Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

UK Human rights and Freedom extinguished

February 18, 2007

Hi Grit

The government in the UK, if re-elected at the next election, will be taking the final steps to abolish human rights, freedom and privacy for the individual UK citizen, all in the name of protecting us against terrorism.

If the labour government have their way, all adults over the age of 16 will, by 2009, be required to place their fingerprints on a central computer. The suggested law may even extend to “iris” prints. These moves are in addition to the requirement to provide photographs for driving licences; requirement to provide details for the census and annual local government property occupancy register (for council tax purposes); and the multitude of close-circuit television cameras that adorn our towns, streets, villages and roads. An extra measure of identity that is also being considered is to place our medical records in the same “identikit” of us.

Not satisfied with us already being the most watched nation in the EU, these latest moves will actually increase the gap between us and other countries, turning us into one of the most monitored nations in the world. Some may argue that these moves are positive, but are they? Let us consider the evidence.

1) COST:

Naturally, there is the cost of the citizen ID rules. The government suggest that this will amount to just over £5.4 billion ($10.8 billion). However, independent sources put the figure at £19.3 billion ($38.6 billion). This represents over £300 ($600) per annum, per citizen. In addition to this, it is compulsory for people to give this information at one of 69 centres through the UK, at their own cost. In some cases this means travelling up to 100 miles, irrespective of age, financial situation or infirmity. A round trip of this nature, taken in work time will cost the worst affected another £100 at least. Of course, this does not take into account the annual running costs of the scheme.

2) PRIVACY

A basic human right is that of privacy. The ability to live our lives without fear or favour, and to keep parts of our lives free from the prying eyes of others. From 2009, if these plans go ahead, this will no longer be possible. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, but that is not the point. Do I really want my health, age, medical condition, financial status and life history potentially exposed to every form of media and individual nationally and internationally? Our data protection act suggests that such information should be secure but, in view of the fact that the government has incorporated rules to allow certain organisations, commercial as well as government and non-government organisations to access the data, this guarantee no longer holds true.

3) DISCRIMINATION

Such a system will also lead to discrimination, both intentional and by devious means. Employers will be tempted to access medical and financial information about potential employees, therefore leading to unfair bias against certain applicants. This is particularly the case in medical issues. For example, take the case of a person who may in the past have had cancer. Although possibly totally cured, when such a person is set against an applicant who has not past health problems, which is the less than totally honest employer going to chose?

Medical, legal and financial practitioners will be able to access medical records, providing a situation where they can discriminate against those they do not want to assist.   

4) MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE:

No computer or other registration system is infalible and the identity system will be no exception. With personal and biometric information on around fifty million people on file, the incidences of misinterpretation, incorrect identification and transpostion of information will rise. As a result this is bound to lead to an increase in the incidence of miscarriages of Justice. Add to this the fact that none of the biometric identity measures are 100% accurate and it can be seen that this will compound the issue. A small example of this might occur with twins for example. Especially in cases of identical twins wrong identification is even more likely.

5) THE CONCEPT OF INNOCENCE

The United Kingdom laws have always been founded upon the rule of “innocent until proven guilty.” It is bad enough that in recent decades tax and other laws have led to a reverse of this process in such areas. Now, with the introduction of of these measures, such a foundation has been totally eroded. The onus on the citizen will now be to prove their innocence in all cases.

Does this mean that in future one has to keep a daily diary of life events to ensure that one cannot get into a situation where lack of evidence to suggest otherwise leads to automatic guilt? I work from home and, during the day, this means that there is no-one to provide an alibi for my whereabouts, especially if I am not on the computer. If I take two hours off for a bath and rest, will I in future have to log this and provide photographic evidence? 

6) IDENTITY THEFT

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes of the past decade. It is also one of the least obvious to the victim, unless it has been committed for financial purposes. How can we be sure that our identity will not be stolen or duplicated for other criminal purposes? What is more important is, if such an event does occur, how will we know until a crime, using our identity has been committed?

