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

EU accepts UK anti-terrorism surveillance plans

10 Downing St says the EU Justice Council has agreed to all UK anti-terrorism proposals, including communications data retention standards.

The Council:

agreed to establish new common standards for retention of communications data;

agreed to implement proposals to improve the exchange of data between countries, for example on lost and stolen passports; and

tasked EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security policy, Javier Solana, to bring forward proposals to make better use of intelligence across the EU within six months.

 – 10 Downing Street, EU agrees UK anti-terror plans.

Cross-posted from vigilant.tv.

The real “Project Censored”

Each year a group called Project Censored releases a list it calls “The Top 25 Censored Media Stories”. The title is a misnomer, however; the articles weren’t censored at all, but “underreported” – meaning that, in the eyes of the judges, the article didn’t receive sufficient attention. All of the articles on this year’s list were widely reported, many in the mainstream media. The #1 item on the list, for example, was published in the Sunday Times, Harper’s Magazine, Mother Jones and Atlantic Journal Constitution, and reportedly “drew more traffic to [the Mother Jones] web site than any other article.”

As a reminder that actual media censorship is still a significant problem around the world, I’d like to propose an alternative list:

The Top 25 Acts of Media Censorship, 2002-2003

#1 – The Cuban government jails 75 pro-democracy activists, including 30 journalists, for writing articles that appeared in the foreign press. They receive sentences between 14 and 27 years for “undermining the state’s independence.”

#2 – Nigeria’s Zamfara State issues a fatwa calling for the death of fashion writer Isioma Daniel, after she published an article suggesting the Prophet Muhammed would have approved of the Miss World pageant. The local office of the newspaper This Day, which initially published the article, was subsequently destroyed in riots that left more than 200 dead.

#3 – The Tongan government declares the Times of Tonga newspaper, which is published in New Zealand, to be a prohibited import, for campaigning against the government. Officials claim that allowing the newspaper to be imported would be a human rights violation. King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV later bans possession of the newspaper, and finally even prohibits discussion of the ban.

#4 – The Australian High Court rules that Barron’s magazine may be sued in Victoria over an article published in New Jersey. Other Commonwealth nations subsequently consider adopting the decision.

#5 – The Chinese government orders journalists to undergo Communist Party propaganda tests in order to obtain licenses. Unlicensed journalists are not tolerated – for example the 10 photographers beaten by police while attempting to cover an education bureau meeting. → Continue reading: The real “Project Censored”

Mobile phone tracking capabilities

All UK mobile phone operators now track the locations of cellphones, according to this BBC piece. The technology was built in order to provide mobile phone users with information about nearby services: dial a number and ask for the nearest Mexican restaurant, for example. But providers are beginning to offer reverse location lookups, so others can track the location of a particular phone, or send text messages to people in a particular area.

“All the big four operators now offer a commercial service so you can send them a telephone number and they will tell you where it is,” said Colin Bates, chief technology officer at location services company Mobile Commerce.


But location-based services are going to be much more common, now that locations can be requested for a few pence a time and firms such as Mobile Commerce and Verilocation are springing up to funnel location requests to the various networks.

The location system works best in urban areas covered by lots of base stations that have overlapping coverage. This lets operators give a location fix accurate to about 200 metres.

Providers are quick to point out that they won’t release information about a phone’s location without permission from the owner. Except if you’re a law enforcement officer, of course, or a corrupt employee, or a skilled social engineer, or the rules change..

Soon Verilocation plans to offer a service for families that lets worried parents find out where their offspring are. The service will cost a fixed amount every month and let family members check locations a few times per month.

Mr Overton said Data Protection legislation means that tracking cannot be done without consent of a handset owner.

– BBC, Being tracked down by your mobile.

Verilocation’s web page has some more information on how the process works, but there are no technical details.

The opportunity for abuse of such a capability is particularly alarming in a government-controlled monopoly such as telecommunications. The lengths to which network operators will go to please their state protectors was illustrated recently when it was revealed that UK government departments make 1 million requests for phone records each year. Service providers hand over as many as 100 million call records each year in order to maintain a good relationship with police and other investigatory agencies.

Cross-posted from Vigilant TV