* Posts by Graham Cobb

298 posts • joined 13 May 2009

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Uber cloaked its spying and all it got from Apple was a slap on the wrist

Graham Cobb

Re: Honesty

We need some high profile actions (probably both legal and moral -- including a few boycotts) to demonstrate to (mainly US) corporations that Terms of Service are a two-way street. I have terms of service for suppliers of services to me, and they are just as important as the ones they have for their customers.

They include no corruption, ethical behaviour and CSR. And if you violate them I will push hard to enforce them not just by cancelling my deal with you but by spending time, effort and money in convincing others to stop doing business with you and regulators to tie your behaviour down.

If a government department really has destroyed evidence of unethical influence from Uber then I want to see someone go to prison for the destruction of the evidence.

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Put down your coffee and admire the sheer amount of data Windows 10 Creators Update will slurp from your PC

Graham Cobb

Re: Soft target?

Many of us don't bash Microsoft any more than others. There is plenty of Google-bashing on El Reg.

I use a Sailfish phone because it is neither Apple nor Android and is collecting much less data. I also do not install any apps that make intrusive demands, however "useful" or "fun" they might be. I would like to try SwiftKey but have not, exactly for the reason you raise.

Microsoft have a dominant position in the personal computer market and should not be allowed to abuse it by not giving people the option to turn off all data collection (maybe for a reasonable fee). Similarly Apple and Google should be required to do the same thing in the mobile market.

What we need is a functioning market in personal information: I should be able to make a personal decision about the value of my data and see whether companies are paying me (often in the form of a discounted price for their product) what I consider it is worth. If so, that is fine; if not I decide whether the undiscounted price is one I am willing to pay and either buy their service with no access to my data or don't buy it. As simple as that.

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Graham Cobb

Enterprise version?

If I understand the TechNet article about the Enterprise version correctly (not at all certain -- could it possibly be deliberately hard to read?), it seems to be possible to turn off ALL connections to Microsoft in that version.

Is it possible for an individual to purchase the Enterprise version? For how much?

I have no plans to ever buy Windows again but it would be nice to know.

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Naming computers endangers privacy, say 'Net standards boffins

Graham Cobb

joining untrusted networks that can probe device names

Sorry, Lee, I think you have missed the point. Are you telling me that you (and all the people you care about) never join a public WiFi network? And never announce names on Bluetooth?

There are many, many cases where even being able to make a halfway-reasonable guess about the owner of a device might be an issue. Think about the battered wife hiding out somewhere not too far from her home so she can still sometimes see her children. If her husband notices her name in some announcement of nearby devices he might immediately realise exactly where she is. Or just cruise the streets scanning for her device.

And then there are the movie-plot examples, Terrorists planning an outrage in Cairo (say): scan for device names and set off the bomb when a van with lots of typical American names goes by to maximise foreign tourist victims.

Just because your particular case doesn't seem to pose any risks, doesn't mean that is true for others.

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Silicon Valley bites back via Europe’s copyright reform

Graham Cobb

Re: Canada is not a member of the EU*

Indeed, Canada is not a member of the EU. However, many Open Media supporters are.

I, for example, used their tools to submit my own views to the consultation, and I wrote to my MEPs to also provide my views. I don't parrot the Open Media messages, although I largely agree with them, particularly about the Link Tax.

I realise that means Andrew believes I am, at best, a naive dupe. I disagree, but I would, wouldn't I.

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee refuses to be King Canute, approves DRM as Web standard

Graham Cobb

Re: DRM means you don't own your content

You NEVER own that content. It's ALWAYS been LICENSED to you. That's what copyright is all about.

No, that's not true. That is what the copyright holders claim, but it is not true.

If you buy a book, you own the book. It is yours to keep, to sell to other people, to tear into little pieces, to burn, to scribble over, and to read. And to do anything else you want to to it or with it unless that act is specifically illegal. You can't murder someone with it, for example. All "copyright is about" is that it temporarily adds one thing you can't do with the book: at certain times and certain situations you can't copy the book without a licence (in certain other cases it is still allowed).

