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]

Corporatist social credit includes kin punishment, naturally

“Relatives of Nigel Farage have also been refused bank accounts, former Ukip leader reveals”, reports Gordon Rayner at the Telegraph.

Relatives and associates of Nigel Farage have been refused bank accounts after being designated as politically exposed persons, or PEPs, the former Ukip leader has disclosed.

Mr Farage said someone close to him had been the subject of a “very nasty” account closure in the past fortnight and that others had been told they could not open accounts.

He said Coutts’s decision to close his personal and business accounts had left him “screwed” because he has been turned down as a customer by 10 other banks after having to tick a box saying he has been refused an account elsewhere.

Mr Farage has also dismissed as “a fable” claims by Coutts’s parent company NatWest that he was offered personal and business accounts with NatWest after being “exited” by the private bank.

After being told his accounts were being closed and convinced the decision was politically motivated, Mr Farage submitted subject access requests to Coutts and two companies which send them press cuttings and other information on customers, Lexis Nexus and Refinitiv.

As a result of their responses, Mr Farage discovered that a number of family members and associates, thought to be more than 10, were designated by the bank as PEPs, some of whom have now found it difficult to obtain banking facilities.

None of this would be a problem if there were anything like a free market in banks. Given the public anger on this issue, it would be a great opportunity for a proudly non-woke new bank to establish itself. Unfortunately, as Johnathan Pearce pointed out in this post, “And we wonder why normal people avoid going into front-line politics”, there is nothing like a free market in banks.

Update: If you want to read the 40-page dossier that Coutts compiled on Farage that he obtained via a Subject Access Request, Guido Fawkes has it up on his site without a paywall: READ IN FULL: THE 40-PAGE COUTTS DOSSIER DEFENDING DE-BANKING “RACIST” FARAGE

Another update: Nigel Farage receives apology from Coutts after bank account row. That report from Sky News does not impress. It says, ‘Mr Farage claimed to have a 40-page document that proved Coutts “exited” him because he was regarded as “xenophobic and racist” and a former “fascist”‘ as if there were some doubt as to the document’s existence. Then it says, ‘the chief executive of the Natwest Group, Alison Rose, has apologised for “deeply inappropriate comments” made about him in documents prepared for the company’s wealth committee’, seemingly unaware that the documents prepared for the company’s wealth committee formed part of the same aforementioned 40-page dossier. When NatWest’s own chief executive has acknowledged that the document is genuine, you would think that Sky News could accept it too.

UK’s absurdly misnamed Online Safety Bill is an abomination

In an open letter, 68 security and privacy researchers warned the draft legislation will profoundly undermine the essential security used to keep digital communications secure.

We note that in the event of the Online Safety Bill passing and an Ofcom order being issued, several international communication providers indicated that they will refuse to comply with such an order to compromise the security and privacy of their customers and would leave the UK market. This would leave UK residents in a vulnerable situation, having to adopt compromised and weak solutions for online interactions.

As independent information security and cryptography researchers, we build technologies that keep people safe online. It is in this capacity that we see the need to stress that the safety provided by these essential technologies is now under threat in the Online Safety Bill.

Free speech and privacy are under attack worldwide and particularly in the UK.

And we wonder why normal people avoid going into front-line politics

Following the recent controversy about the closure of a bank account of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage (he is said to have banked at Coutts, although he did not identify that lender by name in his own story), more information about what might have caused this decision is coming out. Dominic Lawson, son of the late UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson (the TV cooking writer and literary editor Nigella Lawson is Dominic’s sister), has been through a similar process in the case of his daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome:

In 2016 we decided to open a bank account for her. She has Down’s Syndrome; this was not something she could do herself. But when my wife Rosa went to the Barclays in our nearest town (where Rosa had had an account for many years), she was told it would not be possible for Domenica to have an account. No reason was given. Fortunately Rosa knew the manager there — the position now no longer exists, and the branch itself is about to close — and he said that he would look into the matter.

He came back to Rosa: ‘I’m really sorry, but it’s out of our hands. It’s because of money-laundering risks. ‘I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s because of Domenica’s grandfather. He is a politically exposed person.’ This was a reference to Nigel Lawson, my late father, the former chancellor, who was by then a member of the House of Lords. And as the Lords is a legislative assembly, that counted under the regulations. As, absurdly, did his granddaughter, who was of course oblivious to the bank’s implication that she might be a link to money laundering, or the funding of an international drugs cartel.

