Monday, October 30, 2006

Blogzilla is 1!

GodzillaYesterday was Blogzilla's first birthday. Feeding his ravenous appetite for government scandal, bad public policy and atrocious human rights abuses has been a busy yet rewarding job over the last 12 months.

According to Technorati he is a popular beastie, in the top 0.07% of blogs by number of links. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing!

Some favourite topics below:


Please leave your favourite subjects and suggestions for improving Blogzilla in the comments!

Camden not involved in e-voting trials

My local councillor Rebecca Hossack has kindly found out the good news that Camden council will not be involved in next year's e-voting trials. Camden's election manager writes:

The body in Camden responsible for looking at electoral matters is the all party Elections and Citizenship Working Party, which meets around four times a year. Its previously expressed view on e voting is that it would want to see real evidence of a solid, fraudproof, reliable, tried and tested system before it would be in favour in Camden. Any scheme in Camden would need to go to the Working Party and then be recommended on to Council through the General Purposes Committee before it could be implemented.

So there are no current plans to introduce e voting in Camden, and the next stage will be for the Government to review the e-voting schemes which are run in May 2007 by participating Councils, and this will be followed up by further pilots in future years.

Release the Music!

A nice tweed suitThe Open Rights Group is launching its Release the Music campaign for copyright reform with a great free event in Holborn on 13 November.

Oxford's Professor of Internet Governance Jonathan Zittrain will be giving a keynote speech, followed by a panel discussion chaired by John Howkins and featuring Caroline Wilson, Music Week and two other invited guests. Most exciting is a pre-1955 (public domain) DJ set by The Chaps. Ben G and I are going along in our best tweeds in anticipation :)

Forum on Civic Information

I've been helping Rufus Pollock to organise an open forum on civic information, which is being held on 28 November at UCL and features the following speakers:

  • John Sheridan, Head of e-Services at the Office of Public Sector Information
  • Heather Brooke of Your Right to Know
  • Julian Todd of Public Whip
  • Richard Pope talking about scraping a planning database in Brixton/Lambeth and Love Music Hate Racism's use of PledgeBank
You can find out more and register here.

Italian secret service hit by new spying scandal

Francesco PizzettiItaly is in uproar after it has become clear that Silvio Berlusconi's government ordered intelligence agency SISMI to spy on political opponents and help the CIA kidnap a Muslim cleric (thanks, Dave!). Privacy commissioner Francesco Pizzetti commented:

"What foreign banker will want to speak to an Italian banker if he fears his call is being intercepted? Will a multi-national want to site its production facilities in Italy if it knows its fiscal data could be stolen by a competitor?

"We risk becoming a pariah state that will be isolated by the international community for the unacceptable manner in which we protect our data."

How to steal an election

Thanks to Sasha for forwarding this fascinating article from Ars Technica. Jason Kitcat also has good ongoing coverage of the lunatics in the UK government who are again pushing forward with e-voting trials.

Over the course of almost eight years of reporting for Ars Technica, I've followed the merging of the areas of election security and information security, a merging that was accelerated much too rapidly in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. In all this time, I've yet to find a good way to convey to the non-technical public how well and truly screwed up we presently are, six years after the Florida recount. So now it's time to hit the panic button: In this article, I'm going to show you how to steal an election.

Cyberterror in Moscow!

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow
Just back from two NATO workshops on that over-hyped phantom menace, cyberterror. More to come shortly on some of the most interesting presentations, but in the meantime you can see my photos of Moscow and Sofia's stunning architecture.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Killer wasp brings Passport Office to standstill

Killer wasp
Remember the huge ID cards report row last year between the government and the LSE's Simon Davies? The Home Secretary Charles Clarke (remember him?) went on the Today programme and accused Davies of fabricating evidence for the LSE's report on the ID cards. Ministers from Blair down took turns inside and outside Parliament to rubbish and defame him at every possible opportunity. It turned very nasty and Davies for the remainder of the year was very much Enemy Number One for the Home Office.

Of course subsequent events vindicated the report. The ID scheme is falling to pieces in exactly the way it predicted.

Simon went to the Passport Office in London yesterday to renew his passport. As he approached the interview counter a huge wasp appeared from nowhere, hovering over his head and dive-bombing staff. Interview officers scrambled for cover and retreated to the back of the room. Overheard was the comment "Where the hell did THAT come from?" followed closely by an accusatory glance at Simon and the remark "It came in with HIM!"

