Understanding Julian Huppert MP’s support of Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

Of all the things I might say about Julian Huppert MP, stupid is not one of them – he’s consistently informed, reasoned and principled. Pretty good qualities of an MP, as I think you’d agree.

This makes his support of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill… surprising.

It seems to be a broadly unpopular stance, which (appears) inconsistent with what one might expect from him. I’m pretty sure we won’t change his mind, but I’m interested to try and understand it from his point of view.

My feeling is that he’s making this decision based on data that is privileged to him which he can’t share with us.

His major contribution to the bill, which legalises wholescale spying (including you Facebook, Gmail) in the UK and expands it to include non-UK citizens, is to make it expire in 2016, after the next General Election.

I think this article in the Guardian goes some way to explaining his point of view, and yet skirts the big questions like “but clause 5 and 6 massively change the scope of the bill” to target people outside the UK.

I feel like I’m going /r/conspiracy, and suggesting that lizards in the rotary club control the world, but one hypothesis for the bill seems less outlandish given the backdrop of Edward Snowden’s revelations about GCHQ and our knowledge that multiple foreign ISPs are suing GCHQ in a UK jurisdiction for spying on them.

My suspicion would be that:

  • Julian has been told this bill will be pushed through whether he opposes it or not
  • He’s been given an opportunity to insert some clauses into it, so long as they don’t alter the ones about interception
  • He may or may not have been told semi-directly by a bunch of security types about how GCHQ is in a precarious legal position which the establishment want to shore up

If we took those things as given, then if you look at his approach from his point of view, it kind of makes sense. I don’t support it. But it makes sense.

I guess we might find out after the next General Election when he can talk freely.

PRISM: What you won’t hear the Americans say (but what you should be very scared of).

The recent revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden about the US’s PRISM program, have, in the US, mainly centered on how the NSA could be spying on American citizens which may or may not be against the constitution. The details seem to suggest that so long as the data collected is 51% or more, between non-Americans, then it’s all good. The EFF/ACLU are upset that American’s are being spied on.. and simultaneously missing the much larger point:

Since when did it become “OK” for the US to conduct surveillance on every foreign internet user?

The big thing the American constitutionalists are up in arms about is these discoveries in relation to their constitution’s 4th amendment – their protection again unreasonable searches and seizures – the oversight role of their judiciary and the requirement of ‘probable cause’.

It seems that whilst American foreign policy frequently talks up the virtues of their country’s bill of rights, they don’t feel this applies to “the rest of the world”.

The US disregards non-american's privacy in the name of it's own security.
The US disregards non-american's privacy in the name of it's own security.

Unfortunately, this means that for non-Americans, most of the world, we know that any traffic to/from the US is being spied on as a matter of course, and I think that is significant cause for concern.

The NSA director says:

“The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

The concept that one can lose one’s privacy, without oversight, in the name of “American Security” is something I find upsetting? Does unauthorised copyright usage also threaten US security?

Use Gmail? NSA seen it.

Use Facebook? NSA knows you.


William Hague, our esteemed foreign secretory” says: “law-biding members of the public had ‘nothing to fear'”.

Personally, I think he’s a bit of a bellend, and, more crucially, wrong.

Pet Shop Boys- Integral

Stephen Fry at Oggcamp? Awesome or Awesome?

It’s not often I go to events were well known people are speaking. It’s even less frequently where the tech events I go to have well known broadcaster speaking.

However, Oggcamp – the world’s friendliest unconference – is a special sort of event and persuading Stephen Fry to give a video address, answering questions and his relationship with technology went down very well indeed!

Some memorable quotes:

Do I use Linux on any of my devices? Yes – I use Ubuntu these days – it seems the friendliest.

Sometimes I do worry that they [Apple] are a bit tyrannical and a bit silly.

Facebook is really just AOL but brushed up for the modern user generated content world.

It’s really quite watchable:

Stephen Fry – OggCamp 12 Interview

Social Media and the Russia Election protests

Вы можете прочитать эту статью на русском языке (Google Translate).

Back when I was at school, I was exceptionally privileged to have the opportunity to visit Russia several times.

I'm wearing the only t-shirt I could be wearing...

Whilst I was there I made friends with a number of Russian young people.

I remember in 2005 or so, having just had a tour round the Kremlin, meeting some students and talking to them in English, (my Russian has never been as good as I wanted it to be). I clearly remember one of them saying that they didn’t really like the government here and indicated the Kremlin. I felt a bit uncomfortable, certainly not wanting to be seen to take any moral high ground, and let the subject drop.

As Vkontakte – the Russian clone of Facebook was just starting up, I got an account on there and friended them… and then promptly stopped studying Russian and all but forgot about it all.

Now there is an important point before I go on:

Anecdotes are not Data.

At no point do I think the opinions of some people represent everybody and there are various reasons why I may be seeing bias. Again, anecdotes are not data. This is not a scientific study.

