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Archive for the ‘privacy’ Category

Cllr. Khan “Slapped” down by Californian court

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PhotobucketMotion to Strike found to be frivolous

South Tyneside Independent Alliance councillor Ahmed Khan continues to be in a running legal battle with four plaintiffs including three fellow South Tyneside councillors and a senior council officer. His Twitter account having been named in court papers  in California’s San Mateo District Court in an action designed to make social network site Twitter reveal details of posting activities to help in the investigation of the mystery blogger Mr. Monkey, Khan’s pro bono lawyers filed an anti-Slapp (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion to try and “strike” out the case put forward by the plaintiffs. Khan’s defence team intended to pursue a route which claimed that the lawsuit was an attack on freedom of speech and expression under US law. Yesterday the presiding judge the honourable V. Raymond Swope ruled that Ahmed Khan “failed to meet his threshold burden of showing that his acts arose from protected activity”. He also stated that “the instant motion is FRIVOLOUS”, and EVEN MORE EGREGIOUS  than the filing to strike in a reference case used as precedent.

Having already launched a campaign of self publicity claiming that his freedom of speech, and that of his constituents, was being denied by the council’s legal action using social networking site Twitter and the help of a freelance former Shields Gazette journalist, Khan’s Twitter page is today benignly silent on the latest US legal action. The plaintiffs too are wisely keeping their counsel apart from stating that the case is ongoing.

It might help clear some misunderstandings amongst the public if the plaintiffs would release a statement telling us the general themes of their legal actions, the necessity for bring them, the reasoning for the use of public funding during this investigative stage, and their desired outcomes.

You can keep up to date with the US case here, searching  under “case number search” for case type “unlimited civil”, and case number 482779.

The plaintiffs are required to show their intent to press ahead with the case by the beginning of October.

Khan named as defendantKhan named as defendant

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Written by curly

September 9, 2011 at 9:32 am

Call Tom Watson to the Select Committee too.

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Was the Security Service involved in the hacking scandal?

As the story about Rupert Murdoch’s News International continues to evolve with more resignations and revelations one small written piece in Iain Dale’s latest platform seems to have evaded Fleet Street (for now) and it involves Gordon Brown’s lieutenant Tom Watson with his cleverly worded question to the Prime Minister earlier in the week. Former Tribune editor Mark Seddon writes:

So when earlier in the week, Watson asked the Prime Minister if the terms of the Inquiry into the Press would also include “rogue elements in the security services”, my ears pricked up. I have been wondering for some time how this level of serial criminality, this bugging and hacking from the Windsors to the Dowlers had seeming failed to register with our rather expensive intelligence services in MI5 and MI6. It seemed astonishing to me for instance that an officer in the Royal Protection Squad could happily flog private Royal contacts without anyone knowing. It also seemed surprising that no one seemed to know of the repeated attempts to access intensely private information on Gordon Brown. Some 4,000 people – probably far more – had their phones hacked, and no one knew what was going over in MI5?

So, apart from asking the Murdochs, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, various other journalists et al, perhaps the Commons Select Committee for Culture Media and Sport ought to request that Tom Watson appears before them next week. It would seem that he may have important information to share with them. If it is possible that members of MI5 or MI6 had helped journalists in their search for information to get a story at any cost then surely if it were proven, News International and News Corporation could not possibly pass any test that verifies them as a fit and proper organisation to hold a broadcast licence either here or abroad! They certainly ought not to be though of as fit and proper to take over BSkyB at any time in the future, irrespective of all the apologies offered this weekend.

If the Select Committee and the Judicial Enquiry find that this organisation has wormed its way into both the police forces of the UK and its Security Services, along with using its influence to manipulate politicians of all parties, then I’m pretty sure that public opprobrium would be so intense that shareholders might move to break up the company.

Although many will see Tom Watson’s moves as little more than “the revenge of Brown”, ultimately he may have done his country a great service.

