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Ecuador to UK: Hell No, Assange Won't Go

Ecuador to UK: Hell No, Assange Won't Go

Today in international tech news: The circus surrounding Julian Assange's asylum request is in full force. Also: Germany, ever wary of data collection, reopens an investigation into Facebook's facial recognition technology; the Megaupload case takes another turn; and England's Premier League talks about shutting down online streaming.

By David Vranicar
08/16/12 9:04 AM PT

Ecuador announced Thursday that it will allow WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he's been holed up for the last two months.

Assange first sought refuge at the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual assault charges.

Britain warned Ecuador that it might revoke the diplomatic status of the London embassy, according to Reuters.

Ecuador replied that stripping the diplomatic status of the embassy would be "hostile and intolerable." Ecuador's foreign minister added that Ecuador is "not a British colony."

Ecuador has also charged that the UK is threatening to assault its embassy in order to arrest Assange, according to BusinessWeek.

The UK reportedly sent a letter to the embassy saying that it would enter the compound should Assange -- who broke the conditions of his bail by going to the embassy -- not be turned over to authorities.

Facebook's European Adventure

Germany has reopened an investigation into Facebook's facial recognition technology, according to The New York Times.

A previous inquiry into the facial recognition software was suspended in June. But Germany's data protection commissioner, Johannes Caspar, said that the investigation has been reopened because Facebook has refused to heed repeated requests to change its policies.

Caspar demands that Facebook destroy its photographic database in Germany, according to the Times, because it was compiled without consent -- and therefore compiled illegally.

European law stipulates that people must consent to data collection like Facebook's facial recognition. However, the social media giant's default setting is that users must opt out, not opt in. This, too, is something Caspar wants changed.

Facebook has defended its facial recognition program by pointing out that it is legal in Ireland, which is where the company's European operation is incorporated, according to the Times.

One problem facing European officials is their lack of punishment options. In Germany, for instance, Facebook could face a fine of 25,000 euros -- about US$31,000 -- according to report. That's hardly an intimidating penalty for a company the size of Facebook.

Megaupload Case Takes Another Turn

A New Zealand court ruled that U.S. authorities must show evidence of piracy before Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom will be extradited, according to the BBC.

The U.S. seeks Dotcom's extradition to try him on copyright infringement charges. But the New Zealand ruling means that his defense team will have access to the evidence against Dotcom prior to the extradition hearing.

This is the latest of many twists in the case. A judge ruled this summer that the January raid on Dotcom's home used illegal search warrants, and that the FBI acted illegally when it confiscated Dotcom's computer. More recently, Dotcom said he was abused during the raid.

Dotcom, who is accused of copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering, faces 20 years in jail if convicted in the U.S. Authorities claim that content pirated via Megaupload cost copyright holder more than $500 million.

Premier League Playing Defense on Streams

England's Premier League said that it shut down more than 30,000 illegal streams of its matches last season, according to the BBC.

Along with TV shows and movies, sports have long posed a problem for those trying to thwart streaming. A spokesman for NetResult, which helps the Premier League stomp out streams, said that the company aims to shut down 80 percent of streams during match, a nod that even the best efforts are likely to fall short.

A major problem facing both leagues and law enforcement officials is that many of the streams are hosted in foreign countries, putting them outside the jurisdiction of local law enforcement.

In the U.S., authorities have seized a variety of websites the week of the Super Bowl each of the last two seasons.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.



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