Life continues

Life continues

The noise about Ubuntu Linux has increased over the last couple of days, much of it critical. I have been aware that the Open Source militants have for a long time had a down on it and Canonical for bundling proprietary software with the distro (coadecs and now graphic card drivers) and they have taken some odd diversions in their path to today ( Amazon Search Bar, I am talking about you), but it has a a commitment to a usable free desktop and server operating system and it’s not owned by a proprietary software company and is not a competitive weapon in the systems market, unlike say Red Hat who “own” Fedora, RHEL and Centos. The industrialisation of Red Hat was funded by IBM as a competitive weapon against Solaris and HP/UX and who now own it and offer it as their O/S of choice for their Intel servers.  At a meeting I attended, Richard Stallman expressed his tests as: does it do surveillance, doe it have restrictions (against the four freedoms) and does it have backdoors and documents his then use of GNewSense, a Debian derivative. He also argued, correctly, that one can’t know if the software is free of these defects unless one can read the code. I wonder how many of these Linux distributions meet these tests today?

My review of the meeting might be worth having another look at, unlike some of what I write, it has aged well. …

What I said on the surveillance state

What I said on the surveillance state

I took my “surveillance society/human rights law” motion to my CLP GC last week. This is the speech I intended to give, it runs for about 2 mins; I had to cut it down.

In 2013, Edward Snowden, a contractor at the US’s National Security Agency blew the whistle on the NSA, and it’s five-eyes’ allies attempt to bug the whole of the internet, exposing the lengths that the intelligence services were prepared to go in building a surveillance society.

A debate exploded about the legality of their activities and we came to see the importance of their failed attempts under both Labour & Coalition Governments to legalise their activities with the Communications Data Bill versions 1 & 2.

In 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union struck down the Data Retention Directive as in violation of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights; in the UK a law was rapidly passed to leave the rights of the intelligence services in place.

Over time these surveillance powers have been extended by via both Legislation such as the Immigration Act, the Counter Terrorism and Security act which authorises Prevent and by “voluntary” agreement such as the #getitrightfromagenuine site programme.

This has been capped of by Theresa May’s Investigatory Powers Act, which has since been declared in contravention of the Charter of Fundamental Rights because the captured information can be retrieved for reasons other than serious crime and these retrievals are not reviewed by a Judge.

To this list we should add the Data Protection Act’s immigration exception, which means that immigration data is not subject to the GDPR rights of accessibility and correction.

At the centre of this is the intelligence service’s desire to treat everyone as suspects and to infringe their privacy without proving “reasonable suspicion”.

This is also about political power and how to exercise it; these measures are designed to take power away from us, from citizens and our neighbours.

If you look at the laws that underwrite the surveillance society, Immigration, Counter Terrorism and the DPA Immigration exception, you can see that the first victims of the surveillance society are migrants and ethnic minorities.

We should say and conference must state that freedom of expression and the right to privacy are universal human rights, that the current surveillance and investigatory powers regime is in breach of these rights.

It’s time for Labour to get on the right side of this debate, for too long the portfolio has been in the hands of fans of, or those that fear the securocrats.

250 words is too short to make the whole argument which is why I propose a commission to develop the policy further.

This motion is unlikely to be passed elsewhere so it’d be great if you voted for it and agreed to send it to conference.

The motion carried but we decided to send a great motion on social care. Does anyone have time to put it to conference? …

Labour and the Surveillance State

I am planning to get a motion on the Justice and the Surveillance State to LP Conference, I asked for help in this article on this blog, and I believe the final words for CLPD are very similar to my version 2. Here they are,

Investigatory Powers to be subject to Human Rights Law

Conference notes the absence from the NPF Report 2018 of the surveillance society.

Conference notes the continual use of surveillance powers in the private and public sectors authorised by law, or government programme including:

  • Investigatory Powers Act 2016,
  • Immigration Act 2014
  • Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015
  • Digital Economy Acts 2017/2010,
  • Data Protection Act 2018

Conference notes that the IPA 2016 and DEA 2010 were both interdicted by the CJEU as contrary to Human Rights Law and/or the EU acquis.

The intrusive programmes include Prevent and ‘get it right from a genuine site’.