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Written by curly

July 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

Phone Hacking

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“To listen to your messages press 1

To listen to your messages again press 2

To save your messages press 3

To delete your messages press 4

To allow an investigator to delete your message press 5

To send your messages to a newspaper press 6”

It should not take you long to decide NOT to have this newspaper in your home this weekend!

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Written by curly

July 6, 2011 at 8:01 am

Civil service Twit outed

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Sunday Times clippingAnonymity on Twitter NOT guaranteed

I haven’t bought The Sunday Times for a few months now, perhaps because it takes a full week to read, so I am grateful to a reader for dropping me in this clipping from yesterday’s edition. Sorry if the quality isn’t great but it is not my photocopier/scanner responsible.

You can click on the thumbnail on the left to open a fuller sized version of the clipping, just hoping that you can all read it OK up here in South Tyneside.

The gist of the story is that a civil servant working at the local government department headed by Eric Pickles was found to be operating a Twitter account , not from the office, but from his iPhone out of work, penning Tweets as the “Naked Civil Servant” he has been suspended prior to disciplinary proceedings alleging gross misconduct.

The principle and moral lesson to be learned from this article is that your anonymity on the internet cannot be guaranteed unless you are far more clever than the security experts, something for someone up here to think about and stew over!

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Written by curly

June 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Contact Point: Indies to “Grandstand”

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Motion to South Tyneside Council

Independent Alliance to debate Government database policy at South Tyneside Council

Well, in some respects I can understand where the political sympathies lie, and the general intention to think well of South Tyneside Council and its children’s services, but to bring a motion such as this to the full council is a wee bit frivolous and entirely outside of the remit of the council’s responsibilities.

The Contact Point database set up under the last government was bedevilled with problems and fears were expressed about its security and stability as long ago as August 2007 before it was being operated:

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS) has written to officials outlining its “significant” concerns about the new system, called ContactPoint, The Times has learnt. Confusion over who is responsible for vetting users and policing the system “may allow a situation where an abuser could be able to access ContactPoint for illegitimate purposes with limited fear of any repercussions”, Richard Stiff, the chairman of the ADCS Information Systems and Technology Policy Committee, said….

“The enormous size of the database and the huge number of probable users inevitably increase the risks of accidental or inadvertent breaches of security, and of deliberate misuse of the data (eg, disclosure of an address with malign intent), which would be likely to bring the whole scheme into disrepute”, the Lords’ Select Committee on Merits of Statutory Instruments concluded.

The database designed to hold the personal details of 11 million children in England can continue to hold this information until the “child” is 25 years old if they are care leavers or have learning disabilities, way beyond the “protection” called for by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. A large number of criticisms relating to invasion of the individual’s privacy have been expressed since Contact Point started operating prompting calls for the new government to scrap it completely. The legislation which allows officials to collate and use individuals private details where they have “any areas of concern” has been accused of using “function creep” as the state’s intrusions into private life through covert surveillance continued under New Labour.

Not long after its launch this year The Daily Telegraph carried a report criticising its security and stability:

Contactpoint, the £224 million computer system designed to protect young people, is a “frustrating” database and not “user friendly” for local authorities, internal documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show….

One official, whose details were blacked out, reported to a supervisor: “It has been a frustrating time recently which recently culminated in a breach of the system.

“The system they are accessing is not stable, it took 15 minutes for John to get into it this morning.

“The process is not user friendly. Data is an issue locally, a lot of it doesn’t match up, especially addresses. There are also issues around what needs recording for each agency to get consistency.”

Such vulnerabilities in the system leave it open to abuse by those who it was designed to protect children from, and the report goes on to detail other security lapses and breeches which raise serious concerns about its usage.

