Asymmetric link Many links between
servers, and the early modems, used symmetric links. With a symmetric
link the speed of data moving to your system is the same as the speed
of data moving away from your system. As new high speed modems were
developed to service the growing demand for the Internet links became
asymmetric. For example, on a 56kilo-Baud modem, data downloads to you
at 56kBaud. But your upload speed is restricted to around 28 to 33kBaud.
This is because it is assume you will always download far more than
you upload. The system therefore devotes more of the bandwidth of the
link to download than upload. But with the development of more powerful
computing, and peer-to-peer links,
asymmetric connections are highly restrictive. The new broadband systems,
such as ADSL, are also asymmetric. This has implications for how people
can use the new broadband systems. Effectively the design of the systems
assumes that everyone is a data consumer rather than a data
producer or sharer. For those who wish to have a symmetric
connection the readily available option is ISDN, or a faster leased
line. But these connections are assumed to be primarily a tool for business,
and so are far more expansive than other broadband links.
Broadband A broadband network
connection is simply a high capacity, high speed connection. Currently
most people dial-in to the Internet. This is a slow, low bandwidth connection
because the signal must pass through the audio frequency bandwidth of
the telephone system. Broadband connections use different systems that
use a greater bandwidth - either using higher audio frequencies down
telephone lines, radio frequencies along cable TV lines, or using special
high-bandwidth cables just for the purpose of data transfer. There are
two impacts of broadband. Firstly the high bandwidth means more signal
can be downloaded - so you can watch live video
streams or web casts.
The other is that the connection is always on - there is no delay whilst
the connection is established. This means that your computer can be
permanently connected to the Internet, essentially meaning that you
can operate a server in your
own home. Many people use cable TV or ISDN connections for broadband
access. But the new standard being introduced in many countries is the
'digital subscriber line', or DSL. The only problem with most DSL connections
is that they are asymmetric,
which restricts the amount of data you can send out from your own system.
Common Gateway Interface (CGI) CGI
is a protocol for the interfacing of a web server to a web client. It
allows the web client to submit requests to the server, and for the
server to composite a page and send it back to the client. CGI was popular
during the early development of the World Wide Web for creating dynamic
content. Today other systems are beginning to take over, such as ASP
or PHP. CGI-enabled pages usually have the extension '.cgi'. Perl
scripts also use CGI, and can be identified by the extension '.pl'.
Charter for Internet Rights The
Charter for Internet Rights is an initiative by the Association
for Progressive Communications and others to develop a charter that
putlines the basic rights civil society needs to protect public interest
and human rights in the new information society. It seeks to promote
the adoption of Internet
rights as an extention of traditional human rights. It also seeks
to tackle the emerging inequalities
of access and use of
information and communications technologies
Client A client is a computer
that receives data from, or is controlled by, another computer - the
server The first networked computers
were essentially dumb, and so were wholly reliant on the server. Today
most networked computers process information themselves, but use the
server to retrieve data from a central location, and to coordinate communications
with other computers. As computers have become more powerful they themselves
are able to be servers, communicating with other computers without the
need of a central server. These systems are called peer-to-peer
Common purpose principle The
'common purpose principle' is a legal clause inserted into recent laws
governing the police and the security services. Ordinarily the use of
surveillance and other
intrusive investigative measures can only be used for serious crime.
What the common purpose principle provides is that,
conduct which constitutes one or more offences
shall be regarded as serious crime where it involves conduct by a
large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose
This means that mass-movement protests, even
if they only infringe very minor laws (e.g., trespass, or holding demonstrations
without giving notice to the police) can be investigated as if they
were serious criminals. The common purpose principle is enacted in UK
law through the Security Services Act 1996 and the Police
Act 1997. Using common purpose, many of the larger protests actions
in the UK over recent years have seen the heavy surveillance of those
taking part by specialist police photographic and video camera units.
Communications and traffic data
Communications or traffic data is a general terms for the records or
logs of information that are produced as part of the use of communications
systems. This can be as simple as an itemised telephone bill, or as
complex as a list of the computer networks you regularly transact data
with. When communications data is gathered from many sources and databased
it can produce a powerful data
profile. Although communications data contains no information about
the actual content of your communications, the use of communications
data to produce profiles can disclose a lot of information about you
and your activities. But, unlike the tight controls over the content
of your communications, the Regulation
of Investigatory Powers Act does not create tight controls over
communications data. It can therefore be used for a wide variety of
investigative purposes by the state. The new Cybercrime
Convention also creates a European framework for the sharing of
Compression Compression is a process
to reduce the size of a file or data transmission. Many computer files
or transmission contain values of data that repeat regularly. Compression
involves replacing each iteration of a repeated word, the colour of
a group of pixels in an image, or sequence of characters, with a token.
The compressed data then consists of only unique sets of data and tokens.
When the data is decompressed, or 'exploded', the tokens are replaced
with the original data, returning the file to its original state.
Connectivity Connectivity is
the ability to 'connect'. Connecting to the wider network of society
involves the negotiation of many barriers. It involves social issues
such as the digital divide.
But connectivity also implies other technical factors such as the compatibility
of computer systems, network connections and having the correct software.
Convergence Convergence is the
principle that the various public media, such as radio, TV,the print
media, CD players/stereos, video recorders, telephones and the Internet,
are all coming together to form one information channel. This channel
will seamlessly all the media, enabling connections between to be easily
followed. The device that will present all these media to the user,
which will effectively be a highly versatile multimedia computer, will
be generically called an 'information appliance'. Convergence is significant
because of the potential power it gives to those who control the information
channels. But it will also redefine how civil society addresses itself
through the media.
