Social Networking Companies may Regret Dublin Choice

The decision by Google, Facebook and Twitter – three of the main players in the social networking phenomenon – to set up their European bases in Dublin may backfire on them, a leading libel lawyer has warned. The problem, it seems, is that they may be open to EU defamation and privacy laws thanks to their location. Abuse using online media such as Facebook is rife, and the belief is that lawyers will be able to sue the companies on behalf of individuals who have been harassed by anonymous people.

1Paul Tweed, a Belfast based expert in libel law, is the man who has made the warnings, and he believes that there is potential for serious problems ahead. His firm has been involved in action against bloggers and tweeters who have abused politicians and celebrities online, and he also warns that the law will not only be directed at the individuals, but at the companies hosting their comments.

Take Down Notices

Tweed, who has represented the likes of Hollywood actor Harrison Ford and Jennifer Lopez, explained the process:

“We will send a ‘take down’ notice to either Google, Facebook or Twitter and we get various responses. Two or three years ago our demands for ‘take down’ notices were largely ignored by the likes of Google who are based in Seattle and could quote us back the American constitution. In those days we used to tell our clients ‘look, even if we get a judgment we are not going to be able to enforce it’. Because US courts would not enforce them and our clients basically had to turn the other cheek.”

He went on to explain that things are very different now:

“Now the whole landscape has changed. The massive game-changer is that the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Google have established European headquarters in Dublin and in doing that they have subjected themselves not only to Irish defamation and privacy laws but also those EU laws on libel and privacy. That means they are potentially a target because they are providing anonymous abusers on line with a platform.”

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British Officers to Defend Conduct during Iraq War in Court

Britain may need to defend military measures it took during the Iraq War. Nearly 200 Iraqi citizens claim that British military officers were illegally detained and unnecessarily tortured during the Iraq War over the course of five years. They allege that these officers have violated international law.

1The case will be heard in the High Court early next week. The hearings will take place within a couple of months of the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War. The courts have not disclosed how many military and intelligence officers have been implicated in the case. However, the lawyers have explicitly listed the charges that the officers in question are facing. The charges include but may not be limited to:

• Physical violence
• Sleep deprivation
• Religious torture
• Sexual humiliation
• Unnecessary levels of deceit

Renowned human rights lawyer Phil Shiner will be lead counsel for the plaintiffs. Shiner and other attorneys representing the Iraqis filing the charges claim that their evidence shows at least several of the prisoners died as a result of the treatment. The charges also state that female officers made sexual advances towards the prisoners to extract information from them.

The High Court will need to need to determine the level of culpability of the United Kingdom government. Lawyers on both sides debate whether or not government and key military leaders were aware of the abuse that was taking place. The Ministry of Defence has always stated that they looked into any wrongful death allegations seriously. However, they have still come under fire after a wrongly accused man died in custody of the British government.

Some critics have said that the isolated reports of deaths do not do justice to all the people who have allegedly been victimized during interrogation. One observer said that this case will be the last opportunity for the world to know what really happened and get justice for the victims in question. He said that Britain will need to hold itself to the same standards that it holds the rest of the world.

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Technology Helps Curb Illegal Logging

The plight of the Amazon rainforests is much written about, and with illegal logging adding to the rapid deforestation of the region further concerns have been raised about the future of Brazil’s tropical wonder. However, a Dutch security company – Gemalto – has come up with an ingenious solution that is being trialled right now, and it involves the very latest technology.

The system, named Invisible Tracck, is based around transmitters that are attached to the trunks of trees in a way that makes them practically undetectable. These small devices – smaller than a pack of cards – send out a signal that, when within 20 miles range of a mobile phone network, can be picked up and used to locate the illegally felled tree. The system is being piloted right now, and the devices are specially designed for the Amazon climate and have a battery life of up to a year.

Real Time Tracking

The main advantage of the new system is that it allows for real time tracking of illicit timber, rather than leaving the investigators to rely on outdated and time-wasting methods. Cinterion M2M, which is the Latin American arm of Gemalto, is running the scheme, and General Manager Ramzi Abdine is enthusiastic about its future:

“The rainforest in Brazil is approximately the size of the United States so it’s impossible to monitor each and every acre.”

Further enthusiasm came from Marcelo Hayashi, of Cargo Tracck, who explained:

“Gemalto’s Cinterion M2M was vital in enabling us to develop a tracking and tracing solution rugged enough to withstand the heat and moisture of the Amazon. It is unique because it’s small for inconspicuous deployment in the field and power-efficient enough to operate over long stretches of time without recharging batteries, which is crucial when tracking trees in remote areas.”

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Facebook and Google in Privacy Row

The latest stage in the ongoing concerns regarding online privacy has seen the likes of Facebook and Google, and other online giants, criticised for the use of personal data. It is not the first time concerns have been raised, and it certainly will not be the last. This time it is the EU that is looking for users to be given more control over how their personal information is used. Currently it is permissible for such companies to sell browsing habits and other useful information to others, although many users are unaware that this is so.

The call is for users to be able to opt out – deny the company the opportunity to profit from such information – or agree to its use. Both Facebook and Google, who make a great deal of money from such practices, are strongly against this option. However, data of this sort is also used by health services and other service industries, and they are concerned that any changes may affect their ability to provide the best service.

Flourishing European Market

Erika Mann, head of European policy for Facebook, expressed her concerns over the proposals:

“We are concerned that some aspects of the report do not support a flourishing European digital single market and the reality of innovation on the internet.”

She went on to point out that, by its very nature, the internet is inescapably global. Privacy lobbyists have also been vocal on the subject, and have been pointing out that such companies are not concerned with the privacy of their users, but with making profits. There is, however, a precedent for increased privacy, as image-hosting site Instagram recently pulled a proposal to sell users photos to advertisers. After announcing the plan it found almost 25% of users had deserted it within a week.

Facebook, Google and others may do well to heed this instance as online users do not want their private information used for the gains of others.

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