7) PROTECTION AGAINST CRIME AND TERRORISM

The assumption that identity laws will offer protection against crime and terrorism is flawed in so many ways as to make it laughable. It only works if one starts from the premise that every hardened criminal and committed terrorist is going to abide by these laws. Naturally, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, and underworld criminals are going to assist the law by coming forward voluntarily to offer their biometric identity to the authorities. I think not! Such an assumption is, at best, insane.

There are those who argue that it is easier to catch someone who does not possess an identity card. How does that work? There are 60 million people in the UK and it is certain that there are not enough law enforcement agencies or officers to check each indicvidual. Add to this the fact that there is unencumbered travel in the EU through 25 countries and a determined criminal or terrorist has more than adequate escape routes. These are in addition to the many illegal ways of escaping from the country. Furthermore, why should such persons worry about being apprehended when there is always the route of identity theft to cover their tracks?

Although there may be rules and laws in place to address breaches of the protections in place, these are an “after the event” remedy, by which time the damage is done. Once the security of information has been broken, one cannot recapture the privacy, irrespective of how much money has been recovered in damages.

The hypothesis that these measures are a protection against crime and terrorism, as has been clearly demonstrated, is totally wrong. They will have little to no effect in these areas. 

In conclusion therefore, one has to observe that these new laws will have limited impact upon detering any major crime and terrorism attempts. What they will do is to damage the human rights of the innocent citizen.

the Brit

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Mobile Technology a threat

February 7, 2007

  

Hi Grit

It seems that the latest technology is coming under threat from governments worldwide, especially when it comes to controlling their usage.

Recently, the UK public have been informed that the use of mobiles, iPods, walkman’s and other equipment whilst driving can lead not only a fine but also a driving ban. Now it appears that New York is taking it a step further. You fine city is considering imposing fines of $100 dollars for people who are using this equipment whilst crossing the road.

I would mention that you have a little catching up to do as our regulations extend to eating whilst driving as well. However, do you not get the feeling that before too long we, the citizens of the world, will be banned from doing everything apart from putting one foot in front of the other once we leave our front door?

the Brit

Global Warming 2007

February 4, 2007

Hi Grit

I believe our first post on the issue of Global Warming was getting on for three months ago. Since then I have participated a few times and read with interest all of the comments from both sides of the divide, along with studying all of the literature that people who have commented have posted have directed us towards. I hasten to add here that I am not a scientist, so there are aspects that I would not understand. However, I consider myself an intelligent person capable of assimilating sufficient data and making a reasoned judgement. Therefore, I feel that I have a reasonable understanding of the issues so far made available. A rider to this of course is that, in view of the enormous amount of data on the subject, both for and against, it is impossible for any one individual, scientists included, to be able to assimilate it all and I would be no exception to that rule.

I do not intend this post to become embroiled in detailed scientific argument, as that will produce just a series of scientific counter arguments from both sides. It is my intention to comment on the structure and management of the analysis and the way the global warming issue is being handled.

1.) IPCC REPORT
With the IPCC report being published this month (February 2007) and it being one of a series being produced this year, many are claiming that this puts beyond doubt all of the global warming issues, particularly with regard to this being a “man-made” phenomena. However, whilst I accept that global warming exists, there are several factors that I would take issue with, both in terms of the report itself and the general reaction.

My first point of concern here is the secret nature of parts of the process building up to the report issue. In letters to Governments and Organisations in December and October 2006, although having made these letters public, they have deleted text within them, which appears to be access to the draft report. This raises two issues. Firstly, as the report is intended to benefit all of mankind, why is there a need for withholding any information? Secondly, does one presuppose that, by virtue of some deletions there could be changes of significance that the IPCC would rather the public did not see? In my view, transparency in this above all issues facing mankind is of paramount importance. Anything less is unacceptable.

Terminology
(Un)Certainty – In a document issued in July 2005, the IPCC issued guidance notes regarding the ways the lead authors should address uncertainty. It could be construed that some of these guidance are of a leading nature as it is asking that all issues to be consistent with the approach determined in the document. Another issue related to this document, which I will come to later is Table 4 – Likelihood Scale (on page 4.)

Consensus – My understanding of the term consensus is that it is the agreement of the majority, after having mitigated the objections of the opposing views. I read somewhere that, in this report it was to be a consensus of 300. I believe this needs more clarification. Bearing in mind that the report was produced by over 2,500 scientists, plus 800 contributing authors, plus 450 lead authors, I have difficulty in equating the consensus of 300 with these figures and feel they need further explanation.

