The Richard O’Dwyer petition

Don’t know who Richard O’Dwyer is?

Richard O’Dwyer is a UK citizen and resident.

While in the UK, he is accused (not convicted) of breaking US laws in the  UK – and is being extradited to the US for it!

Since when does the US have the right to enforce its laws on people outside its borders, who aren’t even themselves Americans?

OK, Kim Dotcom might have ideas of what this feels like – but he has a legal team to help him while this kid just created a website in his free time where people shared links.

His site itself did not host any copyrighted material – just links.

He complied with each and every takedown notice that he was linking to copyrighted material.

Yet, he is still being extradited to the US where he faces over a decade in jail?!?!?

This is all out of whack…

The petition voicing displeasure at this state of things is here.

It also fleshes out the backstory:

‘Richard O’Dwyer is the human face of the battle between the content industry and the interests of the general public. Earlier this year, in the fight against the anti-copyright bills SOPA and PIPA, the public won its first big victory. This could be our second.’

We should all pay attention.

Copyright infringement has always been – and ought to remain – a civil matter.

That we have permitted the resources of the state to be subverted for the use of Big Media,  that we consider copyright infringement to be the same as theft – even though not a single person or corporation had been deprived of the use of their property – that is just unbelievably misguided.

But that people living in distant lands should be extradited and tried for their activities which, at best (if the prosecutors win their case),  did not commit copyright  infringement directly, but simply facilitated it…

That is too bizzare for words!

Robert Zubrin: Radical Environmentalists and Other Merchants of Despair

 

Have you heard about INDECT?

If you haven’t heard about INDECT ( Intelligent Information System Supporting Observation, Searching and Detection for Security of Citizens in Urban Environment), you are not alone – especially if you are on this side of the pond.

Or you might have heard of it and dismissed it as some sort of a paranoid conspiracy theory…which is exactly what some, including Wikipedia, imply it to be.

On the other hand, WikiLeaks takes it deadly seriously.  As does European Digital Rights (EDRI).

If you happen to be unaware that items like phones send constant streams of information about you – including installing a hidden keylogger – back to corporations you may have no commercial relationship with, here is an article with a video that shows, step-by-step, how this is being done. (Yes, when this information was first published, CarrierIQ tried to shut the source up with threats of lawsuits.)

And just to help you relax when you bring home a new video-game console…consider their enhanced sensory abilities (lip-reading, facial expression analysis to measure emotional states, enhanced speech recognition) in conjunction with the ‘back doors’ being built in to so many of our digital devices.

But, I digress…

The EU is planning to gather information about its citizens from ‘open sources’ (social media, chat-rooms, blogs) as well as public surveillance systems (like CCTV cameras to the GPS devices that they wish to legislate to be mandatory in every vehicle in order to ‘monitor traffic patterns’), their surfing habits, their shopping habits (remember all those ‘loyalty cards’?), to all other policing methods.  Then they plan to run this mass of data through some algorithms which will analyze the language used by specific citizens with their public behaviours (say, like sitting in a public place for longer than ‘normal’) and online preferences, cross-reference it all and come up with ‘automated dossiers’ which will alert police officers to go check out specific citizens deemed to have ‘abnormal behaviour’.

All this is to be done by an arms-lenght (translation:  completely unaccountable) agency which is as transparent as tar, overseen by a police-agency dominated board.  As this agency is an EU creature, all the member states would be compelled to give it full access to citizen information, from financial to DNA databases.

Of course, we know this is the direction our society is moving in – but I suspect most of us have not been aware of the degree to which this has already been happening and just how lacking we are in any privacy rights.

Perhaps we ought to pay more attention…

H/T:  HackerNews

OnStar: like there was ever any doubt…

In the digital age, it is much easier for information to dissiminate.

That is a double-edged sword.

After all, information can not only help you – it can track you.  And we are being tracked now, more than ever.

I’m not just talking about videocameras everywhere – there is so much more!

Many manufacturers are inserting IR id tags into their products – individual numbers are assigned to each piece of merchendise which is than tracked when you walk back into their stores:  if you walk through the store in an item with such an IR tag, it’ll tell the store who you are, which store you purchased that garment in, how you paid for it and what other purchases you have made from that company.  All this to better help sales-staff target you customize your shopping experience.

