Category Archives: politics

belgium is going digital tax crazy

Belgian politicians are going bonkers over the digital world the last month it seems. First Mr. Q decides to start taxing all digital carriers because hey, you might be using them to store copyrighted material. You know, the same tax they have for VHS and audio tapes. The difference just is that those tapes were actually used to store as good as nothing but copyrighted material. But a USB stick or external HD is a completely different deal. Lot’s of non-copyrighted material on there, but we’re still paying for it…

Now there’s a proposed bill from the ecological parties to start taxing downloads to cope with illegal downloads on the net. Yep, we’re all criminals again. In fact they are talking about legalising illegal downloads. Funny. I wonder how Hollywood is going to react to that. For a small fee we’re allowed to rip any movie? Nice. Let’s set up Piratebay.be! The worst idea in the bill is that they want to avoid the ISPs from simply charging this tax to the consumer by blocking raises on the monthly subscription fee on our broadband internet connection. Great, so by blocking already way too expensive internet fees you’re going to avoid us from paying too much? Euhm. We already are paying twice what they pay in Holland, so I doubt ISPs will give a fuck.

What’s next? A blogging tax? We need a damn Pirate party I tell ya. Arrrr!

Photo by Jeremy Brooks, cc-licensed

why camera surveillance in mechelen won't work

The Belgian city of Mechelen is planning to put up road surveillance camera’s up on all big exit and entry roads to the city. The reason for this is -of course- the same as it always is when it comes to invading your privacy: to increase security. The plan is to scan every license plate that passes the camera and hopefully be able to stop or catch burglars more easily and scare them away from Mechelen.

I don’t have to tell you how scanning every car’s license plate invades the general public’s privacy, but that’s the price to pay for additional safety isn’t it? The problem with this solution is that it’s called a “Club solution” in the IT world.

A club solution works as long as only a small club of users (cities in this case) use it. So camera surveillance might scare off crooks, but it won’t stop them. They will move to other cities which do not have the same solution. This somewhat forces the other cities to apply the same tactic. After a while every major city will have camera surveillance in place and your solution stops working. It’ll make crime harder, but it won’t stop it. So they will return to the most profitable cities since there’s surveillance in all of them by now anyway.

I’m sure that a hardened criminal won’t be stopped by this. There’s plenty of ways to circumvent the camera’s when you think about it. Fake license plates, stolen cars, disabling the camera’s or simply making sure you bypass them by taking smaller roads.

So we end up with the public being watched at all time and crime at the same rates as it used to be. Big Brother is born one step at a time.

Photo by nolifebeforecoffee, cc-licensed

#iranelection

I’ve been watching the internet concerning the Iranian elections lately and I have to say that the information being delivered over the net is far more interesting than what traditional media has to offer, plus it’s a lot faster too.

A few things are quite interesting about this whole thing from an geek point of view on how the so called new media is used in the conflict:

1. Easy channels of information = easy channels for disinformation. As bloggers use blogs, Twitter and facebook to spread instant updates on what’s going on inside Iran, the government sets up fake account to spread disinformation using the same channels. Keeping your bullshit filter up when going through the information spread on the various networks is mandatory to not get suckered into the false news.

2. The firewalls have eyes. While the internet is the medium to spread news in a somewhat anonymous fashion, it’s also being actively monitored and¬† partially controlled by the government to try and track down protesters. The same goes for cellphone networks and SMS traffic. Public proxies and anonymizers can help to keep the identity of the bloggers safe, but those are being shut down as well. Governments all over the world are lobbying to limit the privacy of their civilians by forcing ISP’s to track their user’s actions on the net under the excuse of increasing security and fighting the terrorist threat. Once this is achieved there is no turning back and these tools can be used for less noble goals which is now being displayed in Iran. Keep this in mind next time politicians talk about forcing your internet provider to keep logs. Tools like Tor, Freenet, proxies and anonymizers are also imported for this reason.

3. Sometimes helping turns out to be not helping. People all over the world are trying to help the Iranian protesters using all sorts of geeky tricks. Unfortunately these tricks seem to be working more against them in some cases. Some people started DDos’ing Iranian websites. This turned out to be blocking overal internet traffic in Iran, including those of the protesters trying to get the word out. Retweeting messages of legit Iranians for example can blow their cover as Boing Boing mentions. Retweeting false information is another. Which brings us to..

4. Who can you trust? Trust is the major issue here. Can the blogger’s information be trusted? Can a website or forum be trusted, or is it a tool set up by the government to lure in the unwary? The gov has been said to set up so-called anonymous twitter-sites which simply log protesters accounts and IP’s for easy tracking. Trusting your Twitter or GMail account to a malicious website which then uses it to spam your friends is one silly mistake to make. But if your life depends on it you better be damn sure that site can be trusted before you hit the submit button.

5. The internet is supportive. All over the net support is being raised (noticed those green icons on Twitter?), rightfully or not. The underdog is always popular online and I frankly don’t have a clue yet who’s right and who’s wrong in this story, but by making such a fuss the government is certainly not looking like the good guys in this one. One thing I do know is that it’s important to allow free speech and that’s what the Iranian government is now trying to stop by blocking access to the net. It’s cool to see the Swedes at Piratebay have set up a forum which Iranians can use in full anonymity for example. I’m not linking directly to it here as it seems to be down at the moment, probably because of the increased traffic it’s getting right now, so they don’t need those few extra clicks coming from here.

Cyberwar is no longer science-fiction.

Photo by MisterArasmus, copyrighted so I’m going for fair-use here :)