However, my main issue here is not so much the national policy agenda for these “Big Brother databases”, but the role of our local council here in South Tyneside and the issues it should be debating as we attempt to ride out this recession and the effects of dealing with the structural budget deficit left by the last Labour government. Our local councillors ought to be debating local issues of concern to local people and leave the national policy agenda to the borough’s two Members of Parliament, that is after all, what we elected them to do. Surely the group of Independent Alliance councillors could have written to David Miliband and Stephen Hepburn expressing their concerns about Contact Point rather than tying up time at the full meeting of the borough council to allow certain members to “grandstand” their own policy positions. Unfortunately this is the type of “politics” that we have come to expect from this opposition grouping – lots of hot air and very little in the way of substance.

To substantiate that point can we remind them that :

The government is considering bringing back a version of the controversial Contact Point children’s database, just months after the original project was halted.

Tim Loughton, junior minister for children and families,  admitted, “We are exploring the practicality of an alternative national signposting service which would help practitioners find out whether a colleague elsewhere is working, or has previously worked, with the same vulnerable child.”
He added, “The approach would particularly take account of the needs of children who move between local authority areas or who access services in more than one local authority.

“Social workers in particular, and potentially other key services like the police or accident and emergency departments, may need this information very quickly. Any new approach would seek to strengthen communication between these areas.”

Not much need for this debate then, South Tyneside Council doesn’t operate the database nor can it change, evolve, reinstate, or renew it, perhaps we can get back to more local issues such as the level of council tax, economic regeneration, planning, or local schools policy.

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Written by curly

January 19, 2011 at 9:56 am

Essential equipment for holding councillors to account

with 4 comments

spy gear

Intelligence is the key these days

On the left is the digital voice recorder:

Half digital recorder, half portable memory device. Unlike most, the pocket-sized Olympus stereo digital recorder downloads without cables, docking station or special software. Just plug the digital recorder into just about any PC with a USB port and off you go. The digital recorder makes it so easy to record your thoughts, ideas, memos or even small meetings in superbly clear stereo sound.

Simple plug and play via USB no cables, cradle or software necessary
Allows the storage of any file type, not just voice files
Features an integrated stereo microphone for high quality recording
Offers four recording modes: SHQ and HQ mode for superior quality, SP and LP for extended recording
Recording times between 35hours. in High Quality and 138 hours. in LP mode
5 folders, 199 messages per folder for file management
Mac compatible

On the right we have the Video Eyewear Recorder:

1.3 mega pixels Eyewear Video Recorder with 2GB builit-in memory and TF card slot-Features

-Quality Polaroid Lens from brand makers.
-1.3 mega pixels pinhole CMOS camera for clear digital recording.
-User friendly operation button for easy control.
-Sleek and elegant design suits for both men and women users.
-A must equipment and highly recommended device for journalist, traffic police, travellers and etc.
-Easy connection with PC/Laptops, no driver needed
-Built in 2G memory for as long as 5 hours video recording.
-With extended memory slot for TF/Micro SD card.
-Real time recording, never let memorable moments sneak away from life.


-Power Supply:built-in 550mAh lipolymer battery
-Power duration: 4-5 hours
-Power Adaptor: 5V DC/500 mAh
-Built-in 2GB memory, support TF card Max 2GB
-Camera hardware resolution: 1.3m pixels.
-Reading Speed > 700kbs, write >500Kbs
-Playing Speed: 30fps
-Power Consumption: <0.4W
-Video Format: 3GP
-Card Slot: TF/Micro SD card
-Physical weight 39g with battery

Next time you see your local councillors out and about doing a street walk on their patch in South Tyneside make sure you are well equipped to really know what they are talking about, these councillors are slippery you know, especially the Labour Party ones (real socialists are apparently even worse!) You cannot possibly be in opposition to your local Labour councillors unless you know exactly what they are talking about, who they are talking to, what they are getting up to, who they are meeting, and what their plans are, so get get yourself equipped to deal with opposition!

You know it makes sense!

Can I recommend The Spy Shop, one of the UK’s leading surveillance equipment suppliers, but a word of caution, if you are purchasing from South Shields make sure that your credit is good first, secondly, I’m not sure if they have a branch in Biddick Hall yet, so telephone before visiting the area eh?

