January 2nd, 2008

The privacy index

Privacy International:

  • The 2007 rankings indicate an overall worsening of privacy protection across the world, reflecting an increase in surveillance and a declining performance of privacy safeguards.
  • Concern over immigration and border control dominated the world agenda in 2007. Countries have moved swiftly to implement database, identity and fingerprinting systems, often without regard to the privacy implications for their own citizens
  • The 2007 rankings show an increasing trend amongst governments to archive data on the geographic, communications and financial records of all their citizens and residents. This trend leads to the conclusion that all citizens, regardless of legal status, are under suspicion.
  • The privacy trends have been fueled by the emergence of a profitable surveillance industry dominated by global IT companies and the creation of numerous international treaties that frequently operate outside judicial or democratic processes.
  • Despite political shifts in the US Congress, surveillance initiatives in the US continue to expand, affecting visitors and citizens alike.
  • Surveillance initiatives initiated by Brussels have caused a substantial decline in privacy across Europe, eroding protections even in those countries that have shown a traditionally high regard for privacy.
  • The privacy performance of older democracies in Europe is generally failing, while the performance of newer democracies is becoming generally stronger.
  • The lowest ranking countries in the survey continue to be Malaysia, Russia and China. The highest-ranking countries in 2007 are Greece, Romania and Canada.
  • The 2006 leader, Germany, slipped significantly in the 2007 rankings, dropping from 1st to 7th place behind Portugal and Slovenia.
  • In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines and falling into the “black” category, denoting endemic surveillance.
  • The worst ranking EU country is the United Kingdom, which again fell into the “black” category along with Russia and Singapore. However for the first time Scotland has been given its own ranking score and performed significantly better than England & Wales.
  • Argentina scored higher than 18 of the 27 EU countries.
  • Australia ranks higher than Slovakia but lower than South Africa and New Zealand.

Before somebody smacks me for US-bashing: The scale goes from 1.3 to 3.1, the U.S. being on 1.5 (just not getting out of “Endemic surveilance societies), my country at 2.1 (almost bottomming out of “Systemic failure to uphold safeguards”), being a worst performer in “Identity cards and biometrics”, “Data sharing”, “Communication interception”, “Communication retension” and (cough) “Leadership”.

Thanks wired.

December 12th, 2007

The chase (case?) for open standards

The administration is actively seeking the use of open document standards in their systems. Earlier they formally embraced PDF, and now ODF is added to that.

In a rather silly, but predictable response, Microsoft critisized this move openly, stating the state “limited itself by adopting a standard that is hardly used” and “rules out suppliers with a certain development or business model”.

Well. First of all, even while they are the biggest player in this market, who is Microsoft to criticize a (for them) foreign government, who has and is spending massive amounts of tax payers money on their software? Secondly, who put in all their power to push a completely unnecessary and next to incomprehensible own “standard” through ISO, instead of writing a decent plug-in to handle ODF, which, for heaven sake, Sun already did? It’s only the most ignorant people who fall for the argument that the format is favoring OpenOffice.org or pushing out Microsoft. MS could write that plug in in a rainy wednesday afternoon. The reason they choose not to is exactly the argument they use against using standard formats: it enables users to switch to a better, or cheaper, or more suiting product. As they arguably already have the best product, there is nothing they should fear. Spin, spin, spin.

Related: The city of Amsterdam has finished a study to see if using open source software would be feasible for their most simple straightforward workstations (about 30%). Think Ubuntu, although they used Suse in their study. Turned out it was, worked nicely and stable, and was cheaper in hardware, licensing and maintenance than closed software. The study will be extended to cover more complex workstations.

March 16th, 2007

The flow of money looked upon

Almost all the banks in the world do business with a company called Swift. While they sort of claim they are a “message transfer” company, they are in effect the clearing house for all inter-bank transaction between bank that have no peer-to-peer relationship. Read: they process virtually all international money transfers. It’s headquarters is located in Belgium. It turns out that the FBI and the CIA can more or less without anything more than asking, look into all transactions done through Swift. Even worse, if say a Dutch bank has an office in New York, questions about transfers done entirely within the Netherlands would be answered without much hesitation. Without question this is illegal. While this has caused a row in many European countries, it has gone more or less unnoticed in my country. That has changed now. The banks need to stick to the law too. Not that money flows cannot be traced for crime investigation, but a court order is needed AND clients should be informed that especially international money transfers can be scrutinized by foreign security agencies. Now if you think “so what?” imagine mr. Putin’s lot going over your bank statements. No, that is not something different.

December 5th, 2006

Congratulations – continued

John Bolton resigned, as the chance was an absolute zero to get pass the senate. I am pretty sure Bush is about the only person in the world pinking away a tear or two about this. It’s good somebody addresses the corruption and money-wasting in the UN, but decapitating and behaving like a true a$$ only to gain more influence on the world-scene, which IMHO is the only reason why the president praised him, is too much. Bye John. Nobody will miss you.

August 20th, 2006

VOTE “YES” on ballot measure 2 – tell out of State folks they are wrong!

This is something I wrote over a month ago. Lately, my S.O. has noticed that whenever she visits Yahoo she gets a banner headline advising her to vote “no” on prop 2 (who’s paying for this – give me a break). Ballot Measure 2 will protect Alaska, Alaskans and the water we all depend on. If it fails, we get screwed – simple as that. Tell the foriegn cruise lines (and the ad agencies in Seattle) to go fly a kite; they should respect us, not exploit us.

The foreign cruise lines that use Alaska waters to make “big bucks” have pulled out the stops and are spending huge sums of money (from “Outside”) to try to convince us Alaskans that the $50/head tax that Ballot Measure 2 would impose on cruise line pasengers visiting our state would hurt us. Ballot Measure 2 is on the ballot because a bunch of Alaskans thought it was important to let the citizens of Alaska decide if monitoring the impact of cruise ships on our State’s waters and the impact that the cruise lines have on local business should be put to a vote. I got a very slick brochure, paid for by out-of-state concerns, urging me to vote “NO” just the other day. In a word the cruise lines, and their outside supporters are full of B.S. The cruise lines don’t give 2 hoots about the impact of the tax on their clients (how much are they charging their customers now for a ride?) What the foreign cruise ship operators are worried about is what Alaska will do with the tax money collected. Specifically a portion of the funds collected, if Measure 2 is approved by the citizens of Alaska, would be used to enforce existing laws regarding the Cruise ship industries impact on our environment. What the Cruise ship operators are worried about is that if law enforcement is funded they might get fined for dumping raw sewage, diesel fuel and who knows what else into the pristine waters of Alaska (more than a few have been caught already). Not surprisingly The Anchorage Daily News (ADN) has chosen to throw its’ lot with the cruise ship owners. I think it’s ironic that ADN would argue that outside groups might be responsible for getting the measure on the ballot considering that ADN is run by a bunch of folks in California and owned by outsiders. The “tax,” a good “tax,” imposed by Ballot Measure 2 will help keep our waters clean for future tourists and thus, increase the desirability of a vacation in Alaska – not diminish the desire as the cruise lines have claimed – that’s a good thing.. VOTE YES on #2.

Addendum: The Alaska based “poster businesses” lending their names to the “vote no on Prop 2 advertising” are all, without exception, the “big operators” who fear that disclosing the monies they pay to the cruise lines will hurt their businesses, regardless of the impact that their “kick-backs” have on other small businesses who do not kick-back procedes to the cruise lines (if the majority of voters vote yes on Prop 2 the “big operators” will have to disclose what they’ve kicked-back to the cruise operators.)