The wasp continued to hold position over Simon's head while staff ducked and weaved to avoid the beast. Three security people were called in to deal with the crisis. For a full fifteen minutes work in the passport office came to an abrupt halt as a fearless security official danced around the room, batting the hapless wasp with a handy copy of Her Majesty's passport guidance notes.

The wasp was finally dispatched to insect heaven but not before some people had formed the view that this was all an ingenious and pre-meditated campaign strike against the passport office.

Interestingly, once all the wasp-induced chaos had settled, the officials refused to renew his passport. They said it was "damaged" because a little of the laminate on the data page was lifting. What a surprise for a ten-year old paper document.

Anticipating possible problems establishing his identity, Davies had with him a dozen identity documents, including his LSE card, bankcards, bank statements and utility bills and a three-inch thick pile of newspaper stories with his photo — including articles in the Daily Mail which showed his passport photograph and others from the Sunday Times and the Guardian with his current photo. It was to no avail. He was told that these were all unacceptable as a means of establishing that he was who he said he was. His current passport was not an acceptable form of identity either.

Whether Simon brought a trained wasp into the passport office is something we may never be able to verify, but in the end the Home Office got their own back. He now cannot attend the United Nations Internet Governance Forum in Athens next week, at which he was scheduled to speak.

The war on enlightenment values

Richard Dawkins"What we have here is nothing less than a global assault on rationality, and the Enlightenment values that inspired the founding of this first and greatest of secular republics. Science education - and hence the whole future of science in this country - is under threat. Temporarily beaten back in a Pennsylvania court, the 'breathtaking inanity' (Judge John Jones's immortal phrase) of 'intelligent design' continually flares up in local bush-fires. Dowsing them is a time-consuming but important responsibility, and scientists are finally being jolted out of their complacency. For years they quietly got on with their science, lamentably underestimating the creationists who, being neither competent nor interested in science, attended to the serious political business of subverting local school boards. Scientists, and intellectuals generally, are now waking up to the threat from the American Taliban." —Richard Dawkins (via Boing Boing)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Tinky Winky and his gay friends

Tinky Winky
The Pat Robertson colouring book helps you educate your children in the ways of fundamentalist loonies like "Rev." Robertson, Jerry Falwell and GW Bush (via Boing Boing).

Don't forget to check out the real story on Tink, Falwell and friends in the funniest cartoon ever.

Fix UK's broken extradition treaty

MPs will be voting tomorrow (Tues 24 Oct) on vital amendments to the Police and Justice Bill that would give UK citizens the same rights before facing extradition to the US that US citizens have before they can be extradited to the UK. Please write to your MP to ask them support these amendments!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The limits of liberty


"I think we're heading for a place from which we will not be able to return: the surveillance society where the state will crowd in on the individual human experience and threaten the unguarded freedoms of privacy, solitude, seclusion and anonymity. We may continue to attest to the feeling of freedom but in reality we will suffer more and more restrictions. Inexorably we are becoming subjects not citizens, units on a database that may be observed and classified by a Government which is taking control in areas where it has never dared in democratic times to trespass before." —Henry Porter (via Spyblog)

Libertarian voters hit the headlines

"Democrats aren’t trying very hard to pick up the disgruntled libertarians. But [Josh] Holmes is trying to persuade us that we still live in that Republican dream world when the party was characterized by 'libertarian, live-and-let-live values,' instead of the actual world of unnecessary wars, gay marriage bans, 50 percent spending increases, and the biggest expansion of entitlements in 50 years." —David Boaz

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nato will never win in Afghanistan

Mujahideen"Britain and Nato will never achieve military victory or 'pacify' Afghanistan. Local reconciliation and power sharing are the only basis on which job creation and rural development can at last go forward. In this task foreign armies have no place." —Jonathan Steele

Architect of Thatcherism dies

Lord Harris"The market can cater for even the tiniest minorities - those who like fancy waistcoats, or the collected works of Ted Heath." —Lord Harris of High Cross, favourite economist of Margaret Thatcher, who died yesterday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Europe should dismantle taboos, not erect them

"Far from creating new legally enforced taboos about history, national identity and religion, we should be dismantling those that still remain on our statute books. Those European countries that have them should repeal not only their blasphemy laws but also their laws on Holocaust denial. Otherwise the charge of double standards is impossible to refute. What's sauce for the goose must be sauce for the gander." —Timothy Garton-Ash

1/5 of NHS Trusts fail privacy standard

Standard C9 on records says: “Healthcare organisations have a systematic and planned approach to the management of records to ensure that, from the moment a record is created until its ultimate disposal, the organisation maintains information so that it serves the purpose it was collected for and disposes of the information appropriately when no longer required.” The Healthcare Commission has found that 19% of trusts fell short of this target. (Thanks, Paul!)

