* Posts by Michael Palmer

15 posts • joined 5 Nov 2008

'We can handle politicos, OUR ISSUE IS JUDGES', shout GCHQ docs

Michael Palmer

You Can't Rely on Politicians

It's clear to me that reform of GCHQ won't come in the lifetime of this parliament (not while the Tories are in government; but Labour might be unelectable for a few good years so it might be longer). If anything the spooks are likely to get even greater powers if the new surveillance bill becomes law next month. It's up to individuals to take what measures they can to make it harder for themselves to be tracked (though strong encryption is likely to be outlawed as well). But it's David-vs-Goliath. Plus most people aren't really that interested in being spied on. They are of the "nothing to fear if nothing to hide" brigade.

Super-snoop bid: UK government hits panic button on EU data retention ruling

Michael Palmer

Re: Help!

Unfortunately I remember watching an edition of Question Time a while ago & Farage said he was quite happy for the security services to carry on doing what they were. At that point I decided not to bother voting for UKIP again.

Digital radio may replace FM altogether - even though nobody wants it

Michael Palmer

No DAB Signal Here

I live in a rural area where we can't get a DAB signal. So I either listen on my computer or via a Sky box. But what about people who don't own any digital technology & can't get a DAB signal? They wouldn't have any options. It's like cheques. They're use is in decline, but people still use millions of them. The banks wanted to scrap them because it would save them time & money, but it wasn't convenient for consumers. So the attempt to get rid of them failed. I think it should be like that with FM radio. There will come a time when so few people use them they could be safely scrapped without troubling too many people. But until that time we should leave well alone.

Wales: We'll encrypt Wikipedia if reborn gov net-snoop plan goes live

Michael Palmer

Re: You snoop on everything...

Mass surveillance is a legacy of the Cold War. When it ended organisations like the NSA had a lot less to do but then September 11th happened and (I suppose depending on your view) it was either a new opportunity to use their skills against the West's enemies or an excuse to turn the surveillance apparatus on their own populations. I understand the need to keep the expertise, but I find it incredibly sinister that the so-called democratic governments find it necessary to turn up surveillance on their own people.

Sky follows BT in blocking Newzbin2

Michael Palmer

Copyright Crackdown

Something has to be done about copyright infringement, if only to prevent the proponents of draconian crackdowns from disturbing the set-up of the internet (e.g. SOPA). It's time experts from both sides of the debate sat down & thrashed this out. Otherwise they will always be an arms race between those determined to prevent internet piracy & those determined to circumnavigate it, while ordinary users suffer.

Royston's ANPR surveillo-plan goes to ICO

Michael Palmer

Good ANPR Facing Scrutiny

Even if ANPR had been passed by a statutory instrument it would hardly be democratic. Statutory instruments don't get voted on or even often face scrutiny in Parliament.

The reason ANPR is used to target thousands of criminals is that the prison system doesn't rehabilitate them & they are often let out early. Would the money spent on ANPR be bet used on prisons?

Cobalt-barrel machine guns could fire full auto Hollywood style

Michael Palmer

Melting Steel

Made me think if a steel machine gun barrel can easily melt then it wouldn't be a problem for jet fuel to melt / weaken the steel columns in the World Trade Centre (so much for all the inside job using thermite / explosives on 9/11)

New terror guidelines on photography

Michael Palmer

The Public Will Despise the Police Even More

.... than they do now. They seem little interested in responding to proper crimes, but on persecuting members of the public (probably because their easy to catch!).

