Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Greed for information - Addendum

As an addition to a recent blog posting, there are some new developments around the Phorm technology (which monitored personal data and during the pilot experiment forgot to mention users about this...).

There was a theory that surely, if the British Home Office got something so simple so wrong (i.e. does it or doesn't it violate European laws...) then it must have had a reason to give such blatantly false information (and approval).

Well, it is remarkable, as said before, that reality in the case of the current truly Stalinist British Government (when it comes to so-called 'safer society') beats any conspiracy theory and/or paranoid delusion.

It turns out, that emails between the Home Office and Phorm show the department asking if the firm would be "comforted" by its position.

The messages show Phorm making changes to the guidance sought by the ministry. The emails say (in, as some called, jaw dropping manner) thing like: "If we agree this, and this becomes our position do you think your clients and their prospective partners will be comforted".

In an email dated August 2007, an unnamed Home Office official wrote to Phorm's legal representative and said: "My personal view accords with yours, that even if it is "interception", which I am doubtful of, it is lawfully authorised under section 3 by virtue of the user's consent obtained in signing up to the ISPs terms and conditions."

In an e-mail dated 22 January 2008, a Home Office official wrote again to Phorm and said: "I should be grateful if you would review the attached document, and let me know what you think."

So the Government guidance was quite... interesting. And one wonders, and this is then a rhetorical question: why would the British Home Office give such incredible treatment to this matter...

Well, obviously, they had their eyes on the technology- so that, while introducing truly unprecedented electronic surveillance, can expand that technology and eventually, one can be sure of this, find other 'applications' to Phorm...

Jim Killock, executive director of privacy campaigners, the Open Rights Group, said: "The Home Office's job is to uphold the law: not to reinterpret it for commercial interests.

"It's extraordinary, when you think of the blatant disregard Phorm showed towards UK laws in its secret trials, that this sort of lax attitude should be shown."
It is a very black day again for basic human rights and this scandal around the anyway truly unbelievable Home Office measures, misinformation and misleading of the public has hit new heights.

It is a democratic country, remember? We vote for these people... and once in office, we lose completely any control over them... and under the new Holy Grail of master manipulators, the anti-terror strategy (oh sorry, it's called 'terror strategy' actually- well, it literally is) anything is possible.

I lost count so far on how many levels and points has the Home Office violated the Constituion, European law and basic human rights.

And these people actually comment on China's human rights issues?...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

High spirits

Ah, no, it's not some attack of good mood in much corruption and financial crisis-impacted Romania.

It is literally about high amounts of alcohol used as bribe... Well, one can say that there is pride to be taken in having so characteristic and special ways of using tools of corruption.

It came to light, after many files of the national anti-corruption agency's investigations hit the pages of the printed and electronic media, that apart from usual amounts of money having changed hands, alcohol in various forms and quantities has also been used as bribe.

In the premier league of football, bottles of vintage wine were used to bribe referees. Possibly, to also enhance their visual acuity and reaction times... At least the officials who gave the bribes were caught and sentenced.

In the justice system, judges and prosecutors have been caught accepting wine and whisky as bribe... again, much improvement was probably made to their accurate legal thinking and to their much needed associative memory... Others gave bribe in money, wine and whisky to get into various positions in the justice departments.

The ex-minister for agriculture has also been involved in similar bribe taking, accepting 15 000 euros, 100 liters of brandy (well, that will last some time) and was supposed to also receive an Audi Q7 (but hopefully not driving it while consuming the hectoliter of brandy)... Gulp. Giggle.

So yes, in many ways even bribes have a special twist (or fruity body...) to them 'over there'...

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Paranoia in extremis

Interestingly, just when things really heat up around the economic situation (coupled with new heights of political scandals) in Romania, the country starts to suffer of a classic case of projectile paranoia. At least its media and political figures do...

My term projectile paranoia is made-up based on Ray Bradbury's classic thought about how a society, when can't find any good reasons to explain and defuse its own problems, will start projecting them outwards (pointing at other countries and external forces) or will find enemies within.