We are the watchers

7/7 bombers"Cameras appeal to public prurience. They offer glimpses of a perpetrator or a victim: little Jamie Bulger being led away, four young men with rucksacks on a day trip to London. They tell true-crime stories to make the flesh creep, but the flesh only creeps because we know how the story turns out. There’s nothing informative in prospect about such pictures, but they give a thrill of fear in safe, modern lives. No wonder some studies show that CCTV increases the fear of crime. 'Security' is a sign of insecurity, and it breeds more insecurity." —Guy Herbert (thanks, Terri!)

NHS Direct creates massive honeypot

NHS DirectNHS Direct has proudly announced that it has consolidated 5 million patient records into a single database so that "security can be improved." The database is accessible by thousands of staff across the country. Exactly what controls do they have in place to prevent blaggers, hackers and corrupt insiders selling access to those records?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Torture vs the rule of law

Jeffrey JowellProf. Jeffrey Jowell QC yesterday gave a JUSTICE lecture on the rule of law and the UK constitutional balance. He had some surprising conclusions: the one that I found most interesting was that the "supremacy of Parliament" is a common law construct that could be undone by the UK courts.

While our Human Rights Act 1998 does not allow judges to strike down Acts of Parliament contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Communities Act 1972 does indeed allow judges to disapply UK Acts that contravene EU law. Jowell asked: if the courts can strike out laws in the fields of commerce and free trade, surely they should be allowed to disapply laws that offend far more fundamental constitutional and human rights principles? He suggested that the next stage of the UK's political evolution must be to create a written constitution and give the judiciary the power to strike down unconstitutional laws.

My question: the United States has a strong constitution and Supreme Court powers to enforce it. Yet still we see President Bush abolishing habeus corpus, despite the clear constitutional requirement that this may only occur in cases of rebellion or invasion. What type of political arrangement could prevent this happening in the UK?

New law undermines due process and the rule of law

Guantanamo Bay
WASHINGTON - As President Bush signed S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law, the American Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage and called the new law one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history.

To highlight concerns with the act, the ACLU took out a full page advertisement in today's Washington Post, calling itself "the most conservative organization in America." Since its founding, the ACLU has fought to conserve the system of checks and balances and defend the Bill of Rights.

The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director:

"With his signature, President Bush enacts a law that is both unconstitutional and un-American. This president will be remembered as the one who undercut the hallmark of habeas in the name of the war on terror. Nothing separates America more from our enemies than our commitment to fairness and the rule of law, but the bill signed today is an historic break because it turns Guantánamo Bay and other U.S. facilities into legal no-man's-lands.

"The president can now - with the approval of Congress - indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions. Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act."

UK.gov may allow data sharing on 40 million bank accounts

The government is consulting over plans to allow the details of 40 million bank accounts to be shared without their owners' permission (thanks, Dave!) DP expert Dr Chris Pounder commented:

There is a risk that many will see the objective of the consultation exercise as not one of "should we share financial data?" but rather one of gathering evidence to justify an action the government has already decided to take.

Tackling over-indebtedness is important, but is requiring banks to share financial information about their customers going to achieve this? It is commercially more likely that the banks will continue to agressively market credit, and simply use this new information to better price their risk.

Eye witnesses cast doubt on Blunkett's view of Cabinet life

Richard ChildsThe former Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Richard Childs has stepped in to the argument between the former home secretary David Blunkett and his director of prisons Martin Narey:

“Comparing the colourful recent past of Mr Blunkett and his repeated personal and professional ‘challenges’ with the measured, considered and mature approach I saw in Martin Narey and his senior and junior colleagues at a time of high drama, I know whose version of events I accept. In addition, I know who I would prefer to be in charge at a time of ‘crisis’ — and it certainly is not David Blunkett.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Yahoo vs DRM

David Goldberg"The notion that a track I buy in DRM is protected and one without DRM isn't is a fallacy. It's all nonsense. Music is never going to be protected, and anybody who tells you that is not being honest. Yes, you can put up speed bumps, but the people who really want to steal music are going to steal it. So you're just making it hard for people who want to do the right thing to get the music they legitimately purchased on the devices and services that they want." —Yahoo music executive David Goldberg

Lunatocracy

Blunkett eyes
It is slowly becoming clear quite how deranged the Bush and Blair administrations have become since 2000 and 1997 respectively.

