Sunday, 27 July 2008

As a last resort?

The FRA are reading your mail. Use bottle post!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Death by a thousand cuts?

“The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away,
for expedients, and by parts”.
Edmund Burke, 1777

Or as Benjamin Franklin put it...

"Any society that would give up a little liberty
to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

Clean flour in the bag… A Miller’s tale?

A phrase you see a lot in the debate here on state surveillance is ‘jag har rent mjöl i påsen’. I have clean flour in my bag… so please go ahead and keep watch on everything I say. It’s a phrase and an argument that makes me want to scream NOooooooo!!!! every time I hear it.

The corollary to the argument is ‘If you’re against this law, what have you got to hide?’. It’s an argument I find extremely offensive. Privacy is a recognized right. I don’t need to defend why I want privacy, it is for those wanting to remove that right to demonstrate that that is justified.

What I find most offensive with this argument is the arrogant and selfish supposition that says that because surveillance is acceptable to me in my life as it is here and now today it must be acceptable to all other people regardless of their views and circumstances. Together with this is the equally offensive nationalist assumption that if we can protect the communication and rights of swedish people then it doesn’t matter what we do to others.

One of the misconceptions that often underpins this blind faith in the system is that surveillance is looking for people committing crimes. It isn’t. The FRA is looking out for external threats to Sweden - which mostly has nothing to do with illegal activity. Agitating against government legislation for instance is quite legal but (certainly in some other parts of the world) could see you classed as an enemy of the state. So if you’ve not done anything wrong and it’s not illegal why are you being monitored? And why are they monitoring you if they are not going to actively use that information?

The other thing that people don’t seem to understand is that it’s not you that decides what ‘clean’ means. Is your life organic wholemeal, or plain bleached white? Are you gluten free??? Which one fits (or more to the point doesn’t fit) the political agenda of the day???

And remember, in an environment where Sweden is trading or selling intelligence to other powers, it’s not Sweden’s nice likeable trustworthy politicians that are deciding what clean is either…

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Feeling threatened?

The FRA want (and at the moment will get) new powers to carry out surveillance on all cable traffic crossing Swedens borders - so we may wonder what is the threat that needs these new powers?

Changes in the law will mean that the scope of FRA activity changes from "external military threats" to just "external threats".. a not insignificant change. So what is Sweden afraid of? (bearing in mind that 'national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country' are the only possible justifications to support a massive violation of the right to privacy given by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.)

Sweden is clearly a high profile target for terrorists.
err. NOT!

Sweden is placed 97 out of 160 on a global terrorism index. Since the infamous 9/11 attack there has been precisely noll fatalities in Sweden from terrorism (casualties in the Bali bombing excluded).
And.. which you might have missed.. terrorism globally is on the decline.
Don't take my word for it - read this well researched report by the Human Security Brief - an organisation part funded by the Swedish government.
So the Swedish government are legislating for increased powers at a time when the real threat is declining... Does that make sense?

Military threat?
What real military threat exists then that threaten the security of the Swedish state?
Sweden has troops deployed on peace keeping duties in Afghanistan for instance - but troops in foreign places aren't the Swedish state and it's hard to see that any attack on troops in Afghanistan could constitute a threat to Sweden - sad as it would be for soldiers relatives if somone died.
What might you consider a proportional threat to justify surveillance of the communications of everyone in the country? If it's not a threat of war or invasion for me it doesn't make the grade... But come on guys - there hasn't been an invading foreign army in Sweden for two hundred years! (...unless you count that unfortunate incident in 1940). Are you really worried about that?

Yes, we know (because Ingvar told us, the scalliwag) that the FRA has helped keep the peace when you've had a tiff while playing chicken with the russians... but that was radio signal monitoring.. and your cable surveillance really isn't going to help there is it?

So, if terrorism is declining, and the real threat to national security isn't at a level to justify mass surveillance. What is left? Can it be a coincidence that you want to broaden your outlook a bit? Political and economic threats... think of all the analysts you can employ stirring that pot....

A million times "no!"

You are of course familiar with the UNs Universal Declaration of Human Rights.. but just as a quick reminder, amongst other things it says…

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world….

