Watch Out, There's a Meme About
Published 10:56, 10 January 09
There's a nasty rash of congruent memes going around government circles: they're all coming up with fiendish new ways to wage the non-existent war on terror, all of which unfortunately involve locking down useful technology.
Here's the latest threat - to us, that is:
The Indian government has set up an inter-ministerial panel to trace the activities of terrorists using Wifi networks. The recent series of blasts which has shattered the Indian subcontinent has been characterised by the culprits sending emails about the bombs via Wifi.
Headed by Advisor (Telecom), the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), and members from the Telecom Engineering Centre, the Ministry of Home, the Intelligence Bureau and the Department of Information Technology, the committee will examine international practices and enforceable ways and means to detect the actual user on a Wifi network. It will then prescribe modifications to existing policies and licences.
The decision is prompted by terrorists hacking into open Wifi networks twice in three months to send mails about the Ahmedabad and Delhi blasts to the media. While admitting the impossibility of obstructing the flow of technology, DoT officials say that its misuse must be checked, according to the Times of India.
Loved that bit about "[w]hile admitting the impossibility of obstructing the flow of technology, DoT officials say that its misuse must be checked" - a classic case of "something must be done; this is something; so we must do it."
How long before other governments start following suit? (Via Andrew Katz.)
Posted by Glyn Moody at 7:24 PM
Enough is Enough: Stand up for Sanity
TechCrunch UK's Mike Butcher has had enough:
From March this year all ISPs will by law have to keep information about every e-mail sent or received in the UK for a year. Currently many do this on a voluntary basis but this will now become mandatory. With little evidence to support their position, the government says this move is vital for monitoring crime and combating terrorist activity.
The new rules are due to come into force on 15 March, as part of a European Commission directive which could affect every ISP in the country. It will cost between £25m and £70m. The rules already apply to telephone companies, which routinely hold much of the data for billing. The Home Office think the data is vital for investigation and intelligence gathering.
The Home Office insists the data will not contain the email content but data about when and where it was sent. But of course we all known that it is quite possible to work out quite a lot from email headers. This data will be accessible by over 600 public bodies, such as the police and councils, if they make a “valid” request.
Dr Richard Clayton, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge’s computer lab, points out that this will include all the spam out there and would rather see more focused online policing that catch all initiatives like this. Of course, once the government has this power, they will not draw back from it.
So what you gonna do about it, Mike?
On Monday I will be calling Westminster Council about how we can go about setting up a public rally against these initiatives, and I’d like to hear from anyone else who wants to get involved.
Me, I've had enough too: I'll be there, and getting in touch; anyone else?
Posted by Glyn Moody at 5:07 PM
Young People These Days...
Insightful point from Clay Shirky:
the thing that people say about young people is just that they understand the technology so well. Well, I teach in a graduate program, I see twenty-five-year-olds all the time. They actually don’t understand the technology particularly well. I think I understand quite a lot of it quite a bit better than they do, which is the reason why I’m teaching there and they’re students.
The advantage they have over me is that they don’t have to unlearn anything. They don’t have to unlearn the idea that a card catalog is a helpful thing to have. That you need a librarian to find things. That you have to figure out where you’re looking before you what you’re looking for.
None of those things are true anymore. And so one of the problems that old people like me suffer from is just we know too many solutions for problems that no longer exist. And it kind of freaks us out to realize that all the things we mastered don’t really add up to much value anymore.
Posted by Glyn Moody at 4:29 PM
SECURE's Future Not So Secure?
Last year I wrote about an insidious little agreement called SECURE - Standards to be Employed by Customs for Uniform Rights Enforcement. As you might guess, those "standards" involve intellectal monopolies to the nth degree. But lo! There is hope:
In what might be seen as a victory for defenders of flexibilities for poor nations in international trade rules, the World Customs Organization in December recommended the discontinuance of a working group on intellectual property enforcement standards after it became “deeply embroiled” in debate from member governments fearing it would impose undue obligations on them. But the IP and customs issue may not be out of the fire yet.
A new committee will be sought with a stronger focus on technical assistance and capacity building, according to a WCO document, but this has raised new doubts about participation in new committee’s creation, according to a developing country official.
“The Policy Commission was informed that the SECURE Working Group established by the Council in June 2007 to deal with IPR issues had become deeply embroiled in difficulties related to its terms of reference, essentially because of a perceived fear that the group’s work on standard-setting might be used as a means of enlarging the obligations imposed on countries by the WTO TRIPS Agreement,” said the summary of outcomes document [pdf] of the WCO Policy Commission, which met from 9-11 December in Buenos Aires.
It ain't over yet, but what is important is that it seems that the developing nations are really waking up to the way that intellectual monopolies are being used as a kind of new imperialism: the more that realise that, the less chance TRIPS and its misbegotten siblings will have in imposing their hidden agendas around the world.
Posted by Glyn Moody at 3:19 PM
A Different VistA for the NHS?
I've written quite a lot about Microsoft's ill-fated Vista in Open Enterprise, but nothing so far about another VistA:
Electronic Health Record systems (EHR) are essential to improving health quality and managing health care delivery, whether in a large health system, hospital, or primary care clinic. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has developed and continues to maintain a robust EHR known as VistA - the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture. This system was designed and developed to support a high-quality medical care environment for the military veterans in the United States. The VistA system is in production today at hundreds of VA medical centers and outpatient clinics across the country....
On Open Enterprise blog .
Posted by Glyn Moody at 11:35 AM
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