A friend of mine, known to several who write for and manage this blog, is a member of the House of Lords. I know several, in fact. Maybe they should phone their banks.

Eventually, we did manage to open an account for Domenica there, but it involved the most exhaustive form-filling, with much toing and froing between us and Barclays’ compliance people in London.

It seems that this insanity has struck sufficiently close to home that the UK government, usually a model of inanity and uselessness, is getting involved. After all, the Tories know they might be out of office soon, and might not want to go through what Mr Farage, the Lawsons, and several others have been through.

As I said in a comment on Patrick Crozier’s article about the “de-banking” of Mr Farage last week, this also demonstrates the danger of what are called central bank digital currencies. The potential for governments, such as those admiring the “social credit” regime of Communist China, to use CBDCs to enforce “correct” behaviours and suppress “bad” ones, such as blocking payments for alcohol, or closing contributions to unpopular causes, are dangerously large. Consider what the Canadian government of Justin Trudeau did to those financially supporting the anti-vaccine truckers, for example.

This other Samizdata article referred to HSBC. The Dominic Lawson article also refers to that bank in an unflattering way.

As an aside, what the current situation demonstrates is the lack of real choice in the banking system as it now operates. Linked to central banks for their funding, with CBs as “lenders of last resort”, and anti-money laundering laws imposed by force, bankers are no longer able to have confidential conversations with a client. A banker is obliged by law in most major industrialised nations to report on transactions they deem suspicious, for example, for whatever reason, and woe betide the banker that doesn’t. There are requirements such as Suspicious Transaction & Order Reports in the UK. The US Securities and Exchange Commission operates a similar process. In Switzerland, once renowned for its bank secrecy, non-domestic Swiss clients are no longer under its protection.

Politicians and their cheerleaders might applaud the “ghosting” or “de-banking” of people they dislike, but they ought to be aware that these powers cut both ways. Imagine if, for example, protest groups were to be designated as “terrorist” or whatever. Imagine if Just Stop Oil, Extinction Rebellion, or some other group, gets this treatment.

Samizdata quote of the day – Panopticon edition

In late 2021, Wired, the formerly libertarian magazine that now champions surveillance and censorship, called for spying on private messaging in the name of preventing harm. Encrypted messaging apps “are intentionally built for convenience and speed, for person-to-person communication as well as large group connections,” wrote Wired. “Yet it is these same conditions that have fueled abusive and illegal behavior, disinformation and hate speech, and hoaxes and scams; all to the detriment of the vast majority of their users. As early as 2018, investigative reports have explored the role that these very features played in dozens of deaths in India and Indonesia as well as elections in Nigeria and Brazil.”

The Omidyar report explicitly argued against the right to privacy in text messaging. “Privacy is essential to building trust, but it is not a singular standard for safety,” wrote Omidyar Foundation authors. “We believe online safety is the result of trustworthy technology and enlightened regulation. While the shift toward adopting end-to-end encryption has reinforced trust between users, the technological architecture that encourages scale, virality, and monetization has ultimately facilitated the rapid and large-scale spread of dangerous, distorted, and deceitful content.”

It is a shocking statement to read, especially when you realize that Omidyar, with a net worth of $9 billion, has long claimed to be a champion of free speech and privacy. He even bankrolled the online magazine, The Intercept in response to revelations by Edward Snowden that the U.S. government was illegally spying on American citizens. What is going on here? Why is the censorship industry now trying to spy on and censor our private messages?

Michael Shellenberger

How to disable emergency government alerts on your mobile phone

Android users (may be somewhat different on different makes of phone).

iPhone users.

Because if the Covid years have proven anything, only a crazed conspiracy theorist would believe governments would think nothing of using heightened fear to induce mass formation psychosis, thereby hugely increasing its power over every aspect of life, right?