Yes, I know, politics in South Tyneside used to be a simple battle of ideas, policies, and presentation, now it seems the whole game is just verging towards the sinister, and I even thought that the folks on the left were massively in favour of civil liberties and the protection of individual privacy and identities.

Remember folks, that being photographed when you are in a public place is not a crime, it is allowed, unless of course someone is poking a lens under your nose repeatedly, when it does become a crime (it’s called harassment), if you are not sure what a street photographer can get up to these days then download Linda MacPherson’s excellent guide – here

It might have made an amusing story if it wasn’t so bloody not funny (see, even I can empathise.)

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Written by curly

July 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Sausages and “stable government”

with 3 comments

The long Bank Holiday weekend.

It all started after returning from the Snooker Centre in Chichester Road, South Shields, rather late on Friday evening to be confronted with the news that the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, had resigned after one of the shortest Cabinet careers in history, ostensibly to protect his privacy and with a hint that perhaps he shouldn’t have taken £40000 from the tax payers to fund his partner’s flat. Thus by Saturday it dawned on me that “strong and stable government” as portrayed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg was beginning to sound more like the braying of a couple of asses, surely MI5 still provides Prime Ministers with a brief about the characteristics of potential Cabinet ministers?

Apart from the fact that the expenses issue was being aired again by the hacks at the Daily Telegraph, spiced with an air of sexual innuendo, we saw the situation unfold whereby perfectly capable candidates to replace Laws at the Treasury were being overlooked, and I refer specifically to Philip Hammond who had mastered his brief over the past two years, in deference to Danny Alexander as “politics” intervened to ensure a full complement of five Liberal Democrats around the Cabinet table. Alexander, of course, has next to no experience of financial matters other than those immediately thrown into the brouhaha of his elevation. Thus we have a coalition government determined to reduce the deficit and the debt mountain with a mere novice charged with keeping spending under control, hardly what I would describe as either strong or stable conditions.

The rest of Saturday found me and “Missy” taking a ride in the car following the tasting of what can only be described as the finest Cumberland sausage that Britain has ever produced. I was intending to go to Carlisle as I hadn’t visited the place in over twenty years and had recently been given a pound of the said sausage a few days earlier, it was wholesome, dense, packed with prime meat, oats, and other goodies that made it essential to track down the maker. A few others from South Shields make irregular trips to the small village of Great Orton to the west of Carlisle to visit Jimmy Mulholland’s butcher shop/post office/general dealer it wasn’t too difficult to find in the grey wet village as it was the only shop there, but at 3:45 in the afternoon I feared he may be shut, fortunately he was not. Jimmy wasn’t surprised that I’d travelled from South Shields and asked if I knew the manager of the Snooker Club? Daft question I suppose.

Apart from providing Great Orton with most all its retail facilities, he also had Cumberland and black pudding sausage, as well as beef and tomato sausage, all looking as dense and tasty as the two pounds that I had in my mit! You can find Mulholland’s shop here and I can tell you that £2.75 per pound for the Cumberland sausage is money that you won’t regret spending, my only regret was forgetting to get some for my father!

Carlisle was heaving packed with shoppers despite the weather being gloomy and wet, the Lanes shopping centre was a big attraction and a fine example of how old shopping areas can be revived with a glass covering and new paving, another aspect, that we seem to somehow under achieve on in South Shields, is the amount of independent retailers thriving there amongst the national retailers who tend to “clone” our town centres it seems that a proportion of small units is kept at lower rents to allow them to get a foothold in the market place. The city centre seemed to me to be every bit as busy as Newcastle on a good day, but we had to press on, “Missy” neede to see Hadrian’s Wall on the way back.

The weather was not the best to appreciate culture and history but it didn’t stop around 150 “wooly backs” walking along the Military Road in between camp sites, mile forts, and ruined old turrets , we managed to walk a small section beside Steel Rigg car park before the rain became too heavy for her, but I grabbed a few pictures en route.

