traffic data retention.

Ever wondered what the legal situation regarding internet traffic data retention by ISPs and governmental access is in EU countries? Don’t look further, saveprivacy.org has a note sent by the general secretariat of the EU council to the EU’s Multidisciplinary Group on Organised Crime (MDG) that outlines the current legal situation as well as possible future projects with respect to traffic data retention.

almost a diary

National Security Update.

Lillimarleen tells us about “the real state” of national security in the United Kingdom.

According to several news reports Aaron Baarschak, a comedian, crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday party by climbing over a Windsor Castle wall wearing a false beard, a turban and a pink dress. According to newspaper reports, he climbed on the stage, took the microphone from the Prince and began a stand-up comedy performance, and later even kissed the Prince on the cheek while drinking champagne before security realised he was not exactly invited.

Now the British home secretary will have to explain to Parliament tomorrow how that could happen and why it can never happen again…

Here’s my cliffnote for David Blunkett – don’t bother.

People entering “secure” areas without proper security clearance happens all the time, works all the time. It cost me five minutes to explain to a nice female police officer in NYC last year that I had to get into the sealed off UN area to meet a friend at the Finnish embassy… [which was true and I never intened to do anything but meeting her, so said officer made – though not formally – the right decision to let me in] and in Britain, even in September 2001, there were a lot of people who joked that the only thing 911 had changed with respect to security in the Westminster was that before, one person did not check security clearances – now there are two of them…

And don’t forget the guy who is on most European head of state summit photographs, just for the fun of it [and for reminding the world that European heads of state don’t actually know all their counterparts…].


A Few Bits Too Much.

Just in case you haven’t yet heard about it, humanity’s decade-old suspicion has apparently finally been verified. It looks like Microsoft is indeed collecting more data about its customers than necessary via recent versions of its “Windows Update System”, according to a German computer website, tecchannel.de [link in German], which has deciphered the encrypted stream of bits sent to Redmond during any update of Windows.

Luckily, there’s help. In fact, heise.de[link in German] points to a Microsoft White Paper cryptically called Using Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 in a Managed Environment: Controlling Communication with the Internet describing how to deactivate the system.

But don’t ask me – I did not read it. It’s only 172 pages of small print…

If it weren’t so serious, it might actually be funny. Last year, Apple’s German pricing policy kept me from buying the new Imac, but now Bill seems to update his efforts to drive me to Apple’s gates…


I’m scared.

Is this world still a place worth living in? Will there be a time in which people will regard novels and films like “1984“, “Blade Runner“, or “Gattaca” as prophecies and praise their creators for their vision and their content for historical accuracy? I sure hope there won’t.

But let’s face it – digital and biological technology is not always a friend of someone already worried about the state and future of civil liberties on this planet. Today, wired news reports that a signal emitting implantable chip is now on sale in the US – as a security device.

We’re still living in a (sort of) free world. But the prospects of digital totalitarianism are getting better – vigilance is clearly needed these days.


Times are(n’t) a changing?

I am reading William Easterly’s account of the “Elusive Quest For Growth” in the developing world. This is a quote from page 25.

“On March 6, 1957, the Gold Coast, a small British colony became the first nation of sub-Saharan Africa to gain its independence. I renamed itself Ghana. […] Vice President Richard nixon led the American delegation. (According to one source, Nixon asked a group of black journalists, ‘What does it fell like to be free?’ ‘We don’t know,’ they replied, ‘we’re from Alabama.’)”

Thought it’s worth noting after yesterday’s entry about the NYTimes article about that imaginary homicide case in Alabama.


Civil Right (wings) in the US.

JustitiaSeriously, what is going on with civil rights in the US? Last week I already reported NYTimes articles regarding the jailing of half a community of apparently innocent black people for alleged drug dealing in Tulia, Texas, US.

Now the NYTimes reports another instance of “jurisprudence” that makes me want to vomit. This time the incident has been taking place in Alabama. Apparently, three mentally ill black people have been talked into confessing to manslaughter of a non-existing baby and have accordingly been punished. It’s so absurd I can hardly believe it.

I must state, of course, the disclaimer that no legal system is free of flaws (implied in the word ‘system’, which in essence means that general rules are applied to individual cases in order to keep the complexity manageable. It seems therefore unavoidable to accept that a certain number of individual cases will not be dealt with adequately in any system (legal, mental, social or digital, etc.).

But that recourse is only available to non-abusive, non-biased legal systems in VERY few, VERY problematic cases. The one noted above does not seem to be difficult. But it does seem racially biased.



This is a comment made by “JDA” on Brad DeLong’s website. I find it rather insightful, now that more and more people begin to realise the consequences of the post 9-11 abrogations of civil liberties throughout the Western world.

Here is William Butler Yeats, addressing the Irish Senate on a bill that would give new powers to the Minister of Justice: The Government does not intend these things to happen, the Commission on whose report the Bill was founded did not intend these things to happen, but in legislation intention is nothing, and the letter of the law everything, and no government has the right, whether to flatter fanatics or in mere vagueness of mind, to forge an instrument of tyranny and say that it will never be used. (Quoted in Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century at 204 (2000))

I might post an email exchange I had with the office of the leader of the FDP shortly after 9-11 on that topic later.