I predict it will eventually be illegal to turn off such ‘warnings’ and phone makers will make it impossible, but then I am just a crazed conspiracy theorist 😉

Samizdata quote of the day – Deep Fake edition

Specially trained and reliable witnesses would certainly be a help. But, of course, they’re humans and thus fallible and corruptible. (Heinlein, a creature of his times, was a pretty big believer in institutions and professionalism. The past decade has largely served as a refutation of both. And even in his day, the institutions and professions were less trustworthy than we thought; it was just harder to find out when they were lying, sort of a meta-case of what I’m writing about here.)

Technology might help some, as it will probably soon be able to tell if people are lying via brain scans with high reliability. (I doubt it will be able to tell if they’re just wrong, though). And that technology offers its own set of – very troubling — problems that go way beyond this essay.

Glenn Reynolds

Samizdata quote of the day – a journey of a thousand miles

Any significant public health threat from Covid was over in the early part of 2021, as my colleague and I have previously argued. However the administrative classes – politicians, MSM, ‘public health experts’ and so on – kept the charade going for another two years to serve their various agenda-driven purposes.

Now, though, most of these people have decided that it is expedient for the insanity to be over politically. As usual, the details we discuss in this article relate to the UK, but it is a similar story across the western world. So why now?

The disastrous fallout has finally begun to dawn on the same apathetic middle-class liberals who took their furlough money to enjoy an extended sabbatical at home – in the halcyon days when “lives were more important than the economy”. Apart from the most dedicated acolytes of the Covidian cult, reality can no longer be denied: The socio-economic fabric of Western society is crumbling, as was so obviously predictable, and predicted, by ourselves and others.

John Sullivan

The British Government is going to hijack your phone…

We are now forewarned that the British government has chosen St. George’s Day, 23rd April 2023, to trial a new ‘alert’ system by sending alerts to the phones of everyone in the UK. It seems that you have to interact with the phone to stop it blaring a siren-like noise at you, and so acknowledge this impertinence.

However, not all phones can receive these ‘alerts’. The functionality is limited:

Compatible mobile phones and other devices

Make sure your device has all the latest software updates.

Emergency alerts work on:

iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later
Android phones and tablets running Android 11 or later
If you have an earlier version of Android, you may still be able to receive alerts. To check, search your device settings for ‘emergency alerts’.

But you can turn off these alerts on your phone (if you are socially-unfriendly):

You can opt out of emergency alerts, but you should keep them switched on for your own safety.

To opt out:

Search your settings for ‘emergency alerts’.
Turn off ‘severe alerts’ and ‘extreme alerts’.
If you still get alerts, contact your device manufacturer for help.

Blimey, something the government acknowledges that it can’t help me with, is this a first?

But what, pray, is this all for?

You may get alerts about:

severe flooding
extreme weather

One might hope that severe flooding and fires would be incompatible, but perhaps with the climate emergency, Mr Sunak will set the Thames on fire.

And the form of this message?

It ain’t half hot, Mum!

Not exactly:

What happens when you get an emergency alert

Your mobile phone or tablet may:

make a loud siren-like sound, even if it’s set on silent
read out the alert
The sound and vibration will last for about 10 seconds.

An alert will include a phone number or a link to the GOV.UK website for more information.

OK, but what should I do if I get an ‘alert’?

What you need to do

When you get an alert, stop what you’re doing and follow the instructions in the alert.

But does this apply to say, surgeons in an operating theatre? This is not mentioned.

And wait, what if I am…

If you’re driving or riding when you get an alert

You should not read or otherwise respond to an emergency alert whilst driving or riding a motorcycle.
If you are driving, you should continue to drive and not respond to the noise or attempt to pick up the mobile phone and deal with the message.
Find somewhere safe and legal to stop before reading the message. If there is nowhere safe or legal to stop close by, and nobody else is in the vehicle to read the alert, tune into live radio and wait for bulletins until you can find somewhere safe and legal to stop.
It is illegal to use a hand-held device while driving or riding.

Well at least that’s clear…

What is the legal basis for the government taking this power, and why is this not explained?

And presumably, if there’s someone running amok with knives or guns, this won’t be part of the alert system, when it might actually be unexpected, unlike the weather.

I can see where this is going. It will eventually be used to warn people that Nigel Farage is making a speech locally and that they should stay indoors and not follow the event on social media.

Sorry, I was being overly cynical there, I have seen this:

If you cannot receive emergency alerts

If you do not have a compatible device, you’ll still be informed about an emergency. The emergency services have other ways to warn you when there is a threat to life.