Well, at the moment the Romanian media is discussing how the country is surrounded by hostile neighbours... Well, on one level, it is quite true that being neighbour with a country like Romania (which oscillates between subtle subversive attacks and downright fits of fascism) is difficult.

The list is quite interesting, but not quite in the manner that media tries to depict it. Yes, Romania had its fair share of tensions with the Ukraine...

With Hungary, as usual, the matter of Hungarian minority issues and excesses of the extreme right on both sides have made relationships difficult - and in the last few months, tragicomic and childish acts around the much debated autonomy of a region in Transylvania have heated things up so dangerously that it got close to tensions that preceded the pogroms of 1990.

With Serbia, it has minority problems but in reverse... tensions are there because of the situation of Romanian minority in Serbia.

With Bulgaria, it had a number of 'incidents' and issues with the border, namely on both sides of the Danube.

And then, perhaps most ironically, recently its relationship with Moldova has taken a beating... while demonstrators were taking a real beating on the streets of Chisinau in Moldova... Romanian media and the political luminaries have been foaming about the rights over that territory, proclaiming injustices and even calling Moldova ancient Romanian territory.

Well, it is just fundamentally funny and ironic, how the country so riddled with layers and circles of the extreme right and downright fascist circles in government can taste its own medicine...

Anyway, somehow, while several very high profile politicians had their immunity removed, some jailed, others under criminal investigation (because in a country of out-of-control Mafiosi some are so bad that even the Mafiosi need to get them thrown in jail), economic situation with unprecedented problems etc. etc. ... somehow everything can be put down to the fact that, well, poor country is surrounded by such unfriendly neighbours... and the country is a sorry victim of dark forces...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The greed for information

While several times Britain has been singled out when it came to surveillance tactics, so-called anti-terror 'strategy' that is taking pages out of the totalitarian states' secret police cookbooks, its databases called illegal... nothing ever happened internally or externally to actually DO something about these issues.

Not sure the new scandal will do much, but finally, Britain is actually targeted by the EC and latter started legal action.

A new advertising technology called Phorm was a while ago tested on BT internet users - it is a behavioural advertising service. The trick is, it gathered information about the users without their consent. Furthermore, Britain has actually said that it is perfectly fine under European data laws... well, it wasn't.

Last year, Phorm received clearance from the Home Office and police closed a file on BT trials of the technology which looked into their legality. The UK government said last year the technology could only be rolled out if users had given their consent and it was easy for people to opt out.

It is the same government that ignored international laws and its databases with personal data have been labelled illegal by international judicial committee...

Also, the EC remarked quite nicely, that it is very "concerned that the UK does not have an independent national supervisory authority to deal with the intentional interceptions of user data.". Well, surprise, surprise...

Anything and everything was, is and will be committed under the so-called terror strategy (which, by now, has really become a terrorising strategy, if we just count the fundamental human rights violations it brought)... It is a strange coincidence, that exactly the country which (apart from US and China) has beaten all records on (il)legal surveillance, allows an 'advertising technology' to spiral out of control.

Surely, they can read and could have checked (if they wanted to) whether it satisfies fundamental legislation - but, greed for information is blinding them by now.

What fascinates the more lucid ones amongst us, is that the acts of this Government by now resonate letter by letter with what a paranoid delusional mind obsessed with conspiracy theories would think up.

Just shows that under this Government, in this former citadel of democracy, reality beats any paranoid delusion.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Databases

While the British Home Secretary was busy with her 'terror stratergy', a few things happened.

The funnier even was the discovery that her husband paid for a few porn movies and these were listed on the expense claim she signed for. So taxpayer even picks up the tab for the esteemed Home Secretary's husband's porn movies...

The less funny event was that about a quarter of the Government's databases held on people have been deemed illegal. Not that it matters...

After many high-profile data loss scandals, the report examined 46 public sector systems. A quarter of them were "almost certainly" illegal under human rights or data protection laws.

Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, said: "Britain's database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster which is penalising some of the most vulnerable members of our society."

Funnily, the Government said it was "never losing sight" of its obligations under the data protection and human rights acts. Ah yes, so the absolutely incredible data loss scandals are then quite an attack of blindness...