Thanks to [ profile] gominokouhai for bringing to my attention the Open Rights Group questionnaire to MEP candidates, which included questions on copyright, data retention, personal data and the open internet.

Unfortunately — and somewhat disturbingly — no Labour politicians have replied to this questionnaire. A smattering of Tories have, and their responses show that they have not changed their spots. The Liberal Democrats are better, but not as good as I would have expected from them. In particular, their top candidate for Scotland, George Lyon, only agrees with the ORG on half the issues, marking him out as on the less liberal side of the party.

So now I'm looking at changing my vote. SNP or Greens? The SNP top candidate Ian Hudghton has responded "Agree" on all fronts. For the Greens, Elaine Morrison's responses do not appear on the 'Scotland' page above, but she has told me via personal correspondence that they are "Agree/Agree/Agree*/Agree" respectively. Bonus points to her for taking her time to respond even this late into an election campaign.

Anyway, neither SNP nor Green parties are 100% appealing, but I don't feel I can vote for a LibDem candidate who is as soft on individual freedoms as George Lyon is, either. Who should I vote for?

* EDIT: Elaine's responses updated above; her initial response accidentally missed one out.
spudtater: (Default)
( May. 29th, 2009 02:04 pm)
Because there are not enough people analysing ToS documents online, I thought I'd give it a go. Hope I don't bore you too much!

Today's happy fun legal text is the PhotoBox Terms of Use. Is PhotoBox our knight in shining armour, ready to drop everything to defend our rights? Or is it an evil wyrm after our photographic copyright for its own commercial gain? Let's find out.

Analysing the PhotoBox Terms of Use )

So, have a handy summary box:

Mostly solid, with a well-thought out and reasonable stance on user rights. Would be a 'B', but I refuse to give higher than a C for any site that allows itself to change its terms at any time.
spudtater: (Default)
( Apr. 4th, 2009 09:19 pm)

What I saw: a blog collecting stories from G20 protestors and observers in London. (Link from [ profile] batswing)

It seems police are up to their old tricks again, "kettling" protests (forcing them into smaller and smaller spaces for many hours without access to food, water or toilet facilities), and behaving aggressively to attempt to instigate violence. Spoiling for a fight, basically.

Excerpts )

Video of police charging and using physical violence against peaceful protestors. (Protestors have their hands in the air, and are chanting "this is not a riot" and "shame on you". Police are pummelling them with batons and shield edges.)

News article: "Baton charges and kettling: police's G20 crowd control tactics under fire", The Guardian, 3 Apr 2009.

spudtater: (Default)
( Feb. 18th, 2009 12:00 pm)

In follow up to my previous post, "Delete your Facebook now":

Well, the message has spread, and Facebook has backed down, reverting for now to its previous terms of use. Crucially, the "You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time" paragraph has been restored, and I believe the following clarification is new:

Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

— "Terms of Use", Facebook, as of 18 Jan 2009.

(Not that that was my concern anyway, as I do understand the difference between irrevocable use rights and outright ownership.)

I don't know if I'll be restoring my Facebook account — it depends mostly on what the new Terms look like. The whole thing gave me a bit of a scare, and I'll be a lot more careful in future.

The new Facebook Terms of Use includes the following paragraph:

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.

Crucially, the recent change removes the following paragraph from the Terms of Use:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

Link: 'Facebook's New Terms Of Service: "We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever."', The Consumerist, Feb 15 2009

You can delete, rather than simply 'deactivate', your Facebook using the following URL:

UPDATE: They've backed down on this. New terms of use will be drawn up soon. Keep watching the skies tubes.

Dear Alistair Darling,

It is with some dismay that I read of plans to construct an "e-Borders" database to collect and retain data about Britons' travel details. (

It is certainly a sign of the lamentable political situation of the moment that such an invasive, overwrought and downright dangerous scheme could be supported by the Labour Party, and opposed by the Conservative Party -- has it really come to the point that we must rely on the party that previously gave us Margaret Thatcher to oppose authoritarian plans such as this?

Neither the illusionary dangers of terrorism nor the tabloid concerns of illegal immigration can convince me that such a scheme is neccessary. Instead, I can only see it being expensive, alienating, and open to abuse.

I call on you to drop any support for plans such as these, and instead retain the money for enforcing our current, and perfectly adequate, border policies.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Panayotopoulos

Prominent science fiction author and blogger Cory Doctorow is considering leaving the U.K. Why? Because it's becoming uncomfortably like the old Soviet Union:

I asked her why she didn't stay, and she shook her head like I'd asked the stupidest possible question. "It was the Soviet Union", she said. She waved her hand, groped for the answer. "Papers," she said, finally. "We had to carry papers. The police could stop you at any time and make you turn over your papers." The floodgates opened. They spied on you. They made you spy on each other.