Cookie Cookies are small files
maintained within web browsers by the web sites people use. The web
site sets a unique cookie that identifies the user whenever they return
to the web site. Combined with other information, the cookie can act
as a key to monitor a persons use or personal preferences in a site.
At the user end, they also form a record of the sites a person regularly
Copy protection systems Under
new International agreements on intellectual
property, legal protection is given to copy protection measures.
For example, the use of encoding to prevent the use of a product in
a certain country, or the encryption of a database to prevent its disclosure,
is legally protected. If anyone attempts to reverse-engineer or modify
the product to make it work in a way that the holder of the intellectual
property rights did not intend, then that modification of the system
is itself unlawful. This issue has come to a head recently over the
decryption of Internet address databases that work with Internet filtering
or blocking software, and with the development of free versions of DVD
players for the Linux operating system.
Copyright Copyright is an intellectual
property right given to an artistic work. Copyright can be applied
to written works, musical compositions, and video, film or multimedia
productions. Copyright lasts seventy years after the death of the creator
of the work. During the period of copyright no one may copy and circulate
a copyrighted work without first obtaining permission and paying a license
fee for doing so. In addition the originator of a copyrighted work has
moral rights over the exploitation
of the work.
Cracker A 'cracker' is a person
who engages specifically in the breaking of security systems, especially
networked computers. Crackers specialise in using various techniques
to 'crack' the security of a system in order to gain access. Most crackers
are likely to be hackers, but
only a minority of hackers will actually engaged meaningfully and persistently
in the cracking of systems.
The Cybercrime Convention The
Cybercrime Convention is an international treaty drawn up by the Council
of Europe. Its purpose is to provide a common platform for security
measures across Europe - amongst the many members of the Council of
Europe, not just the European Union. The Convention sets standards for
the investigation of 'cybercrime'. This is not just the abuse of computers
by computer hackers. It also includes measures to permit the sharing
of communications data between
states in order to track the use of communications media by organised
crime. It therefore has significant impacts in terms of the privacy.
For example, the tracking of the activities of protest and civil society
groups who may be involved in European wide anti-nuclear or anti-globalisation
Database rights A 'database right'
is an intellectual property right
given to a computer database. Ordinarily a computer database is a collection
of information, much of which may be the intellectual property of someone
else. The database right allows the developers of a database to protect
their database for up to fifteen years. This gets around the problem
of which of the many potential rights holders may take action if a database
is copied or used without permission.
Data controller a 'data controller'
is a person or organisation that holds personal or sensitive information
on one or more data subjects.
Data controllers must be registered under the Data
Protection Act 1998 in order to hold and use personal or sensitive
information. The Act also requires that those who hold data apply minimum
standards to the protection of that data, and that it is only used for
the purposes it was collected for.
Data subject A 'data subject'
is a person on whom an organisation holds personal information. Under
the Data Protection Act 1998 all
persons holding certain types of personal and sensitive information
must register as a data
controller. The data subject has rights under the European Directive
to have access to their personal data held by the data controller.
Data profile Data profiling is
the use of information about your lifestyle and habits to provide a
descriptive profile of your life. At its simplest, data profiling is
used by marketing companies to identify you as a possible customer.
At its most complex data profiling can be used by security services
to identify potential suspects for unlawful activity, or to highlight
parts of a persons life where other forms of surveillance
may reveal something about their activities. In those states where the
European Directive on Data Protection
is in force, you have rights of access to any data held about you for
the purposes of data processing or profiling.
Dataveillance Dataveillance is
the use of paper or electronic records as a means of surveillance.
The use of dataveillance is primarily a form of passive
surveillance, related to the production of data
profiles of the individuals being targeted. From these profiles
other information can be determined or guessed that answers a number
of queries about the habits of that person.
Decryption Decrpytion is the
process of decoding information that has been encrypted
using a cipher. Decrpytion requires the use of a key
- without this, and depending on the length of the key, it is practically
impossible to decrypt the information. There are two groups of encryption
ciphers and public
key or asymmetric ciphers.
Digital divide The 'digital divide'
is the term used to describe the growing gap, or social exclusion, between
those who have access to the new services of the information society,
and those who do not. This can be for a number of reasons: access to
education or training, lack of money to buy the required equipment,
or lack of access because of the problems obtaining the required communications
links or services to get online. Some states have produced good research
than others. But in many states the digital divide is currently viewed
as a side-issue when compared to the more traditional problems of poverty
and lack of education.
Digital signature A signature
is a personalised form of identity that provides proof of authenticity.
Digital signatures are a form of data encryption
that proves the authenticity of a document. A statistical digest of
the content of the document is produced. This is then encrypted with
an encryption key to produce the
digital signature. The complex relationship of the encryption cipher
makes forgery of the signature impracticable without possession of the
encryption key. Therefore, when the signature is validated, it provides
proof that the document or file can only have been signed by the holder
of that encryption key.
Directed surveillance Directed
surveillance is the use of technological means or human operatives to
This includes the use of bugs and other listening devices. It also includes
the use of informants or human infiltrators to access a group or organisation
directly in order to provide intelligence information. In the UK directed
surveillance is controlled under the Regulation
of Investigatory Powers Act.
Distributed action The first
online campaign or protest actions were centralised, around a single
server . For those online actions
that involved some kind of direct action against another computer system,
the traffic from the one server could be easily ignored by rejecting
data from the server's IP address
With a distributed action everyone taking part uses their own computer.