The same is true for a CD or a DVD. They are no different. Just because the creator tries to claim that you have just bought a licence does not make it true.

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Graham Cobb

Trouble is, it's ultimately THEIR content. Copyright means they get the final say on where their content gets shown and under what conditions.

Indeed. But it is MY money and MY eyeballs. That means I actually get the FINAL say on whether I will buy it and under what conditions! They can offer it to me with whatever conditions they wish but only I decide if those are acceptable, for the price.

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Awkward. Investigatory Powers Act could prove hurdle to UK-EU Privacy Shield following Brexit

Graham Cobb

Whatever you think of the IPA and the UK state's fondness for mass surveillance, it is NOTHING like life under the Stasi.

You are right, it is nothing like life under the Stasi -- today. No one is suggesting that life here is currently like life in the DDR.

However, the powers and capabilities in the Snoopers Charter are a Stasi wet dream. I went round a Stasi museum in Germany and I was horrified at what they managed to achieve with a fraction of the powers the Home Office have grabbed. And there are no effective restrictions or controls on the abuse of these powers.

After last year, I have no confidence that my fellow voters are not stupid enough end up with a government led by a "strongman" (maybe as a result of a coalition of aggressively authoritarian parties such as the Tories and Labour) who is not afraid to abuse those powers "for the good of the country". If we look back at the serious abuse that occurred in the 1970s (arrests of protesters, tapping of journalists, undercover police in families, monitoring of legitimate political and trade union activities) even under a supposedly freedom-loving government, how hard is it to imagine a DDR-like society being imposed "for our own good"?

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Polls? How very 2016. Now Google Street View AI scanner can predict how people will vote

Graham Cobb

Fundamental misunderstanding

But what if there was a way to get the information without having to deal with mountains of paperwork or bothering people at all?

Either I, or the article author, have a fundamental misunderstanding here. This analysis doesn't replace things like the ACS survey, it builds on them!

The only way the guessing of things like income, race and voting preferences from vehicle choice, house style, size of garden, location, etc work is because of surveys like ACS providing the correlation information! Sure, this analysis of street view images might help for spotting some changes (such as gentrification of an area) earlier than waiting for the survey but if the surveys didn't happen the guesses would rapidly get out of date!

I have not read the paper, only the article. I would hope this point is explained in the paper.

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'First ever' SHA-1 hash collision calculated. All it took were five clever brains... and 6,610 years of processor time

Graham Cobb

Re: "Why does the size have to be identical? "

@tomdial: I don't think you understand how signing works.

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More brilliant Internet of Things gadgetry: A £1,300 mousetrap

Graham Cobb

Business case

Ah, at last! A business case for the amount of money we are spending on building a new extension to replace our old, falling down, and definitely not mouse-proof old utility room.

I never realised how much money I was spending on those mousetraps I had to buy every winter. Tanks to Rentokil I now realise that the new mouse-proof extension will pay for itself!

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Smash up your kid's Bluetooth-connected Cayla 'surveillance' doll, Germany urges parents

Graham Cobb

Regulation is required

Consumer protection regulations, with significant penalties, are needed. Any devices (not just toys) that don't meet the following should be classed as illegal surveillance devices:

1) All recording or monitoring (even locally on the device) of audio or video must be very clearly highlighted on packaging, and explained, and must be able to be fully turned off (no further monitoring at all, even for the activation command, until it is turned back on again), with a parental control lock to prevent re-enabling by children if the parent has turned it off.

2) Any feature which can send audio or video (live or recorded) anywhere outside the device must require a locally processed activation command to initiate the recording/sending. This might be a spoken command (such as the name of the device), processed locally, but it could also be something like a button on the device or a menu item. The recording/sending must be for limited time (less than 1 minute, maximum duration explained on the packaging).

3) Activation must not be possible remotely (even for law enforcement or "safety" purposes) - it must require a local user interaction.

4) There must be feedback to people in range of the collection (e.g. an led or an icon on a screen) whenever the device believes it has received the command and so is recording/sending audio or video.

If someone like the EU took the lead on this, then it is likely that these very reasonable protections would become generally accepted standards.

