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September 27, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

But what about Scotland?

Just spoke to a group of ISPs at the UK Network Operators Forum conference about ORG (Ian spoke about data retention), and from the audience came a very important question. What about Scotland? Scotland has a different legal system, different legislation and its own parliament, so that means a whole different group of people we need to be talking to. We are keen to be inclusive, and didn't intentionally leave Scotland out, but we'll need to find our counterparts there. We are talking to Digital Rights Ireland already, but I am not aware of a similar group in Scotland (or Wales or Northern Ireland, for that matter.) If you know whom I should be talking to, point them out to me. Meantime I shall put some feelers out to try and find the right people.

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September 26, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Briefing for members of the European Parliament on data retention

Privacy International have put together an excellent open letter to all members of the European Parliament, addressing the current proposals on communications traffic data retention. It begins:

Dear Members of the European Parliament, We would like to take this opportunity to address you regarding the current proposals on communications data retention. As you are well aware, both the Council and the Commission have put forward proposals on data retention. It now appears that the policy is finally shifting to the first pillar away from the third. This does not mean that the policy has improved. Despite many edits over the last two years, both the Council and the Commission proposals continue to be invasive, illegal, illusory and illegitimate. These proposals continue to require the collection and logging of every telecommunication transaction of every individual within modern European society. Almost all human conduct in an information society generates traffic data. Therefore traffic data can be used to piece together a detailed picture of human conduct.[1] Under the various proposals, this data will be kept for between six months and four years. There are clear challenges for these proposals with respect to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Charter on Fundamental Rights and national constitutions. The case still has not been made that retention is necessary in a democratic society.[2] The claimed need for harmonisation is premature at best and challenges democratic process.
The letter, which is well worth reading, has been endorsed by:
  • Association Electronique Libre, Belgium
  • BBA Switzerland
  • Bits of Freedom, the Netherlands
  • Chaos Computer Club, Germany
  • Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility - ES, Spain
  • Digital Rights, Denmark
  • EFFi, Finland
  • Forum InformatikerInnen f

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September 24, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP: No justification for data retention

On her website, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP worries that there has been no serious cost-benefit analysis of the UK's data retention proposalsfor Europe, and calls on other MEPs to question the necessity for such 'sloppy' legislation:

"[S]torage of everyone's phone, email and website use is costly as well as a massive invasion of privacy and increase in state surveillance, so the threshold for justification is a high one." "I am still worried by the absence of a serious cost-benefit analysis. Assertions are made about the need to keep records for a considerable time, but the evidence is thin. No decent rebuttal has been delivered of the case for a short retention time plus specific 'freezing orders' for communications records of suspects." "Since we will have the leverage to do so now, MEPs must probe the real necessity for invasive measures. Whilst EU-wide cooperation is crucial to stop terrorism and organised crime, Member States should first end cross-border turf wars and actually implement cooperative arrangements they've signed up to."

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September 23, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

The implications of wrongful arrest

Yesterday's Guardian ran the story of the wrongful arrest of David Mery on its front page, a story he's written up in a lot more detail on his site.

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September 17, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Mapping the digital rights landscape

A while back, when we first started talking about setting up ORG, I thought it would be a good exercise to explore the existing digital rights landscape in the UK. I wanted to create a mindmap which would allow me to see visually relationships between the various organisations working in this area (even if only very peripherally), and I based my map on work already done by Jo Walsh.

Unfortunately, events overtook me before I got to finish it, as you can see:

UK digital rights landscape

You can get the full-sized image from Flickr.

It really is a very much unfinished work, and I need your help to fill in all the gaps. For each organisation I need the key people, the issues that organisation addresses, and their website URL. Please leave info in the comments, rather than email me directly, so that then everyone can see what's already been found.

Right, over to you!

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September 17, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

The Register: Phone cos and rights activists round on Clarke

i was so caught up in the conference I was at last Friday that I entirely failed to notice that we were in The Register, on data retention. As were ETNOA:

The European Telecommunications Network Operators's Association (ETNOA) called on UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke and his fellow ministers to engage in fuller discussions with industry.

Michael Bartholomew, a spokesman for the organisation, said the case for the compulsory retention of communications data had not been proven, and argued that tracking data for unsuccessful calls would be extraordinarily expensive, with operators having to make system changes costing in the region of

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September 14, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Expanding the public domain

A transcript of James Boyle's remarks on the public domain, copyright and Creative Commons, given at the Association of Research Libraries 146th Membership Meeting, May 26 2005. James calls for more evidence-based thinking on intellectual property issues, something that is currently sorely lacking.

Here

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September 14, 2005 | Suw Charman Anderson

Framing DRM

Kevin Marks uses Lakovian frames* to explain what's wrong with DRM to five different audiences, of which the first two:

Computer Users: DRM turns your computer against you
I know sometimes it seems like your computer has it's own agenda, when it refuses to print or copy or find your documents. DRM does this on purpose. It is designed to stop you copying and pasting, printing and sharing things. I don't think you want this.

Computer Scientists: DRM will fail through emulation
One of the basic precepts of Computer Science is the Church-Turing thesis, which shows that any computer can emulate any other one. This is not theory, but something we all use every day, whether it is Java virtual machines, or CPU's emulating older ones for software compatibility.

The corollary of this is that code can never really know where it is running. For a rock solid example, look at MAME, the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator, that runs almost any video game from the last 30 years. The games think you have paid a quarter when you press the '5' key.

I like this sort of comparative re-framing of debates. It provides for a variety of different viewpoints, acknowledges that there's more than one way to think about these issues and allows you to hit one very big bird many times with several well-framed stones.

* 'Frames' are a way of presenting information or rhetoric that is sympathetic to a specific audience's paradigm. George Lakoff applied frames to political communications thus illuminating how language is used by politicians to very subtly reinforce their point.

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