Friday, 21 March 2008

Someone's watching you

Someone's watching you (BBC News, Friday, 14 March 2008)

This article makes a number of valid points, easily lost in the anything but coherent presentation, which mixes up marginally related issues and which sports a lot of opinion and not so much understanding.

A few thoughts of my own about:
The British press, even its tabloid basement, could be worse. On the whole it leaves the children alone. But one way or another it will print anything it can get about an adult.

I would dispute that the British press leaves children alone, and I can think of some counter-examples from BBC News articles in the past few weeks. Apart from this, it is regrettable the author does not speak on behalf of BBC News, which is one of the foremost offenders where it concerns the gratuitous publication of personal details about virtually anyone, including photographs, all for the sake of a juicy story. Whether the people involved are guilty, innocent, or not even tried yet, that seems to make little difference.

I have mentioned some examples in previous posts. A recent article is:

Worker dropped trousers on plane (BBC News, Thursday, 20 March 2008)

One of the most objectionable articles I can remember is:

Bride fined after wedding fight (BBC News, Tuesday, 10 July 2007)

(URLs to these articles were omitted for obvious reasons.)

This last article was about a couple fighting on their wedding day and breaking some stuff in a hotel. It is hard to imagine what public interest could be served by reporting this embarrassing event, including a photograph of the couple. Nobody deserves that such intimate details be archived for all eternity for the enjoyment of a demented readership that confuses BBC News with serious journalism.

Then about:

Pinching private phone calls and e-mails ought to be a crime, but somehow it isn't.

Britain has reached a stage of maniacal government prying that calls for private initiative to protect basic human rights. In the case of the internet and computer privacy, we have the technology. The draconian Government Access to Keys laws in the form of RIP Act Part III clearly violate human rights from any perspective. Fortunately such laws are easily defeated by steganography ('hidden writing'), as implemented for example by TrueCrypt.

The shameless surveillance of our email traffic by the British government, and of all European email traffic by the Americans aided by the British government (Echelon), can be thwarted through the use of PGP. Anonymity networks, such as Tor, still suffer from a number of weaknesses, but once these are fixed, such networks have the potential to greatly enhance internet privacy.

The biggest obstacle at the moment is defeatism among computer users, and moronic operating systems like all of the Microsoft crap, which have security leaks whereever one looks. Many Linux distributions are slightly better in this respect, but they still create log files without warning, and preserve data that an uninformed user thinks has been deleted.

If NuLabour gets its way, every street and alley in Britain will be covered by surveillance cameras and every move of every citizen outside their home will be recorded with the help of biometric data stored in central databases that would have made the Stasi envious. When this happens, and that may be rather soon, computers and the internet may, paradoxically, become the last bastion of privacy. However, this will require that computer users put pressure on software developers to heed privacy concerns and to make antiforensics the norm.

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