Emergency alerts will not replace local news, radio, television or social media.

That’s good to know, I had been wondering if it would. And I am pleased to hear that I won’t be getting messages from Robert Spencer if there is a certain type of rare incident in the locality. Then again, what if there is a hippo on the loose? Is there a template alert message for that, if not, why not? Are you seriously trying to protect us? Will it sound if there is, say, an unexpected landing on a beach by persons unknown?

Around 35 years ago, the late Auberon Waugh said that people only go into politics for the pleasure of pressing switches and watching us all jump. This figure of speech has become reality.

Big Brother and Denmark

Regular readers of this blog know that politically, the cause for liberty cuts through conventional categories. Over at Wired magazine, which in my view has tilted more Left in recent years and seems to have a lot of “green” material in it these days, it occasionally comes up with an article that is worth reading.

Here’s one on the use of AI technology to track alleged welfare cheats in Denmark. Denmark is one of those supposedly happy, social democratic, tax-and-spend places that the dimmer sort Western politicians, such as US Democrats, like to wax lyrical over. Well, take a look at this:

Denmark isn’t alone in turning to algorithms amid political pressure to crack down on welfare fraud. France adopted the technology in 2010, the Netherlands in 2013, Ireland in 2016, Spain in 2018, Poland in 2021, and Italy in 2022. But it’s the Netherlands that has provided the clearest warning against technological overreach. In 2021, a childcare benefits scandal, in which 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud, led to the resignation of the entire Dutch government. It came after officials interpreted small errors, such as a missing signature, as evidence of fraud, and forced welfare recipients to pay back thousands of euros they’d received as benefits payments.

That EU “chat control” thing is still out there

Remember EU “chat control”? It’s growing, putting out roots.

The author of this Twitter thread, Matthew D Green, teaches practical cryptography at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute. You should read the whole thread, but I will single out this point as particularly scary:

Green is replying to someone with the user name f00b4r who offers as reassurance the statement that nothing will be done without a “detection order” issued by a competent authority. I have no doubt the paperwork will be in order, but that does not reassure me. Likewise, the idea that “that service providers are not liable for the content if they comply” is phrased by f00b4r as if it softens the threat, but so far as I can see it is the threat: comply or be made bankrupt.

Perhaps we had all better trust in the fact that the United Kingdom has left the European Union so none of this cannot possibly affect us. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Samizdata quote of the day – Britain’s unilateral disarmament

What I love about this new encryption law is how much easier it will be for foreign governments to spy on British citizens and enterprises now that Britain has unilaterally disarmed.

– Perry Metzger

EU “chat control”

Let me start by saying that I am no techie and I do not understand exactly what the EU are proposing with this law. Perhaps I am getting steamed up about nothing. But it sounds horrible. I first read about this topic via a link from Reddit Europe to a post from the blog of a Swedish VPN service called Mullvad. The original Swedish version first appeared as an article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. The English version follows: “Stop the proposal on mass surveillance of the EU”

The European Commission is currently in the process of enacting a law called Chat control. If the law goes into effect, it will mean that all EU citizens’ communications will be monitored and listened to.

This text was originally published as a debate article in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet and it calls on Swedish politicians to vote against the law proposal. In order for the law to not become reality, more countries need to vote against it. Therefore, we encourage journalists and citizens in all EU countries to question their governments and urge them to vote no.

Right now, the EU Commission is intensely working on a legislative proposal that would monitor and audit the communication of all European Union citizens. The regulation is called Chat Control, and it really does include all types of communication. This means that all of your phone calls, video calls, text messages, every single line that you write in all kinds of messaging apps (including encrypted services), your e-mails — yes, all of this — can be filtered out in real time and flagged for a more in-depth review. This also applies to images and videos saved in cloud services. Basically, everything you do with your smartphone. In other words, your personal life will be fully exposed to government scrutiny. So, why is it that almost no one is talking about this?

The previous day the same Mullvad blog had warned that an unintended consequence of the bill might have been to ban all open source operating systems, although an update says that “Open source OSes might be saved from being covered depending on the interpretation of EU regulation 2019/1150 2.2.c.” Well, that certainly puts my mind at rest.