Tag Archives: China

Mobile Phone Security: 5 Things Everyone Should Know

24 Aug


by Mary McGuire, Senior Communications Manager, Freedom House
recent studyconducted by Freedom House and the Broadcasting Board of Governors evaluated a comprehensive range of mobile technologies—from smartphone devices including iPhone, Nokia, and Droid, to the applications and security protocols that are installed on them—to determine how secure one can really be on a mobile phone. The purpose of the effort was to assess the dangers of using mobile phones in countries where privacy rights are not respected, and where the rule of law and due process are faulty or non-existent. Mobile phones, rather than internet-enabled computers, are often the communications method of choice in these countries, which makes them a top priority for government surveillance. The findings of the study were quite worrying.

Across the board, the assessed technologies failed to adequately protect user security. In autocratic countries such as Belarus, China, and Iran, this has serious implications for human rights defenders, journalists, and political opposition figures, as well as for ordinary citizens. Individuals who manage to get on the bad side of the government in these countries are harassed, imprisoned, tortured, or even killed, and there is no structure in place to prevent authorities from using mobile phone data to carry out such abuses.

Are citizens in non-democratic countries the only ones who should be concerned? Perhaps not. In the United States and other democracies, there are certainly institutions and procedures designed to protect user privacy, as well as legal remedies if one’s privacy rights are violated. But these safeguards are far from ironclad, and they may be falling behind the pace of technological development. Moreover, even the most benign government is likely to be tempted by the monitoring opportunities associated with devices like smartphones, which a growing number of citizens carry 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Here are five things everyone should know about the safety of their mobile phones:

Big Brother could be watching. The video and audio recording capabilities that have become so vital to capturing important moments in our lives are also perfect surveillance tools for intrusive governments. It is even possible for the cameras and microphones in smartphones to be remotely activated by government agencies and mobile service providers.

There is nowhere to hide. The Global Positioning System (GPS) that allows us to get directions, find local businesses, and keep tabs on our friends and family members can also be used by governments to track our movements. Because most of our phones rarely leave our sight, we are essentially carrying personal tracking devices.

Our mobile carriers can’t protect us. Mobile providers gather personal data to keep up with our constant desire for customized services, and perhaps more importantly, because it is immensely profitable for them. However, once this data has been gathered, it is for the most part out of our control. Relying on these companies to make the right decisions about who is allowed access to personal information—particularly under threat from governments or when the provider itself is a  state enterprise—is not a very safe bet.

The choice is not ours. When we buy a computer, we have the power to install the security tools of our choice, including applications that encrypt communications, circumvent censorship, and detect viruses and malware. When we buy a mobile phone, we are generally forced to use the default settings of the mobile operating systems we purchase. According to the recent Freedom House study, these default settings are grossly inadequate for keeping us secure. Moreover, add-on security and encryption options are often incompatible with the phones and/or limit one’s ability to use other features.

Everyone is to blame. Because mobile security is threatened on various fronts—mobile networks, operating systems, applications, handsets, and users—it is nearly impossible for any single actor to change the situation. The only way to better protect our security is through improved coordination among all players. In the meantime, users in repressive environments should be aware of the risks they are taking, particularly if they are engaging in activities likely to put them on the radar screen of their government.

Photo Credit: Gesa Henselma

The technology that some governments are using to oppress their own citizens is primarily developed in advanced democratic countries. The developers of these tools appear more concerned with potential profits than the potential risks they might pose when misused by repressive regimes. But even those of us who do not have to fear an authoritarian government should care about what we may be giving up in order to live in an interconnected world. Our information is out there, possibly forever, and probably out of our control. It might be time to start demanding new phones and applications that protect our privacy and security as well as entertain us.


Verbotene Voices: eine Revolution mit einem Laptop

18 Jun



Ihre Stimmen werden unterdrückt, verboten und zensiert. Doch Yoani Sánchez, Zeng Jinyan und Farnaz Seifi lassen sich von ihren diktatorischen Regimen nicht einschüchtern. Die furchtlosen Frauen repräsentieren eine neue, vernetzte Generation moderner Widerstandskämpferinnen. In Kuba, Iran und China bringen diese Pionierinnen mit ihren Blogs das staatliche Informationsmonopol ins Wanken – und riskieren dabei ihr Leben.