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Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

Graham Cobb

Public Interest

Public Interest should be a defence for every proposed offence in this Act. And intent must be taken into account during any sentencing.

And there should be no offence involved in publishing information already released on the Internet. There is absolutely no point going back to the completely failed "Spycatcher" days of attempting to prevent publication in the UK of something freely available elsewhere.

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GDPR: Do not resist! Unless you want a visit from the data police

Graham Cobb

Impact of TISA?

Any analysis of the impact of the Trade in Services Agreement? Reports (not necessarily reliable) say that it outlaws any restrictions on sending data out of the country? Would this prevent the EU signing up? Or override EU rules?

After Brexit, if we retain GDPR-level rules (so we can exchange data with the EU) what would be the implication if we were then to sign up to TISA, or a bilateral trade agreement with similar text?

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Who do you want to be Who? VOTE for the BBC's next Time Lord

Graham Cobb

Rory Kinnear

The best "Iago" I have seen. He would make a masterful Doctor.

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New Windows 10 privacy controls: Just a little snooping – or the max

Graham Cobb

Re: "Just don't use Windows 10 on-line."

WTF are consumer agencies doing to help...???

Good question. Obviously any info Microsoft collects will be available to the US authorities on request (probably even if "deleted" using the dashboard). Note that recent US laws allow (require?) Microsoft to lie about whether that is a true statement or not!

Surely this must prevent Microsoft being able to send the data to the US under EU law? How do we get the process started to have Microsoft prosecuted in the EU?

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WD slims down SSD to squeeze into little Black drive range

Graham Cobb

What sort of motherboard slot?

I will admit to knowing nothing about NVMe or M2! Is this a card that plugs into a PCI slot? Or does it plug into an M2 slot (presumably a different type of slot on a motherboard)? Or something else?

I am wondering what sort of motherboard features I will need to look out for on my next upgrade so that I can use these sorts of drives. As I tend to keep a motherboard for about 5 years, but add disk capacity steadily, I am particularly interested in what I will need to be able to use large versions (multi-TB) when they become available for the consumer market.

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Hackers could turn your smart meter into a bomb and blow your family to smithereens – new claim

Graham Cobb

Re: FFS

No it hasn't. There is still at least one "metre" left. Although the sentence containing it looks as though it could have been added as an afterthought.

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Hackers waste Xbox One, PS4, MacBook, Pixel, with USB zapper

Graham Cobb

Re: Ridiculous

It's ridiculous to suggest these should all be optically isolated.

USB ports are different from those other examples:

1) Those other interfaces are not used for massively common and cheap devices, that people routinely plug into their systems when they find them lying around.

2) Those interfaces are not normally shared, where plugging a bad device into one port can damage other devices other people have plugged into other ports (as is common in charging stations).

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Still too much discretion when it comes to that 'terrorism' stuff, repeats David Anderson QC

Graham Cobb

Don't blame Snowden, blame GCHQ

...the spread of encryption, a long-standing trend accelerated since 2013 in reaction to Edward Snowden unconscionable mass surveillance...

FTFY

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UK's new Snoopers' Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor

Graham Cobb

Re: Blackmail! (remember Monty Python?)

That happened in the miners' strike over 30 years ago. The police stopped some colleagues on their way to a client site on the suspicion they were flying pickets.

Which is why I really don't understand why Labour did not oppose this. I realise that they are just as authoritarian as the Tories, but can't they see that trade unionists (let alone Momentum sympathisers) will be some of the first victims of this? The first time there is serious disruption caused by industrial action, both the spooks and the police will be looking up in the database who has been visiting extreme left wing sites!

Labour have so much more to lose than the Tories do (no one is going to be targetting people who visit the Country Life website).

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Graham Cobb

Re: Blackmail! (remember Monty Python?)

And not just the powerful... How do you think they will get everyone to watch and inform on everyone else (not fanciful -- that is exactly what the Stasi did)?

Need someone to report on (or maybe make up, so they are seen to be valuable) goings on at the local mosque? Quick database search (sorry, not a "database", just "filters" -- oh, how we IT people laughed when we heard that!) to find a Muslim teen worried about whether he might be gay: "you wouldn't want anyone finding out you are gay, would you? We can make sure those records are all deleted if you just help us out".