All the data stored on your personal digital devices can be accessed remotely – by just walking through a doorway with a sensor in it:  from phones and cameras to ‘smart’ passports.  Remember those ads for coffee-tables that you just place your camera on and they will automatically download the photos – yeah, we have not been hearing about it much lately, even though the technology has been around for years…

Of course, many of us are complicit in corporate datamining:  every time we use the ‘customer rewards points’ cards (like AirMiles), we are permitting large corporations to cross-analyze our shopping habits –  by storing and analyzing info on everything we buy.  I never understood why people sold their private information so cheaply!  But, so many of us do…without a second thought.

And that is the problem:  we give permission for vast amounst of our private information to be collected, analyzed and used by ‘unseen entities’ (usually corporate, but often government ones) without ever giving it a thought.  We chide teenagers for not being careful about the information they put on ‘Facebook’ or about sending provocative photos of themselves  by phone – but this is negligable compared to the type of information we give away daily….just so long as we think there is some minor benefit to us.

Things have escalated to the next level:  many of us are now not just consenting for our most private information to be accessed by ‘third parties’, we are increasingly willing to hand over the very control of our choices/actions to ‘third parties’ – both corporate and governmental.

Let me give you a little example of the latter:  in Ontario, there is a new program where the government ‘gives’ you a brand new electronic heat/air-conditioning controller and installs it in your  house.

For FREE!!!!!

And it has the added ‘benefit’ that with this controller, you will be helping stabilize the load in our electricity supply, because when there is a ‘crunch’, the government can automatically access this meter and change your temperature setting by a few degrees if the electricity grid load is too high….

PEOPLE ACTUALLY SIGN UP FOR THIS!!!!!!

VOLUNTARILY!!!!

It makes me want to scream – or cry.  Just thinking about it, I feel a migrane coming on…

Which brings me to OnStar…

A few years ago, I purchased a new vehicle which came with a ‘free one-year OnStar service’.  So, I read the terms and conditions of the contract – you know, the small print.  And I was shocked at what I read there.  Not shocked that they would want these powers – but that anyone would agree to this.  I do not have the contract in front of me, so I am going from memory (and paraphrasing), but the things that stuck out most in my mind were:

  • At any point, OnStar could disable the vehicle.  Remotely.  Without my permission.  At their ‘discretion’.
  • At any point, they could ‘monitor’ for ‘training purposes’ any vehicle they wanted.
  • They could listen in to conversation in the vehicle and share the information with law-enforcement at their discretion.

Now, I don’t know whom these OnStar people are employing – but I doubt that the employees are making much over minimum wage.  Yet, these are the very people whom I would hand the permission to use their discretion over my private information?  Not likely!

So, I said I would purchase the vehicle – but only on the condition that the OnStar thing NEVER gets connected.  This seemed to shock the sales-people – they obviously thought me a nut, which was perfectly fine with me, but after much hmmmm-ing and haaaaw-ing, they produced the required paperwork.

Now I was purchasing the vehicle – but ‘waiving’ the OnStar contract and the sales bill also included a hand-written clause that said OnStar would never receive ANY of our information and the system would never be activated.  I was ‘safe’, right?

Well, not exactly…

Even though my sales contract specifically stated that the OnStar system must never become activated and none of our information (including our name) would be shared with OnStar, something had obviously gone wrong.

A few weeks into the ownership of the vehicle, while driving down the street, the OnStar people started TALKING TO US through the console!

No, I did not push the ‘OnStar’ button.  And, even if I had, according to the condition in our sales contract, the cell-phone number necessary to activate the system was never to have been obtained for this vehicle…

So, what did the OnStar people have to say to us?

The voices (sometimes male, but usually female) informed us that their records about us are incomplete and that we need to contact their office in order to enjoy fully our free year of service….

I was not happy.

I called the dealership to complain – and was clearly not believed that this was happening.  According to their paperwork, it was physically impossible and the person I spoke to was obviously wondering if the voices I was hearing were really from the OnStar unit and not just inside my head.

It got worse.

At about the same time, we started receiving letters – through the mail – from OnStar.

With our names and full address – and listing the VIN number of the vehicle we bought, telling us that there was now only one tiny step we needed to take – confirm their information was correct – to begin enjoying our ‘full year of free service’!

Predictably, I went medieval on the car dealership that sold me the vehicle.  (Now, whenever I call or come in, only managers or higher are permitted to interact with me and I get the red-carpet treatment…but that is another story.  The dealer was blameless in this – but the people they represent weren’t.)

