Tag: Britain

British ISP tells "Kim Jong Cameron" to jog on

A British ISP has told customers that if they want censorship they should choose another company – or move to North Korea.

In response to David Cameron’s enormously unpopular porn censorship crusade, Andrew & Arnolds said: “The government wants us to offer filtering as an option, so we offer an active choice when you sign up, you choose one of two options:

“- Unfiltered internet access – no filtering of any content within the A&A network – you are responsible for any filtering in your own network, or”- Censored internet access – restricted access to unpublished government mandated filter list (plus Daily Mail web site) – but still cannot guarantee kids don’t access porn”

If potential customers pick the latter, A&A tells them they’ll have to either pick a different ISP or move to North Korea. “Our services are all unfiltered”. A&A asks if that is enough of a choice for Cameron.

The response goes on to say it is not up to the ISP to censor what customers do online. “We do not try and log or limit what you are accessing,” it says, adding “it is your responsibility to stick to the laws that apply to you.”

What follows is some convincingly snarky reasoning behind the company’s actions, including welcoming customers to set up their own adult content filters and suggesting that parental responsibility – shock – might be more effective than a catch-all state censorship policy that is technically doomed to fail anyway.

Later down the page there’s some pretty solid advice on how to protect yourself from snooping, and a call to use encryption for all normal web traffic wherever possible.

Cameron’s “opt-in” option for all adult content is seen by critics as a slippery slope that could lead to wider censorship for anything the state doesn’t think much of. It is widely seen outside the pages of the Mail as a power grab dressed up as a moral crusade which has set a nasty precedent for web freedoms.

*British musician Dan Bull coined ‘Kim Jong Cameron’ in this NSFW-y open letter to the prime minister.

Seven million lucky Brits have never used the net

According to figures from the ONS, some 7 million British adults have never used the internet, which amounts to about 14 percent of the population.

The ONS found that internet use in the UK is still going up, but the growth is not coming from young Britons, it is their grandparents that are flocking online. More than 99 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds used the internet last quarter, but only a third of people over the age of 75 have done so as well.  

In other words, there is simply no more room for internet penetration in some age groups, but old age homes might need a few new routers. The over 75 age group gained 3.6 percentage points, while other age groups went up by 0.1 to 1.1 points. 

The gender divide is more pronounced than in other groups as well. Only 27.3 percent of women over 75 used the internet, compared to 43.7 percent of men. 

But what are all the old folks doing on the internet? Social networking and photos of grandkids come to mind, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see some of them trolling Nazi “history” forums. With the advent of Cialis, Viagra and the rest… well, enough said.

Assange granted asylum in Ecuador

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, has responded to what he calls the threats of the British government and has granted asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange fled – breaking bail conditions – to the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge, London, fearing extradition from either Britain or Sweden to the United States.

In a press conference, Patino said that he wanted to ratify Ecuador’s position with regards to the threat the UK made against his country. He claimed that Ecuador could not believe the British administration had been totally honest.

Patino said the official communications from the UK said that there is a legal basis in law that would allow it to take action to arrest Assange within the embassy, and that it sincerely hoped it wouldn’t have to get to that point, “but if you can’t resolve the issue of the presence of Mr Assange this way is open to us”.

Patino said that the letter was a “clear attack” on Ecuador’s rights on granting diplomatic protection to someone who had asked for it, free of manipulation.

All day, supporters have been surrounding the Ecuadorian embassy which led to some arrests by the police. Protesters have been chanting, among other slogans, “Julian Assange, freedom fighter” and “Hands off Ecuador”.

Patino in his press conference pointed to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. He said that no national law could be used to justify intrusive action in diplomatic premises in any country of the world, and certainly should not be “used to blackmail or threaten the sovereignty of one country”. Patino pointed to the attacks on the British embassy in Tehran last year, which the government strongly denounced.

After the lengthy speech, Patino said that all evidence considered, Ecuador had a strong case to grant Julian Assange diplomatic immunity: the threats against his personal safety, human rights, and well being were agreed to be legitimate.

The difficulty for Ecuador now will be getting Assange out of the country with safe passage. The British government has not further clarified whether it plans to arrest Assange regardless of his diplomatic status.

Britain and Ecuador grow closer to thermonuclear war over Assange

The UK and Ecuadorian governments are starting to use fighting talk when it comes to the case of Julian Assange.

Ecuador has accused the UK of making a “threat” to storm its embassy in London to arrest Julian Assange and the language it is using is similar to that of a country about to declare war.

According to the BBC, the Foreign Office says it can lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to fulfil a “legal obligation” to extradite him.

However, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino was furious at the comment. It might also backfire incrdibly on the UK government. Already the idea that the British might arrest Assange has managed to unite Ecuador’s government and opposition.

Until now the opposition has accused President Rafael Correa of mishandling the case, but are now saying that the British are mishandling it.

They fear that if the British shut down the embassy, it might make Correa appear a hero in the eyes of Ecuador’s voters as he comes into a general election.

A number of police officers are outside the Ecuadorian embassy, in Knightsbridge, and Assange’s supporters have gathered behind a police cordon.

In Ecuador, protesters are camped outside the British embassy in Quito with signs saying “We are sovereign, not colonies”.

Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino had a letter from the UK government which contained a threat that it might storm the embassy in London if it didn’t hand over Julian Assange.

He said such a threat was “improper of a democratic, civilised and rule abiding country”.

He said that Ecuador was not a British colony and if the measure announced in the British official communication is enacted, it will be interpreted by Ecuador as an “unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act and as an attempt against our sovereignty. It would force us to respond”.

The British have pointed out that the use of the diplomatic premises to harbour people in this way is not compatible with the Vienna Convention.

The law Britain has informed Ecuador it could use in the case is the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 which allows the UK to revoke the diplomatic status of an embassy on UK soil, which would potentially allow police to enter the building to arrest Assange.

In short Ecuador would go to war against the UK to protect Assange from facing a trial in Sweden where he is likely to face questioning for allegations he didn’t use a condom while having sex. Has the world gone raving mad? [yes.Ed]

Web censorship culture entrenches itself in Britain's parliament

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, scraped an election win on the back of promises like the ‘big society’. Margaret Thatcher famously claimed that there was no society, just individuals. This particular piece of post-Maggie Tory spin was supposed to unite people into taking responsibility for their own actions and communities. It has been anything but. A cursory glance, let alone an in-depth analysis of the UK’s proposed policies about internet governence suggests that this parliament distrusts the individual actions of people more than any before it.

Anyone who flagged this week’s blocking of file-sharing website The Pirate Bay as setting an unsettling precedent will not feel encouraged by the latest calls to further put the boot in over personal freedoms. 

The latest from the government is that it will consult on new measures to protect children from internet pornography, according to the BBC. Rather than encouraging any form of autonomy, a Conservative backbenchers is firmly basing her pleas on a “Helen Lovejoy” approach to politics – baying for further censorship from ISPs because, really, we must think of the children. 

Conservative MP Claire Perry said internet service providers have been “dragging their feet” on the problem of pornography, and even that they have been “complicit” in exposing children to adult material. The way the issue of censorship is framed is particularly emotive, and designed to stir the heart rather than engage in the logic of the brain: who doesn’t want to protect our children? Let’s not sugarcoat this, though. It is proposed state censorship.

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman agreed: “Keeping children safe online is a real problem and a concern for millions of parents,” she said. “We need to work closely with the industry to develop blocking technology which is easy to use and effective so that parents have the control they need to protect their children”. Censorship, then, is on the agenda of both of the mainstream parties. 

Director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, Nick Pickles, told the BBC that the consultation, at least, was a positive step in the right direction. Speaking with cautious optimism, Pickles suggested that it’s a healthy sign debate is on the table rather than immediate reactionary policy. But consultations are what the government makes of them. Labour, before it suffered a defeat in the general elections, ignored much of the criticisms against it and rushed through the largely maligned Digital Economy Act.

Censorship does not work. Think of it in terms of prohibition. Heavy-handed enforcement that punishes large swathes of the population – nice try, RIAA, circa Napster – did little to stem piracy. All even the most technologically un-savvy need to do to get around censorship is spend one or two minutes on Google, and another ten minutes reading. When there’s a will, there’s a way, could not be truer. At most censorship is an inconvenience. Virgin Media became the first service provider to block access to The Pirate Bay. Accessing it regardless could not be much easier

Pickles, speaking with TechEye, agreed that “web-blocking is a crude tool” which “does not prevent determined users accessing content.” 

“The broader consequences risk damaging legitimate businesses and undermining cyber security while further perpetuating the myth that this is an easy technological solution to a complex problem,” Pickles said.

“Ultimately,” Pickles said, “the risk is that ISPs will be expected to monitor everything their customers do online to ensure they are not doing something they should not be.” Indeed, it is “almost inevitable certain groups will call for this” when internet censorship is exposed as ineffective and easily avoided. 

“As the calls for greater surveillance of our online activity intensify, the long term risk is that the state will take on the function of deciding what we are allowed to see online,” he said.