The big concern is not just that this is not targetted on suspects, not even the potential for blackmail of specific people, but the collection of data on everyone allowing potential fishing expeditions and correlation with other data to search for vulnerable people to target.

Do you want to reduce the number of people turning out for a animal-rights/pro-life/pro-abortion/anti-globalisation/anti-immigration/whatever demonstration? Just correlate web browsing records with ANPR data and stop the cars of the people most likely to be relevant activists from even getting to the event. The police wouldn't do that? 20 years ago I lived near a cat farm which was subject to massive animal rights demonstrations. The police took to literally stopping anyone driving towards the area in a beat-up old car and turning them round if they were heading to the demonstration (they never stopped me, but I drove a nice car). How much easier now they can know the number plate of anyone who has ever accessed a relevant campaign web site!

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Graham Cobb

Re: Is anyone working to overcome this?

Thanks for the suggestions. I also use A&A and have paid my dues to ORG and other campaign groups for many years.

But I think the time has come to move on from campaigning to actually doing some things aimed not at geeks (like A&A) or even politicos (like ORG) but at ordinary people. I am thinking about creating apps, setting up offshore companies to provide services, creating and publicising howtos, helping commercial players understand how they need to change their policies around anonymity and Tor in the light of these UK actions, etc. I am looking for a group of people brainstorming ideas for how to actually deal with this. I would be happy to join something led by RevK if he wants to do that but, if not, is there anyone else?

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Graham Cobb

Is anyone working to overcome this?

Does anyone know of a group that is seriously working to overcome this illiberal measure? I would be interested in contributing my time, experience, skills and maybe even money to (legal) activities designed to defeat these measures and eventually result in their replacement by sensible liberal and proportionate measures.

I am looking for a chance to contribute to real activities, on the political, publicity, education, legal, technical and commercial fronts.

I realise not everyone would support this -- feel free to ask about groups doing the opposite if you wish. But the time has come to go beyond the Don't Spy on Us campaign coalition and some of us with technical and commercial experience might be interested in contributing to helping people legally bypass the unacceptable parts of the IP and DE bills.

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Graham Cobb

Re: Don't worry: it won't affect the bad guys

As usual, a bad and poorly drafted law will merely inconvenience the innocent, allow abuse by government and trouble the real criminals not at all.

More seriously, it just makes the problems of actually tracking real suspects much harder.

Most people do not have a problem with court-ordered targeted surveillance or even forced decryption as long as it is very much limited to specific targets and with real independent oversight and protections. In that world (just yesterday), you don't see much takeup of uncrackable end-to-end encryption: people are perfectly happy that big company products will protect them from criminals. There is little noise about real end-to-end encryption and almost everyone, even those on the edges of or at low levels in terrorist organisations, do not bother with them.

But, with these over-the-top and anti-democratic powers, everyone will rapidly adopt tools just to protect their own privacy. Every teenager wanting to find information about their sexuality, or concerned about a medical issue or getting involved in political activity, will use them. So, they will quickly become completely normal and the security services really will go dark. It won't be the fault of those of us concerned about privacy, it will be the fault of the government for being so stupid!

I can only hope that people realise this soon and punish the government at the next election for seriously endangering us with these actions.

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UK Parliament waves through 'porn-blocking' Digital Economy Bill

Graham Cobb

Re: Stazi

The Stazi is exactly the issue. If you get the chance, I strongly recommend visiting a Stazi museum. I went to the one in Liepzig, which played a pivotal role in the fall of communism. It is so scary to see how close the Stazi came to preventing the popular, peaceful protests which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And that was with 1980's surveillance techniques.

If the Stazi had had modern internet surveillance tools, they would have had no problem at all in keeping full control and Europe would look very different today.

I would love to see a Stazi museum in the Geek's Guide! “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

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100k+ petition: MPs must consider debating Snoopers' Charter again

Graham Cobb

Re: People. The person you need to write to is your MP.

