Archive for the ‘General Rants’ Category

Assange and the Foreign Office; British foreign policy and Twitter

August 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Well, first the serious bit. Kudos to Ecuador for having more balls to stand up to the bull of Cameron than Cameron has to stand up to Obama. We thought Blair was a poodle to Bush; Cameron is no different to Obama. And if you think I’m extreme, please read this analysis from a retired diplomat: America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally. It’s enough to make you ashamed of your own country.

The less serious bit, marginally, is the effect of Twitter on the nation’s literature. Consider this official statement on the website of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

FO statement

Foreign Office statement on Assange asylum

It’s a bit terse. Terse comes from its short sentences. Short sentences are punchy. They get straight to the point. No frills. Now consider the Foreign Office twitter feed (@foreignoffice):

FO tweets

Foreign Office tweets on Assange asylum

It’s the same statement in four neat, self-contained chunks. British foreign policy is now clearly designed to suit the requirements of Twitter. God, please help us all. However, I’d just like to point out to Mr Hague that if the author had written “Under UK law” rather than “Under our law”, he/she would have freed the 140th character for the full stop at the end of the third tweet down. Accuracy is all. I am available.

But then, it seems that the FO cares nothing about international law; so why should it bother about grammatical laws?


Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

Simon Cowell: creativity? Roger Daltrey: my generation? I don’t think so

July 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Here’s a puzzle. What do Simon Cowell, Roger Daltrey (CBE), (the Lord) Lloyd Webber, and (Sir) Elton John (CBE) have in common?

Yes, you’re right, they’re all aging fuddy-duddies. But that’s not the answer. You can choose from any of the following correct answers:

Their letter includes this:

Illegal activity online must be pushed to the margins…

The simplest way to ensure this would be to implement swiftly the long overdue measures in the Digital Economy Act 2010; and to ensure broadband providers, search engines and online advertisers play their part in protecting consumers and creators from illegal sites.

Let’s look at this.

implement swiftly the long overdue measures in the Digital Economy Act 2010
That is, start the three strikes graduated response to frighten UK citizens into doing what we want: which is to support a broken business model in order to carry on making our fortunes even bigger.

ensure broadband providers, search engines and online advertisers play their part
That is, get ISPs to block sites we don’t like; get search engines to censor links we don’t like; and prevent advertisers advertising things we don’t like.

The problem here is this. Those things they don’t like are mostly (but far from entirely) already illegal. We have laws (even without the Digital Economy Act) that can be used against illegal things. But what these people want is to become the arbiters of the law – they wish to tell the courts what is illegal rather than have the courts decide. And they don’t care how many innocent people are hurt or disrupted in the process.

Yesterday, TorrentFreak published an overview of the rightsholders’ leaked strategy. On cyberlockers, for example, they want sites that do not comply with their own infringing-content removal criteria, to be shut down. Megaupload is a good example. It didn’t remove infringing copyright fast enough for the rightsholders – so in conjunction with the FBI it was taken down. Who cares about the thousands of legal users with thousands of legally stored documents? Certainly not the rightsholders.

Frankly, if it wasn’t so serious it would be hilarious. Daltrey made a fortune by talking about his generation. That generation was young and dynamic and rebellious. Now he has abandoned the young and the rebellious in favour of the rich and staid. Cowell has put his name to the statement, “To continue to create world-beating creative content…” This is Simon Cowell. The same Simon Cowell who has sucked creativity out of the music industry by concentrating on pre-packaged, good-looking pretty boys and girls who can do nothing but recycle cover versions of old music. Creativity? All of these people want to stamp out creativity and concentrate increasing their own – nobody else’s – fortunes.

You and me and the internet generation are the enemy; and you and me must be made to conform to an internet made in their own image.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

The Olympic spirit died when they left out Beckham

July 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Just as a quick aside, I long ago became sick of the over-commercialisation of the Olympics. Months ago I realised that the only thing I would follow would be the football – until they left out Beckham.

That man has done more for the good name of sport in general and the Olympics in particular than anyone else I know. Leaving him out of the GB football team is a slap in the face for selfless sportsmanship. This is not what the Olympic spirit should mean.

These Olympics now mean nothing – it is just an ego-boost for government and a commercial opportunity for business. And as ever it is the people who are being fleeced; and genuine sportsmanship ignored.

Categories: All, General Rants

BT: major outage in Exeter

July 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Question 1.
What sort of third world, tin pot organization doesn’t carry hardware backups in this always on interconnected world?

Answer 1.
BT. Thousands of users in the Exeter/Newton Abbot area have been without a broadband connection for more than 20 hours. Current status: awaiting delivery of hardware; expected fix in 4 hours.

