Snoopers’ laws could be used to ‘oppress us’, says David Cameron technology adviser – Telegraph

Ben Hammersley, a Number 10 adviser to the Tech City project, said the draft Communications Data Bill could be turned from a force for good into something more sinister under future governments.

The main aim of the Bill is to give security services like MI5 and GCHQ the ability to monitor email traffic, without actually looking at its content.

However, it is currently being revised after a committee of MPs and peers raised privacy concerns about the bill’s intrusion into people’s lives.

Asked for his views on the new laws, Mr Hammersley said the consequences could be “disastrous” in an interview with Tank magazine.

“I don’t trust future governments,” he said. “The successors of the politicians who put this in place might not be trustworthy.

via Snoopers’ laws could be used to ‘oppress us’, says David Cameron technology adviser – Telegraph.

Medals for Drone Warriors Canceled –

Under pressure, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a new military medal for drone operators and cyberwarriors, instead ordering military leaders to develop a pin or device that would be attached to existing medals or ribbons. Mr. Hagel’s predecessor, Leon E. Panetta, created the Distinguished Warfare Medal for service members like drone operators and cyberwarriors who have a major effect on a military operation but never set foot in the combat zone. Some veterans and lawmakers complained that it should not be ranked higher than traditional combat medals like the Bronze Star. On Monday, Mr. Hagel said that while those troops’ achievements should be recognized, the award should not be a stand-alone medal.

via Medals for Drone Warriors Canceled –

Why I can no longer take British Nuclear Deterrence seriously … #trident

So occasionally – not often enough – I go for tea with the most excellent Dr Lorna Arnold:

Lorna Arnold is a historian who has written a number of books connected with the British nuclear weapons programmes.

As the second official historian of the British nuclear weapons programmes, she has had access to previously secret documents and personally knew many of the people involved. Though in her 90s, she is still an active participant in intelligence/historical community debate, as evinced by her contributions to recent meetings such the Oxford Intelligence Group in 17 June 2008.

…and she tells a story of when the Iron Curtain fell, and she was invited to a conference where she finally got to meet a man who was (essentially) her opposite number on the Russian side, with considerable insight into the Russian nuclear weapons programme.

The exchange went something like this:

  • Her: What did you think of the British deterrent, of the British nuclear weapons programme?
  • Him: We didn’t even consider it. We were entirely focused on the Great Satan, on America. We never even considered the British.

…and that is why I don’t think we need a nuclear deterrent; if the headline figure is £20Bn then you can bet that the bottom line will be in the £40..100Bn range, and frankly no enemy gives a damn.

Britain either gets involved in wars where it would be unjust to use such force (“Nuke Buenos Aires? I don’t think so…”) or in hypothetical conflicts where we’d never get to use it because the Americans would beat us to the punch, if anyone.

It would be a “me too” weapon.

So why bother?  Split the money on reifying the conventional forces and on relieving national debt.

While you’re here you really should watch Lorna in full flow:

Next time you see a plea for #cybersecurity spending on more #cyberwarriors …

…check some history:

The “bomber gap” was the unfounded belief in the Cold War-era United States that the Soviet Union had gained an advantage in deploying jet-powered strategic bombers. Widely accepted for several years, the gap was used as a political talking point in order to justify greatly increased defense spending. One result was a massive buildup of the United States Air Force bomber fleet, which peaked at over 2,500 bombers, in order to counter the perceived Soviet threat. Surveillance flights utilizing the Lockheed U-2 aircraft indicated that the bomber gap did not exist. Realizing that mere belief in the gap was an extremely effective funding source, a series of similarly nonexistent Soviet military advances were constructed in a tactic now known as “policy by press release.”

The missile gap was the term used in the United States for the perceived disparity between the number and power of the weapons in the U.S.S.R. andU.S. ballistic missile arsenals during the Cold War. The gap only existed in exaggerated estimates made by the Gaither Committee in 1957 and in United States Air Force (USAF) figures. Even the CIA figures that were much lower and gave the US a clear advantage were far above the actual count. Like thebomber gap of only a few years earlier, it is believed that the gap was known to be illusionary from the start, and was being used solely as a political tool, an example of policy by press release.