The last point is especially troubling. Just where does censorship draw the line – and who is drawing that line? It certainly does not appear to be a democratic process.

Some would argue that the internet is the biggest society we’re ever going to get. Users can communicate, transfer information or data at increasingly fast speeds. The society is global and, as web access is considered a ‘right’, the participants will ultimately be almost everyone. There is no chance reactionary back-benchers can compete with that: they have think-tanks and tabloid campaigns. Citizens of the web have among their ranks the world’s greatest thinkers, often collaborating enthusiastically and without a profit motive. As a result, crowdsourced intelligence will always be one, if not several, steps ahead of censor-happy bureaucracies. There is already a very, very, big society. It is the world. And it is mobilised, online. 

UK gov splashes out £11m on climate change supercomputing

The British government is set to spend £11 million on IBM supercomputing capacity to model climate change more effectively.

As part of a £60 investment, the Department for Energy Climate Change (DECC) is looking to improve the UK’s ability to understand and prepare for climate change.

Much of the cash for development, around £50 million, will go to the Met Office Hadley Centre to aid climate research and modelling up to 2015.

Approximately £11 million has been spent on High Performance Computing.  This basically means supercomputing capacity and the hardware necessary for climate modelling. With a load of new kit, it seems that DECC is hoping to give an even more accurate reading of when the world’s penguin population will croak and just when progress can begin for vineyards in the Hull region.

According to DECC, the new investment has taken the form of eight supernodes (32 drawers) of IBM Power775 supercomputer servers.

It also includes data archive storage for extra HPC hardware – 33 petabytes of storage, three servers, 5760 media tapes and two tape frames.

The full DECC contribution was £7.43 million, for six supernodes, with the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) chipping in £3.76 million for two supernodes and the data archive storage.

The idea behind the climate modelling is to help make businesses understand threats better, and provide more evidence to support greater use of renewable energy.

Universities Minister David “Two Brains” Willets said that supercomputing is “fundamental to modern research”, especially with increasing data complexity.

TechEye approached the Met Office about ‘The Penguin Question’ – to find out what the supercomputer will do exactly, and whether it can give us a precise date for the ice caps melting – but we are yet to receive comment. 

Theresa May approves O'Dwyer extradition

As the UK’s Prime Minister today made headlines flying out to visit President Obama, another case may better explain the “special relationship” Britain has with the United States better than a cursory flight on Air Force One to watch a basketball game.

Richard O’Dwyer, the 23 year old student from Sheffield, has today had his extradition approved by home secretary Theresa May. The Huffington Post UK reports O’Dwyer’s mother, Julia, warning that the extradition approval sets a dangerous precedent for more citizens to find themselves on a plane to the USA to face trial.

She said: “Richard’s life – his studies, work opportunities, financial security – is being disrupted, for who knows how long, because the UK government has not introduced the much needed changes to the extradition law.”

O’Dwyer is “being sold down the river by the British government,” she said. Julia previously told Peter Walker, a Guardian journalist, that if “they can come for Richard, they can come for anyone”.

O’Dwyer’s servers were outside of the USA, but it looks like Big Content pushed for harsh sentencing regardless. His website, TVShack, did not host any infringing content – it just linked to other websites.

The case mirrors that of Gary McKinnon, who has asperger’s syndrome, and is still under threat of extradition to the United States. His defence team claimed McKinnon was looking for evidence of extraterrestrial life. A US ambassador admitted McKinnon faced extradition because he had “mocked” the USA.

