offices are in Ireland).

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