To make my story short (OK, slightly less laborious), I threatened to not just return the car, but also to sue them for breach of contract.  Which ‘they ‘did breach – some ‘they’ along the line.

The dealer was the one whose signature was on my contract….so I would need to sue the dealer and the dealer would then get to sue whomever else next ‘up the chain’ – as I explained to them slowly and clearly when they swore up and down that not one person at the dealership gave OnStar my name, address and the VIN of the vehicle I had purchased.  Which someone  somewhere along the line clearly did – and I had the correspondence from OnStar to prove it.

Within a day or two, the dealership had brought in a special tech who had disconnected the OnStar unit completely – and insisted I watch.  They had to take the whole front dash off to get to it…

However, the tech told me an interesting piece of information:  in some current models – and eventually ALL future models – this OnStar technology is being hooked up through the starter mechanism of the vehicle itself.  The upshot of this is that if the OnStar antenna/monitor is physically disconnected, these vehicle will not start.

And if it is not physically disconected, your data is theirs – whether you have a plan or not.

So could not but chuckle when I came across this story:  OnStar had now changed its terms of use to make it perfectly legal for themsleves to sell – SELL – all the information gathered about you via their box:  from your movements, to your seatbelt use, speeding habits, when and where you fill up, and so on.  (This last bit will come in handy when governments decide to impose a ‘per-vehicle’ mile/kilometer travel allowance, after which the owners will be charged an extra ‘eco-consumption-tax’ – come on, you can see it coming!)

So, now, OnStar says openly that they will collect your data, whether or not you want (as disconnecting their data-collection unit physically will make your car not start) and then sell it to other corporations and the government.

Isn’t ‘collusion of industry with government, limiting the freedoms of he individual’ the very dictionary definition of ‘fascism’?

 

UPDATE:  OnStar announces that it will no longer tell people that they are continuing to collect their data – so there is a chance that cops may not openly use this info against citizens…

Freedom of Speech under fire – again

Not surprising,  but with a twist…

Since I have been experiencing some problems with my internet connection (few minutes on, few hours off), I cannot dig into this as well as I would like to.  However, Kaffir Kanuck has an in-depth write up – perhaps you could read it there.

Let me just state, clearly and unequivocally:  freedom of speech is a core human right and we must tolerate no infringement upon it. That whole “I disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it” adage applies here.  For the State to use criminal law to silence a citizen is simply beyond the pale and we must all stand up and speak up against it!

At the same time, a foreign government is using SLAPP suits to successfully bully Canadian broadcasters…

And another voice from Europe…

As we, here in Ontario, ramp up for our Provincial election, it is important that we keep up with what is happening in other parts of the world.

And what other place to compare the corruption of the McGuinty legacy with than that wonderful socialist dystopia – the EU (don’t worry – they switch from Croatian to English when the charismatic Mr. Nigel Farage begins to speak:

(Don’t forget – the Lisbon treaty decriminilizes pedophelia and makes discriminating against pedophiles illegal..)

If you are looking for a book to read…

Assange: ‘My greatest enemy is ignorance’

Here is an interesting interview of Julian Assange by RT.

No wonder this guy is being hunted down:  he is speaking truth to power!

(Via Hacker News, I4U News and TNW)

Hacker News: Last chance to let the FDA know you want direct access to your own genome

A bit of a disturbing story, if you ask me:

‘Here’s what I suspect is really going on: The FDA is being pressured by the insurance industry to restrict consumers’ access to their own DNA because of the information asymmetry between the government’s preclusion of insurers ability to consider genetic data when determining eligibility and consumers’ recently available ability to cheaply know if they have a predisposition for a variety of potentially expensive or life-limiting illnesses. That the FDA is likely pandering to this industry under the dishonest guise of consumer health protection makes me more distrustful of it as an independent entity.

Disturing does not scratch the surface…

Imagine: life as a wrongly accused pedophile

Can you imagine how your life would change if you were accused of pedophilia – or of distributing child pornography?

If this accusation were in a public forum, where your kids, spouse, parents, extended family, friends, colleagues and/or customers, potential employers, community activists and anti-pedophilia organizations would be sure to see it?

If this accusation came from the government, which cited a legal warrant to confiscate your property because a judge has been satisfied that your property was used for the creation and propagation of pedophilia?