Sunday was just as gloomy, England’s dire performance against Japan ruined the day for me, as well further revelations about Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, and “two Jags” Prescott. Monday was far better, no sport to worry about and little in the way of politics to disturb the mind (other than silly people who decide to fight against armed soldiers with sticks and metal bars, – I mean, really, would you?). On a warm fine afternoon I tramped all around the fair city of Durham, photographing to my heart’s content and gathering a wealth of material to work on for South Shields Daily Pictures, people DO want to see the rest of our region, you know, I also found time to visit an old workmate Mike Innes on a newish retail development at Belmont and swap notes on how we are both doing, it’s good to stay in touch with old friends.

So what became a longish weekend away from work prevented me from sitting at this keyboard for any great spells, and in truth I am going to be struggling to keep up my output at anything like the levels that you have become accustomed to, the same will be true of Twitter, but the photoblog is easier to manage with the ability to post pictures for a decent period in advance.

So I hope you had a great weekend and that we can start to look forward to sunnier days in South Shields and welcome thousands of visitors to the seaside, even if we have to compete against the Tall Ships Race this year. I’ll be back here just as soon as time permits – or when the steam comes out of my ears, whichever is the sooner.

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Written by curly

June 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Best news of the day

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ID Card scheme to be scrapped within 100 days

Many in South Shields may not be bothered one way or another but this news is a huge relief to the few of us around here who have held the flag of liberty, freedom, and civil liberties over the years, even though we may have waived it around in differing directions. It is good to see the Conservative and Liberal Democrat partners in government moving ahead with projects to roll back the state and save our cash with such incredible speed and determination.

I note from the lack of howling protests coming from the left (ah yes, silence is golden) that apparently the whole idea wasn’t all that popular with them after all, just a pity that they couldn’t have called upon their principles and beliefs to prevent Blair, Brown, Straw, Clarke, Blunkett, Smith, Johnson et al from inflicting such a monumental infringement of our privacy and liberties upon us, and that’s without raising the issues of the horrendous costs and unproven effectiveness.

The BBC reports that:

Some £250m was spent on developing the national ID programme over eight years and its abolition will mean the government will avoid spending a further £800m over a decade.

If you were stupid enough to buy one of the National ID Cards then I’m afraid that this government will not be offering you a refund of the £30 you recklessly thought would save you from international terrorism. If you are desperate to get the cash back then can I suggest that you write to Unite the union who are the principle bankrollers of the Labour Party, I’m sure they’ll find the time to consider your request after they have finished their attempt to crash British Airways.

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The insidious and repellant growth of the database state

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I’d love to go abroad again for a holiday……….

………….but I don’t want to be viewed as a suspected terrorist.

All information passengers give to travel agents, including home address, phone numbers, email address, passport details and the names of family members, is shared with an unknown number of Government agencies for ‘analysis’ and stored for up to ten years.

I’ll remember that the next time I’m in South Shields town centre ogling in a travel agent’s window for a bargain.

It is to be hoped that some Liberal Democrat with a conscience will be twisting Pauline Neville-Jones’ arm to review this “profiling” .

On a separate and equally worrying matter, I am glad to see that Damian Green, who himself was a victim of police profiling, has decided that the awful conditions for children at Yarls Wood are just not good enough in a civilised society:

‘Our coalition government is committed to ending the detention of children for immigration purposes – we think this is the right thing to do.

‘I hope that we can have plans agreed within the next few months.’

Amen to that!

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Written by curly

May 17, 2010 at 6:22 pm

First the good news

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ID Cards and the National register cancelled

ID Cards

Click picture to go to website

You have to congratulate the Civil Service for working their socks off over the last few days for (a) freezing activity on government websites whilst the coalition was negotiating their agreement, and (b) getting amended information online as quickly as possible. This was a major task across Whitehall and the No. 10 website in particular has needed major changes to ensure that Gordon Brown is now history!

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Written by curly

May 16, 2010 at 9:53 am