Article 12.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 30.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

The proposed “FRA law” in Sweden will mean all traffic in cables crossing the border will be copied and then monitored electronically. Traffic matching specific filter parameters will be inspected by FRA staff. Copying and electronically monitoring all traffic are both surely arbitrary interferences in privacy and correspondence?

In Sweden monitoring of an individuals communications is permissible only following a court decision proving evidence of criminal activity. Ingvar Åkesson, FRA’s director, in a reply to a newspaper article by a member of parliament suggests that automatically monitoring all my traffic without first proving the need before a court is OK, because they are not involved in looking for criminal activity (it is only surveillance) and they are going to do it to everyone - and anyway Swedes don't need to worry because they're mainly interested in looking at foreigners.

I’m sorry, but infringing my right to privacy without grounds is not acceptable.. and doing it simultaneously to millions of others does not make it more acceptable. Nor does the fact that you don’t catch anything in your filters worth investigating make it acceptable to monitor me just on the off-chance. That you choose to do this to foreigners over whom you have no legal jurisdiction cannot make it better - that's the kind of thinking that leads to Guantanamo...

Bearing in mind that this law will affect millions of people that don’t live in Sweden and are not Swedish I would just like to stress that last part.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Ingvar Åkesson.. that includes you!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Greener greens?

I read in the paper yesterday that Konsum (one of the main Swedish food chains) has reported a 49% rise in sales of ecological produce during the last five months - now around 6.5% of total food sales.
It seems to be a virtuous spiral because the choice of ecological goods on offer seems better every week. In fact the sad part of the report is that increasing sales are leading to increased imports to meet demand...
A nice touch as a customer is the way the bill highlights the green items you bought and gives you a sub-total.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Manifesto - Low impact living for the common man.

Low impact living is a choice, a series of choices.. fundamental choiices about the lifestyle you lead...

So begin at the beginning.
•  Look at where you need to be - to be near to work family and friends - and move there.
•  If you can't move then change the rest to be near where you live. (a tough one that)
•  Live in a house that's as small as you need.
•  See that it's well insulated and cheap to heat.
•  Live with someone! The more the merrier!
•  Choose a flat, not a semi-and a semi, not a detached.
•  No flying!
•  Sell the car and walk, cycle or use public transport..
•  If you have to have a car where you live - go back to the start of the list... You're not trying.
•  Consider car pools, car hire or taxi for when you really must have wheels... (Or ask your less enlightened friends!)
•  But choose an eco-friendly car...
•  Throw out the bathtub and fit a shower with a lo-flow head.
•  Shower with a friend ;-) (not obligatory, but fun)
•  Eat less meat less often (.and choose game not farmed, and avoid beef & lamb)
•  ..or better - eat no meat
•  Buy food that is locally grown and in season
....or grow your own.
•  Pass by all that eco-produce shipped from far off places...
•  If you're going to cheat choose Fair Trade..
•  Buy renewable electricity - it costs more which encourages you to use less ;-)
•  Use less electricity. There's not enough renewable to go round
•  Buy a sweater (use it, and turn the heating down)
•  Learn to cook with the microwave as much as possible
•  Stop buying things you don't need.
•  Don't throw away things that can be re-used. (Re-use is better than recycling)
•  Sell or give away your unwanted re-usables so someone else doesn't need to buy new.
•  Mend and renew.
•  When you buy new, reward craftsmanship. You're buying less so you can afford it.
•  Remember that no flying applies to what you buy too...
•  ...even from eBay.
•  Have no children, or if you have children, have no more.
•  Lobby hard....

It's more or less in priority order.. except that the last two should be up at the top. Each child you bring into the world has a lifetimes impact on the environment.. ..And so do do their children... And theirs...

..And big organisations have much bigger impact on the environment than you do. Lobby your local schools, councils, transport operator and businesses on for instance:
•  Policy and targets for switching to greener cars, reducing flights and using public transport for business travel
•  purchasing policies to buy more locally manufactured materials
•  Better public transport - more frequent, to more places, and driven by 'green' fuels.
•  Using renewable electricity and reducing waste.
•  Providing vegetarian options in canteens and for school meals - and having a policy for using less environmentally damaging meat. Less beef, more chicken. (That should save them money too..)
•  Point out to shop owners when they're not using low energy lighting. (another money saver)
•  Ask for local seasonal produce wherever you can't get it. And less packaging please!