Losing one’s way

Over the last few days, the Guardian has broken the story of the illegal use of personal data in the US 2016 general election. We are now waiting for the trail to come back to UK politics, in particular, the use of Cambridge Analytica (or one of its associates) by the alliance of Leave organisations. The data was stolen from Facebook, but it seems they knew for two years and there is some argument as to their corporate complicity. Their Chief Information Security Officer has been on the way out since the end of last year and some stories suggest it’s because he argued for greater openness in co-operating with the enquiries into Russian state sourced fake news.

Citizens, their representatives and law makers have been arguing that IT companies should have a duty to report security breaches to law enforcement and the EU is introducing such a law now; such Laws exist in California which is where Facebook is headquartered. We should also note that their duty to protect their users personal data is governed by the US privacy laws, the now defunct EU Safe Harbour agreement and its successor, the Privacy Shield.

It is a fact that many US business executives (and their employees) consider the European Data Protection laws as non-tariff import barriers, not that this should matter but I have no doubt that considerable time has been spent in determining where the line between legality and illegal activity stands.

There are several factors in the US political culture which often makes it hard for the US to obey foreign laws, one of them being, that they often have difficulty in legitimising their own laws and law enforcement.

This is, to me, summarised in the 10th Amendment, one of the Bill of Rights amendments to the US Constitution.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

There is a beauty to the sentiment and an economy to the words, but they are a fundamental challenge to the rule of law. (Is this a bit extreme?) Even if not, when taken in conjunction with the Citizen’s United ruling which upheld the citizen’s free speech rights for an association can be taken to mean that corporations have citizenship rights.

The US tradition of a people’s access to justice, showcased by the Judge Judy show is also admirable, if a bit bizarre to UK eyes but it is another dimension of the US commitment to rights and the rule of law; they’e just a bit weaker in understanding collective and inalienable rights, such as privacy (except from Government).

We have the growing dichotomy between companies Legal and Compliance teams, with Legal advising under the protection of client/attorney privilege in the best interests of their clients and Compliance having a duty to the public advising how not to break the Law.

One can see how US Companies might lose their way. It’s nothing to be proud of though, the UK route to corruption is just shorter as currently viewing the C4 news program on Cambridge Analytica will show.

Do politicians understand? They may not understand the details of the tech., but they do understand Human Rights law and the rule of law, although some of the House of Commons are to quote the shadow chancellor “Fucking Useless”, and the select committees could do with better advisors;  the purpose of the witnesses is to deliver this advice and knowledge, but you need to know the questions and understand the answers. You need a nose for a cover up and to know the 2nd question. …

The subversion of democracy by big data

The subversion of democracy by big data

The fabulous Carol Cadwalladyr brings us the next instalment of undoing the surveillance states control over our democracies.

In an article “The Great British Brexit Robbery”, she and the Guardian showed how the Tories and the Brexit Leave Campaigns had used US Data Aanlytics companies to influence the Brexit referendum. It is alleged that the personal data was obtained illegally, its processing was illegal and that it was an undeclared election/referendum expense. The evidence was sufficient for the Information Commissioner’s Office and the Electoral Commission to launch investigations.

Over the last two days, Facebook have suspended Cambridge Analytica & one other company and the latter’s Principal for breaking their terms and conditions and in one case a breach of contract not to pass data on. The story is reported in the Guardian in a story called, “‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower” , which documents the contractual paper trial. This happened two years ago and it is alleged that Facebook knew of it then. It is a crime in many jurisdictions, including California to not notify either the regulators or the data subjects of a breach/leak of personal data.

Sadly 🤔 they have been accused of misleading the House of Commons, select committee inquiry into Fake News. It has been denied that Cambridge Analytica had Facebook data in a verbal submission. Its Chair, Damian Collins, is quite forthright, accusing Facebook of sending under informed representatives to answer the committee’s questions. The word wilful ignorance comes to mind.

As Brits, we need to see if crimes were committed during the 2015 & 2017 General Elections and/or the Brexit Refrendum but this can’t be good for Facebook’s reputation.


I wish we still had Storify, this is one for them.

The image is from the Guardian on the story on Parliament’s reaction. …

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?

What’s a (LP) conference delegate do?

You need to be in the conference room for the debates (and votes). It runs from Sunday through to Wednesday lunch and ends with the Leader’s speech. It is likely that Woman’s Conference will be on the preceding Saturday. The most important task is to represent your members by voting on motions, rule changes, reports from the NEC, Officers and the National Policy Forum and in elections because some elections are still conducted at conference. Since a delegation is responsible for representing the organisation that sent it, it is expected that the delegation should vote together …

The right to strike

The right to strike

Last November, my Union branch invited Gemma Short of the Right to Strike campaign to talk about the need to change the Trade Union Laws. I have reported the speech and discussion on the branch’s web site, and shall précis it here.