Confidence – The levels of confidence are divided into five sectors, as can be seen on page 3 (table 3) of the summary report. On the other hand, the likelihood scale is divided by seven. In my view, this inequality between the two scales is confusing. Surely, it would have been more rational to have equal divisions on the two scales.

2.) The Response
In a number of areas, the immediate response to the report has not been rational. The hype concentrated on the term moved from “likely” to “very likely.” As you say Grit, the latter term relates to 90% probability. However, this also does not accurately reflect the findings of the report.

On the summary for policymakers, page 3, there is a chart of human influence on trends. The chart lists seven areas of influence under three references. The term “very likely” only appears in two instances. In media and other responses, there is no reference to other aspects of this table. Whilst I do not blame the scientists for this, it does appear that the “powers that be” are guilty of misrepresentation in this instance. Again, this raises suspicions in the minds of the public and questions as to the agenda for the report.

Is it thought that the public is not intelligent enough to understand the full information or was the hype deliberately directed by politicians?

3.) Remedies
It is disappointing to learn that a detailed study on remedies will not be available from the IPCC until later in the year. If, as has been reported, we only have ten years to address this problem, I fail to see any conceivable reason why the research on remedies was not designed to produce results in the same timescale as this current report. Six months or more has been lost. The argument that the scale of the problem has only just been defined does not wash as this report follows on from one that was issued six years ago.

Of the remedies that are being put into action, there are some issues as well. Firstly, there is serious concern regarding the consequences on remedies and cooperation between agencies. The case of Basel in Switzerland as I reported earlier is a classic example. Looking to achieve global warming saving measures, people began drilling into the earth’s surface starting a chain tremor reaction that they cannot possibly control, potentially unleashing more harm than good. How many more projects are being mishandled in this way?

In addition, there is the problem that has been raised regarding the potential danger from energy saving light. Has anyone evaluated the potential future harm of following this route, if not, why not?

Only a few weeks I posed the question how do we know that remedies can be controlled. The above are two obvious examples of that not being the case.

Another contentious issue is nuclear energy. Scientists say that this will go a long way to addressing the global warming issue, and I agree that this is one of the most efficient ways of producing energy. However, it is almost impossible to use this option within a volatile world, where there are countries such as Iran and North Korea who could not be guaranteed to utilise this method for peaceful purposes. Similarly, accidents happen as we saw in Russia, and that can be equally damaging.

In the UK, the go ahead has been given to build two huge wind farms off the coast. All of the reporting on this has concentrated on the benefits, which is admirable. Nevertheless, little has been written about the downside of such action. The effect on the bird life needs to be identified, an area where naturalists have raised concerns. But what about the effect on tides and wave patterns?

Finally, in this section, I would like to ask why existing remedies, which require little cost, are not being used. For example, with the airline issue there is a “greener” fuel available, but is currently only being used in military aircraft. The emission levels are significantly lower than normal aircraft fuel and there is, as I understand it, no cost differential. I have heard that the argument against it is safety, which I find incredible. Are we saying that the lives of the military are of less value than other citizens? If not, take the step and change the fuel.

4.) The Carbon Footprint
Much is being made of the need to reduce the global footprint. However, there seems to be a great deal of double standards in this area. The media, the UK BBC organisation being a case in point, are saying that their contribution is by publishing the issues and that, in some way, this seems to exempt them from responding to the carbon footprint limitations. At the same time, the IPCC, governments and other NGO’s are spending millions of dollars transporting thousands of people to conferences and meetings all over the globe. Yet, these organisations are asking us, airlines, and other sectors to reduce our carbon footprint. Surely, one should lead by example. Whatever happened to the ability to achieve video and Internet conferencing?

There is a lot of pressure being placed upon airlines to cut their carbon footprint, yet unless I have missed it, no one has answered the question of why, in the 24 hours post 9/11 when most air travel was grounded, there was an increase in earth warming for that day. Has anyone analysed what effect reducing the carbon footprint, particularly in air travel, will have in this respect? In other words, has the downside of the equation been quantified?