Each computer uses a program or script to do this. The data going to
the target of the protest cannot then be easily rejected because it
could potentially come from thousands of different computers, each with
different IP addresses. Distributed actions are now becoming increasingly
popular on the Internet. Not only because they are a effective method
of online direct action. They are also far more democratic than server-based
actions because, to be effective, it requires hundreds or thousands
of people taking part for the action to be successful.
Domain Name Server (DNS) Humans
use names. But the names of web sites we commonly use on the Internet
are not usable by computers. Therefore the computers that translate
a request for a name into a numeric IP
address have been developed. These Domain Name Servers are run to
provide a service for users on an individual network, or for the Internet
users of an entire country. The allocation of names, and the rules for
the use of DNS servers, are co-ordinated at the international level
by ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
Although ICANN works internationally, it is actually a company created
by the US Department of Commerce. Over recent years, its power to allow
or refuse access or use of the DNS system has come under scrutiny from
Internet rights groups. Not only because ICANN is effectively a self-appointing
organisation with no external accountability. But also because of the
influence corporate interests have in controlling the use of domain
names on the Internet, to the exclusion of other groups such as NGOs
Domain name A domain name is
an human-friendly name for a computer connected to a network. Domain
names must be registered with an approved naming organisation for their
use to be legitimate. But even then, other organisations, primarily
corporations, can object to their use if they infringe intellectual
property rights - such as trademarks. The naming system is co-ordinated
by ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
- who also evolve the policy for resolving domain name disputes. In
these cases of alleged name infringement an appeal to the World Intellectual
Property Organisation, if upheld, can result in the removal of the name
from their registered owners. The increasing importance of branding
in the business world means that domain names have become an important,
and valuable part of corporate identity. Therefore the control of the
domain name system has become an
increasingly important issue in the governance of the Internet.
Data Protection Principles The
Data Protection Principles are eight guiding principles defined in the
Data Protection Act 1998 that are intended to ensure that information
is processed securely, accurately, and with regard to the wishes of
the data subjects to whom
the information relates. Data
controllers must apply the principles as part of their use of information
otherwise they can be investigated or prosecuted by the office of the
Data Protection Commissioner.
Dynamic content Dynamic content is
the ability to have the presentation of information on a web page, or
other services, influenced by other factors. The servers that create
the web page run computer programs that, according to a sequence of
decisions, alter the content of the page in real-time. Dynamic content
could be as simple as putting the current date in a web page. At its
most complex it can identify the person using the page, and personalise
the information presented to the preferences they gave to the server
when they registered to receive that service. Dynamic content is usually
enabled by the use of scripting
languages such as CGI, Perl
European Economic Area The EEA
comprises the full member states of the European Union. Within this
area European standards for consumer protection apply in all transactions
made in all states. For example, the EU Distance Selling Regulations
that govern mail order and buying goods online.
Electronic mail E-mail is the
system that allows messages to be sent from one location to another
over the Internet, or a local network. Those using email have a unique
address. This identifies them as a individual user who is a member of
a network. The messages are then routed from the sender, via the Internet,
to the network the recipient is a member of. The recipient's network
then forwards the message to the recipient. The benefit of email is
that it is very cheap. This has also meant that nuisance messages or
advertising, called 'spam', has become a significant problem to email
users. Email is also the primary means by which computer viruses now
Email lists An email list is
a central email address that forwards messages to the other addresses
specified in a list. Email lists are run by a program on a server
called a list server. Lists can be set up by registering the list, and
its members, with the list server program. The program then organises
the transfer of messages from the list's email address to all the members
of the list. But it can also organise other services at the same time,
such as archiving the messages sent through the list so that they can
be accessed as pages via the Web.
Encryption Encryption is the
process of encoding information so that it cannot be decoded, or decrypted,
without the use of a key. The process
of encryption relies of mathematical problems so complex that they cannot
be solved without the key. This prevents anyone but those holding the
key from decrypting data. There are a number of different mathematical
systems or 'ciphers' for encrypting data. They fall into two broad groups:
and public key or
asymmetric ciphers. Today public key encryption is becoming the
standard for every encryption because of its ease of use. Systems for
public key encryption are usually based around the program Pretty
Good Privacy, or PGP.
Filtering and blocking There
are various means that can be used to prevent access to information
on the Internet. This essentially involves two methods - filtering and
blocking. Filtering involves reading the content of packets
of data looking for certain words or phrases. Those that are found are
prevented from travelling further. Blocking works by looking for the
IP address of the packet. Those
packets going to or from a particular location are rejected and prevented
from travelling further. Both filtering and blocking, if applied by
the state, or an Internet service provider, are very effective (but
crude) means of censorship on the Internet.
Firewall A firewall is a device
on a computer network that filters the packets
of data moving on the network to improve security. Firewalls can prevent
attacks on a computer system by preventing access to the different services
of the computer. They can also either allow or deny certain computers
to have access to areas of a network. They also work in both directions.
This means that the not only stop unwanted packets getting in. They
also monitor where packets come from on the host system and restrict
those that are not from sources approved for external access. The firewall
therefore forms an important part of securing computer networks, as
well as dial-up Internet connections, against external attacks and from
rogue software (such as viruses) operating on the computer system.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
FTP is an Internet protocol for moving files from one computer to another.
To use FTP you need an FTP client
to run on your computer (although most web browsers will also manage
and FTP connection). The FTP client then works through you Internet
connection to access the FTP server
and organise the movement of data. Although FTP pre-dates the development
of the World Wide Web, it is still and important system for the movement
of large files, such as programs or databases, across the Internet.
