Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blogzilla is 4! And his big brother is 15!!

Amidst this week's rejoicings at the 40th birthday of the Internet, Blogzilla is celebrating his own fourth year on the Web. Doddering along behind is the prehistoric Web presence of the author: so old even the Wayback Machine didn't catch up until 1997. Perhaps fortunately, this avoided the purple flares phase of 1994-1996.

To think, it was only fifteen years ago that a first-year undergraduate friend eagerly introduced HTML 1.0…

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cops go for Regional Internet Registry

The FBI and UK Serious Organised Crime Agency are getting heavy with RIPE (thanks, Lilian!):
Andy Auld, head of intelligence at SOCA’s e-crime department… used the Russian Business Network (RBN) cybercrime network as an example of the type of criminal enterprise they were targeting. The now disbanded group used an IP network allocated by RIPE, a European body that allocates IP resources, to host scam sites, malware and child porn.

RIPE actions might lend themselves to interpretation, viewed in the harshest terms, as being complicit with cybercriminals and "involved in money laundering offences".

"We are not interpreting it that way. Instead we are working in partnership to make internet governance a less permissive environment," Auld said.

This explains some recent EU discussions about blocking "criminal IP address spaces". RIPE is unimpressed:
Press coverage this week portrayed the RIPE NCC as being involved with the criminal network provider Russian Business Network (RBN). Any connection with criminal activity, or with RBN itself, is completely unfounded.

The press coverage arose from a speech given by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in the UK. SOCA has since contacted the RIPE NCC with an apology. The RIPE NCC will continue to work with SOCA and other bodies to ensure criminal investigations can be carried out in an efficient manner within established laws and guidelines.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Policy-based evidence making

Two revealing examples in one day of how this government approaches policymaking:

The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country… Current and former ministers have claimed that thousands of women have been imported into the UK and forced to work as sex slaves, but most of these statements were either based on distortions of quoted sources or fabrications without any source at all.

Civil liberty campaigners claimed a victory today after the government announced it is dropping current proposals to retain the DNA profiles of innocent people on the national database… The authors of the research on which Home Office ministers based their plan had disowned the proposals. The Jill Dando Institute for Crime Science said its work should not have been used to decide the six- to 12-year time limits because the work was unfinished.

Sigh. Wouldn't it be nice if government departments thought through the impact of policy options before proposing, let alone enacting, legislation?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Consumer privacy and online marketing

Consumer Privacy and Online Marketing: Market Trends & Policy Perspectives, Brussels 12 November 2009
Next month I will be acting as a rapporteur for the European Consumers' Association (BEUC) at their Brussels conference on privacy and marketing. Alongside the EU Commissioners for the Information Society and Consumer Affairs, there will also be keynote speeches from the European Data Protection Supervisor and a number of other prominent experts. You can see the programme and register here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The irresistible illusion of Afghanistan

"Obama has so far committed to building ‘an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000’, and adds that ‘increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed.’ US generals have spoken openly about wanting a combined Afghan army-police-security apparatus of 450,000 soldiers (in a country with a population half the size of Britain’s). Such a force would cost $2 or $3 billion a year to maintain; the annual revenue of the Afghan government is just $600 million. We criticise developing countries for spending 30 per cent of their budget on defence; we are encouraging Afghanistan to spend 500 per cent of its budget.

"Some policymakers have been quick to point out that this cost is unsustainable and will leave Afghanistan dependent for ever on the largesse of the international community. Some have even raised the spectre (suggested by the example of Pakistan) that this will lead to a military coup. But the more basic question is about our political principles. We should not encourage the creation of an authoritarian military state. The security that resulted might suit our short-term security interests, but it will not serve the longer interests of Afghans. What kind of anti-terrorist tactics would we expect from the Afghan military? What kind of surveillance, interference and control from the police? We should not assume that the only way to achieve security in a developing country is through the restriction of civil liberties, or that authoritarianism is a necessary phase in state-formation, or a precondition for rapid economic development, or a lesser evil in the fight against modern terrorism." —Prof. Rory Stewart (via Andrew Sullivan)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The lives of the other

"In recent years general concerns about privacy in Britain have been greatly inflamed by the disappearance of personal data and great rows over planned mega-databases. The public increasingly perceives information collected for official convenience as a malign intrusion. And fears of recreating The Lives of Others are all the greater when the others in question are also "the other" in cultural terms. Muslims read every day about western fighting in Muslim lands. This week they heard MI5's director trot out a less-than-reassuring reassurance on torture of mostly-Muslim terror suspects, and this morning they read that the foreign secretary has been covering up what the government knew in one such case. Already angered by the sense that the ordinary rules no longer protect them as they do everyone else, many more followers of Islam may be tempted to succumb to militant rage if they feel they have been singled out for special snooping. Surveillance aimed at gauging the extent of a problem could end up making it very much worse." —The Guardian

Monday, October 12, 2009

The UK's unspoken constitution

"We the elite, do not believe in the kind of constitution most other advanced nations have — those that boast a belief in popular sovereignty; with resounding declarations such as ‘we, the people’, and that tend to contain rules about how governments should act.

"We describe ours as the ‘unwritten constitution’. It is a collection of laws, fictions, powers left over from the old monarchy and powers that we make up as we go along. It allows us to decide what governments can do; and best of all, only we have the power to change it.

"We disguise the fact that it is neither popular, representative nor accountable through a set of myths about the ‘Mother of Parliaments’, Magna Carta and the rule of law… We are also able to treat the people not as citizens but as subjects. We encourage people to believe that they are free, though actually they are in chains, unfelt but real chains nevertheless…"

Monday, October 05, 2009

Enough poison about the Human Rights Act

"They have fought important battles for personal freedom: opposing 42-day detention of suspects without charge, opposing ID cards, and opposing unjust extradition, and the poorly designed European arrest warrant. And it has taken these positions in a thoughtful and well calibrated way, without naivety as to the gravity of the issues involved.

"It is time, now, for the Conservative party to take the final step: to make the Conservative case for the Human Rights Act. It is our own bill of rights, and it is Churchill's legacy." —Peter Oborne

"The Tories have suggested introducing a Bill of Rights, based on the provisions in the convention, but also drawing on this country's own traditions and sorting out the problems of judicial application. That would be a properly conservative approach, although given the amount of legislative time taken up by constitutional measures, my suspicion is that this will slide quickly down the list of Tory policy priorities." —Philip Johnston