Barbara Millers Film FORBIDDEN VOICES begleitet die modernen Rebellinnen auf ihrer gefährlichen, entbehrungsreichen Reise und zeigt, wie die jungen Frauen mit Hilfe sozialer Medien wie Facebook, Youtube und Twitter die Missstände in ihren Ländern anprangern – und dabei so viel politischen Druck aufbauen, dass sie weltweit Resonanz auslösen.

Das “Time Magazine” zählt sie zu den einflussreichsten politischen Stimmen der Welt. Basierend auf ihren bewegenden Zeugnissen und klandestinen Aufnahmen ist FORBIDDEN VOICES eine Hommage an ihren mutigen Kampf.

Forbidden Voices

Forbidden Voices: How to Start a Revolution with a Laptop

18 Jun


Background to the film FORBIDDEN VOICES

The three young women led perfectly ordinary lives before starting to write their blogs. However, their courageous statements and their commitment made them a threat to the powers-that-be in their respective countries.

Central to FORBIDDEN VOICES are three young female bloggers from different cultures and countries where human rights abuses are perpetrated by the regimes, and free speech and press freedom are perceived as threats to the regime’s grip on power. Who are these courageous rebels on the Internet?

Yoani Sánchez was the first Cuban woman to voice criticism of the regime under her own name using her blog, and in so doing has also provoked Fidel Castro. Attracting millions of readers and demonstrating fearless dedication, this brave activist has become one of the best-known bloggers in the world. Yoani campaigns vigorously for freedom of speech and press freedom in Cuba, despite efforts by the government to silence her with violence. And she places her own life at risk in the process.

The Iranian Farnaz Seifi is an Internet pioneer in her own country and uses her blog and political campaigning to battle against the extreme discrimination of Iranian women and against inhumane fundamentalism in Iran. The regime censured her blog and arrested the activist. The only thing that Farnaz could do was to escape into exile, from where she has continued her fight tirelessly.

The Chinese human rights activist Zeng Jinyan exposes human rights abuses in China and campaigns for the release of her husband, the civil rights activist Hu Jia, who is in prison. As a result, Jinyan has spent over four years under house arrest with her young daughter in her flat. Despite being confined, she still campaigns for her demands.

While the three protagonists may come from different countries, they share the same concerns and goals. They make political and social demands from their own personal viewpoint, although they also use their blogs to express their vulnerability and their fears. They make their virtual voices heard and campaign day in, day out for human rights, press freedom and fundamental democratic rights, even at pain of draconian punishment and putting their very lives at risk. But despite all the reprisals and the occasional setbacks, the bloggers are not giving up. FORBIDDEN VOICES tells the true stories behind the wall of silence.

Difficult filming for FORBIDDEN VOICES

Arrest of the cameraman in Iran

Cameraman Peter Indergand travelled to Iran with a discrete camera to film footage in Tehran. The filming work was planned in minute detail in conjunction with the ‘Reporters Without Borders’ website in an effort to minimise the risk of arrest. However, the suspicious regime struck on day one. Five motorcycle police officers surrounded him as he filmed the Iranian flag in the streets of Tehran. They ordered him to get on the back of one of the motorcycles and took him back to a station for interrogation. ‘Reporters Without Borders’ was on permanent alert to set all the levers in motion if the cinematographer’s release was not secured. Peter was questioned by the chief-of-police in person, who viewed all the recordings one by one. After some anxious moments, he was persuaded that the recordings were for purely tourist purposes.

However, as Peter recorded footage the next day of the key locations in the 2009 demonstrations, the security police re-emerged out of nowhere. Once again, he was arrested and taken in for questioning. All his details were recorded, and a strict ‘photography ban’ was slapped on him up to the date of his departure. He defied the ban and continued his filming work in Tehran to shoot all the footage required for FORBIDDEN VOICES, at great risk to himself.