The FTP protocol also means that the transfer is usually slightly faster,
and less liable to failure, than the protocol that runs the Web.
Freedom of Association Freedom
of association is a principle contained in various human rights documents.
Its objective is to ensure that people are able to meet and interact
freely, without the interference of the state or others. It is not an
absolute right; therefore it generally only has applicability where
the purpose of association is lawful, and where the act of association
does not infringe the human rights of others (for example, a racist
demonstration may not use the right of freedom of association to permit
its holding). Freedom of association is one of the main themes within
the emerging field of Internet
Freedom of Expression Freedom
of expression is a principle contained in various human rights documents.
Its objective is to ensure that people are able to communicate and express
opinions, in public, private, either written or spoken, without the
interference of the state or others. It is not an absolute right; therefore
it generally only has applicability where the purpose of expression
is lawful, and where the act of expression does not infringe the human
rights of others (for example, a racist hate speech may not use the
right of freedom of expression to permit its communication). Freedom
of expression is one of the main themes within the emerging field of
Global Common The Internet has
no central legal power. Its operation and administration is largely
consensual, headed by expert bodies, but requiring the active agreement
of all users for changes to be widely adopted. For this reason many
see the Internet as being a supra-national entity that no one person
or state may own - hence a 'global common'. The view of the Internet
as a global common has been central to many of the recent developments
on the Internet in relation to sharing
information, open content
licenses, and new ways of working such as public
collectives enabled by the 'Net.
Gopher Gophers were the main
means of retrieving information over the Internet before the development
of the World Wide Web. Gophers presented tables or menus of links to
files, or other gopher menus. The user then work through the menus until
they found the information they required. Although many gopher services
have now closed because the task is more effectively carried out using
the Web, there are still a few running. To use a gopher you need a gopher
client to run on your computer (although most web browsers will
also manage a gopher connection).
Hacker The term 'hacker' has
been abused by the media to give a negative connotation - of someone
who engages in breaking into computers. In fact 'hacker' within the
subculture of computing has a positive connotation, meaning someone
who is technologically adept with computers, electronics or any other
technical specialism. In the computer subculture those who break into
computer systems are referred to as 'crackers'.
Another recent development of hacking is hacking with a social or political
purpose - 'hacktivism'
Hacktivism There are various
definitions of the term 'hacktivism'. For those whose interests rest
primarily with computers hacktivism is the promotion of computer
hacking (hacker + activism). For those who approach computing
from the social perspective it actually has more relevance as the use
of computers and technology for hi-tech campaigning for social change
(hi-tech + activism). The argument between hacker groups who
have different opinions on the use of computers for political or social
objectives has become key to the re-interpretation of the role of modern
technology within the emerging 'information society'.
Human Rights Human rights are
minimum standards of legal, civil and political freedom that are granted
universally via the United Nations, or regionally through such bodies
as the Council of Europe. The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
sets the global standard. In Europe, the European Convention on Human
Rights sets slightly different standards to the UN Convention that
are relevant to the European context. In the UK the European Convention
on Human Rights was finally enacted into UK law, fifty years after the
European Convention was signed by Britain, under the Human Rights Act
Hypertext Hyper text is the concept
of linking together texts, graphics and other media into a single document,
linked to other documents via connecting 'hyperlinks'. The World Wide
Web is an example of a hypertext system. Embedded within the pages on
a web site are invisible codes that format the text for display, insert
images into the page, and organise the linking of different pages or
documents to the displayed page. These codes are called 'Hyper-Text
Mark-up Language', or HTML. To view the HTML contained in a web
page you can right-click with your mouse, and select 'view source'.
HTML can be written by hand using a word processor. But there are many
programs available to create hypertext pages, and most word processors
now have a 'save as HTML' option.
Information and Communications Technologies (ICT)
ICT is the fusion of computers and telecommunications. Computers
enable people to work creatively. But they are limit by what they can
access. Adding a communications channel, such as the Internet or other
information services, significantly extends the capability of the computer.
It allows it to be not only an inexpensive communications device. It
can also become a means of obtaining education, information, and working
creatively with others irrespective of geographical barriers.
Intellectual property rights
Intellectual property is a legal definition of ownership over an intellectual
creation. The intellectual creations that make up intellectual property
are the copyright over the
works of an author, the patenting
of technical designs, the trademarking
of designs or names, and the protection of databases
of information. Intellectual property is the core of the new information
society. It provides legal protection to the information traded or used
in the media or on computer systems. But the effect of intellectual
property law in recent years has been to close off knowledge, so providing
a monopoly control to demand money for essential information. As a result
there has been a backlash against the recent expansion of intellectual
property rights. Most prominently by the open
Internet Protocol or TCP/IP The
Internet Protocol (IP) is the protocol that controls the movement of
data over the Internet. It is often synonymous with the 'transmission
control protocol', or TCP. The IP protocol organises the movement of
data between fixed points, or addresses, on the Internet. These IP addresses
are identified numerically as a series of four number, separated by
dots - e.g. '192.168.1.254'. Information moved over the 'Net
is split into packets of equal
size. These packets are then sent over the 'Net, being reassembled in
the correct order when they reach their destination. To get around the
problem of remembering sequences of numbers, the domain
name system was developed to convert recognisable names into IP
addresses. But once the IP address is resolved, it is the IP address,
not the name, that is used to control communications.