In my view, one of the largest and most expensive carbon footprints is laid by governments nationally and globally. Yet, we see no clear picture of measures that these people are taking steps to address this. In the UK, politicians are asking us to reduce our carbon footprint, and even putting pressure on the Royal family to do so. All well and good, but what do we see the politicians doing? The answer is very little. Do not ask me to do something unless you are prepared to match it and lead by example Mr Government.

5.) Political
I have to admit that I was amazed at the token gestures made by some governments by calling for an hour without lights. This seems to me to have been counter-productive. Did anyone monitor the results of these actions? As I have said, I am no scientist, but from what little I know the resultant surge from it, with all electrical compliances being switched on again more than counteracts the benefits of the gesture in the first place. Has there been a study made of this and is it a responsible response? Surely, such theatricals should have been left until the position was well known by the public and they could have been advised about the cost.

In respect of the above, the political response is similar in many ways to the media reaction. It is uncontrolled, irrational and without serious thought as to how to present the issue in a way that will generate the right response. The political response between nations is also not harmonious, which does little to engender confidence.

6.) The media Circus
Unfortunately, the media circus has continued, even on the latest event. I watched a news programme in the UK, which was designed purely to entertain the public, rather than get the message across. In this programme, they spend the time passing a copy of the report through screens to reporters in different countries, such as Europe, Australia, India and the US. No attempt is made to explain the message properly.

In addition to the previously mentioned carbon footprint of this situation, I noticed also another problem. The report they were passing was a fake. They were wads of blank paper with just the title cover printed. It was obvious from the reporter’s comments that none of them had read any of the documents and it was just a publicity stunt to show how clever the network was.

Can this be the right approach to what is meant to be a serious matter? I seriously doubt it.

7.) The Cost
Another issue that really annoys me is cost, and here I am talking about the financial side. Every aspect of the global warming issue in terms of conservation and remedies always seems to be followed by additional cost to the individual. What happens to the resultant savings from change? Who gets those?

Leaving aside the dangers of energy efficient light bulbs discussed earlier, one of the main reasons their use is limited is the cost. In the UK, they are over 6 times the price of current bulbs. If politicians and scientists are serious about this issue, then use some of the billions of waste to reduce the cost of remedies to a competitive level. It is a short-term commitment. Then demand will grow and the effective change desired will be achieved with far more speed and fluency. Another example is public transport service. Raising prices and cutting services on what is considered a “greener” method of transport does not seem to me to be an approach that will increase its usage.

Every time someone mentions global warming, it seems to result in the public having to put their hands in their pockets. Is it any wonder that this meets with resistance?

8.) Kyoto Agreement
There have been arguments about the effectiveness of the Kyoto agreement, mainly centring on those countries that have not signed up to it. However, there are countries within the agreement that have not met their targets, such as Canada. Before the world goes off trying to find another agreement, we need to know how effective this one has been, and that information has not been publicly forthcoming.

How many countries met the targets set? What effect has it had on carbon emissions? How much worse would it have been were the agreement not in place? Surely, we are entitled to this information in the public arena. If it has not been effective, even with those countries that signed up, then it is the wrong answer or structure and we need to look for another resolution.

The other matter here is the developing countries, which has still not been properly addressed in my view. All this documentation seems to be indicating that the only way they can help is to deprive themselves of the advances in technology that the developed world has. Is this going to be acceptable to them? I cannot see this being the case. Therefore any agreement needs to take their situation into account, without placing an untenable burden on the developed world. 

9.) Nation, NGO Bashing and fairness
Why is it that every time there is an issue of global importance there is an automatic nation, NGO or business witch-hunt? This posturing does nothing to confirm the validity of the situation, in fact the opposite. The French attack on the US is a prime example. It is almost as if it is just a fight amongst politicians to see who can be top dog, rather than a serious issues that requires global accord. Besides, there are other countries that have taken the same stance as the US, so singling out the big boy on the block is not only unfair, it smacks of this will get me the biggest headline. Countries antagonising each other will lead only to one conclusion, namely that nothing constructive will be done.