Done. Here is an extract from my letter...

A bill which effectively provides a police "tail" on all members of the public at all times while they surf the internet, just in case it may be useful in the future, is not acceptable in a democracy, only in a police state.

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No super-kinky web smut please, we're British

Graham Cobb

Re: TOR & VPNs

I did it after checking if I wasn't cutting out valid visitors.

But that has just changed. As a matter of principle, as soon as the IPBill was passed, I changed my normal web browsing from my main personal PC to go via various foreign VPN proxies. I have been using it for several days now, including things like reading this site and many purchases.

Any company that wants my business from now on will have to accept connections from anonymising sources. I don't suppose I am the only one.

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IETF plants privacy test inside DNS

Graham Cobb

Re: I'm confused

I think you missed three things:

1) IP address to name reverse lookups are not unique. I can look up many different names to get the same IP address. This is particularly relevant when reading blogs (thousands may be hosted on a single server, including many bland ones and some radical ones) and can also be relevant for CDNs.

2) You may be using a VPN, a proxy server or even Tor to protect your network connection but many browsers still look up the name first (for example, that is the default configuration in the version of Firefox I use).

3) A matter of principle: name lookup and network connection are separate issues and both need to be protected (otherwise your question could just be raised the other way around).

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GSMA: 5G at risk if governments don't get their acts together

Graham Cobb

5G isn't really about consumers or mobile phones. It certainly isn't about phone calls (nothing since 2G has really been about making those better, although 3G and 4G have made voice cheaper/more efficient for operators to carry, arguably contributing to the massive drop in price for calls).

It is much more about other uses of mobile data. That includes machine communications (everything from very low power remote sensing to high speed, low latency remote control) and business uses (e.g. remote access to business applications by travelling sales people). The only real consumer driver of 5G may be VR gaming (while on a train, for example).

Although we can expect that once higher speeds and (very importantly) lower latencies are available then apps will be developed to use it. But it will take more imagination than I have!

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ARM: Hold my beer, we'll install patches for your crappy IoT gear for you

Graham Cobb

Re: OK, so the dystopian-but-realistic solution is...

I am interested in your ideas on how the ISPs identify a connection with problem equipment.

How can an ISP tell by watching my DSL pipe that IoT device on my home network is performing a DDOS rather than its normal job? No one device needs to be sending unusual numbers of requests as there are some many devices involved. And the requests might even look like valid DNS lookups (for example).

Also, I suspect small businesses are probably much more of a problem than consumer lines. Small businesses are much more likely to have things like cameras and crappy, cheap, video recorders connected to them and visible from the internet so the owner can monitor if they are worried or the burglar alarm goes off. They also have business T's & C's which may make it expensive to cut them off.

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No, Russia is not tapping into Syria's undersea internet cables

Graham Cobb

Re: Why bother?

Maybe the Yantar is there to stop other countries tapping the cable?

Russia have taps installed on the Syrian end courtesy of their client state (Syria); the US have taps installed at the Cyprus end courtesy of their client states (Cyprus, but probably operated by the UK); neither side has any desire for other players (Israel, Saudi Arabia, China) to be able to install any more taps.

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British jobs for British people: UK tech rejects PM May’s nativist hiring agenda

Graham Cobb

The real problem is that if it turns out that staying in the EU really is the best option* then what government would be brave enough to go back to the electorate with that proposition?

It is a problem. I had hoped that the government would be planning to do that. After all, with the vote being 12-13 all they needed to do is to make the smallest change necessary to get the least convinced Brexiter in those 25 people to change their vote and it would get majority approval. So, no need of talk of a "hard Brexit" or any substantive changes at all (just changing the name over the door would probably be enough -- just call us associate members or something).

But the process seems to have been overtaken by (i) personal ambition (Boris) and (ii) internal Conservative party politics (May) and the likelihood of doing whatever is best for the country has gone out of the window.

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New GCHQ unit: Psst, breached biz bods. We won't rat you out to the ICO

Graham Cobb

Re: “If you haven't phoned me and told me about it, I will phone you"

While I strongly support the ICO (and, indeed, the public) being informed of all data breaches it does seem reasonable that this organisation would say "you have a duty to report that to the ICO, but we are not going to get involved in that". There is a role for an expert group who can advise companies without insisting they make the report.