Bob Woodward's new book has laid bare the savage incompetence of Rumsfeld, Cheney and their neocon pals that has caused the deaths of 655,000 people in Iraq; the dithering of Condi Rice that allowed the Pentagon rather than the State Department to run the show; and the mind-blowing capacity of the moron in the White House to stand back and allow his squabbling Secretaries to drag America to its lowest global standing in history.

David Blunkett's self-pitying, whining attempt to rewrite recent history has revealed a Cabinet of Blairite toadies who stand by while our Dear Leader sanctions illegal wars, condones torture and generally stamps on every principle his party holds dear.

Blunkett has done himself no favours whatsoever, prompting his director of prisons to reveal the home secretary's reaction to a prison riot:

David was certainly furious. He was also hysterical. He directed me, without delay, to order staff back into the prison. I told him that we did not, at that time, have enough staff in the prison to contemplate such a move but that many more staff were on their way from other prisons. I insisted, however, that although I was determined to take the prison back as quickly as possible, I could not, and would not, risk staff or prisoner lives in attempting to do so. He shrieked at me that he didn’t care about lives, told me to call in the Army and “machine-gun” the prisoners. He then ordered me to take the prison back immediately. I refused. David hung up.

These people are a menace to the US, the UK and the rest of the world.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Prime Minister Brown seems a frightening prospect

"Take ID cards. Last year we gathered [Brown] was unconvinced about their value. No longer. What really seemed to excite him was the terrific efficiency and convenience that fingerprint-swiping and iris recognition could bring to us all. Not only could we now buy groceries and open safes just by swiping our fingerprints across readers, but we would soon be able to harness all these private-sector innovations in order to access public-sector services, by bringing the two sectors' systems closer together.

It is almost as if all the fierce arguments about the merits, costs and threats posed by national databases and greater surveillance by the state had never happened. Brown made a couple of references to the need to protect civil liberties, but they were phrased more as if this is a minor difficulty, easily overcome, rather than a key objection to the entire scheme." —Jenni Russell

Friday, October 13, 2006

JUSTICE calls for admissible intercepts

BugA new report from JUSTICE calls for communications intercept evidence to be made admissible in UK courts, and for judges rather than politicians to authorise interception (thanks, Dave!):

We conclude that the current ban is archaic, unnecessary and counter-productive. Outside the UK, intercept evidence has been used to convict Al-Qaeda cells in the United States following 9/11, the Five Godfathers of New York Crime, and war criminals before the International Tribunal on the Former Yugoslavia. Due to various loopholes in the current ban, intercept evidence is sometimes used successfully even in the UK. For example, recordings and transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations were used to help convict Ian Huntley of the Soham murders in 2003.

The experience of other common law countries shows that the fears of the intelligence services that intercept evidence would lead to their interception capabilities being compromised are unfounded. Established common law principles of public interest immunity (‘PII’) work well in other countries to prevent the unnecessary disclosure of sensitive intelligence material, such as methods of interception and the identity of informants.

We recommend that the ban on intercept evidence be lifted, and that the government overhaul the existing legal framework so that interception warrants are granted by judges rather than by the Home Secretary. Although we avoid making specific recommendations on this point, we also favour the establishment of a single interception warrant for both intelligence and law enforcement purposes whose product is admissible in criminal proceedings, rather than have separate intelligence warrants under which interceptions would continue to be inadmissible.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tory spouts nonsense on intellectual property

John Whittingdale MPI suppose it is hardly news that the Conservative chairman of the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport (and chairman of the All-Party Group on Intellectual Property) has been entirely captured by the copyright lobby.

I had the misfortune last week to hear John Whittingdale spout five minutes of decade-old clichés about copyright infringement, ranging from the tired old comparison between filesharing and CD theft, to the "fact" that car boot sales are funding terrorism, and that Digital Rights Management tools are the answers to everyone's prayers. David Cameron had somehow caused me to expect better at this year's Conservative party conference.