Netizens sue NebuAd, data pimping ISPs

Michael Palmer

I'm Not Against Data Retention

I'm not. I think it's perfectly right that communications data is retained for a specified period for law enforcement purposes. What I get nervous about is that rather than the telecomms companies being responsible for storage, with that oh so inconvenient legal process of applying for a warrant to get access, the UK & US governments will be routing all the data into their own centralised databases. At least in this country we're getting public consultation & a vote in Parliament. In the US it just happened. I suspect we only know a little because someone told James Bamford off the record. It's what happens to this data once in the hands of the security services. I suspect normal legal niceties regarding privacy don't apply. The NSA will be looking for suspicious patterns to determine who is a potential terrorist. Since a few thousand personnel can't review every profile, it is largely automated using 'artificial intelligence'. The question is what are they looking for. Even though it is claimed that GCHQ will not look at the content of communications, deep packet inspection will allow them to do that with little difficulty. The security services in this country don't have an unblemished record either. I envision trouble along the lines of the no-fly lists in the US, where people for no known reason to them, are repeatedly stopped by the police & searched, due to some online faux pas online. It would also compromise things like journalistic sources (if all mobile phones are registered), business confidentiality (supposedly Echelon was used for industrial espionage), copyright enforcement, etc. Plus the huge expense: £12 billion (which I feel will grow exponentially as more & more devices become internet enabled). The amount of information collected maybe counter-productive. Weren't the security forces watching the July 7th & Omagh bombers, yet due to lack of resources or whatever, failed to follow up?

Michael Palmer

NebuAd vs. NSA

Even if NebuAd's & other companies' efforts to track US citizens' online habits fail due to lawsuits it overlooks an equally insidious but far more difficult opponent- the National Security Agency. According to James Bamford's "The Shadow Factory" the NSA are busy constructing a massive 'data warehouse' that will be capable, in his words of "holding all the information in the world"! Their supercomputers already outstrip anything else in the world, but a new one is on the horizon that will put even them in the shade. It will data-mine just about every piece of communications traffic that they can get their hands on. Apparently the NSA only have the power to eavesdrop on calls & e-mails that originate abroad, so Americans calling other Americans shouldn't worry about surveillance. But everything else that leaves an electronic trace is fair game; so that's- all your internet searches, bank transactions, online purchases, etc.

I presume there's no restrictions on whatever data the NSA can access from abroad. Once the British government's surveillance network is up & running I strongly suspect GCHQ will be more than willing to pass on all our internet traffic to the US. If the EU agree to share the data of people flying into the US you could have your online behaviour scrutinise to see if you are a 'threat'. I don't know how much (if anything) Obama will do to rein this in.

Every single day, to the general ignorance of the media & public, whether it's done in the name of national security, fighting crime and copyright infringement, technological progress or benefiting consumers, our privacy is being undermined in leaps & bounds. Every time it happens in makes us more accepting of it & easier for those in power to impose it. Even as we lose our privacy, those who are in positions of power & influence are steadily increasing theirs, becoming less publicly accountable, e.g. the Max Moseley case & the proposed censorship of newspapers on the grounds of national security. I thought it quite ironic that Sarah Palin refused to divulge who she voted for saying it was “private” at the same time the average American is under more scrutiny from a Republican administration than at any other time in their history. We are rapidly approaching a situation where we will be judged electronically for our everyday actions & the authorities will know everything about us at the touch of a button.

One futurologist has recently warned that the ‘Stepford Society’ we are creating will lead to serious civil unrest in the future. The seeds are already being sown. In the UK speed cameras are burned on a regular basis (£93,000 worth in Cambridgeshire last year alone) & last year a school caretaker sent letter bombs to protest at the taking of his father’s DNA. There will be other effects. Maybe most people will fall into the ‘nothing to hide’ brigade. However, considering the way ordinary people have been spied on by local councils & prosecuted for doing the wrong thing with their rubbish, I think lots of us will be seriously inconvenienced. And that’s by those who are accountable to the public. Organisations like the NSA & GCHQ are shrouded in secrecy & there will be little or no recourse against them for mistakes (which statistics reveal there are hundreds of a year in bugging requests), if we ever find out about it (which we won’t). What we should be worried about most is what sort of profiles are built of us from our online behaviours. The mere fact people suspected they were potentially being watched online, despite being in the privacy of their homes, will have a big chilling effect on the internet. On the plus side it probably would deter criminals. However, considering MI5’s track record of keeping tabs on politicial opponents, it would be no surprise if people visiting certain websites or leaving critical comments on blogs would come under the spotlight. If keywords are tracked some people will avoid typing or saying certain phrases. Certain books wouldn’t be bought just in case. Mobiles phones will be switched off or dumped to avoid our locations being pinpointed.