Of course, these sorts of chinese walls, for the public good, are exactly what the government seem determined to break down in our personal lives. I see no reason why companies should be able to get the benefit of good advice while possibly breaking the law and yet individuals do not have the option to keep data required by one government department separate from data supplied to another.

For example, it is in the public interest that people get prompt treatment for possibly communicable illnesses so we need to make sure that doesn't mean they will be grassed up to other government depts.

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BT will HATE us for this one weird 5G trick

Graham Cobb

Re: Which London?

I like the idea of renaming "bus lanes" as "cycle lanes" (but still allowing buses and taxis to use them as guests). I wonder if the nudge unit have looked at that?

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Inside the Box thinking: People want software for the public cloud

Graham Cobb

Re: WHAT????

To be fair to the Reg, I think your response comes from the large enterprise point of view. There are many, MANY SMEs who would find the Box service very attractive. Most of them are stuck in the 90's and have no idea what they could be doing (with a file server, let alone Sharepoint) and these cloud-based services are a good way to bring them forward to today's technology.

They really don't have the same issues around regulations, sensitivity, or even availability. Their existing business-critical data is probably not being backed up at all and is easily readable if someone breaks a window and nicks the finance clerk's PC.

If you run a local estate agent firm, with 10 shops and 100 employees, having cloud backup, document management, data sharing and mobile access would be a great benefit.

And don't forget that SMEs make up about 50% of private sector employment in the UK. Half of private sector workers seems like a reasonable target for Box to be going after!

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Facebook pays, er, nope, gets £11m credit from UK taxman HMRC...

Graham Cobb

Re: Public infrastructure?

What public infrastructure would that be?

Is that a genuine question??? Functioning economy, civil legal system, regulated financial services, criminal law & police, available employees, education, healthcare, transport, defence, international trade agreements, rubbish collection, ...

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Graham Cobb

Re: The system is broken

And ultimately who pays the tax on "profits" ?

Hint - its the same mugs that pay pay VAT

No, that isn't always the case. It is only the case if the company can raise prices as it likes. In a competitive environment, the tax (or at least part of it) will be being paid by the shareholders because a competitor making less profit will pay less tax and will be able to offer a lower price.

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Graham Cobb

Re: Blame Game

I think "it's Facebook's fault" or "it's HMRC's fault" is way too simplistic - the problem is inherent in the system that we have, and the only way of changing it is through systematic change in how tax is collected.

No, it is definitely Facebook's fault. No one else. There is no law requiring them to arrange their business to minimise their tax: they choose to do that. In response, I choose not to do business with any company which does not pay a "reasonable" amount of tax. If they want my business they will need to show they are paying considerably more tax in the UK.

Just because their actions are legal does not mean that their actions are necessarily in the best interests of their business.

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FCC keeps secret Google TV landgrab under wraps forever

Graham Cobb

Genuine question

What on earth does virtual headend have to do with YouTube? I am not sure I am in favour of virtual headend (I would like much more choice and openness in on-premise devices) but I don't understand why you think it is good for Google?

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EU's YouTube filter plan was revised '37 times'

Graham Cobb

Don't be silly, Andrew. There are many good arguments for copyright but the "old book sells and everyone gets paid except the author" one is absolutely not. When I sell my house for a massive profit everyone gets paid except the builder.

There is no moral right to copyright. There is a purely pragmatic right, to encourage the creation of expensive to create but easily copied goods such as art or software. The argument is about what the terms need to be so that society is paying the price it needs to to encourage the creation of the goods it wants.

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Graham Cobb

Creating a new right just makes money for lawyers

There is no evidence that a new "Related Right" is needed. Any publisher who wants to insist that Google pay before indexing their news can just block the Google spider using robots.txt. I have not seen a single claim that Google is ignoring a "keep out" notice in robots.txt.