AND IF THIS ACCUSATION WERE 100% UNFOUNDED?!?!?

84,000 Americans do not have to imagine this – they are living it!

No kidding, it’s true.

That is EIGHTY FOUR THOUSAND!!!

And, please, ask yourself – why was this not front line news?  Why do you have to read about this in a blog?

As per TorrentFreak (via HackerNews):

“The US Government has yet again shuttered several domain names this week. The Department of Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE office proudly announced that they had seized domains related to counterfeit goods and child pornography. What they failed to mention, however, is that one of the targeted domains belongs to a free DNS provider, and that 84,000 websites were wrongfully accused of links to child pornography crimes.

As with previous seizures, ICE convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message. However, somewhere in this process a mistake was made and as a result the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized.

Most of the subdomains in question are personal sites and sites of small businesses. A search on Bing still shows how innocent sites were claimed to promote child pornography. A rather damaging accusation, which scared and upset many of the site’s owners.”

No kidding!

Imagine being involved in a child-custody battle, when your ex’s lawyer gets a hold of this….

Or a million other situations:  child abuse, especially sexual child abuse, is a serious issue.  Many people react to it instinctively…without thinking…considering this to be one of those areas where vigilante justice is not only OK, but necessary (as the courts have systematically failed to protect the kids).

So, what was the reaction of the government?

After all, they were after 10-12 specific sites:  these 84,000 innocent sites were siezed accidentally…

Did they make a huge announcement, explaining their mistake so that the 84,000 would not be stigmatized?

So that they would be believed when they defended themselves?

So they would even be listened to when they tried to explain?

Explain that the official banner everyone who came to their website and saw the official notice “that the website had been siezed because it distributed pedophilia” was one of those 84,000 that were accused by a mistake?

No, not really.

Actually, not at all!

“Although it is not clear where this massive error was made, and who’s responsible for it, the Department of Homeland security is conveniently sweeping it under the rug. In a press release that went out a few hours ago the authorities were clearly proud of themselves for taking down 10 domain names.

However, DHS conveniently failed to mention that 84,000 websites were wrongfully taken down in the process, shaming thousands of people in the process.

“Each year, far too many children fall prey to sexual predators and all too often, these heinous acts are recorded in photos and on video and released on the Internet,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano commented.

“DHS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to shut down websites that promote child pornography to protect these children from further victimization,” she added.”

This is troubling on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin.

Sure, there are conspiracy theories out there – and I, for one, don’t buy into them.

However, once learned, institutions hardly ever forget lessons:  and the lesson learned here was that yes, it was possible for the US government to ‘make dissappear’ a whole block of thousands of websites.  The first one may have been a mistake, but will the second one be?

We know that in Australia, the leaked, ultra secret ‘black list’ of sites banned due to pedophilia/child pornography included more ‘political’ websites and innocent victims (including a dentist’s site) than actual pedophilia/child pornography sites.  And there was no appeal – since the ‘black list’ was uber secret, even knowing the name of a site on it was a criminal offense…  How do you defend against abuse in a situation like that?  Admitting you know the site was shut down is equivalent to pleading guilty to a child sex crime….even if the site was erroneously listed!

Of course, this is just one facet…

If your site is siezed in this manner, even after it is released, there will be echoes on the internet linking it to pedophilia for ever.

And….

If this is a business website you had built up, slowly but surely building up your livelihood by slowly climbing the way up the search-engine ratings – having had your site siezed in this manner will have pretty much wiped out your rating.  Even if you get your site back, even if you are again up and running – business will not be as before!  You will likely have to re-build your ratings – the ‘method’ your customers find your site – and this may take years!

It would be comparable to having the government falsely shut down a prominent store on ‘Main St.’, put ‘the person who runs this store is a pedophile’ sign in the front window, and then permit them to re-open the store, perhaps after they re-located it several blocks away from the busy area….

The walk-by traffic will just not be the same!

And that does not even address the ‘civil liberties’ aspect of confiscating someone’s property/livelihood in this manner….

Or the ‘eagerness’ with which some ‘child-sex-offender registries’ keep track not only of people who had been covicted, but also of people who had ever been accused of child sex crimes:  after all, we can never be too careful in protecting our babies!

Oh, and this is not the first time this type of thing has happened.  Perhaps not on this scale, but…