Ye Visione of G-Cloud


1: Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the Second month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the Romans by the river of Tiber, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of the Cloud. 2: In the fifth day of the month, which was the 12th year of King Ballmer’s reign. 3: And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. 4: Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living clouds. And they had the logos of doom and marketing. 6: And every one had two faces, and every one had four wings and a different view about what the cloud meaneth. For some did think it meaneth storage, and others did believe it mean a cureth for all ills, even that one which maketh thine bowels sound like harpstrings. 7: And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. 8: And I saw that one cloud which came forth from Redmond, and another from the lands of Ech-Peh and and another from the Amazon. Yea! Great was the hype that followed in their train. 9: But the last living cloud was markethed by a huge letter G upon its forehead and people who did gaze upon it were moved unto say: “Gee, what the hell is that?”. Behold, it did come forth from Mountain View, upon one wheel upon the earth with his three faces. 10: The appearance of the wheels and its work was like unto a tiger and yet had the appearance of a kitten. For it did cry out, “Thou shalt do no evil”, and yet it sought to eat the other Holy Clouds. 11: But lo there came forth from the land of Blighty another cloud and it was created by the British Kings to run their government. And it was written that this cloud would be a “bit crap” because all things British were a bit rubbish. 12: For the Kings of Westminster did say, we shall maketh the Kinder Surprise of Cloud Networks and createth the double disappointment of doom. 13. And to maketh matters worse, they dubbed their cloud the G-Cloud, which meant that everyone thought it was the same as the Cloud which spaketh about doing no evil. 14. And when the G Cloud from Mountain View, heard that the British had done this it made the noise of the Cloud its wings, and its breaketh wind like the noise of great waters. 15. And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings and it did spake and say. 16. “Cursed be the British and their G-Cloud, for is it not written that all letters G must come from the Americas?” 17. But the British did say that they invented the English language, yea even the comma and the full stop, and they did think that G did stand for government. 18. They spaketh: “Have we not paid our chums in the IT industry trillions of pounds to bring forth this Cloud? And we have looked in our excheque and have found the funds not?” 19. And the G-Cloud from Mountain View did bide its time, for it knew that eventually the British would spend trillions on their cloud only to find that it was broken. And then would not the cloud emerge from Mountain View, and eat it?


British government draws up Big Brother style communications law

It was only a matter of time before the British government would play the terrorism card in a bid to spy on its citizens.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the UK government is drawing up new plans which will force landline, mobile phone companies and broadband providers to store data for a year and make it available to any spook who asks for it.

The required databases will not record calls, texts or emails, and will just store the numbers or email addresses which are being sent, it is claimed.

It will mean that the spooks will have widespread access to information about who has been communicating with each other on social networking sites such as Facebook.

Any messages between subscribers to websites such as Twitter would also be stored, as well as communications between players in online video games.

The plan is the work of extensive negotiations between the Home Office and ISPs and could be officially announced as early as May.

The government is allegedly expecting civil liberties groups to go mad when the bill is announced. It will have a cunning plan to say something like: “if you are not in support of the new law, you love terrorists and paedophiles.” This strategy is being tried by the Canadian government and is probably seen by the Coalition government as a winner.

There are also some fears that the data stores will become targets for hackers who want to use the personal information in phishing or spamming.

The Telegraph said that the plan has been drawn up on the advice of MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. Rather than the government holding the information centrally, companies including BT, Sky, Virgin Media, Vodafone and O2 would have to keep the records themselves. This would be accessed real time by the spooks.

Mobile phone records of calls and text messages pinpoint within yards where a call was made or a message was sent, while emails and internet browsing histories can be matched to an IP address. The idea is it will remove the need for spooks to shadow those who they are investigating.

The irony of it all is that the scheme was drawn up by the Labour government called the Intercept Modernisation Programme. The only difference is that the Labour scheme would have created a central database of all the information. This was slammed by almost everyone and the government at the time pulled it.

At the time, the Conservatives slammed Labour’s “reckless” record on privacy.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, a civil liberties campaign organisation, said that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats started their government with a pledge to roll back the surveillance state. But it seems that once they got into power, they saw the advantages of collecting everything about who we talk to – just in case something turns up. 

16 percent of Brits have never gone online

8 million adults in the UK had never used the internet in the fourth quarter of last year, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics.

Although 41.99 million adults in the UK had used the interent at some time, or 83.5 percent of the adult population, the 8.2 million who had never gone near it make up 16.3 percent of the adult population. 224,000 more people started using the web since the third quarter of last year. 

UK citizens who were less likely to go online included over 65s, the widowed, and the disabled, according to the report.

The youngest generation surveyed, aged 16 to 24, were the biggest users of the web at a staggering 98.7 percent having gone online. For whatever reason, men were slightly more likely to go online than women, at 86.1 percent used the web compared to 81 percent of women.

8.1 percent of people on pay of under £200 per week had never used the internet. According to the survey, the more people are paid per week, the more likely they were to go online, with absolutely zero non-users for those in the highest pay band of £800 – £899 per week.

The government is still keen to push web use across the country and has rolled out several initiatives to boost the internet in the UK. 

Gargantuan supermarket Tesco, for its part, is trying to get more people online while filling its own pockets – having turned ISP and offering a package for just £2.50 a month, undercutting cheap broadband provider TalkTalk.

TalkTalk said: “TalkTalk remains Britain’s best value home phone and broadband provider. Customers taking Essentials from TalkTalk along with our Value Line Rental save £42 a year compared with Tesco’s ‘evening and weekend’ package. Our Plus customers taking Value Line Rental save £26.25 per year compared to Tesco ‘anytime’.”