Under constant surveillance in Cuba

Yoani Sánchez has been under constant surveillance in Cuba ever since her blog struck such a chord around the world. Civilian agents sit in cars parked in the shadow of trees in the yard in front of her prefabricated housing estate, day and night. Working under cover of night, we managed to get the filming equipment unnoticed into Yoani’s flat on the 14th floor. It proved very difficult to film her outside her flat as the footage could have been seized, and the film crew arrested and deported on the spot. It was only by taking the utmost care that we managed to film Yoani a few times undetected on the streets of Havana and in the countryside. It is unclear to what extent the agents tailing her had been aware of the filming. However, when the film crew got back into their car after filming by the sea, two police jeeps screeched to a halt and swooped in the very same spot where Yoani had been filmed just a few minutes before.

It was too dangerous for Yoani, and the crew accompanying her to visit controversial sites with the large camera at flashpoints, for example the protest march by the ‘Ladies in White’, or at the police station where she reported the harassment against her, so her husband Reinaldo Escobar used a concealed camera to record footage for FORBIDDEN VOICES.

Chinese guards in front of the house

The film crew travelled several times to Beijing to find a way to film Zeng Jinyan who was already under house arrest at that point. Many people took a huge risk to make this happen. However, there was no way of getting past the guards who were posted in front of her house. Nevertheless, there was a chance to obtain footage of her that she had filmed herself, even under house arrest. These film documents offer a unique insight into her strained circumstances and let you see close-up how threatening and difficult it is to live under house arrest ordered by the state.

FORBIDDEN VOICES takes the audience on a suspense-packed journey, sharing with them the highs and lows of the activists’ daily struggle at close quarters. Quite unlike Cyberspace where words can move at the speed of light, the daily lives and commitment of the women are challenging and hamstrung by a whole raft of obstacles because the individual has very little room for manoeuvre in repressive societies. FORBIDDEN VOICES tracks the difficulties and the successes which the bloggers experience with their protests and goes in search of clues of the impact and potential of their efforts. It seeks to find out how the young activists can speak out publicly to set processes in motion that will bring about social change.

This documentary which goes right to the very heart of an interconnected generation of female protesters wants to encourage the viewer to contribute towards a far-reaching debate on the freedom to express your own opinion and on respect for human rights.


Forbidden Voices

Urgent Appeal for Credible Investigation into the Truth of Li Wangyang(李旺阳)’s Death

17 Jun

Urgent Appeal for Credible Investigation into the Truth of Li Wangyang(李旺阳)’s Death

Click HERE to sign

Hunan labor movement leader Mr.Li Wangyang (李旺阳, see below for bio and video) was found dead in the morning of June 6th, 2012, in Daxiang Hospital, Shaoyang municipality, Hunan province (湖南邵阳市), China. Mr. Li’s brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu (赵宝珠) told media that he received a call from the hospital, around 6am on the 6th, announcing Li Wangyang’s death. At 6:50am, Zhao found Li Wangyang in his hospital room hanging on the window frame. Media quotes Li Zanmin (李赞民), friend of Li Wangyang, as saying that Li’s body was erect in front of the window with a ribbon around his neck. Around 9am, friends and relatives of the dead received words from the police that Li Wangyang “committed suicide by hanging himself.”

From all the media information available thus far, there are a lot of questions about the “suicide” claim the police has made:

1. Mr. Li Wangyang doesn’t seem to have a motivation to commit suicide. Relatives and friends have all confirmed that Mr. Li is optimistic and resilient, his health has been steadily improving, friends have been raising money for his medical needs, and they are not aware of any suicidal tendency on Mr. Li’s part. His close friend Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志), who had a long conversation with Mr. Li on June 4th, told media that “Wangyang is a tough man. Even with unbearable pains, he would never choose suicide to end his life.” Mr. Li’s brother-in-law Zhao Baozhu said that, in the evening before, Li told his sister to bring a radio to him so that he could listen and stimulate the faint hearing of his left ear. When interviewed just days before the 23rd anniversary of June 4th Tian’anmen Square Massacre by iCable, Hong Kong, Mr. Li Wangyang encouraged Ding Zilin (丁子霖), leader of the group called Tian’anmen Mothers, that she has to continue to persevere. He said in the same interview that he had never regretted what he had done 23 years ago. “Each ordinary man has a responsibility for democracy, for the wellbeing of the nation. For China to enter a democratic society sooner, for China to realize a multi-party political system sooner, I will not look back even if I have to risk my head.”

