Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

Browsing Posts tagged flickr

Earlier today, Saudi Arabia blocked Facebook over moral concerns.

An official with Saudi Arabia’s communications authority says it has blocked Facebook because the popular social networking website doesn’t conform with the kingdom’s conservative values.

The official says Saudi’s Communications and Information Technology Commission blocked the site Saturday and an error message shows up when Internet users try to access it.

He says Facebook’s content had “crossed a line” with the kingdom’s conservative morals, but that blocking the site is a temporary measure.

Although the ban was temporary, it still raises concerns that anyone who questions the government or runs a website that the Saudi regime decides isn’t in line with their conservative, Islamic ideals and values, risks having their sites blocked.
Saudi Arabia is not the only country that regularly blocks popular websites. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey have all recently been in the news for similar actions.

In the past, Saudi Arabia has also blocked YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, and the Arabic version of Travian.

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A new program allows users in countries that practice censorship and other types of crackdowns on dissidents, to download stories from blocked sites and read them. Using digital steganography, Collage can hide up to fifteen articles in seven medium sized photos.

Once the material is embedded in a Flickr image, anyone with Collage can download it and extract the stories. A censor attempting to monitor traffic from a prohibited site would only see the reader visiting Flickr, which is not generally blocked by web censors.

Collage can also be easily extended so that stories are embedded in other photo-sharing sites. The idea is to spread material across numerous sites that host user-generated content so that the activity of someone running Collage appears much like that of any internet user and the censors cannot just block access to Flickr. Collage does, however, rely on the goodwill of Flickr users, who will have to provide access to the images where the articles are to be hidden.

The software is made up of two distinct parts, according to a copy of the paper the research team plans to present at Usenix: there is a “message vector layer” that embeds the content in the Twitter message or photo — what the group calls a “cover traffic” — and a “rendezvous mechanism” that allows various parties to publish and retrieve the embedded messages once they are downloaded from Twitter or Flickr or some other social network. The researchers say their method won’t allow the sending of large files, but will allow the transmission of short text files or other communications.

Countries that censor the internet will probably label Collage as an illegal program, however, it will still be difficult to near impossible for a country to control all usage of such programs. While a country can ban access to Flickr, it won’t be able to ban every single site that takes photos from Flickr and posts them elsewhere.

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I’ve come across this picture a few times in the past week.  It originally comes from flickr and you can find it here.

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