Internet Rights Since the Second
World War there have been various measures to guarantee legally enforceable
human rights across the world. Many states incorporate aspects of these
International agreements as part of national law. Internet rights is
a movement that seeks to extend the concepts of traditional human rights
into the new information society. In particular, the concept that in
a world which is increasingly mediated by technology, a right to have
access to information technology, and to use it for communication, is
essential to guarantee the other human rights that evolved within the
previous industrial society. This general right
to communicate encompasses many other areas. For example freedom
of association, freedom
of expression, and tackling the emerging issue of the digital
divide. APC and others have drawn together the various themes relating
to Internet Rights to produce a Charter
for Internet Rights.
Internet Service Provide You cannot
just connect to the Internet. You need to be identified as a member
of a network on the Internet. You therefore need an account with an
Internet Service Provider to give you a unique identify for use on the
Internet. An account with an ISP can give you email, Internet access
via the web or other services, and even access to other services such
as email to fax gateways, and more recently email to text messaging
(SMS). In turn, ISPs are connected to the global Internet via their
own 'connectivity providers'. It is possible for individuals to set
up their own system, with a line to a connectivity provider, but it
is very expensive.
Internet Network Information Centre
The 'InterNICs' are a organisations that regulate the assignment of
domain names, and the assignment
of numeric IP addresses, within
an area or a country. InterNICs ensure that conflicts do not arise because
of the duplication of names or addresses. InterNICs maintain a database
of names and numbers, and these can be accessed online to identify those
who own a particular domain name, or who operate a particular IP address.
language that can be used within web or hypertext
to provide animation of images, or control the linking of different
pages dependent upon the conditions set by the user of the page. Although
This means that functions within a page can be run independently of
the server by the client computer.
Key A key is a device to release
a lock. It can be a physical key that releases the mechanism of a lock.
But it can also be a software key - a sequence of characters or words
that permit the release or recovery of data. Keys are commonly enabled
by passwords or pass phrases.
A combination of password and data keys is also important for the use
of symmetric and
public key or asymmetric
ciphers and encryption systems.
Public key encryption requires a key pair - two kwys, one to encrypt
which is public, and one to decrypt which is private.
Key escrow To get around the
problem of people using strong encryption, during the 1990s the US government
proposed to introduce 'key escrow'. This would mean people could use
strong encryption, but they would have to give a copy of their key to
the state first. These proposals were defeated by civil liberties groups
because of the potential power this would give to the state to monitor
communications. Instead other systems have been adopted, such as 'trusted
third parties' for holding encryption keys or providing encryption
Libel 'Libel' is the common term
for 'defamation'. Defamation is the deliberate writing (libel) or speaking
(slander) of untrue information about a person or corporation. Where
the spreading of defamatory speech or material causes material damage
to those it relates to they may seek legal redress for the damage caused.
Libel, and how it is created and prosecuted, is a complex area of law.
For the average person it is very difficult to prosecute. But as the
UK government has chosen not to introduce a formal right of privacy,
for the moment Libel, and procedures similar to it, are the onlyt way
it is possible to enforce the right to privacy granted under the European
Convention of Human Rights.
Majordomo Majordomo systems are
a hybrid between email and FTP
systems. Requests for information can be sent via email to a majordomo
server. The server interprets the request, and then returns the information
back to the user who made the request using email. Although this task
is usually done using the web or
FTP servers, majordomo allows other features to be built in, such as
only allowing information to be sent to those who are approved to receive
Metadata Metadata is 'data that
describes data'. As search
engines become the main means of accessing the web, metadata has
become an important part of describing the content of a web page, even
though it is not displayed. In the early days of search engines, the
web pages 'title' string, the title displayed on the top-left corner
of the browser window, was used to index pages. But this was restrictive.
Therefore a new system of 'metadata' tags was introduced to the design
of web pages. This allows the listing of keywords, information about
the author, and even the date after which the information can no longer
be considered up to date, to be embedded within the design of the page.
Using metadata search engines are able to more accurtately index the
content of pages than was previously possible just using the web page
Moral rights Moral rights are
a special extention to copyright
that gives the originator if a copyrighted work rights over its use.
The originator can specify moral conditions on the use or exploitation
of their creation, even when the rights are licensed or sold to others.
Multimedia Multimedia is the
merging of different media, such as text, images, video and sound, to
produce a web page or other computer-generated media. Web pages are
very basic, given that they only contain text and images. Other media
can be added to pages by using 'plug-in'
programs that enable your web browser to insert sounds, animation
and even video into your page. Many web browsers are now supplied with
the plug-ins already installed. But it is sometimes necessary to upgrade
or install new plug-ins to see multimedia pages created with the latest
versions of the plug-in program.
Open content All the material,
text images, sound and video, belongs to someone. Those who create media
have intellectual property rights over is use and exploitation. Until
recently intellectual property rights were used as a means of monopoly
control over computers, computer programs and other information. Today
there is a growing movement, enabled by the Internet, that seeks to
promote the release of works under an 'open license'. The 'open' license
does not disavow the intellectual property rights of the creator. What
it allows is the unrestricted copying, sharing or modification of a
work, providing that the original owner is acknowledged, and providing
that the use of the work does not exclude the originator of the work
from a share of any money that might arise from the use of their work.
Open licenses also require that where something is created using materials
that was released using an open license, that the work created must
be released under an open license also. The mainstream computer software
and publishing industry, who use 'closed' licenses to distribute their
works, abhor the concept of the open license because it does not allow
monopoly control. But the use of open licenses has allowed the development
of many projects that directly benefit communities because the use of
open licensing allows people to participate in the development of projects
without the threat of legal action from the owners of material, and
because their contribution to the development of the project will be
acknowledged. In this way open content has been an important tool for
enabling amateurs to develop their skills to a professional standard
via the 'Net.