Conference believes that freedom of expression and the right to privacy are universal human rights, that the current surveillance and investigatory powers regime is in breach of these rights.

Conference resolves that a Labour Government will ensure that private and public surveillance technologies and systems will conform to laws that meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, including a need to prove reasonable suspicion before collecting evidence and the right to a fair trial with the principle of innocent until proved guilty.

Conference calls on the Labour Party to draw up a Human Rights based policy for the regulation of British Law Enforcement authorities and their investigatory powers. This to include the abolition of Prevent, the repeal of the 2014 Immigration Act and the repeal of the immigration data exception established by the DPA 2018.

Conference instructs the relevant Policy Commission to launch a consultation on Surveillance and Justice to report to Conference 2020.

If you can get it to Conference that would be very helpful.

I have put the words in a word document,  Motion on Investigatory Powers for Lab19., or in a .pdf if you prefer, Motion on Investigatory Powers for Lab19. …

On Investigatory Powers, yet again

Time for another go on getting some decent policy against the surveillance state and against privatised investigatory powers. Here’s my first draft.

Investigatory Powers to be subject to Human Rights Law

Conference notes that the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 legalised the UK intelligence services to collect telecommunication usage data on all UK residents, now ruled as contrary to human rights law.

Conference notes the Immigration Act 2014 and Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 requires numerous private & public sector organisations to collect personal data about their customers, users or charges.

Conference notes that all immigration enforcement data has been exempted from the Data Protection Act 2018.

Conference notes that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places surveillance duties on specified authorities including educational & healthcare institutions.

Conference notes the complete absence from the NPF report 2018 on the surveillance society and the illegal investigatory powers regime introduced by the Tories in 2016.

Conference believes that freedom of expression & thought and the right to privacy are universal human rights and the current surveillance and investigatory powers regime is in breach of these rights.

Conference resolves that a Labour Government will ensure that private and public surveillance technologies and systems will conform to laws that meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, including a need to prove reasonable suspicion before collecting evidence.

Conference calls on the Labour Party to draw up a Human Rights based policy for the regulation of British Law Enforcement authorities and their investigatory powers. This to include the abolition of Prevent, the repeal of the 2014 Immigration Act and the placing of UK Borders under the auspices of the Data Protection Act.

I’d like to work something about “getitrightfromagenuinesite” in, since that’s allegedly voluntary and yet still surveillance and I should try and work something in on black listing and the public and private sector surveillance of Trade Unions, but the above …

Big Brother. No, not the TV show

The police are building a new super database combining records with “intelligence”. Liberty have withdrawn from the government consultation as they rightly feel that it’s a breach of our privacy rights and even the government admit that much/some of the data has no lawful purpose. (I see an ECHT case coming on.)

I have three comments to add.

The Guardian article states that the database will be held on a private cloud provider’s systems; if US owned, then the databases will be subject to US FISA warrants, so the “encrypted at rest” security solution had better be pretty good as the best in the world may be looking for it.

Secondly, government data leaks! The legal precedents in this country show that while the Government may build systems for one purpose, the courts may force disclosure to them in the resolution of private/civil disputes. The first Norwich Pharmacal warrant was issued against the HMRC as the plaintiff showed that the defendants tax records were relevant to the court. It seems that there is a public interest defence against these now, and ensuring the Government’s ability to keep it’s secrets would seem to be in the public interest but we’ll see.

Thirdly, the intelligence databases as noted probably fail the need for a lawful purpose, and fail to deliver most of the privacy rights legislated for by the GDPR, most obviously the need to ensure that personal data is accurate.

I am glad I am still a member of Liberty, and I’ll help them. …

Labour and Surveillance (#lab18)

In case anyone wants to try and take surveillance and privacy to #lab18. Here are some words.

Investigatory Powers to be subject to Human Rights Law.

Conference notes the report in the Register on 6th August that US Senators are challenging the NSA destruction of 4 years of phone usage records as they believe that this is in order to destroy evidence of illegal collection.

Conference notes the complete absence from the NPF report on the surveillance society and the illegal investigatory powers regime introduced by the Tories in 2016.

Conference notes that the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 legalised the use of bulk powers to allow the UK intelligence services to collect all the UK phone usage and internet usage records.

Conference notes that the intelligence services have made data on UK citizens available to the USA.

