According to a number of recent BBC News articles, the UK government are currently considering creating a massive database logging all phone calls and emails sent. As usual, the excuse for needing such a database is “Terrorism” or “serious crime”, but at what point must voters and members of the public say that enough is enough? It is inconceivable to think that each and every call that is made is logged and every email that you send is noted – with current mobile phone technology, it’s possible for your location to be pin-pointed (simply download the Google Maps java application to your mobile handset and see for yourself by clickong on “my location”) so does this mean that yourlocation at the time of the call would be logged? It’s absolutely possible.
We’ve seen the function creep of technologies like this already – for example, average speed cameras that use number plate recognition to catch those speeding were installed under the promise that they would only ever be used for the purposes of speed control. Now though, we see that they are used to track movements of “terrorists” or “serious criminals”. With a database of all calls made and received, will the function eventually creep so that your exact location is logged every fifteen minutes or so when your mobile phone “checks in” with the network? Email on the move is also susceptible to this form of tracking – the IP address that sends the email could be tracked and in the future, why would they not start logging all the websites you’ve visited recently?
The Raw Story reports that the US are currently drafting a law that will allow them full access to examine any email, file or web search at any time. Currently the plans are at the draft stage, but if passed, this could essentially mean the end to any form of privacy on the internet. Consider that the largest email providers such as Gmail, Hotmail (Live Mail – run by Microsoft), AOL and many others are based in the US but they have international users on a massive scale. This is a frightening plan that has global consequences, and will really pave the way for essential cryptographic systems on email.
From the article:
National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell is drawing up plans for cyberspace spying that would make the current debate on warrantless wiretaps look like a “walk in the park,” according to an interview published in the New Yorker’s print edition today.
McConnell is developing a Cyber-Security Policy, still in the draft stage, which will closely police Internet activity.
“Ed Giorgio, who is working with McConnell on the plan, said that would mean giving the government the autority to examine the content of any e-mail, file transfer or Web search,” author Lawrence Wright pens.
“Google has records that could help in a cyber-investigation, he said,” Wright adds. “Giorgio warned me, ‘We have a saying in this business: ‘Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.’”
A zero-sum game is one in which gains by one side come at the expense of the other. In other words — McConnell’s aide believes greater security can only come at privacy’s expense.Read the rest of this entry »
The recent release of “iTunes Plus” has been over-shadowed by many users complaining about the fact that personal details have been embedded in the purchased track tags.Â Personally, I hardly find this surprising and I’d go so far to say that some users are citing “privacy concerns” as a reason to break the law, breach copyright and illegally share songs.
A bit of history:Â the Hymn Project is one of the oldest methods for users to remove the copy protection from songs legally purchased through iTunes (prior to version 7).Â This has been heralded as a “consumer champion” since it allows users to play their purchased songs on whatever equipment they like.Â Legalities aside, it is widely used and liked by many users.Â One of the key points in the Hymn Project, however, is that it removes the copy protection, but retains all the purchaser’s details on the track tags.Â The removal of the purchaser’s details was possible according to the Hymn site, but they saw no justification to do so. Â The makers of Hymn rightly state that they do not condone piracy, they are simply exercising their rights to use their legally purchased content how they see fit without being guilty of piracy.
Now, with iTunes Plus offering DRM free downloads, severalsites feature complaints that this “hidden user information” is a major breach of privacy.Â I don’t think so.
Well, it’s being reported that Viacom has issued 100,000 takedown notices to YouTube regarding content used in videos that are subject to their copyright. YouTube has obliged and removed all the videos, but it’s interesting (and quite funny) that Viacom have had to admit to “no more than” 60 mistakes, so far. Basically, they’ve made up legal demands that YouTube remove people’s home videos over which they have no copyright interest whatsoever!
I found this quite funny, and I hate to see the all-powerful legal threats being thrown around… especially when they’re wrong! Enjoy the video clip below from the EFF – you may want to read their comment on this story.
In a surprising coincidence, only 3 days after I wrote a previous article regarding a lawsuit against the creators of free software, the FSFE (Free Software Foundation Europe) have launched a “Freedom Task Force” aimed at providing legal advice and protection to the creators of free software. Interestingly, the project is being led by Shane Coughlan – the lead developer of the Mobility Project, which I’m personally involved in. The full story can be found at The Register but I think you’ll agree that this is an extremely welcome step forward in software development as it offers free legal protection to developers with regard to GPL violations. It also may provide help to part-time developers who may be threatened into submission by legally questionable claims of DMCA violations etc.
In a remarkably obscure law suit, the Free Software Foundation, Novell and Red Hat have all been sued by Daniel Wallace over accusations of price fixing and uncompetitive practices. His reasoning: These companies all distribute software for free.
At initial glance, the lawsuit seems plainly ridiculous since laws against price fixing are there to protect consumers and keep prices at a minimum. However, it is a warning bell showing just how much of an impact open source software (in particular, Linux) is having on the software market. If you think of the charges in terms of anti-competitive terms, companies working together to produce free software could in theory be construed as anti-competitive – who can compete with a free product in terms of price?
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) are an organisation that have been around for some time, and their aim is to fight for consumer’s rights regarding products and policy in the digital age. Despite being primarily American-orientated, the ramifications of their court cases, policies and appeals have international consequences.
I recently watched their Corruptibles video with great interest. It’s a fairly basic flash animation that outlines how new DRM (Digital Rights Management) systems could/will affect you in your every day lives. It’s worth a bit of a laugh, and it makes you think… but does it make you think what the EFF are trying to push?