We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

David Davis MP awarded a very honourable title by Malcolm Rifkind

Thus reports the BBC:

Conservative MP David Davis said the Intelligence and Security Committee had been “captured by the agencies they are supposed to be overseeing”. And ex-chairman Sir Malcolm Rifkind acted as a “spokesman” for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ rather than a watchdog.

Sir Malcolm said the criticisms were “ludicrous” and had no basis in fact. He said Mr Davis had been “captured” by the civil liberties lobby.

If David Davis is the nice fellow that I think he is, he should send Rifkind a friendly ‘thank you’ note for making such a kind remark ;-)

Sometimes I think David Davis is the best Prime Minister we never had, the British Barry Goldwater. But instead we got that twerp David Cameron.

S-s-s-samsung’s listening to you . . .

Samsung’s latest model Smart TV is the real deal.

Users of Samsung’s Smart TV devices have raised concerns over the device’s privacy policy, which seems to suggest that they should not discuss any sensitive topics in their living room while the television is plugged in.

The warning relates to the product line’s voice recognition services, which lets users control their television with voice commands input through a microphone on the set’s remote control.

Samsung privacy policy warns: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of voice recognition.”

Get it now before the rush; the word is that this technology soon really will be a “must-have”. Because it isn’t just Samsung or the company that provides Samsung with voice-recognition software that you need to worry about. As the Boomtown Rats put it back in ’79:

And when the place comes ablaze with a thousand dropped names
I don’t know who to call.
But I got a friend over there in the government block
And he knows the situation and he’s taking stock,
I think I’ll call him up now

This should be interesting!

I just noticed this:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has won its four-year Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over secret legal interpretations of a controversial section of the Patriot Act, including legal analysis of law enforcement and intelligence agency access to census records.

Well, well, this should be interesting.

Magic Unicorn of the Day

From Ryan Paul, in this tweet:

Instead of inventing encryption that only government can break, we should just breed a special unicorn that magically blocks terrorist acts.

Samizdata quote of the day

Politicians: The kind of people who think they can ban math

– the hilariously named “InfoSec Taylor Swift” referencing Dismal Dave Cameron.

Samizdata quote of the day

“My father used to say, ‘Eternal paranoia is the price of liberty. Vigilance is not enough’.”

Berlin Game, by Len Deighton, page 57.

The Samaritan app – supportive or intrusive?

There is an interesting article on the BBC website about a controversial new app promoted by the Samaritans, a charity who provide a helpline and other support for people suffering emotional distress or considering suicide:

Once activated, the app tracks tweets from people you follow on Twitter, and emails you if any of them sound distressed. If one of them writes “help me”, “hate myself”, or any other phrase the organisation deems troublesome, you’ll receive an email from the Samaritans nudging you to take a closer look. The tweets are already public, and you might have spotted them anyway, so the service simply highlights things you might’ve missed. Right?

Not so, according to its critics, who have been tweeting and blogging about the service since its launch last week. The app is fraught with problems, they say. It raises major privacy concerns, and is all but tailor made for trolls. Stalkers and online bullies now have a tool that tells them exactly when their targets are at a low ebb, detractors suggest. Users aren’t notified when someone begins using the app to monitor their tweets.

Via the Guardian article on the controversy, I found two posts by Adrian Short, “Unethical uses for public twitter data” and “Samaritans radar must close”. His arguments mix calls for regulation by law, with which I disagree, and acute observations about the implications for privacy and whether this app will help or harm those who talk about their emotional problems on Twitter.

What do you think?

Samizdata quote of the day

“Privacy never an absolute right” in spook, translates as “state shall be able to invade privacy if convenient, without particular reason”.

Caspar Bowden

This really does worry me

Imagine audio and video bugs get better and better. Maybe in the form of tiny physical cameras, maybe as viruses that will eventually succeed in penetrating any computer, phone or similar device, maybe as some kind of broadcast or field. There is parallel progress in the science of searching through audio-visual records. Eventually every house, every room, every human body is bugged – saturated with bugs. Of course most of the time no one is interested in you. But if ever you become interesting, they can watch you, not just now, but at any time going back years. What you were doing on any given day. Every time you sang along to your ipod, had sex, mentioned the word “government”. But “they” is not just the government; it is anyone.

If The Cloud is the future, we need more than one future

There is a good article on TechRaptor about alleged Chinese intrusions into iCloud.

Greatfire.org, a website dedicated to monitoring and combating online censorship in China, has provided technical evidence to substantiate these allegations. Apple was already facing some heat after pulling anti-censorship apps from it’s iStore and also it’s recent decision to move iCloud storage of Chinese user data to centers within mainland china.

And just in case you think China is the only Bad Guys we need to worry about…

Of course, no one should pretend that this kind of spying only goes on in repressive countries like China. In comparison to the NSA use of ‘fiber-optic splitters’ to copy and filter data directly from the telecommunications backbone, a MITM attack seems rather quaint. Furthermore, it was reported earlier this year that the NSA had capitalized on the Heartbleed bug to steal passwords and other sensitive information.

Big Brother has many guises.

An indication two big tech companies might be on the right track?

Apple and Google recently stated that they intend to encrypt-by-default in future mobile phones, and the FBI does not like it one bit. Interesting.

But then again, I asked a highly skilled technical chum of mine about this a few days ago:

What is your technical take on this? Is this a welcome development or bullshit?

And his reply was:

Somewhere between. Trust in closed-source product is hard to build.

Still… the fact the FBI is bleating is heartening. But it is true that we need to keep in mind that these are indeed closed-source products, thus we really do only have Apple and Google’s word for it that they will be as secure as they say they will be.

Anyone else get the ‘wry smile’ response from this?

I found this interesting:

Apple Inc has begun storing personal data for some Chinese users on servers provided by China Telecom, marking the first time that the company has stored user data on mainland Chinese soil. Apple attributed the move to an effort to improve the speed and reliability of its service. It also represents a departure from the policies of some technology companies, notably Google Inc, which has long refused to build data centres in China due to censorship and privacy concerns.

Now I can certainly see why making it easy for the ghastly Chinese authorities to spy on people would be undesirable, but I wonder… where to locate the data centres then? Presumably not in the USA or UK if state access to people’s data is the big problem right, right? ;-)