Conference notes that the exact terms of the data sharing between the UK & US are unknown

Conference notes that the Investigatory Powers Act has been ruled as contrary to EU law as it contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights which is the EU’s commitment to the European and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Conference resolves that a Labour Government will ensure that private and public surveillance technologies will conform to laws that meet the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Conference instructs the NEC/NPF to draw up a human rights based policy for the regulation of British law enforcement authorities and their investigatory powers.

218 words …

Surveillance, ignorance and a chilling effect

The Guardian, not exactly disinterested, publishes a leader on regulating Apple and its competitors. I would argue, Apple is the example of the 5th Industrial Revolution monopoly and we need to learn how to regulate it and is competitors and it is a problem for the US also. The authors  completely miss the fact that there are new forms of oppression, that of surveillance, caused by the datenkraken.

We need new forms of protest and defence even though we’ve know about it forever. It’s for this reason that we established the rights of privacy and free speech as part of the universal declaration of rights.

This quote is important, it establishes commonalities with their predecessors,

All [ the datenkraken] use remarkably few workers to generate their enormous profits. All operate an internal class system, which concentrates power in very few hands. None have any unions worth speaking of. All rely on the unglamorous work being done far from California, usually by subcontractors. All shuffle their profits around the world in an endless game of “Find the lady” with national tax authorities – a factor that should not be overlooked when it comes to asking why they are so immensely profitable. If this is the model of the company of the future, it will have consequences we have not yet learned how to manage.

They finish with,

The downside of the oil-based economy is now obvious all around us. The symptoms of apparently uncontrollable climate change have become undeniable. Cities are choked with polluting traffic while the seas are choked with plastics made from oil. Whole countries have been devastated by oil riches. The digital revolution seems, so far, much more benign. But the loss of trust that social media both causes and exploits may one day be seen as another form of unforgivable pollution.

I think this is weak, the threat is surveillance, ignorance and a chilling effect. …

Eternal vigilance

I have been pointed at China’s Social Credit Scoring plans via two routes. The first is this extract published at Wired from Rachel Botsman’s book, “Who can we trust”. This details the Chinese Governments plan to build a social credit scoring scheme, but the sources and incentives are horrendously comprehensive, including their leading match making agency. (It’s taken me some time to read this article, an I have bookmarked and annotated it in my diigo feed.) Worrying things about the Chinese scheme is that voluntary participation becomes mandatory; while rewards and incentives are at the forefront of everyone’s mind today, control and punishment is planned, in the Chinese case in the short term they are talking about foreign and domestic travel restrictions but as I note, the countries leading dating agency is one of the surveillance agencies. There is also talk of social investment loans (helicopter money) which become available on the basis of social scores.

The second route was an article on Medium by someone who got banned from AirBnB. He pointed at an article on Buzzfeed, “A Chinese-Style Digital Dystopia Isn’t As Far Away As We Think” where a series of regulatory decisions in the USA seem to be paving the way to something similar, a powerful illustration that the argument that surveillance is OK if it’s private sector is horrendously false.

One worrying aspect of the proposed Chinese system is that your reputation is as good as that of your friends and we have idiots trying to replicate it with peeple, and reading up on that has started me worrying about Linkedin and its competitors and we all know we should get off facebook.

The wired article came before machine learning and massive scale AI became a hot topic, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens to social credit scores when they let rip with the application of machine learning. The automated derivation of reputation scores also raises issues of safeguarding, libel and context. Safeguarding and libel laws require the machines to tell the truth, in fact safeguarding may require machines to hide the truth. Context requires a level of nuance that we are unsure if machines will ever have, but even if they get there, justice and judges must remain human and the code must be open; China’s & Facebook’s is not!. The GDPR gives data subjects rights, perhaps its time to revisit the seven principles.

Of course in the UK, we have our very own examples of machines and data sharing getting it wrong. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary has suspended the intra-government and some of the other immigration data sharing as a result of the backlash on the Windrush scandal. (I wonder if this I an excuse to look again at the DPA Immigration Exemption clauses.) Much of what is happening in China and the USA is also happening in the UK, it’s just that the surveillance agents are the US owned datenkraken and the British State have legalised the hacking of their data streams.

What’s happening in China is terrible, but our governments are following suit! The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. …