Monday, February 27, 2006

CDT: Developing technology make surveillance easier

The CDT have issued a new report calling for privacy laws to be strengthened, since developing technologies have made surveillance so much easier.

On the same subject, John Dean has been explaining why the warrantless wiretapping approved by President Bush, should be of concern to US citizens. He's bothered about the widely overlooked problem with data mining of false positives - targetting the wrong people as suspects; and also the potential for hackers to tap into the vast databases of personal information and wreak havoc. He has an unnecessary dig at "young people" for being unconcerned about privacy and concluded by saying his generation will fight for the right to "prevent the zeal of good intention in fighting terror, from letting the terrorists win by permitting the government to take those rights."

He's right about false positives being a big problem. Of equal concern is the false negatives, where those who are plotting dangerous criminal attacks are labelled with a clean bill of anti-terror health. Likewise the external hacker attacks are an issue especially if the system security is poor but of potentially greater concern is the potential for ill-intentioned insiders to also compromise the system. With these big systems you have to look at how they fail - how they fail naturally and how they can be made to fail by someone with malign intent both on the inside and the outside.

Neither, in the wake of reports from Human Rights First, the UK parliament's Human Rights committee, the Council of Europe and Amnesty International, is President Bush the sole target of those concerned with civil rights. This morning Andreas Whittam Smith and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent are both having a go at Tony Blair. They're particularly annoyed at the prime minister's attempts to sidestep questions on Guantanamo Bay and US rendition through the UK of US terrorist suspects for torture in other parts of the world. Mr BLair said Guantanamo Bay was an anomaly and that people should spend more time focussing on the terrorist threat to the UK and the US than on the possibility that the UK and the US might be facilitating torture. Alibhai-Brown:

"So, Guantanamo Bay is an "anomaly" is it Mr Blair? Caging, manacling, beating, isolating, threatening, terrorising, torturing 500 - fathers, brothers, husbands, sons - seems to you just an oddity, an eccentricity, a peculiarity then? How could you not choke on your own words and splutter with shame even as you uttered them?"

Whittam Smith:

"If I could know that cruel treatment of terrorist suspects would reduce the risk of being blown up on the London Underground which I use every day, would I say "go ahead"? Mr Blair would say "yes" in case he is blamed for my death. I say "no". I would rather risk my life more than I already do than be part of a society that uses torture or its results for any reason whatsoever."

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