Only slightly less absurd were the claims from the British Phonographic Industry: they need longer copyright in sound recordings to create a larger asset base to allow riskier investment decisions regarding new bands. They really seem to believe this phony piece of economics; it is obviously convincing enough to politicians to cause them to keep repeating it in public. I spent 20 minutes after hearing the claims at the equivalent Labour party event debating the point to see if it had any merit whatsoever. You will be unsurprised to hear that I am more convinced by the views of Nobel-winning economists such as Milton Friedman and Ronald Coase who wrote in 2002:

"One might argue that the windfall to authors of existing copyrights has a positive consequence, by providing them with more resources for additional creative projects. However, this argument ignores the profit maximization decision of a producer, which takes into account the producer's cost of capital for a given investment. In general, a profit-maximizing producer should fund the set of projects that have an expected return equal to or greater than their cost of capital. If a producer lacks the cash on hand to fund a profitable project, the producer can secure additional funding from financial institutions or investors. If the producer has resources remaining, after funding all the projects whose expected returns are higher than the cost of capital, this remainder should be invested elsewhere, not in sub-par projects that happen to be available to the firm. If a producer pursues the same set of projects in any event, then its incentives will not be improved from the mere fact of a windfall from consumers."

Paula le Dieu, Jill Johnstone (National Consumer Council) and Lynne Brindley (British Library) did a good job in putting forward a saner perspective. But it's exhausting having to argue such basic economic points as the benefits of competition at a meeting of supposedly free-market political activists.

Mr Pot, meet Mme Kettle

France's lower house of Parliament has passed a Bill that would criminalise the denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915. The Turks have caused outrage in the EU with politically motivated trials of writers who dare to mention the inconvenient deaths of 1.5m fellow citizens at the hands of their Ottoman forebears.

I touched on this subject in my speech in Istanbul on Saturday. Turkey could not become a party to the first protocol to the Council of Europe's Cybercrime Treaty, which requires signatory states to criminalise genocide denial. My conclusion however was that no state should create such thought crimes, but should instead fund academic historians to expose the claims of Nazi revisionists and Turkish nationalists alike.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We can't just pick and choose what to tolerate

Niqab"Yes, the veil can be alienating to people trying to communicate with the person wearing it; it is sometimes (but not always) worn involuntarily, and (for me) is an expression of devotion to a non-existent supernatural being whose worship excuses all kinds of barbarism. But if we want to have a leg to stand on when we stand up for The Satanic Verses or Behzti or Jerry Springer, we must defend to the death the right to wear it." —David Edgar

My very own Jackson Pollock

Blogging in Istanbul


Just spent a long weekend in Istanbul, speaking at a conference on "Freedom and Prejudice" and seeing the sights of this fascinating city.

The Blue Mosque is absolutely stunning, during the day and especially lit up at night. The hundreds of other mosques and bazaars and the setting on the Bosphorus make for a mind-boggling cityscape. But we also had a great time trying out the various bars and restaurants, and almost made it through until dawn a couple of times :) Highly recommended!

Does IP trump competition?

Which?Which? has sent an excellent letter to the European Commission's Directorate-General on Competition (via A2K). It asks for clarification of how intellectual property monopolies will be regulated under competition law, which I have always thought is a key way to keep IP under control:

We believe that the time is ripe for competition authorities to start shaping the intellectual property rights regime to ensure that it protects innovation without unnecessarily thwarting competition and overcharging consumers.

We would be grateful if the Commission could clarify the extent to which competition rules apply to products carrying intellectual property rights and which rules it considers being superior when there appears to be a conflict between the two regimes.

Competition lawyers and economists are some of the smartest people you ever meet!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Financial wiretaps

Gordon BrownGordon Brown has set out plans to use ministerially authorised communications intercepts to seize assets, with "oversight" from a Parliamentary ombudsman.

What is it about the concept of independent judicial oversight that is so foreign to the power-hungry politicians of this country?

ID cards: same old, same old

For the last month, the Home Office has been excitedly trailing a new direction for their ID cards programme. Robin Wilton's conclusion?

I'm afraid this looks like a re-hash of headline items which does not, essentially, move us on from where we were 18 months ago. Over that period, we have seen senior civil servants' leaked emails expressing grave concern about the viability of the whole project, and balanced, rational criticism from Jerry Fishenden and others.

It's disappointing to see a minister take the time to comment publicly on the plans, but leave those substantive issues unaddressed.