Until there is evidence that Google is ignoring robots.txt, the last thing we need is more special-case copyright law. This will just lead to unintended consequences as some troll sees a strange way to interpret the law and apply it to cases other than the news publishing which is being used to justify it. And no one can predict how the CJEU will end up interpreting it!

The only people to make money from this will be lawyers, making weird arguments for judges to then make unintended rulings.

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Graham Cobb

Be careful what you wish for

The "that's a nice link you've got there" protection racket (known more commonly as the link tax) will result in absolutely zero revenue for the publishers and will just result in the death of independent and investigative news. Which I think we can all agree would be a bad thing, whether you are an SJW or not.

What news publishers should be fighting for is a significant increase in the hosting protection in the E-Commerce directive. The recent Facebook news censorship (the Napalm girl photo) shows that platforms today are insufficiently protected and hence are forced to act conservatively and censor news publications. That completely undermines the freedom of the press.

Why are news organisations called "the press"? Because they owned their own printing presses and could literally print ANYTHING they liked, without needing permission from anyone else! Of course, if they violated laws or community standards they were held responsible. But only AFTER publication -- after everyone had a chance to read it. There are many instances of brave news organisations printing illegal or distressing material, or violating court injunctions, and some have even been killed for it. We cannot and must not allow press pre-censorship in the future.

Unfortunately the future of news is on the platforms (Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc). Those platforms need to have the right, in fact the duty, to make visible everything a news organisation publishes. Even if it is illegal. And they must not be held responsible: the news publisher must be responsible.

I am not saying that everyone should have the right to publish without interference. And I realise that determining whether someone is a "news organisation" or not is fraught with difficulty. But it is not impossible (we already have some laws which treat journalists differently from others) and the time of the experts in Brussels would be better spent on that problem.

The "Napalm Girl" photo was a major factor in turning US public opinion against the Vietnam war. What is going to happen if the 21st century Syrian version of the Napalm Girl photo is deemed to be child abuse and blocked from Facebook and Google?

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Australia wants law to ban de-anonymisation of anonymous data

Graham Cobb

Re: ABS crypto hash

This is the real issue.

Making de-anonymisation illegal is an important point in protecting against many commercially-oriented threats. For example, insurance companies abusing medical data that they may have been given access to for research purposes in order to set premiums (for individuals, geographic areas, etc). A law will probably prevent commercial players from doing it (and provides a context for compensation if they do so).

But, it does not protect, in any way, against abuse by government (for example a future government deciding to send all muslims to internment camps, or something). That is the threat which has to be shown to be completely impossible if people are to be persuaded to provide intrusive personal information. To protect people against this sort of abuse it is essential that really intrusive data like census data is aggregated immediately, and the raw data not retained at all.

Yes, it would be nice to be able to go back to earlier data to look at it in a new way in years to come; but if allowing that possibility just means people won't tell the truth the data becomes useless not just in the future but even now!

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EU law: Brussels burps up aspirational copyright tweaks

Graham Cobb

Unusual support for Google

Its unusual to see El Reg (particularly Andrew) giving such strong support for Google!

The requirement for platforms to "prevent the availability on their services of content identified by rightholders" immediately kills off any startup trying to compete with YouTube, as they are not going to be able to implement a feature like ContentID. Personally I would much prefer Google to be open to competition, particularly from European alternatives that take into account European cultural priorities, like data protection.

In addition, it also kills off any use of internet platforms for legitimate non-infringing uses of content, such as the new exceptions they are so keen to talk about!

Note to editors: copyright is not, and never has been, an absolute right. Whether use of a particular piece of content requires a licence depends on the type and purpose of use, and other aspects of the context. And the decision on whether new content infringes rights in an earlier content is up to a jury to decide (there are many cases where this decision has been extremely difficult to predict).

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Graham Cobb

Digital single market

The EU expanded so hastily there are huge disparities between income and spending across the region. Issuing grand decrees from Brussels that wish the digital single market into existence doesn’t change that.

You can argue about whether the differences in income and spending mean a single market is a good idea or not. On balance I think it probably is, although I am no economist.

But I don't see how anyone can argue that a single market is good for physical goods (including fashion, cars, iphones) but not for digital goods (like media).