The Thatcher Government’s changed the law significantly and non of the Government’s since have repealed those changes. The key changes have been the mandatory need for individual balloting for strike decisions and the prohibition of solidarity action. The full details have been documented in a House of Commons Research Paper,

Labour’s 2017 Manifesto promised to repeal the 2016 Trade Union act, which further limited picketing, introduced turnout thresholds for ballots, gave employers the right to refuse to deduct union fees from the payroll and that,

A Labour government will ensure Britain abides by the global Labour standards of the ILO conventions.

This is more radical than it sounds since most of Thatcher’s laws are in breach of the ILO standards.

We concluded that the effective right to organise is the workers defence against discrimination and exploitation and today’s Laws have a chilling effect on that right to organise and to take effective action. …

Block Votes

On my way to the pub, after the local labour party General Committee, someone described weighted voting as “block votes”. In truth that’s all it is and was; a delegate or representative has a vote in proportion to their mandate.

I think we were talking about the Local Campaign Forum, where it seems that Deptford has more members than the other two participating CLPs combined. Perhaps we should have more delegates. …

CLPD ’18

Over the week end, I attended the CLPD AGM. The highlights were reported on Skwawk Box in two articles, “Hell Breaking Loose at CLPD AGM over ‘Ann Black’, Motion to depose Willsman” and “CLPD Debate Motion to support Formby and ask Lansman to stand down for Labour JENSEC”. He’s pretty much right. Pete Willsman wanted Ann Black to stay on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) slate, Momentum and the LRC didn’t. Despite that the slate still has not been published. Christine Shawcroft, an ally of John Lansman and the co-Director of the company that owns the momentum database decided to challenge Pete Willsman for the position of National Secretary of the CLPD. Her nomination was ruled out of order since it was too late, so she moved an emergency motion to rule it in time, the vote on whether the motion was an emergency was lost on the 3rd count. 😀

In the afternoon , the LRC, in what I’d like to call a counter attack, moved a motion calling on Jon Lansman to withdraw from the General Secretary appointment process and to support Jennie Formby. This was pretty conclusively carried. In both cases, I voted for non-agression, in favour of Willsman and against taking a line between Formby and Lansman. This was completely unedifying. Why Lansman is standing would seem to be incomprehensible. It may have something to do with attempting to influence the Brownian motion of the ideological planets within Corbyn’s office and Lansman’s attempts to maximise the voice of the individual members against the Union bureaucrats. He makes an unlikely champion.

That’s all that happened, the platform filibustered the motions which were not discussed; I am not sure why, possible they didn’t want clarity on fighting the purge or opening up the process by which CLGA slates are chosen.

On the upside I was elected to their National Committee.

On my way home, I met a well known activist from up north, who said they were never coming back. It’s how I felt in 2015, but CLPD is too important to ignore. Other friends were refused a vote for applying too late and stayed at home, they may have had a better day. …

Brexit’s Red Lines

Last month, was it really under 30 days ago, Michael Barnier produced a slide, showing the impact of the British Government’s self-imposed Red lines on the likely end-state of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

It shows that the only option is a bespoke trade deal on the lines of the Canadian/EU one, which famously took 7 years to negotiate.  It also shows that the only other option is a No Deal Brexit. …

Investigatory Powers revisited

Investigatory Powers revisited

In December, the CJEU stated that the British and Swedish investigatory powers laws were in contravention to the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. This was in the case of the UK partly based on the litigation started by Tom Watson MP, initially with David Davies MP. This was reported in the Register, here, and the Guardian here.  The Open Rights Group have asked for people to engage in the Home Office consultation; they propose to put a judicial warrant requirement on investigation requests for suspect internet data. This blog discusses my contribution. If you want to follow me, you’ll have to be quick the consultation closes tomorrow. …


I came across this article in the New Statesman, called, “The Bennites’ revenge: how Jeremy Corbyn and his allies survived political exile”, and what fascinated me is the statement that Blair and David Miliband’s failure to aggressively support the social democratic tendencies and projects of the EU are one of the foundations of the failure to vote remain in the referendum.

The author, Prof. Jeremy Gilbert also looks at the US’s journey from supporting Social Democracy as a weapon against the radicalisation of the working class in western Europe during the cold war to Reagan’s initiating of the neoliberal world order after the fall of the wall and the Soviet Union. He also tracks the politics/media nexus amongst both Labour and Tories arguing that the right invented the threat of the federal super state to copy the US’s neo-con politics of insurgency.

His central argument is that Corbyn and his close allies are recognisably free from the US’s “Special Relationship” and the malign influence of the UK’s right wing press. Today this is an advantage,

It;s a great read and I am now following him on feedly and academi.edu; on his blog he points at a Compass Project, a podcast series, that he was involved in called a Beginners Guide to the Labour Party. …