During the South Ossetia crisis when traditional western blocs were saying fighting words to traditional eastern blocs I talked to some of my Russian friends again. Not to try and change anyone’s opinion, but to try and understand their opinions. Media outlets always spin news stories in some way or other. Sometimes predictably, sometimes less so. Talking to random Russians went some way to understanding things from a point of view, other than the one put across by local or foreign media services.


what do you think of all the politics which is going on at the moment?
georgia, poland etc?
I find it quite worrying, but i’m intersted to know what you think,

Russian friend:

I think it is provocation of Russia from USA…

This helped me understand me realise that it wasn’t by any means the clearcut story that national media made it out to be.

I drifted away again for a few years…

I read the Russian election results on the BBC/Guardian/Google news saw a lot of bias about unfair elections (something we’re known to make loud diplomatic noises about) and went and read the Xinhua article for an extra perspective (Xinhua is highly unlikely to take a critical point of view of a Government which has friendly relations with the PRC.

I thought nothing more of it – another election that our government makes unhappy noises about – another day. There’s no chance of anything our government says having any effect on the Russian government (hey, this is what we spent the whole of the cold war trying (and failing!) to do, remember?!). I just assumed the status quo would remain.

Well here’s the interesting bit. Yesterday I noticed on reddit that things seemed to be happening in Moscow. Reports were being posted of large demonstrations taking place, riot police calling in the armySensationalist reporting started talking about a “civil war”.

Then Vkontakte exploded (translated via Google translate):

Posts such as:

“If you ever get up in the life of a choice-to do by law or by conscience, to act according to conscience, the laws can always be changed”

Of the 983 people who came to the polls in 1365 voted for United Russia

Election candidates are all worthy of an honest politician with PEOPLE GOOD GOOD FELLOWS PROGRAM AREA RAISE FOR ALL SORRY CAN NOT VOTE.

Dear members of the media!
Please note that all detainees before during an unsanctioned rally near the metro station Seating yard are still in police stations.
During detention, the police announced that all members of the shares will be delivered to the police departments to draw up protocols on administrative violations, but from people who still are in the departments come down to us the information that all detainees will soon have to send in municipal courts in order to make the charges under Article 280 of the Criminal Code (calling for the overthrow of government).
We urge you to give publicity to this fact and try to keep the information practices of another fact of tyranny and police authorities.
repost is welcome!

My view is estimated that we need a new election with the exception of the United Russia electoral list in connection with numerous violations.

…began to crop up on my friends’ and their friends’ walls.

What I think of the election result is irrelevant. What matters is what the Russian people think.

I continue to watch my Russian friend’s reactions with interest…

Feel free to add me on Vkontakte

Howto be a submarine facebook ‘friend’ and wreck friendships

Hi, today I want to talk about how to really mess up friendships with Facebook. No this isn’t so that you can go an use it on people, but because it’s a flaw which I think people should be aware of.

First we have to understand a little known feature of Facebook:

Facebook doesn’t want it’s users leaving. That bit is obvious. So instead of encouraging you to delete your profile and delete all the comments you’ve posted over the years, they suggest you disable it. This means that they still have everything and get simply reinstate you if you come back and decide actually you like the book of faces.

Now I actually don’t think this is such a bad idea. Despite my loathing of facebook the company, I don’t like the idea of people deleting their archives of social interactions. I’m in favour of keeping your letters, birthday cards, photos. Sure keeping them on Facebook is epic privacy fail, but that’s out of the scope of this article.

However, consider the following scenario:

  • Alice and Bob become friends on Facebook.
  • Bob disables his Facebook account.
  • Alice and Bob fall out.
  • Alice no longer wants Bob to have access to her Facebook account.
  • Alice tries to delete Bob from her friends list, but Bob isn’t in it. (His account is disabled; he won’t show up)
  • Alice posts stuff she doesn’t want Bob to see.
  • Bob re-enables his facebook account.
  • Bob is still friends with Alice, Alice is unaware he is able to access her profile until he shows up in her newsfeed.
  • Bob is able to see all of Alice’s updates of the same permissions he was able to before he disabled his account.

And there you have it. A really easy way of being really shitty.

I don’t like it, I’m not sure what I’d suggest facebook did, but yeah; it sucks.

Introducing Pokebook.co.uk

Stephen Mount wrote:

We don't all seem to aspire to be a founder of a website which allows you to poke people.

I don’t aspire to be one either; I am one!

Introducing www.pokebook.co.uk

Pokebook is an exciting new service which has transformed the landscape of the web. Designed for teenagers with too much time on their hands, it has been specifically engineered to capture the attention of kids as they flip between youtube and bebo.

Pokebook is currently about to enter a private alpha period whilst
looking for VC seed funding to take this exciting new venture to the
next level.

Tim Dobson
CEO, CTO and Founder of Pokebook

The biggest innovation since Windows ME” – Time Magazine