Packet A packet is a segment
of a data communication routed over a network, such as the Internet.
Each packet contains a segment of data. But it also contains details
of where it is going to, where it has come from, and some other data
that controls the processing of the packet. The development of packet-based
systems such as the Internet Protocol
has allowed many people to communicate and access services. But the
flaw in the use of packets is that all communications can be uniquely
identified anywhere in the world. The collection of communications data
based on monitoring the routing information contained in data packets
has therefore enabled a form of passive surveillance that directly threatens
civil liberties if it is misused.
Passive surveillance Passive
surveillance is the use of indirect techniques, such as analysing records
or information (a process often referred to as dataveillance),
in order to carry out surveillance.
There are different options for carrying out passive surveillance such
as data profiling or monitoring
people's use of communications media through the tracking and databasing
of communications or traffic
Patent A patent is an intellectual
property right given to a technological innovation. The patent provides
a complete monopoly over the use of the technological innovation for
a specified period of time. Unlike copyright,
a patent provides absolute protection. It is not permitted to replicate
a technological innovation by other means.
Portable Documents/Formats (PDF)
The problem that has always existed within computing is incompatibility.
Computers run different operating systems, different programs, and when
printing there are many different types of printer. To get around this
problem of incompatibility a set of standards were developed for 'portable
documents'. Most of these standards are proprietary, some are not. One
of the most widely used portable documents is Adobe Acrobat (these files
usually have the extension '.pdf'). Others include Postscript (similar
in many ways to Acrobat) and Encapsulated Postscript. Using a portable
document format means that you can share reports, leaflets or posters
across the Internet without having to worry about the compatibility
of different systems.
Peer-to-Peer The traditional
model of network computing has been a central computer - the server
- and a number of clients connected to the server. The server then organises
services for each of the clients. Now that computers have become more
powerful it is possible for a persons computer to work with other computers
as an network of peers - a 'peer-to-peer' network - to provide information
and services. Examples of peer to peer services are the file-sharing
systems such as Napster or Gnutella. These programs operate by enabling
remote computers to find each others IP
address and then share data directly - without the need for a central
server. The only barrier to the growth of peer-to-peer services is the
current lack of broadband Internet services in many countries, and the
fact that most of the Internet services available to consumers are asymmetric
- which restricts the ability to send data at high speed.
Personal_information The definition
of 'personal information' in the UK is contained in the Data
Protection Act 1998. Personal information is anything that describes
you or your lifestyle. There are minimum standards that must be met
for the holding and processing of personal information. A further subset
of personal information is sensitive
information, for which tighter controls apply. The data
subject, whom the information describes, has rights under the 1998
Act to have access to the personal information held about them by a
Pretty Good Privacy/PGP PGP is
one of the most popular public
key encryption systems. PGP is widely available, and is able to
work with email and other programs to enable the encryption of files
and the use of digital_signatures
to verify the authenticity of files or email.
Plug-in A 'plug-in' is a program that
can be used as part of a another program to control the processing of
information. Most plug-in used on the Internet are for web browsers.
These enable the use of multimedia
services, and allow the display of animated images (e.g., the flash
plug-in) or video (e.g., the Real Player plug-in). Plug-ins are also
available for email programs that can control the use of encryption
as part of email communications.
Privacy Privacy may, due to the
increasingly pervasive nature of technological surveillance, be one
of the major social issues of the 21st Century. As noted by the UK's
Assistant Information Commissioner, at a presentation to the EU Cybercrime
Forum (Nov. 2001)
Privacy is about the right of individuals
to go about their lawful activity without interference. Individuals
should not have to account for their movements or actions simply because
they may have communicated at one time, however innocently, with someone
who is suspected of links with criminal activity. Privacy is not just
about a person's ability to keep information to him/herself but it
is about maintaining control, dignity and the right to be left alone.
In the UK there is no statutory law on privacy.
But as a result of the introduction on the European Convention on Human
Rights in 1998, a law on privacy may emerge as a result of legal cases
brought before the courts.
Protocol A protocol is an agreed procedure
for the supply of a service. For example, the movement of web pages
or email over the Internet is governed by different protocols. Protocols
are agreed internationally, usually supervised by professional bodies
such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Those writing programs
for use over the Internet ensure that they are able to meet the requirements
of these different protocols to ensure that everyone can communicate
with everyone else, irrespective of the computer or operating system
they are using. The increasing challenge to the development of protocols
is that new technologies tend to involve proprietary systems. Therefore
to use the protocol it is necessary to pay a license fee to those who
developed the technology that underpins the protocol. This could mean
that in future, if IETF or other bodies adopt protocols with proprietary
components, you would have to pay additional license fees to use that
service. This is a direct threat to the development of free or open
source software because those developing programs without paying
the license fee to do so would face legal action for the infringement
of the system developer's intellectual property rights.