Lord cannot escape

Lord PhillipsLord Phillips of Sudbury, one of the strongest advocates of freedom in the House of Lords, has become disillusioned with politics and has been attempting to retire over the last year (via Open Rights Group). He has now been told that he cannot!

"I feel frustrated. I feel the whole mode of modern British Government, Whitehall and Westminster, is in a profound way counterproductive.

"Basically we mistake passing new laws for achievements on the ground.

"We have politicians and civil servants who have done nothing outside parliament. All they are fit for is passing new sky blue laws."

A Predatorgate blame primer

Rep. Mark Foley
Confused that a middle-aged Congressman was sending sexually explicit messages to 16-year old interns? Baffled that the Republican leadership knew for over a year and did nothing? Jesus' General (as always) has the answer

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Motes and beams

"We cannot very well defend our values to our Muslim neighbours, and promote the reason, toleration and justice that we believe to be innate to liberal democracy, if governments like ours at the same time reduce personal freedom, attack our ancient rights and the rule of law, encourage police officiousness, disdain the word of senior judges and busy themselves creating a society where total surveillance is the norm." —Henry Porter

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mentally ill politician still authorised wiretaps

David Blunkett is staging his gradual return to politics with the publication of his diaries. He reveals that he was clinıcally depressed at one crucial period:

"My whole world was collapsing around me. I was under the most horrendous pressure. I was barely sleeping, and yet I was being asked to sign government warrants in the middle of the night. My physical and emotional health had cracked."

There could not be a clearer statement of why judges and not politicians should authorise wiretaps (which are permitted using the warrants that Blunkett mentions).

10% 'pirate' downloads are causing discord in world trade

The US ıs standıng ın the way of Russıan membershıp of the World Trade Organısatıon untıl ıt shuts down the AllofMP3.com websıte. Sınce WTO membershıp requıres countrıes to adhere to TRIPS (whıch sets ıntellectual property standards) I cannot see why thıs should be a legıtımate demand. When wıll the US stop ınterferıng ın the ıntellectual property affaırs of other states, lıke Norway, Sweden and now Russıa?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The database state?

When: 1400-1730 Wed 1 Nov 2006
Where: University College London (5 minutes from the British Museum)

The UK government is pushing ahead with an ambitious programme to re-engineer the processes of public administration, based on wide-spread sharing of personal data between previously isolated departments and agencies. This is being backed up by proposals for the weakening of data protection law and the building of massive national databases on both adults and children.

Is widespread data sharing a panacea for effective 21st century government? Is it legal within the European privacy framework? Or, as Tony Blair has claimed, are we living in an entirely new world in which we should leave behind "outdated" notions of human rights?

This workshop will bring together lawyers, technologists, regulators and activists with a shared interest in the development of effective and privacy-friendly government. It will feature expert speakers on two major UK databases: the children's Information Sharing Index (which will hold details on every UK child) and the NHS Care Records Service (which will eventually hold all medical records electronically within the National Health Service). But most importantly, it will give all participants the chance to discuss their views on the privacy principles that should lie behind public administration in the information age.

Places are limited, so please RSVP to I.Brown[at]cs.ucl.ac.uk if you wish to attend.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Day against DRM warm-up protest

HazMat protestI joined the Defective by Design posse on Saturday at a warm-up event for their Day Against DRM (tomorrow!)

We spent several hours outside the London Apple store handing out leaflets to shoppers warning of the problems with DRM-restricted media. The HazMat suits certainly got people's attention ;) and we gave out over 3,200 leaflets, some inside the store!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Vote Cameron!

Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome +
Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome +
Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome +
Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome + Millennium Dome =
ID card

"When a half-way competent government would be protecting our security by controlling our borders, these Labour ministers are pressing ahead with their vast white elephant, their plastic poll tax, twenty Millennium Domes rolled into one giant catastrophe in the making…

"ID cards are wrong, they're a waste of money, and we will abolish them." —David Cameron MP

New NHS contractor having huge problems

Richard Bacon MPComputer Sciences Corporation last week took over from Accenture £2bn of work on the NHS Connecting for Health systems. Now the Observer has found that CSC have installed administrative systems in only 8 of 32 hospitals they had promised to deliver by April this year — and no clinical systems whatsoever. Richard Bacon MP commented:

By passing the baton to CSC with indecent haste, the government has missed a golden opportunity to think again and to give more control to hospitals locally. I feel very sorry for hospitals who will have to put up with more delays and with systems that just don't work properly.