London Labour’s European Circus comes to Deptford

Last night, Lewisham Deptford held its hustings meeting for London Labour’s European parliamentary selections. The new candidates all came to New Cross, made their pitches and then we asked about TTIP, what would make them a good MEP, will they fight for the class, or give in like New Labour, do they support two seats for the European Parliament, what should the EU do about Climate Change? …

Have the US killed their cloud business?

As the proof that Governments are spying on social media users is found, we should all take measures to make it hard. I am sure that they’ll try and outlaw encryption next, but they might have a problem with that since it’ll kill e-commerce. Talking of killing e-commerce, a number of commentators, including David Kirkpatrick posting at linkedin are asking if this will cause Europeans and their Governments to withdraw from the US cloud providers.

The Swedish Government, for instance have already decided to abandon Google’s web services. …

Stable doors and missing horses, tightening up on personal I.T. security

One conclusion I have come to after the weekend since the securocrats, like the copyright monopolists seem to never give up is that we need to equip ourselves properly. I plan to train myself to use ixquick’s search engine, and open a jabber account. ixquick do not require a login, and thus can’t tie an IP address to an identity and they do not log what is done. They are planning a secure mail service. They are a Dutch company, with a US subsidiary. I wonder where the computers are? Is this over the top, or will Firefox private windows be enough? …

A letter to Yvette Cooper and Sadiq Kahn

Dear Yvette and Sadiq,

At the Open Rights Group’s annual meeting, ORGCON 2013, which was held last week end under the shadow of the Guardian’s scoop exposing the US Government’s industrial  scale invasion of the rest of the world’s privacy, one of the panel sessions was on the subject of the stalled Communications Data Bill.

Julian Hupert MP was speaking and said that Clegg’s veto on Parliamentary time will ensure that unacceptable legislation will not get through this Parliament. He referenced the pre-legislative joint parliamentary committee, the report from which was unanimous but stated that the Labour Party supported the passage of a revised version of the Communications Data Bill. He said this in the context of his inaccurate boast that only Lib Dem vote in 2015 will ensure that the UK never has such a surveillance system.

The passage of the Communications Data Bill would have enabled a surveillance system that the Statsi would have been proud off. The Joint Committee rightly described it as disproportionate and fanciful.  Yvette welcomed the report, saying,

…this gives too much wide ranging power to the Home Office, provides too little protection for people’s privacy, and no proper safeguards over cost.

As we know, the Home Office have no intention of giving up, and events in Woolwich last month when Drummer Lee Rigby was attacked and killed became the event which leads to the Securocrats, including some of Labour’s own ex-Home Secretaries calling for the Bill’s reintroduction.

In the BBC’s reporting of this story, they say,

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan told the BBC the original bill would have given the home secretary too much power, been too expensive and did not have the right checks and balances.

“If she [the home secretary] wants to come back with a new bill, of course we will work with the government to make sure we can give the police and the authorities the proportionate powers that they need,” he said.

I note that Sadiq does not diminish the Labour Party front bench’s commitment to proportional powers, balancing the police need to investigate with the public’s right of privacy. I read Sadiq’s comments as a promise to discuss timetables. I hope I am right.

The BBC reports today an open letter signed by three Labour ex-Home Secretaries, together with two Tories and one Lib Dem peer, Lord Carlile, asking that the Tories work with Labour in Parliament to revive the Communications Data Bill. I am unable to comment on the extent to which they are concerned about the privacy intrusions inherent in the previous bill since the BBC did not publish the letter which is to be published in the Times presumably behind a pay wall; I do not propose to pay the Murdoch press to read it.

Privacy is an issue of importance to the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement. The last time Government extended the Police and security services surveillance powers they were used against ordinary workers and activists who were organising strikes to defend their wages and jobs. They did this under the excuse of national security.  Today we see the continued victimisation and blacklisting of trade union activists by the building and construction trade, almost certainly in contravention to the current privacy laws. Prior to that MI5 were bugging and spying on leading civil liberty campaigners including Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt.

The creation of a database with the UK citizen’s web history would be a mistake of gravest order. Not only is it unlikely that it could be kept secret from unscrupulous bosses and other criminals but it is likely that Judges would incrementally extend the crimes which it is valid to use this data for. It may start with Terrorism but it will be extended via child protection to computer misuse. The UK will follow the USA into the lunacy where rapists get lighter punishment than their pursuers. (See i.e. google “Steubenville Hacker”). None of this will make the people of Britain any safer.

Furthermore there is no judicial oversight in today’s systems. Who is targeted is in the hands of politicians; their decision making is secret. It should be the cornerstone of our opposition. Police action that breaches our Article 8 rights to privacy should be overseen by judges.

You should also consider the defence of Parliamentary Privilege and the Wilson Doctrine; the UK Intelligence services are currently prohibited from monitoring MPs.

Privacy is a Human Right. Privacy is necessary in a democracy for political organisation.

You have the opportunity to continue to do the right thing, to balance the privacy of the British people against their safety from terrorists. Please do not backtrack on requiring any extension of Police powers to be proportionate and effective. The sad thing is that Labour’s record in power is such that allegations that we would support the unwarranted

The best way to defend democracy is to be one. …

Who wins when copyright and free speech clash?

The short answer is, I suppose, it depends on which courts you sue in. (This article at Torrent Freak shows what happened when the Pirate Bay claimed Free Speech rights; both the Swedish courts and the ECtHR ruled against them. If watching the Good Wife, you’ll believe that  free speech is a recognised defence for copyright infringement and monopolistic behaviour), however probably has a more accurate and less optimistic view as to the power of the First Amendment in the USA. …


The next session, called “Naked Citizens! The Data Protection Regulation and why you should care about it”.

The speakers were Anna Fielder from Privacy International, David Smith, the Deputy Information Commissioner and Kasey Chappele, a Lawyer from Vodafone. Fortunately for Kasey, no-one asked about about Vodafone’s Tax Affairs. She went through some of Vodafone’s route to where they are today, and they are quite proud of where they’ve got to. Critically, she argued that while Privacy is seen as a compliance issue, it won’t improve, it’s only when companies start to compete on Privacy that managers will treat Privacy as more than a burden. …

Tim Wu speaks

I got there late, but in time to hear the end of Tim Wu’s opening  key note. His comments about the failure to build a peer-to-peer internet stimulated an interest. His book, “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires” examines the evolution of information networks from radio through TV and Cable to the Internet, so I have ordered it. It’ll be interesting to compare, contrast and possibly integrate his ideas with those of Benkler and Perez. While researching for the article that eventually became Municipal WiFi, now over 1½ years old, I was interested in the funding and technology problems faced by public sector organisations. Some hackers have considered making wireless access gateways peer-to-peer, particularly in France while the Hadoopi laws were being debated and passed, but we are still running an internet of hubs and spokes, in the words of the Register, modeled on the command and control systems used in the Soviet Union. …

The end of economic growth

Earlier this month, the Guardian in its Economics’ Blog, published an article called “Are the UK growth pessimists right?” The article itself is unclear, partly because it wants to make the point that Social Democrats need growth to painlessly share the wealth more equitably and fund their social investment programs. The article argues that UK economic indicators are beginning to look up, that doomsayers have always been wrong before and that technological innovations have always revitalised capitalism. …