Public collective The Internet
has enabled a new model of organising within civil society - the 'public
collective'. Traditionally the interests of civil society have been
represented by campaign or lobby groups. These groups work centrally
to promote the agenda that they believe represents the interests of
their members. The Internet allows those in communities who have strong
opinions on an issue to work together directly - no central organisation
is required. Many people will contribute information and work to these
networks in their spare time. But because there are potentially hundreds
of people involved, the combined effort of these public collective's
can represent more hours of work than the professional organisation
who have traditionally worked on issues of public concern. The ability
of the public to work directly also means that a large effort can be
generated to tackle new issues far faster than the organisational dynamics
of many campaign groups allow. Over the coming years many of the larger
campaign groups will face a direct challenge to their authority by public
collectives working on the same issues. How they respond to this challenge,
and how they chose to work with public collectives, will be very important
in determining how civil society uses the resources of the new information
society to express issues of common concern.
Public key encryption Public
key encryption, or asymmetric encryption, uses two keys. One key, the
public key, encrypts the
data. A second key, the private or secret key is then used to decrypt
the data. The relationship between the keys is so complex that one cannot
be determined from the other. This means that you can freely publish
you public key, and others can encrypt data with it. But only you can
decrypt this information using your private key. This removes the problem
created with older symmetric
encryption systems of securely distributing the key that both encrypts
and decrypts data. One of the most popular systems for public key encryption
is Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP.
The Right to Communicate The
'right to communicate' is an key part of the argument for Internet
rights. It is based around Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration
of Human Rights:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion
and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas
through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Regulation of Investigatory Act 2000
The 'RIP' Act 2000, passed in the UK in 2000, updated the UK
law on surveillance. It allowed new technologies such as the Internet
to be officially monitored, and created power to require people to divulge
their encryption keys. The powers of the RIP Act were further updated
by the Terrorism Acts 2000 and 2001.
Scripting Scripting is a form
of computer program. But unlike traditional programming language, that
manipulate the processes of the computer, scripting tends to involve
a far smaller set of simple instructions. Many of these instructions
will be related to accomplishing a specific purpose, such as controlling
the process of connecting your computer to another computer via a modem.
On the Internet scripting
languages tend to be structured towards a specific tasks, and there
are a number of different scripting languages in common use. The use
of scripting languages should not be confused with 'marking-up' languages,
such as HTML. Scripting systems
work dynamically to control a system, whereas making-up languages simply
provide a constant, static scheme to control the display of information.
Scripting languages There are
many scripting languages in common use. On the Internet these tend to
be divided between those that are used by servers
to control the processing of information, and those that are used by
clients. On servers a popular
language is Perl (Practical Extraction and Report Language). This can
be used in conjunction with a web server's Common
Gateway Interface (CGI) to transact information between the server
and a client's web browser. Perl/CGI can also be used in conjunction
with other services to provide gateways between the web, email, and
other information services. For client-side scripting, the popular option
Search engines In the early days
of the World Wide Web it was possible to move from site to site via
links. Today, with many millions of web pages, it is just not possible
to know what information is out there. Therefore the most popular means
of navigating the 'Net is no longer links, but search engines. A search
engine is a computer that searchers the Internet looking for pages,
and then databasing the content of the pages it finds according to defined
criteria. This database is then made available to Internet users to
search for web pages using a list of keywords. The search engine then
returns a web page listing all the pages that contain one or more of
those keywords. To ensure that your site is picked up by a search engine
you should register with it. The address of your site will then be held
in a queue, waiting for when the search engine has a chance to scan
your site and index its contents.
Secure socket layer Secure sockets,
or SSL, is a system of encryption
used with web browsers. The browser agrees an encryption key
with the web server, and then all communications between the two are
encrypted. This prevents the content of the communications being monitored
as they make their way across the Internet. When using SSL with a web
site, the URL of the page you are
looking at will be prefixed 'https' rather than 'http'. The padlock
in the corner of the browser window will also be closed rather than
Sensitive_information The definition
of 'sensitive information' in the UK is contained in the Data
Protection Act 1998. Sensitive information is anything that relates
to any criminal record, medical history, and your religious, political
or sexual preferences. There are strict standards that must be met for
the holding and processing of sensitive information. Other less sensitive
is able to be used for data processing without the strict controls that
apply to sensitive data. The data
subject, whom the information describes, has rights under the 1998
Act to have access to the sensitive information held about them by a
Server A server is a computer
that organises the communication and exchange of data with other client
computers over a network. This can be as simple as allocating the computer
an identity on the network. It can also involve supplying services such
as email, web browsing, and access to file on a local network or the
Internet. Servers are permanently connected to the local network or
Internet in order that they can continually service requests for data.
But as consumers get access to permanently connected broadband services,
many people leave their own computers permanently connected too. This
allows them to connect with other computers on the Internet in a similar
manner to servers and exchange information. This has allowed the development
of non-centralised networks of ordinary computers in peer-to-peer
Streaming Audio and video media
require a lot of information. In the past these files had to be downloaded,
and then played on the computer's own hard disk. Today, it is possible
to supply audio and visual media in real-time using a streaming server.
The streaming server transacts data with a client
computer in order to ensure that the program playing the audio or video
programme has a constant supply of data. This means that audio or video
programs can be received immediately, without having to wait for them
to download. Using streaming servers it is possible to bypass the restrictions
of the traditional broadcast media and undertake web
Surveillance Surveillance is
the art of monitoring the activity of something. In terms of civil society
there are two main types of surveillance. Passive
surveillance is the indirect monitoring of a person or organisation.
For example, using financial transactions, or the use of communications
media such as the Internet. Direct
or intrusive surveillance is the direct intervention in the work
of a person or organisation using technical means, such as bugs, or
human operatives such as infiltrators.