Being without Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and access to the newswires makes me realise how sad I have become.

Question 2.
Is it time that Townsend got a life?

Answer 2.
Yes; but without the internet I don’t know where to look.

Posted by phone – with great difficulty and annoyance.

Categories: All, General Rants

What is wrong with this picture?

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Neelie Kroes has invited business to help make the internet a safer place for children.

Neelie Kroes is an unelected un-mandated official of an undemocratic organization that, in her latest words, wants to change the internet into something she wants.


What Neelie Kroes will do for us

Microsoft is in charge of ‘notice and takedown’.

Microsoft is the organization demanding more takedowns from Google than any other organization – nearly half a million in the last month.

Transparency Report

From Google’s latest Transparency Report

Facebook is in charge of privacy settings.

Jesus wept. Need I say anything else? Facebook? Privacy? Really?

You couldn’t make it up. And of course I haven’t. But it really isn’t a laughing matter. Joe McNamee of EDRi presents a chilling discussion on how these ‘making the internet safe for our kids’ arguments will first be accepted (we all agree with ‘hang-a-pedophile-a-day’), but then will slowly morph into anti-copying, anti-terrorist, freedom-destroying net regulations under the control of our political masters and their business partners.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

Will the Communications Bill drive us all to the Dark Net?

June 17, 2012 1 comment

The very idea that the government should use £billions of our money to spy on us, when millions of Brits are without work, our roads are crumbling, our schools leaking and our schoolkids without adequate books, is simply obscene.

The idea that a democratic government is even contemplating a blanket and secretive monitoring system that requires no judicial oversight is abhorrent.

So, what is the solution?

There is a scary place. It’s called the Dark Net. It’s the hidden part of the internet. I don’t go there, because its full of unpleasant things. But there’s an even scarier place. It’s called the United Kingdom.

But, “because everyone (all Internet traffic) connected to the TOR Network is anonymous, there is not currently a way to trace the origin of the website. As such no other investigative leads exist,” said the FBI about the Dark Net in response to an FoI request.

There are, of course, other forces patrolling the Dark Net. Anonymous is on a hunt to find and expose pedophile sites; but I’m happy to accept that. The FBI finds it hard to patrol the Dark Net; Anonymous does not. But since I’m beginning to trust Anonymous more than I trust our government, I suspect the solution will be for us all to move to the Dark Net under the protection of Anonymous rather than stay in the open under the eyes of Theresa May.

Well, I’m not a bloody criminal – not yet, anyway

June 14, 2012 1 comment

If you haven’t broken the law, you’ve got nothing to worry about, they keep telling us.

But it’s because I haven’t broken the law, they’ve got no bloody right to spy on me.

I hope the TOR website is braced for a million hits from the UK when the new draft Communications Bill is published today. I hope these free VPNs remain free, and we get a few more to boot. I hope Tesco keeps selling those very cheap throwaway SIMs. I hope Rick Falkvinge is the next President of the European Commission.

And I hope we get more and more and more proxies for more and more and more destinations. (The UK Pirate Party’s Pirate Bay proxy still works, by the way.)

I am not a criminal. Not yet anyway. I would like to tell the world, however, that my government’s illegal and unjustified theft of my personal liberty seems to be determined to make me one. The only current growth in the UK is the length of David Cameron’s nose.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

What is government censorship and surveillance really all about?

May 13, 2012 Leave a comment

The justification that all governments give for their increasingly draconian efforts to censor and monitor the average Joe is always the same: to fight terrorism. Apart from physical terrorists, they offer us the ‘information terrorists’: Anonymous, Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, The Pirate Bay and their ilk. Well, here are four quotes that are worth considering.

The first is from Christopher Doyon (Commander X) currently believed to be in Canada on the run from the FBI:

Information terrorist” – what a funny concept. That you could terrorize someone with information. But who’s terrorized? Is it the common people reading the newspaper and learning what their government is doing in their name? They’re not terrorized – they’re perfectly satisfied with that situation. It’s the people trying to hide these secrets, who are trying to hide these crimes. The funny thing is every email database that I’ve ever been a part of stealing, from President. Assad to Stratfor security, every email database, every single one has had crimes in it. Not one time that I’ve broken into a corporation or a government, and found their emails and thought, “Oh my God, these people are perfectly innocent people, I made a mistake.”

The second is from Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Pirate Party:

It is universally agreed that Albert Einstein was a genius, and he defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting different results.” So why, exactly, does the UK Government and David Cameron expect the results to be any different when heading down this path than that of North Korea, who censors everything?