Other sectors are also being bashed, in my view sometimes unfairly. Business is always a favourite. Whilst I accept that, in some cases their response is not good on some issues, they are generally responsive to consumer demands. In the case of global warming, it is fair to say that in many cases business is being far more positive in their actions than politicians are. For example, the supermarket industry in the UK is taking active reduction measures, whereas politicians are looking at costly offset programmes, which in the end are second best options.

Similarly, I object to some of the rhetoric and language that is used by the various lobbies on global warming, from both sides of the divide. To call someone a denialist or sceptics because they do not accept ones argument is as bad as calling someone an “eco-nut” for proposing the argument in the first place. Serious issues demand serious discussion and conversation and this requires patience. At present, the stance taken by some scientists and many politicians on the issue of global warming is too dictatorial, dismissive and impatient. All it does is make both sides more entrenched in their views, which is counter-productive.

The problem with a divide of this nature is that both sides lose. Both sides spend so much time attacking the other that they do not a) fully understand the argument of the other and b) do not gain from the potential valid points within the others cases, validity that could be of significance to their own studies.

I do not consider myself a denialist or a sceptic on this issue. However, I am also not going to be sat down and told this is the problem and anyone who disagrees is wrong. I need to understand the full facts supporting the issue, including analysis of assumptions; explanations of provable facts and honest acceptance and discussion on those that cannot be proven. I want risk assessment on all aspects of the issue, including remedies and I want acknowledgement of and discussion regarding opposing views.

As I said previously, one of the things that infuriate me about the current IPCC/Political situation is the piecemeal approach. In my years as a business consultant any report that I produced did not only identify and make conclusions about the problem, it was also required to provide recommendations that had been expertly evaluated. If it did not I was failing in my task. Governments and the scientific world have taken six years to prepare this report. I fail to see why, at the same time, and for publication at the same date, the remedial data could not have been produced.

the Brit

Blair adding to prison crowding?

January 28, 2007

Hi Grit

Unfortunately, I do not think that Tony Blair will be thinking much about space or any other travel at the moment. Keeping his freedom may be more to the forefront of his mind right now.

You remember the cash for honours situation we talked about a few weeks back? Well, the police investigations have continued. As part of these they hacked into the Number 10 computer e-mail systems (Is that allowed?). There they found incriminating evidence that implicanted the Prime Minister’s office, and hand written notes from Blair himself. All this leads them to believe that he knew about the issue and condoned it at the very least.

The police are saying that, at the very least he may be called upon to give evidence in the criminal cases that develop. At present his future does not look that secure unless you count a prison cell in that vein.

the Brit

EU – Don’t blame us!

January 26, 2007

Hi Grit

I hear your comments about the way that the EU is reacting to Microsoft. In fact it is a coalition of other computer companies that is raising their ugly heads about the matter. It is one of the problems with globalisation that every business wants a slice of it until someone (like Microsoft), find a great way to really make a go of it. Then all of the also-rans like IBM etc., start to rant because they have not made such a good job of achieving market share.

The EU commission, which is hardly a representative body from the electorate of the European nations, thinks to itself “oh dear, we had better not upset these transnational companies.” So they start ranting off as well. Of course no-one asks the millions of civilians what they think about the subject.

So, whilst I accept that this might have upset those in the US like you Grit, I would say that it is not a EU wide decision.

the Brit

The EU can kiss my ass (sorry Brit)

January 26, 2007

Hi Brit,

Once again the forces of socialism are trying to destroy capitalism, and I say they can kiss my ass.  Sorry Brit, but this time it’s the European Union as a whole that is trying to drag the world down into an Average Is All We Can Hope For cesspool.   And here is what set me off, Rivals attack Vista as illegal under EU rules.  First of all, if the twits in socialist Europe think they can write a better operating system, and all the applications that will follow on its coat tails, let them try.  Second, if your crap hole, work six months a year companies can’t keep up, go to hell, which these days is located in Venezuela.  If y’all don’t like Microsoft’s products, then don’t buy them.  It’s not like Bill Gates is threatening to raise a private army and force you to use them under threat of violence.  Of course, considering that the only reason y’all can afford to bask in your socialist Nanny State is that the US has protected you from the world’s bullies for 50 years, I can see why an angry Gates might make you shake in your shoes.  Personally, I think Microsoft and all other US companies should just yank their business out of the festering boil that you call the EU.  Then we can toss back a few and place bets on whether you will collapse back into the Stone Age before either the Russians or the Muslims turn you into slaves.  Once again, with feeling, kiss my ass EU!

the Grit

End of the world – the robots are coming

January 22, 2007

Hi Grit

I think the EU and UK health services must know more about the coming end of the world than they are telling us. Scientists, many from various parts of the UK are well on the way to developing robot nurses, which they anticipate will be in action on the wards within three years, two years before the end of the world.