Swap file A swap file is an area
of a computers hard disk that is set aside for moving blocks of data
between the memory and the disk. The operating system allocates memory
to programs. But often this is not enough for the programs needs - especially
no computers that have a small amount of memory. To solve the lack of
memory the program has its memory request split into blocks, and these
are continually swapped back and forth between the memory and the hard
disk. Swap file are a way of getting around a lack of memory. But this
means that they can also be a security problem because data that was
recently being edited may be present in the swap file, and available
to anyone who knows how to extract it.
Switching centre A switching centre
is a large computer, usually owned by one of the major global telecommunications
corporations, that routes packets
of data over the Internet. Switching centres are important because they
provide the means by which the Internet, without any central co-ordination,
can move data from one point on the globe to another. The design of
the Internet Protocol means that
where switching centres break down or reach their operating capacity,
data can be dynamically shifted via other routes automatically. The
main problem with the centralised switching of data through just a few
centres in any one country is that it enables surveillance of the Internet
to be easily organised by the state. It also means, where the state
control switching centres, that data entering the country from certain
systems can be blocked to prevent the public accessing certain sites,
or certain types of online material.
Symmetric encryption Encryption
uses a key to encode data. In symmetric encryption the same key is used
to encode and decode data. The problem with this system is that if you
wish others to use the system, you must transmit the correct key to
them. This risks disclosure of the key. Symmetric encryption is often
used to encrypt information that remain on the same computer system.
For communications uses public
key encryption is simpler and more secure to use.
Temporary file A temporary file
is a file opened by a program or an operating system to store information
whilst it is being worked on. Many programs generate temporary files.
This can lead to problems when the program forgets to delete the temporary
files because they mount up, and begin to occupy otherwise useful disk
space. They also represent a security problem because information that
was recently worked on will be available to those who know how to extract
it from the temporary files.
The Terrorism Acts, 2000 and 2001
The Terrorism Act 2000 updated the UK's terrorism laws. It expanded
the definition of terrorism, and allowed a wider variety of groups to
be proscribed - which could potentially include those protest groups
engaged in direct action. Following the World Trade Centre attack in
September 2001, the UK government tightened the laws still further with
the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. This allowed the pooling
of information on organised crime and terrorism between government departments,
restricted the information that could be published in issues such as
nuclear safety, strengthened surveillance laws (especially, in relation
to the Internet), and changed immigration law to allow the detention
without trial of suspected terrorists from other countries.
Trademark A trademark is an intellectual
property right given to a name or logo, usually used as part of
a brand. Once registered, a trademark is legally protected until such
time as it is no longer actively used. The most prominent form of trademarking
on the Internet is the use of domain
names. Internet domain names are often trademarked, and may not
be used by anyone else.
Trusted third party A trusted
third party is an organisation that holds something in trust for use
by another person. Trusted third parties are commonly used to issue
If the signature is questioned, the third party can verify its authenticity
independently. To secure information it is also possible to split an
encryption key, and give part of the key to a trusted third party. This
prevents the disclosure of the information unless the third party co-operates.
This is a useful way to build in security. One of the original government
proposals, in the USA and UK, was that the government itself should
keep a copy of people's keys - a system called key
escrow. But this was defeated following objections from civil liberties
groups, and so trusted third parties for the provision of encryption
services were accepted as officially recognised alternative to key escrow.
Universal Resource Locator (URL) A
URL is an address of a site or some information on the Internet. This
is not just a web address. It can also include other protocols. For
example, web page addresses have the prefix 'http://' (hypertext transfer
protocol). But a browser can also accept URLs for other protocols, such
as 'ftp://' (file transfer protocol) or 'gopher://' (a gopher).
Viruses and 'malware' Viruses
are programs that do things you don't want to your computer. It could
involve emailing all your friends with sensitive files picked at random
from your hard drive. Some will delete all the data on your hard drive.
For this reason viruses, and virus-like programs called Trojans and
worms, are called 'malware' (software that makes you sick). There are
a variety of ways to stop viruses. The most effective is regular maintenance
of your system, and configuring it to disable the 'macro languages'
in programs such as Microsoft Word that allow the viruses to work. You
should also use anti-virus software to regularly scan programs on your
computer, and to scan all emails and attached files that you download.
World Wide Web (WWW) The web
is a protocol that allows the transmission of hypertext
documents over the Internet. Before the web, most interfaces for Internet
services had been text-based. But like the graphical user interface
simplified the use of computers, so the graphical capability of the
web simplified Internet access. This led to the development of the Internet
as a true mass-media during the 1990s. The web was developed by a scientist,
Tim Berners-Lee, working at the CERN laboratory. His basic design for
the Internet allowed the development of the more complex system of displaying
content that is used today. The multimedia capabilities of the web also
mean that where broadband Internet connections are cheap to use, supplying
radio or video via the Internet is beginning to challenge the traditional
controls of the mainstream print and broadcast media.
Web casting There has been a
financial and legal barrier to the use of the broadcast media - radio
and television - by community organisations. States have either been
unwilling to allow small-scale broadcasting, or they have sought to
restrict its content by insisting that all broadcasts are licensed.
The web effectively removes this barrier. Where an organisation can
arrange sufficient capacity to provide programs over the Internet, broadcasts
can be streamed live, or 'web
cast', via the Internet. Those who cannot afford the servers required
for streaming can also make shorter programmes available as files to
download an played locally. Either way, the Internet provides a means
to circumvent the traditional barriers to media access. The test for
those groups promoting Internet rights may be that in the near future
governments may seek to license the streaming of programmes in order
to control their content. In some states licenses are already required
for the provision of Internet services. Licensing streaming would be
an extension of this principle.