Policy by press release refers to the act of attempting to influence public policy through press releases intended to alarm the public into demanding action from their elected officials. The practice is frowned upon, but remains effective and widely used. In modern times, the term is used to dismiss an opponent’s claims, suggesting they are lacking in substance and created to generate media attention.

Now: Compare with:

You Call This an Army? The Terrifying Shortage of U.S. Cyberwarriors.

The United States doesn’t have nearly enough people who can defend the country from digital intrusions. We know this, because cybersecurity professionals are part of a larger class of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math–and we don’t have nearly enough of them, either. We’re just two years into President Obama’s decade-long plan to develop an army of STEM teachers. We’re little more than one year from his request to Congress for money to retrain 2 million Americans for high-tech work (a request Republicans blocked). And it has been less than a month since the Pentagon said it needed to increase the U.S. Cyber Command’s workforce by 300 percent–a tall order by any measure, but one that’s grown even more urgent since the public learned of massive and sustained Chinese attempts at cyberespionage last month.

Where are Cyber Command’s new hires going to come from? Even with so many Americans out of work, it isn’t as though there’s a giant pool of cyber professionals tapping their feet, waiting to be plucked up by federal agencies and CEOs who’ve suddenly realized they’re naked in cyberspace. In fact, over the next couple of years, the manpower deficit is only going to get worse as more companies come to grips with the scale of the danger.

Demand for cyber labor is still far outstripping supply, Ron Sanders, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, told National Journal in a phone interview. “With each headline we read,” he said, “the demand for skilled cyber professionals just increases.”

The number of industry employees is already growing at double-digit rates. A new report released Monday finds that the number of people working in the cyber field is going to grow worldwide by 11 percent every year for the next five years. In North and South America, according to the paper–published by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2)–that will mean almost a million more workers in the field by 2017. Many of them will be highly qualified. But not all of them will be in the employ of U.S. entities, to say nothing about working in the United States itself.

“…doomed to repeat it.”

I am wondering if we are going to end up with people who are skilled in security getting quite literally drafted in order to quell the panic?


America’s Raisin Regime: De minimis curat lex # Gosplan’s Sour Grapes in the USA

Repeat after me: state regulation is always a sane and desirable thing…

WHETHER the obscure statute that governs America’s raisin trade is constitutional, Elena Kagan is not sure. She and her fellow Supreme Court justices are pondering that question at the moment, and will rule shortly. But she sounds reasonably confident that the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 is “the world’s most outdated law”.

Since the 1940s raisin farmers have been obliged to make over a portion of their crop to a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee. The committee, run by 47 raisin farmers and packers, along with a sole member of the raisin-eating public, decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an “orderly” market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates, and gives many of them away, while selling others for export. Once it has covered its own costs, it returns whatever profits remain to farmers. In some years there are none. Worse, farmers sometimes forfeit a substantial share of their crop: 47% in 2003 and 30% in 2004, for example.

Participation in this Brezhnevite scheme is mandatory. […]

Read the rest at America’s raisin regime: De minimis curat lex | The Economist.

Appeals court upholds legality of Aereo’s “tiny antennas” scheme # Utterly Bonkers But Legally Fabulous

A federal appeals court has handed a big setback to broadcasters trying to stop Aereo, a startup that streams New York-area television content over the Internet. Broadcasters such as Fox and Univision argued that transmitting TV content without permission was copyright infringement. But Aereo countered that its service was analogous to a television and DVR that happened to have a really long cable between the antenna and the screen. On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed.

Aereo’s technology was designed from the ground up to take advantage of a landmark 2008 ruling holding that a “remote” DVR product offered by Cablevision was consistent with copyright law. Key to that ruling was Cablevision’s decision to create a separate copy of recorded TV programs for each user. While creating thousands of redundant copies makes little sense from a technical perspective, it turned out to be crucial from a legal point of view. Because each copy was viewed by only one household, the court ruled that Cablevision was not engaged in a “public performance” of copyrighted works.

Aereo’s founders realized that the Cablevision ruling offered a blueprint for building a TV rebroadcasting service that wouldn’t require the permission of broadcasters […]

via Appeals court upholds legality of Aereo’s “tiny antennas” scheme | Ars Technica.

Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users

RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents, the Arab News daily reported on Saturday.

Last week, local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype.

Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal.

Early this month, the security spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry described social networking, particularly Twitter, as a tool used by militants to stir social unrest.

The country’s Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, last week described users of the microblogging site as “clowns” wasting time with frivolous and even harmful discussions, local newspapers reported.

Yes, of course, it is the function of discussion and humanity never to be frivolous, never creative, never wasted, never to be fun; there is only a limited amount of speech that is available to humanity, and it must be treated seriously, controlled carefully and rationed because speech is a non-renewable resource.

Or, that’s what they want you to think.

via Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users: paper – News – AM 590 – FM 96.5 | WKZO Everything Kalamazoo.

A BDSM/Fetish website which apparently locks-in its user data and then deletes it #fetlife #aptbutwrong

No joke; from Feb 2013:

In case you weren’t already aware, Fetlife has announced that to maintain their relationship with their credit card processor, they have to delete quite a bit of content. I hate that credit card companies get to police what we can talk about, but I can understand why the Fetlife team decided to keep the site running over fighting the good fight, losing the ability to take credit card payments, and not being able to process enough payments to keep the power on.

Because people are (rightfully) worried their pictures/writings/comments/etc will be deleted, they’ve been using the hell out of maymay’s exporter tool, which is really driving up his costs. He could use some help keeping that tool running if you’re inclined to donate.

…but click through to the cited website and you will read:

FetLife Exporter
This tool is currently disabled. (Why? No, wait, What do you mean disabledLearn more about FetLife’s troublesome behavior. Please ask FetLife to stop blocking this tool, and please do CC me. Thanks! You can stilldownload and install this tool on your website, or you can download the exporter itself and run it from your personal computer.

Update, please read:
On the night of February 14, blocked this server’s IP address, functionally preventing anyone from managing their own archive, including taking away the ability of users to delete archives themselves. This is…somewhat stupid and rather counter-productive, especially because FetLife’s new community manager, Susan Wright, has apparently been sending vaguely threatening emails to individuals telling them to delete their archive. I’m not sure why FetLife would ask their users to do something that they then prevent them from doing, but that’s FetLife for you. 🙂

I am not interested in fetish stuff but I have a bunch of friends who are, so I’ll appeal to them here for a grassroots user-opinion before bouncing the matter off the Open Rights Group to see what they say; I suspect that on general principles the answer will be that people should have rights over their own data, and the freedom to export it.

That said, I am not really certain that the exporter tool works in a way with which I would be entirely happy – if I read the linked document right, it appears to spider the user content and put it up on the web with no protection at all? If so, that’s rather unfortunate, even if it may be consensual. Also, if so, this “lock in” may actually be a positive protection measure.

I’d also be interested to know precisely what FetLife are having to take down in order to satisfy payment card regulation; the explanation is behind a paywall…

What will happen when 3D-printing stops being a toy? #youtube #defcad

I’m not exactly pro-guns or anything like that – am not a great fan, plus those are “American” questions from a British viewpoint – however this YouTube video really makes you think about the future of intellectual property.

If the first minute puts you off, do stick with it; it’s a short video and it’s the latter two thirds which made me think:

Letters: Botched draft that threatens the blogosphere | Media | The Guardian #guardian


The government has defined a “relevant publisher” for the purposes of press regulation in a way that seeks to draft campaign groups and community-run websites covering neighbourhood planning applications and local council affairs into a regulator designed for the Guardian, Sun and Daily Mail. Even the smallest of websites will be threatened with the stick of punitive “exemplary damages” if they fall foul of a broad range of torts, encompassing everything from libel to “breach of confidence”. The authors of these proposals should reflect on their remarkable achievement of uniting both Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch in opposition.

This appears to be the outcome of a botched late-night drafting process and complete lack of consultation with bloggers, online journalists and social media users, who may now be caught in regulations which trample on grassroots democratic activity and Britain’s emerging digital economy. Leveson was meant to be focused on the impact of “big media”. In the end it may come to be seen as a damaging attack on Britain’s blogosphere, which rather than being a weakness in British politics, has proved time and time again that it is a real strength.

via Letters: Botched draft that threatens the blogosphere | Media | The Guardian.