Glossary A-D E-O P-Z

Asymmetric link - Broadband - Common Gateway Interface (CGI) - Charter for Internet Rights - Client - Common purpose principle - Communications and traffic data - Compression - Connectivity - Convergence - Cookie - Copyleft - Copy protection systems - Copyright - Cracker - The Cybercrime Convention - Database rights - Data controller - Data subject - Data profile - Dataveillance - Decryption - Digital divide - Digital signature - Directed surveillance - Distributed action - Domain Name Server (DNS) - Domain name - Data Protection Act 1998 - Data Protection Commissioner - Data Protection Principles - Dynamic content

European Economic Area - Electronic mail - Email lists - Encryption - Filtering and blocking - Firewall - File Transfer Protocol (FTP) - Freedom of Association - Freedom of Expression - Global Common - Gopher - Hacker - Hacktivism - Human Rights - Hypertext - Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) - Intellectual property rights - Internet Protocol or TCP/IP - Internet Rights - Internet Service Provide - Internet Network Information Centre - JavaScript - Key - Key escrow - Libel - Majordomo - Metadata - Moral rights - Multimedia - Open content -

Packet - Passive surveillance - Patent - Portable Documents/Formats (PDF) - Peer-to-Peer - Personal_information - Pretty Good Privacy/PGP - Plug-in - Privacy - Protocol - Public collective - Public key encryption - The Right to Communicate - Regulation of Investigatory Act 2000 - Scripting - Scripting languages - Search engines - Secure socket layer - Sensitive_information - Server - Streaming - Surveillance - Swap file - Switching centre - Symmetric encryption - Temporary file - The Terrorism Acts, 2000 and 2001 - Trademark - Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) - Trusted third party - Universal Resource Locator (URL) - Viruses and 'malware' - World Wide Web (WWW) - Web casting

  • 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 (ICT).

  • 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 networks.

  • 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 communications data.

  • 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 uses.

  • Copyleft — The opposite of copyright, but it has a specific use in relation to Richard Stallman's GNU Public License. See open content for a fuller explanation.

  • 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 issues.

  • 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: symmetric 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 undertake surveillance. 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 or unions.

  • 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 Act 1998The Data Protection Act 1998 enacts the European Directive on Data Protection in the UK. The Act gives rights to those who information is held about - the data subject - to have access to the information held about them. It also requires that those who hold data - the data controller - apply minimum standards to the protection of that data, and that it is only used for the purposes it was collected for.

  • Data Protection Commissioner — The Data Protection Commissioner is responsible for implementing the The Data Protection Act 1998, and ensuring that data controllers holding information under the Act keep and use personal information about data subjects in accordance with the Data Protection Principles. The DPC also investigates complaints from data subjects about the use of their personal or sensitive information.

  • Data Protection Principles — The Data Protection Principles are eight guiding principles defined in the 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 or JavaScript

  • 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 spread.

  • 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: symmetric ciphers 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 Rights.

  • 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 Internet Rights.

  • 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 1998.

  • 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 content movement.

  • 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. ''. 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.

  • JavaScript — JavaScript is a simple scripting language that can be used within web or hypertext pages to control the display of information. JavaScript can be used to provide animation of images, or control the linking of different pages dependent upon the conditions set by the user of the page. Although JavaScript started as a language controlled by the server, increasingly JavaScript forms part of the page downloaded from the server. This means that functions within a page can be run independently of the server by the client computer. JavaScript has therefore become popular amongst campaign groups for developing distributed online actions.

  • 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 services.

  • 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 it.

  • 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 title.

  • 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.

  • Name server — see domain name system

  • 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 data.

  • 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 data controller.

  • 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.
    As part of the emerging security agenda, post September 11th, many states and corporations are seeking to limit the ability of people to use information and communications technologies (ICT) to communicate freely.

  • 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 is JavaScript.

  • 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 open.

  • 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 personal information 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 data controller.

  • 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 networks.

  • 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 casting.

  • 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.

  • Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) — see Internet Protocol

  • 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 digital signatures. 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.




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