If this is the sort of society we want to leave in we should just carry on with our lives & ignore these issues. If we don’t then we have to fight. We have to fight by signing petitions, by protesting in the streets, by writing letters to the government & MPs, or voting out those responsible. You can be part of the public consultation of the Communications Data Bill before it comes to Parliament. You can sign a petition on the Downing Street website. You can install programmes on your computer that mask your IP address (e.g. Tor) or confuse those building profiles (TrackMeNot & SquigglesR add-ons through Mozilla Firefox). You could try to avoid leaving records of your purchases by paying only in cash or not having a loyalty card. Ultimately you could disconnect your internet connection & phone. Whether these could be much defence against the security services’ sophistication I don’t know, but it’s worth a try. Otherwise we’ll all be living in 1984, not 2008.

UK's 'secure' child protection database will be open to one million

Michael Palmer

Only the Start...

Is child protection the only motive behind this? Each child will have a unique ID number. Seems a perfect starting point for a comprehensive national ID card database to me.

DNA convictions fall as database doubles in size

Michael Palmer

DNA Database: A Public Relations Tool?

At a few million quid not a too expensive one (in terms of government expenditure). Personally I think the database would work better if only the DNA of convicted criminals was taken, since they're the ones who commit the majority of the crimes.

Police vet live music, DJs for 'terror risk'

Michael Palmer

There Must Be a Mash-up of Greek Words for This...


Preventive policing? Don't even think about it

Michael Palmer

Police State We're In

You will soon end up having to carry an ID card everywhere with you otherwise you'll be fined, which you'll probably have to produce to buy dangerous things like petrol or mobile phones. Everyone's DNA & fingerprints will be on a national database. You will be searched routinely entering railway stations or shops where you'll be swabbed or gone over with a sniffer dog to see if you've been handling drugs or explosives . Your faces & movements will be scanned by artificially intelligent CCTV to determine if you're a wanted criminal or your behaviour is suspicious. Your conversations in the street will be eavesdropped on by concealed microphones to see if you're planning a crime or are decrying how immigration has gotten out of control. Every car journey will monitored by automatic number plate recognition cameras & checking what mobile is switched on in the car to identify if you're driving too fast or what toll to pay for the road your on. Radio frequency identification tags will be attached to everything you buy so that a quick scan of your house will reveal the contents, so no getting round credit cards by buying in untraceable cash. All communications & web searches will be searched using massive supercomputers that look for keywords & dodgy contacts to be build up detailed profiles of your religious or political beliefs, sexual preferences, friendships, interests, etc.

The Independent gets the wrong end of Jacqui's gIMP

Michael Palmer

NSA Do This Already, Read 'The Shadow Factiory

According to James Bamford's book 'The Shadow Factory' the NSA did exactly this a few years ago with the active (& probably illegal) co-operation of the telecomms companies in the US. Previously most communications were broadcast via the airwaves, so it wasn't difficult for the NSA to have listening stations scattered all over the world. When fibre optics came along the NSA lacked both the technical ability & legal right (to do with strict wire-tapping laws) to intercept the traffic. With 9/11 this went out the window & secret rooms were installed in many internet hubs. The information is sent to the NSA's supercomputers for unrestricted analysis. This is what this government want. I get very nervous when they decide to give a highly secretive, unaccountable body access to data most members of the public would rather GCHQ not have. I concede that the security services need access communications data, but what's wrong with the old system of requiring something called a court order to wiretap (something Labour seem to have conveniently forgotten existed)? GCHQ & the NSA go hand in. The NSA have the world's most powerful supercomputers to analyse all this data (they run in petaflops...?). GCHQ I suspect would do the same. Having unfettered access to all this data will allow them to build detailed profiles of people's interests, politcal beliefs, sexual preferences, etc. Maybe it's time we all discovered the joys of talking to people face to face rather than interacting via Facebook.


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