The third is from the last remaining freedom fighter in the House of Commons, David Davis, speaking about Cameron’s proposed ‘Communications Bill’:

I took advice from experts. I asked them a simple question: “If you were a terrorist, how would you avoid this scrutiny?” I stopped them when they got to the fifth method. It is pretty straightforward: for terrorists, everything from proxy servers to one-off mobile phones means that such scrutiny is easy to avoid. For criminals, it is also easy and quite cheap to avoid. However, for ordinary citizens, that scrutiny is not easy and cheap to avoid. We will therefore create something, which some Ministers said will cost £2 billion—the London School of Economics suggests that it will cost £12 billion—that will not be effective against terrorism, but constitutes general-purpose surveillance of the entire nation.

The last flashed by me on Twitter. Sadly I didn’t record it, but it has stayed in my mind. It was in one of the Anonymous accounts. It was words to the effect:

You should always remember two things about censorship. 1. You can always get round it. 2. We will show you how.
Twitter, somewhere

It’s a strange, sad and worrying state of affairs. Governments cannot succeed in their stated aim: to use surveillance and censorship to fight the real terrorists. All they will do is turn the average Joe who values his freedom and liberty into an information terrorist – which is a misnomer. But I haven’t answered my own initial question: why are they doing this? When you examine what motivates a politician, it always comes down to the same thing: power. Politicians want the power to enforce their own opinions. They believe they are right and everybody else is wrong and we need to be made to do what they think is best for us, for them, for their paymasters – whoever. Government is, by its nature, a refuge for megalomania. Power is exerted and maintained by control. Information is the enemy of control. It has to be curtailed: they have no choice, it is in their DNA. And we have no choice but to fight it. It should be in our DNA.

Categories: All, General Rants, Politics

Google removes Khosrow Zarefarid’s blog

May 1, 2012 Leave a comment

On Thursday last, while I was traveling home from Infosecurity Europe, Khosrow Zarefarid (the Iranian software engineer who tried to get better protection for Iranian card details held by the banks) contacted me:

Whay my weblog was stoped from google site? Can you help me to solve this problem? I had about 1000000 viewer.

Believe me, his English is infinitely better than my Arabic (which doesn’t exist).

KZ blog

Not what you want to wake up to...

I couldn’t respond immediately because I was just about to board a peak-time train, and had neither elbow room nor a signal. It wasn’t until Monday that I managed to talk (despite an appalling telephone line) with Google’s Ryan Brack, Manager, Global Communications & Public Affairs.

“Our policy is not to talk about individual cases when it comes to the sort of issue here, which is either a violation of policy, specific content on a blog, etcetera. We just don’t talk about specific cases; but I wanted to give you some sort of piece of information so that you can be clear what Google’s policy is…” He then kindly gave me step by step instructions on how to navigate to the Google policy page, and particularly pointed me to the paragraph:

Personal and confidential information: It’s not ok to publish another person’s personal and confidential information. For example, don’t post someone else’s credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, unlisted phone numbers and driver’s licence numbers. Also, please bear in mind that in most cases, information that is already available elsewhere on the Internet or in public records is not considered to be private or confidential under our policies.

That was it. The line dropped again, almost certainly due to problems at my end (thanks again TalkTalk) and I gave up attempting further voice contact. I emailed:

Hi Ryan

My apologies – I’m having serious line problems ATM. The point I wanted to make is the [that] Zarefarid posted only part of the credit card numbers – enough for the user to recognize that he had them, but nor [not] enough for anyone to make use of them.

This was a clear case of whistleblowing. He had attempted to report the issue through the official channels but was ignored. So he chose this way, but without actually endangering anyone’s personal information (or card numbers).

That was more than 24 hours ago. No response whatsoever.

I don’t believe that Khosrow Zarefarid breached Google’s policy, although he clearly went up to the line. In this instance he was trying to prevent ‘personal and confidential information’ from ending up on the internet. I also believe that under such circumstances Google has a duty to warn the blog owner and provide means by which the blog content can be retrieved by the owner (this may have happened without me knowing about it – but I doubt it).

Google claims, in the same ‘content policy’:

Blogger is a free service for communication, self-expression and freedom of speech. We believe that Blogger increases the availability of information, encourages healthy debate and makes possible new connections between people.

We respect our users’ ownership of and responsibility for the content they choose to share. It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.

In this instance it did not live up to this ideal. In this instance, Google fell far short – and I appeal to Google to reverse this decision and come to some arrangement with Khosrow Zarefarid.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 127 other followers