Links and Thinks: 17 April 2018

Kia ora koutou,

This week we cover the news that many New Zealanders care about: where they can watch rugby. We also take a look at some emerging issues threatening privacy, security and freedom of expression abroad, from the Internet of Things to the censorship of Internet platform users.

TVNZ and Spark win Rugby World Cup rights

In a move that may signal the beginning of the end of Sky's foothold in sports broadcasting (and therefore loss of its singular value proposition), Spark and TVNZ have officially secured the rights to the Men's Rugby World Cup 2019, the Women's Rugby World Cup 2021, the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 and World Rugby Under-20 Championships in 2018 and 2019.

We will be watching to see how they roll out the coverage, as there will be some free to air games on TVNZ, and a separate unspecified streaming option. This is a chance for New Zealand's modern Internet connections, particularly UFB fibre, to deliver on their promise in a really visible way. We have to hope that will unfold in a way that's open, competitive, and benefits as many users as possible. Will Spark leverage their existing Lightbox technology? Will Spark customers get exclusive deals that other Internet users won't have access to?

With some rural customers unable to access Internet at speeds required for live streaming, this move may alienate rural rugby fans. The barriers to enjoying one of New Zealand cultural past time will be about $100 and a decent internet connection, the same barriers which exacerbate digital divides in New Zealand. We hope this will be seen as an opportunity to push for the further expansion of high speed connectivity into rural communities, so no one gets left behind.

See the Spinoff for a deep dive on what Spark entering the sports game might mean for New Zealand's television future.

GrayKey and FOSTA disrupting privacy online

In US news, we have seen two huge blows to personal agency and privacy.

Police around the country can now unlock iPhones. A relatively inexpensive piece of technology called GrayKey can decrypt and unlock any iPhone and many police departments, and the FBI, have obtained the technology.

Despite this ability to break into iPhones, law enforcement in the United States is still pushing for 'backdoors' to encryption, but in the article above, cryptographers note that: "[with a tool like GrayKey in circulation] adding backdoors isn't so much a question of adding a secure door to the walls of a stone castle. It's like adding extra holes in the walls of a sandcastle".

We are strongly in favour of encryption, and any attempt to criminalise encryption, or require backdoors, is folly. Last year, InternetNZ released a paper on what encryption is and why it matters, check it out here.

Our second US story is the signing of FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. It's a key example of how regulations targeting the Internet may not have the obvious, intended effect.

Trump signs bill to shut down websites that facilitate prostitution

The impact of this Bill is catastrophic for sex workers, as it conflates consensual sex work with trafficking, and the broad definitions used will harm legitimate freedom of speech online. It should be noted that New Zealand decriminalized sex work in 2003, but as the platforms affected serve a global audience, we may find the negative effects of FOSTA ripple here in NZ.

The Act creates an exemption to safe harbour laws for platforms, which means that website publishers would be responsible if third parties are found to be posting ads for prostitution — including consensual sex work — on their platforms. This harms sex workers, many of whom have found independence and freedom due to their ability to find work online, and screen potential clients from a safe distance.

FOSTA will cause large platforms to proactively censor their users, and cause small platforms to shut down because they cannot resource the moderation required to keep a platform going. Platforms like Reddit and Craiglist have already removed their 'personals' pages for US users, for fear of unintentionally hosting sex workers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explains the negative impact of FOSTA succinctly here: Stop SESTA/FOSTA: Don't Let Congress Censor the Internet

Offering a view from affected sex workers is this Esquire piece "Will the Backpage shutdown make sex workers less safe?".

Internet of fishes: How an IoT aquarium thermometer let hackers into a casino

Every now and then there is a good story reminding us how vulnerable Internet of Things devices are to hacking. In 2014, Target's customer credit card information was breached via an Internet-connected air conditioning system. Now it seems even your fish aren't safe. A cybersecurity company have reported that hackers breached a casino via its IoT Thermometer, which was in its lobby aquarium.

If you have an unsafe Internet of Things device connected to the rest of your network, whether at work or at home, it could be the gateway to your whole system.

In another opportunity to point you towards our work, we released a paper on the Internet of Things and Privacy in 2016, which you can read here.

So we've covered free speech, privacy, security and rugby. All the essentials. Have a great week.


So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Dolphins saying "so long and thanks for all the fish!"