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Google-funded group mad that US Copyright Office hasn't abolished copyright yet

Graham Cobb

Re: Your paranoia is showing, Andrew

But when it comes to products from a person's mind (a song, a book), suddenly it's something else and the creator is not allowed to own it in the same way.

On the contrary, like all property they can own it until they choose to sell it or give it away. It is you who are trying to claim that IP is somehow different from real property! If I build a house I can sell it to someone. They can do whatever they like with it, including sell it to someone else or build an extension. They can even copy it and sell the copy if they want.

Without society's gracious willingness to give IP some additional protections to the normal rules of ownership that is all that creators would have. The first time they sold someone their book, or played their song, the item would be available to be sold on, or copied. That is how property works. However, society is aware that in that case artistic creation would not be worthwhile (copying a book has always been a lot cheaper than copying a house) so we have granted creators additional rights, beyond the right of ownership, to limit copying for a limited time.

Of course that is worthwhile (as I said, I believe copyright has value). But don't try to pretend that there is some sort of "natural right" involved. There is not. Your only "natural right" is to be able to sell each thing you create once at whatever price you can get, or decide not to sell it at all. That is what we all choose.

So, there is a bargain to be obtained between creators and consumers. That bargain trades money for limited additional rights (copyright). Like any bargain, the prices involved are finite (copyright can't be unlimited) and will be different for different people. But we have not (yet) found a way for the bargain involved to be different for each person which is why I said the copyright office should be trying to balance: they should be administering the creation of this bargain.

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Delete Google Maps? Go ahead, says Google, we'll still track you

Graham Cobb

@ Chris 125, choice is very welcome. If those services are useful to you, and you have chosen to use them and pay the price, that is fine. Is it not obvious to you that there are other people who do not need/use those services and hence are not willing to pay (with private information) for services we don't use?

I still can't see a single downside.

It is about protecting choice, so those of us who wish to decline some offers and accept others can do so.

Would the price still be fine for you if Google said the only way they would offer the services is if you agree that they can record all your conversations (not just calls) and publish them on the internet for everyone to listen to? I am sure you would decide that was not a price worth paying. What if they said "OK, we will only allow companies who have a business relationship with you to have copies of all the conversations". Probably still not acceptable. What about "OK, we will only give them access to conversations where their company name is mentioned". Maybe you would think about that. Or "we won't give them the actual audio -- we will analyse the conversation and give them the gist of it". A few more people might agree to that. Or "we will not summarise the conversation at all, just tell them that you were talking about them". Several more would sign up.

My point is that we all have different assessments of the value of our privacy. No one is comfortable with no privacy. Your assessment of the value of your private conversations will be different from mine. That is fine -- but we should all be able to make those trades at the price we are willing to pay.

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Graham Cobb

Re: What's the problem really?

If you don't care, that is fine for you. Feel free to enable all the snooping options. But some of us do care about our privacy.

Partly it is just because it is my data, and none of anyone else's business. If they want to buy it from me with an offer of some benefit in exchange then fine: I will consider the offer and take or leave it as I choose. But they have to be clear and open about it, and I have to have a free choice.

Also it is a matter of principle. It is unlikely anyone really cares about my data. But there are plenty of people for whom this control is vital. Even just for location the list is long, such as journalists, political activists, abuse victims, whistle-blowers, celebrities, etc. If you include control over contacts, audio (microphone access), communications (access to SMS and email) and camera you can extend the list to all doctors, lawyers, politicians, CEOs and anyone with knowledge of a secret that might be worth money to someone.

By making sure that everyone has, and routinely uses, full control we allow those people to have the control they need (and without drawing attention to themselves by using it).

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Petulant Facebook claims it can't tell the difference between child abuse and war photography

Graham Cobb

Re: Facebook can do what they like.

News media such as the BBC and newspapers can, indeed, decide what their policy is (and their readers decide whether they want to read them). And Facebook can do that if it wants to become a media site.

But it claims not to want that, and is trying to attract the media to see it as a channel. In that case it cannot have a policy -- it has to let the media sites publish and be damned.

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