These robots will be able to dispense drugs (presumably whether you want them or not), lead visitors to patients (even if you don’t want to see them), mop up spillages (keep your whiskey hidden!) and remotely monitor the patient, for example take temperature (not that it will rise as there will no longer be a pretty nurse to look at).

I assume these robots will, initially at least, take instruction from medical staff. In which case, we must make sure that they watch what they say. The term “I think that patient is dead funny” could lead to robotic euthanasia, or “he was legless when he came in” unwanted amputation.

Is the fact that these tin beings are being introduced two years before 2012 significant I wonder?

the Brit

Wii is the new diet.

January 21, 2007

Hi Grit

It seems that the Japanese have found a new weight reducing diet that does not involve any adjustment to food intake. It is called the Wii. A man in Philadelphia has lost 9 pounds (4kgs) after experimenting for six weeks, using the Wii for 15 minutes a day. During that time he made no change at all to his diet. In addition of course, the exercise makes you fitter.

However, against this one has to weigh the cost, which according to one site, seems to centre around the safety harnesses that have broken sending the equipment flying through the air, often impacting with costly plasma TV’s and, what is worse, causing physical damage to the users.

It appears to me that if you want to lose weight without dieting, the Wii is the way to go, as long as you do not mind the prospect of a black eye or worse, and the replacement of household goods is not a problem.

the Brit

Smoking detectives

January 19, 2007

Hi Grit

I have been meaning to respond to your post about smoking  Nazi’s, but needed to check whether I could use the word 🙂

For those who wish to ban smoking in cars over there, they should take a leaf or two out of the UK laws. In a unique application the police can charge parents who are smoking in their cars with mistreatment of the child, or of course failing in their parental duties. With regard to people simply smoking in the car, they can of course be charged with driving without due care. Of course the latter route can also be used for eating, sneezing, singing, changing CD’s and talking to your partner. One can of course be fined and/or jailed for these offences.

Of course this does help those who wish to break the habit of smoking, excess consumption of food, parenting, spreading infectious diseases, vocal abuse and noise excess. The only difficulty, at least for the ladies, is that it will threaten their record of speaking 8,000 words a day.

I assume that we are heading to a situation where unless you have had a recent haircut, manicure, shave and are wearing a shirt and tie, you will not be able to drive at all. By the way, one cannot escape the long eye of the law or blame it on someone else, now that we have face recognition camera traps.

the Brit 

Little Brother is also watching.

January 2, 2007

Hi Brit,

I’m surprised you didn’t slip through the Chunnel and attend this, Chaos Reigns at Berlin Hacker Con.  No doubt it was an interesting and educational event.  However, it should also serve to remind us that it’s not just Big Brother looking over our shoulder; some of these people are probably tapping into those giant databases, and getting the inside scoop on our lives as well.  As the song goes, my life is like an open book.

the Grit

Speaking of car wrecks

December 30, 2006

Hi Brit,

Looks like even more trouble is looming on the horizon of the new year.

Near-future Fords to Feature Windows Automotive 

I’m not sure if you use Windows, but I do, and it’s easy to predict that this is going to give a whole new meaning to the term “car crash.”  It’s also going to cause lots of new problems.  Road side assistance vehicles will have to add a computer repair technician.  Automobile dealers are going to merge with software companies.  Gas stations will need to add high speed Internet connections so customers can get the latest anti-virus updates while filling their tanks.  And you can expect a rash of new traffic accidents when drivers confuse the windshield with the monitor while playing one of those car race games.  It’s madness I tell you, madness!

the Grit