The identity card I'm to be issued when I renew my visa is intended to be linked to all my daily activities: my medical care, my use of transit, my banking and finance, my tax – a single identifier that will track me through time and space, forever. [...] We are encouraged to spy on our neighbours and report their suspicious activity. We can be stopped and searched with no particularised suspicion, and during these searches, police officers can and do examine such things as the books we're reading and the personal notes we've made. [...] If the government of the day when I renew my visa in 2010 requires that I carry these papers as a condition of residence, the Doctorows will again leave their country and find a freer one. My wife – born here, raised here, with family here – is with me. We won't raise our British daughter in the database nation. It's not safe.

Database nation, Cory Doctorow, The Guardian, 07 Oct 2008

Very scary stuff... I can't put it any better myself. Also see Charlie Stross's post on this subject, for more links and context.

...the question foremost in a lot of people's minds is: "if I'm using this new Google browser thingy, how much information is it going to be sending to Google as I browse?"

The answer, suprisingly, appears to be "not a huge amount". At least, a reasonably trustworthy person at Google assures us so. I'm sure that nonetheless, a slew of very untrusting people are going to be closely monitoring what the browser does just to make sure. I shall await their results, but I don't expect there to be any unexpected dodginess.

Anybody who has a Google search bar installed, or has Google set as their default search in Firefox, should be aware that any search terms do go to google already, even before you hit "enter". This is how it comes up with that nifty list of auto-suggestions. With Chrome (a.k.a. "that new Google browser thingy"), the search bar and the location bar are merged into one. So if Google is set as your default search (and note that this can be changed, even to the likes of Microsoft Live Search), then Google will be sent every URL you type, as you type it.

This is not something I personally like, so I'll probably turn it off when I install Chrome (and I will have to, eventually, due to my work). Which is a shame, because auto-suggestions are nifty.

So, in conclusion, Google Chrome gets a "meh".

What all this debate over Google is distracting from is Internet Explorer 8, that other browser that is in beta at the moment. IE8 has a feature called "Suggested Sites", which it describes in the following manner:

"Suggested Sites is an online experience designed to show you which websites you visit most, and to provide you with suggestions of other websites you might be interested in visiting."IE8 Privacy policy, Microsoft

Those paying attention will already see the problem. The policy continues:

"When you turn on Suggested Sites, your web browsing history is sent to Microsoft, where it is saved and compared to a frequently updated list of websites that are similar to ones you visit often. You can choose to pause or stop this feature from sending your web browsing history to Microsoft at any time. You can also delete individual entries from your history at any time. Deleted entries will not be used to provide you suggestions for other websites, although they will be retained by Microsoft for a period of time to help improve our products and services, including this feature." (emphasis mine)

As of a few days ago, when I first discovered this aspect of IE8, I didn't see any other sites flagging this up in red letters. Now there are one or two pages crawling up Google's search results.

This really should be brought to people's attention. If people know exactly what the feature does, and are still okay to make use of it, then fine, I'm not going to push my own standards on them. But not everybody will know what it is doing behind the scenes — especially those without a computing background.

Edit: the post under the cut was accurate when posted, but Google have since stated that it was all a big mistake and have swiftly changed their EULA. See:

Original post )
spudtater: (Default)
( Jul. 20th, 2008 02:07 pm)

"One of the stars of a highly controversial film is to look into lifting a long-standing ban on it in the town she presides in as mayor.

Sue Jones-Davies, the mayor of Aberystwyth, West Wales, rose to fame when she played the part of Judith, Brian's girlfriend, in the 1979 Monty Python hit comedy Life of Brian.

Plans to lift ban on Life Of Brian, The Press Association, 20 Jul 2008
spudtater: (Default)
( Jul. 7th, 2008 10:52 pm)

Reply from the Greens/EFA party (incorporating the SNP):

Anybody got any clue what they're saying? )

I can hardly make heads or tails of it.

Somebody's trying to push through some nasty clauses in a relatively innocuous-seeming EU Telecoms bill.

Malcolm Harbour's amendment allowing commercial organisations to conduct surveillance on users of ISPs, i.e. nearly everyone, and apply sanctions to them without recourse to due legal process is particularly objectionable to me.

I do not believe that anyone at all apart from a police officer (with a court order, in the case of serious crime) should be allowed to conduct clandestine surveillance involving intercepting the telecommunications of British citizens or be allowed legally to use the results for any purpose.

comment on EUROPEANS! You have until MONDAY to contact your MEP and save the EU from a three-strikes copyright rule!,

spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 17th, 2007 07:42 pm)

"During the last twenty-four hours I have probably experienced the greatest humiliation to which I have ever been subjected. During these last twenty-four hours I have been handcuffed and chained, denied the chance to sleep, been without food and drink and been confined to a place without anyone knowing my whereabouts, imprisoned."

And what country is she talking about? Why, that good ol' US of A, of course.

