Friday, September 03, 2010

The incredible shrinking public domain: James Boyle talk at ORGCon 2010

[ORGCon 2010] James Boyle: The Incredible Shrinking Public Domain from Open Rights Group on Vimeo.

ORGCON James Boyle Interview

ORGCON James Boyle Interview from Open Rights Group on Vimeo.

Robert Fisk on Tony Blair

I've been avoiding the UK press for the past few days because of the obsessive focus on the former prime minister, Tony Blair. But Robert Fisk's seething piece, Blair should take responsibility for Iraq. But he won't. He can't, in today's Independent is worth a read.
"Has this wretched man learned nothing? On and on, it went during his BBC interview...
Yes, "people" disagreed about the war. "People always want to look for a conspiracy." And – my favourite – "this debate will go on." But it's not a bloody debate – it's a bloody, blood-soaked disaster, for which Blair should take responsibility. But he won't. He can't...
It was the old story. Blair wasn't as bad as Saddam. And Blair's nicer than Hitler, more sympathetic than Stalin, kinder than Genghis Khan. Nope. This whole mess had nothing to do with Lord Blair. "You have to have the courage to do what you think is right." But "thinking" is not good enough. I hope the air-raid sirens in Isfahan are in good working order."
I just hope Fisk is wrong about 'this wretched man' having a significant influence in future over potential military adventures involving Iran.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

US Muslims are ordinary people too

A Land Called Paradise - Kareem Salama - American Muslims

'Film Description

In December 2007, over 2,000 American Muslims were asked what they would wish to say to the rest of the world. This is what they said. A music video for Kareem Salama's "A Land Called Paradise."

Produced and directed by Lena Khan. A MAS Media Foundation Production.

Kareem is American born with Egyptian parents whose music style is a result of his unique upbringing in Oklahoma with exposure to US western and Native American cultures.'

Ireland opposes EU bid to give Israel access to personal data

One of the things that has concerned me for a long time about the decision making processes in the EU is their inherent opt out nature and the way that bureaucrats and their political bosses make plans and then go ahead with them as long as they are not actively opposed.  Regardless of how wide reaching these plans might be.  Proposals get rubber stamped, without due consideration, at high level committees because the members of the committees have neither the time nor the interest in scrutinising them in detail and this is particularly true when plans can be routed through committees that they are not really related to - as was the case with the various attempts to get software patents approved by sending them through agriculture and fisheries councils of ministers.

The latest controversial EU plan is to allow Israel access to sensitive personal data of EU citizens. The general rule is that sensitive personal data cannot be transferred to 'third countries', i.e. a country outside the EU, unless the country concerned ensures an 'adequate' level of data protection. The operation of the rule in practice has been severely criticised by privacy advocates for many years.  It is arguable for example that a number of the countries already on the approved EU  'third country' list, including the US despite their data safe harbour provisions, have data protection regimes that do not meet the minimum EU standards.

The inclusion of Israel on the approved third country list is a sensitive issue for Ireland at the moment, however, due to the reported use of forged Irish passports by an Israeli hit squad targeting a Hamas military commander earlier this year, in a hotel in Dubai.  Forged UK passports were also involved but there is no indication yet that the UK government are concerned about Israel becoming an approved third country.

Whether or not the Irish ministers suceed in temporarily blocking Israel's access to this data (and yes it will be only temporary) the dispute is no more than a blip in the vast ocean of the personal data collection/processing/use/abuse/pollution systemic mess that we face as a global society.  The way we and future generations deal with that mess is likely to be one of the defining features of the 21st century.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gadget Show campaign on broadband speeds

The Gadget Show has launched a campaign to get ISPs to be more honest in their advertising about the real speeds that people can expect from their broadband services.  Ofcom and various consumer groups have complained to ISPs for some years about misleading adverstising but to little real effect. TV shows, fortunately or unfortunately, can have a power that transcends mere official regulators or civil society.  They seem, at least, to have more impact in rousing the masses to take an interest in a particular issue, so this particular campaign will be an interesting one to watch.

Perhaps Jason Bradbury (who my kids hugely admire and call "a big kid" with his seemingly boundless enthusiasm for technology) and his Gadget Show colleagues will have a little more impact than previous efforts to shift the communications companies' behaviour.

Incidentally, if you do have kids in the 9+ bracket, I can recommend Jason Bradbury's books, Dot Robot and Atomic Swarm. Fun adventure stories.

Hari Prasad released on bail

Hari Prasad has reportedly been released on bail. From Alex Halderman, Prasad's co-researcher:
FLASH: 4:47 a.m. EDT August 28 — Indian e-voting researcher Hari Prasad was released on bail an hour ago, after seven days in police custody. Magistrate D. H. Sharma reportedly praised Hari and made strong comments against the police, saying Hari has done service to his country.
Ed Felten says it's time for India to face its voting problems.
The unjustified arrest of Indian e-voting researcher Hari Prasad, while an ordeal for Prasad and his family, and an embarrassment to the Indian authorities, has at least helped to focus attention on India’s risky electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Sadly, the Election Commission of India, which oversees the country’s elections, is still sticking to its position that the machines are “perfect” and “fully tamperproof”, despite evidence to the contrary including convincing peer-reviewed research by Prasad and colleagues, not to mention the common-sense fact that no affordable electronic device can ever hope to be perfect or tamperproof. The Election Commission can no longer plausibly deny that EVM vulnerabilities exist. The time has come for India to have an honest, public conversation about how it votes.
The starting point for this discussion must be to recognize the vulnerabilities of EVMs. Like paper ballots, the ballots stored in an EVM are subject to tampering during and after the election, unless they are monitored carefully. But EVMs, unlike paper ballots, are also subject to tampering before the election, perhaps months or years in advance. Indeed, for many EVMs these pre-election vulnerabilities are the most serious problem.