2. On-the-scene evidence is insufficient to support the “suicide” claim. A picture of the scene shows that one end of a white bandage strip looped somewhat loosely around Li Wangyang’s neck while the other end apparently tied on the window frame. The bandage loop is loose, and Mr. Li’s face shows no signs of distortion. His feet touch the floor with his slippers still on. All in all, he shows no traces of struggle often seen in death by hanging. Furthermore, from the video of the iCable interview, we can see that Mr. Li, blind and deaf, needed help to just walk, and it is also a question where and how he obtained the bandage strip with which he “hanged” himself.

3. The police prevented relatives and friends from taking pictures of the body and took the body away. Zhao Baozhu and Zhu Chengzhi confirmed to the media that relatives and friends of the dead asked the police to allow them to take detailed pictures, but the police rejected their request and took the body away around 10am, even though several dozens of friends attempted to block the police. Local police also thwarted rights defenders from visit Mr. Li’s home to send their condolences and to learn more about his death. Police’s actions, all in all, raise the question whether the authorities have something to hide. Mr. Li Wangyang has been watched 24 hours a day by several security police since prior to June 4th and they were still at the scene when the event occurred. It is puzzling then why Mr. Li could possibly have committed suicide.

As citizens who are deeply concerned with the state of human rights and the democratic development in China, we hereby solemnly make the following appeals:

1. Designate an authorized forensic science institution outside Shaoyang municipality to look into, and identify, the true cause of Mr. Li Wangyang’s death, accompanied throughout by representatives of family and friends. The findings shall be presented to the public;

2. For humanitarian reasons, allow Mr. Li Wangyang’s friends to visit his home, send their condolences, and help with the funeral and other affairs;

3. Hold local police accountable for their criminal and civil responsibilities for Mr. Li’s death, and pay necessary reparations;

4. UN’s relevant treaty offices, world governments and international organizations shall monitor the case, and pressure the Chinese government, to ensure that Mr. Li’s death will be dealt with fairly, judiciously and transparently.

Li Wangyang’s Biography:

Li Wangyang, male, was born in 1950 and resided in Shaoyang, Hunan province, China. Influenced by the famed “Democracy Wall” in Beijing and, later, by the Solidarity movement in Poland, Li Wangyang organized “Shaoyang Workers Cooperative” in 1983. He was arrested because of it but was spared of criminal charges. During the June 4th movement in 1989, Li and others established “Shaoyang Workers’ Autonomy League”, with Li as the Chairman, that mobilized workers to demonstrate and protest in support of the democracy movement raging on in Beijing. He was arrested on June 9th the same year and later sentenced to 13 years in prison for “anti-revolutionary advocacy” and “inciting to subvert state power.” In prison, Li Wangyang was beaten and tortured for being “unyielding”. When he staged hunger strikes to protest against torture, guards forced him to eat by prying open his mouth and, in the process, broke several of his teeth. Over his lengthy imprisonment, he suffered from debilitating illnesses that resulted in him losing both sight and hearing. In June 8, 2000, he was freed with reduced prison time. To defend his legitimate rights as a citizen, Li Wangyang soon sought reparations from the government for persecution that resulted in him completely losing the ability to work. In May 30, 2001, he was again thrown in prison with a 10-year sentence, this time baselessly charged with “assaulting state organs”. He was freed on May 29, 2011. The 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released recently in May 2012 by the US State Department , listed Li Wangyang as one of 128 Chinese dissidents and rights defenders to be concerned with. In its commemoration of June 4th just days ago, the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars (IFCSS) awarded Li Wangyang the 2012 “Spirit of Freedom Award”.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTQmvSkx7fg]

Initiated by: Bei Feng (北风), journalist, Hong Kong

Xia Yeliang (夏业良), economist, Peking,China

Wu Renhua (吴仁华), scholar of historic documentation, the US

Drafted by: Bei Feng (北风)

Signed by: (click to see table) https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AsKDF8_HXe4IdGVsTXdUNTBKRFRFekJDREZtak9ZRGc&output=html (Refreshed every 5 minutes)

Click HERE to sign

Activists are using this image to show solidarity with the campaign

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