Once again strengthening my resolve not to step foot on US soil again, ever, for any conceivable reason.

spudtater: (Default)
( Dec. 1st, 2007 07:08 pm)
LJ has just introduced flagging for adult content. If you are offended by somebody's post, you can now press a little button, and the lj censorship team are notified. If enough people press the little button, the content will automatically be hidden from people under 18 years old.

Now this isn't the end of the world, but I find it patronising and faintly nauseating. The internet that I fell in love with never judged content based on whose innocent eyes might be looking at it. Everything was available, if you knew where to look. Sexual content, violent content, offensive content: the very fact that this could be expressed was important to me as a teen. Freedom of speech, of thought, became a major part of my belief system, mainly as a result of the anarchic permissiveness of the internet. Freeeedom! And stuff. Yes, I'd go so far as to say that possibly the most offensive things on the internet are ideas like this one, and have marked that post as such. Go though and do likewise.

The reason it isn't the end of the world, or of my presence on LJ, at any rate, is because anybody can lie about their age. To encourage people to do so, I've marked my journal as "explicit adult content". Because the internet isn't "child friendly", and I'm proud that it isn't.


Posting from the pub, on a Saturday night. Is that slightly sad?

Edit: in this journal I always welcome contrasting opinions. However, if you're going to disagree, at least put in some effort to explain why. Hint: this will usually take more than two words. If not, your comments will be deleted.

Really embracing my inner grouch today. And why not?   8^)
spudtater: (Default)
( Nov. 9th, 2007 10:48 pm)
Bad news: the owner of Electric Cabaret was charged with "selling obscene material aggravated by religious prejudice", after selling an undercover policeman a Cradle of Filth T-shirt. (T-shirt in article, somewhat NSFW). He's now planning to leave Edinburgh and sail to Portugal. I don't know if the latter fact is a direct consequence of the former, though.

Good news: Plaisir du Chocolat is going to reopen! In the new town, though, this time.

Stupid news: Dubya on Gen. Musharraf: '"My mesage was … You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time," Mr Bush said.'

A protest in Canada almost turned into a riot after three masked protestors were seen acting in an aggressive fashion near the police line — one of them brandishing a rock. They are talked down by the organiser of the event, and arrested by the police. So far so unremarkable. But the event organiser claims that the three were actually provocateurs employed by the police. The police deny this. Then evidence is released on YouTube. And the police story suddenly changes — yes, they were undercover police, but he wasn't actually going to throw that rock, no, never. Honest! You can trust us!

spudtater: (Default)
( Jul. 9th, 2007 10:28 pm)
Went to IKEA yesterday. There was a sale on (25% off selected products, including the bookcase that I wanted)... but only if you join their loyalty scheme. I do not like loyalty schemes. So I filled out the form in a rather... creative fashion. I now have an IKEA card in the name of "William Beuchkeas".   8^)
Apparently the new scheme to cut emissions and ease congestion involves charging users per mile they drive. Which entails fitting a device to each car so that it can be tracked by satelite and charged accordingly.

Yes, the government wants to implement a scheme which will allow them to know where you've been, where you're going, and how long you stay there, for every car journey you make.

I am constantly astounded by the cheek of this government.

Now, let's go back to the problems that this scheme is supposed to solve: emissions, and congestion. And contrast our existing system, which is based on taxing fuel heavily:
  1. With fuel taxing, not only are people charged for going on long journeys, they're also charged for using energy-inefficient cars. Woo! Green!
  2. The more congested a road is, the longer a car stays idling in traffic, using up fuel. So the more congested the road, the more you pay in fuel taxes. Woo! Magic!
So the supposed benefits are completely bogus. And what about the negatives? Well, first of all there's cost. How much is it going to cost to manufacture and fit a tracking device for every single car in the UK? Especially as this is (*shudder*) a governmental IT project. And they certainly come in under budget and to specification, don't they?

And then there's privacy. With this and ID cards, the police will know who you are, what you do, where you live, where you came from, and where you are going. They won't need to ask for "your papers, please".

Government admits struggle to sell road pricing scheme — The Grauniad

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to scrap the planned vehicle tracking and road pricing policy. Over 200,000 signatures so far. Add yours!

Edit: while we're all signing petitions, I notice there's a new ID card petition on the 10 Downing Street site.
spudtater: (Default)
( Feb. 9th, 2006 12:03 am)
I note with some anger that British newspapers have decided almost unanimously to not actually print the cartoons of Muhammed that Muslims found so offensive1. The Guardian, for example, reckons that it would be "senselessly provocative to reproduce a set of images [...] which pander to the worst prejudices about Muslims", not realising that without the cartoon(s) in question, the entire article is pretty much useless to us. A cartoon caused massive riots! We're not going to show you what it was, though!

ramble )

And now, the cartoons in question3.

Cartoons! Offensive! Firebomb this journal! )


spudtater: (Default)


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