Journalism: The bridge between the truth and the lies

I’ve always been interested in writing. As I grew older, I realised that I would love to write for a living and so I was drawn to journalism. Although creative writing also inspired me, I loved the attraction of journalistic writing. For me, creative writing would be something I did in my spare time, perhaps writing the odd segment for a never-published novel, while journalism was a potential career. Journalists, we are often told, are sometimes seen as gatekeepers. The fourth estate. The bridge between those in power and those who elect them. Throughout history, the power of journalism to inform and shape debate and opinion has been shown time and again, and journalists are needed now more than ever.

Journalism attracts me because of the nature of the job – writing profusely and investigating new things, meeting new people, sharing new experiences. Although I currently don’t have much experience in journalism, I aim to gain more and improve my skills in this area. Journalism is such a broad area, which is another attraction for me. I have always been in awe, and inspired by, investigative journalists. Their work has helped inform the public, shape government police, bring to light repressive regimes and illegal activities, and countless other achievements. Journalists such as John Pilger and Greg Palast, amongst many others, were a source of inspiration for me. Other areas of journalism that interest me are war, conflict and terrorism reporting as well as political journalism. It is my aim to gain more experience in journalism, to become comfortable in the various practises and gain valuable writing skills.

Journalism is under attack at the moment, from censorship, restrictive laws, and the threat of increased regulations which could harm the freedom of press. Even the internet, a tool used for freedom of expression and connectivity, is a potential threat to journalism. The rise in ‘citizen’ journalists for example and the near-instant speed that news, images and video can be shared means that traditional journalism will have to change and adapt, or risk being damaged… However, it is also true that we need journalism now more than ever. With governments threatening to censor the internet, with oppression and conflicts still raging across the globe, with government corruption and propaganda still present, journalism is still the bridge between the rulers and the people. The gap between the truth and the lies.

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Google soon to merge all user data collected across its websites

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

Google has recently announced its controversial plan to merge all user data collected across its websites into one profile, which would then be used to target users with advertising and services and to further alter Google search results.

User data from Google products – including Gmail, Youtube, Google+, Google Maps, and even Android mobile – will be collated and treated as a single set of data to be used for various targeted services and revenue-generating schemes.

The Guardian reports that “users will have no way to opt out of being tracked across the board when the search company unifies its privacy policy and terms of service for all its online offerings, including search, Gmail and Google+. The move is being criticised by privacy advocates and could attract greater scrutiny from anti-trust regulators.”

Google’s director of privacy, product and engineering, Alma Whitten, wrote in a blogpost: “Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

“Our recently launched personal search feature is a good example of the cool things Google can do when we combine information across products. Our search box now gives you great answers not just from the web, but your personal stuff too.”

“We can make search better—figuring out what you really mean when you type in Apple, Jaguar or Pink. We can provide more relevant ads too.”

The changes take place on March 1st, and users will be unable to opt out of the changes.

“Google’s new privacy announcement is frustrating and a little frightening,” said Common Sense Media chief executive James Steyer told the Washington Post. “Even if the company believes that tracking users across all platforms improves their services, consumers should still have the option to opt out — especially the kids and teens who are avid users of YouTube, Gmail and Google Search.”

Google can store cookies on people’s computers to see which Web sites they visit or use its popular maps program to estimate their location. It can collect information about users when they activate an Android mobile phone, sign into their accounts online or enter search terms. For the first time, this data will be collated across its services into one user profile .

“There is no way anyone expected this,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group. “There is no way a user can comprehend the implication of Google collecting across platforms for information about your health, political opinions and financial concerns.”

 Twitter, Facebook and Myspace have launched a tool called Don’t Be Evil – which is Google’s motto – that claims to neutralise any attempt by the search engine to skew results towards its Google+ service.

Mat Honan from Gizmodo wrote: “It means that things you could do in relative anonymity today, will be explicitly associated with your name, your face, your phone number.

“If you use Google’s services, you have to agree to this new privacy policy. It is an explicit reversal of its previous policies.”

An interested TED talk on Google is posted below. In it, Eli Pariser speaks about how Google is literally changing the way we view and use the internet, and not necessarily for the better.

 

 

 

 

The rise of the international Military-Intelligence complex: International corporations selling surveillance technology to repressive regimes

Today Wikileaks is set to release around 1,100 documents, brochures and manuals for products and technology sold by companies relating to systems for surveillance and interception of telecommunications. What is being revealed is an industry centred on surveillance, spying and intelligence interception that is worth around $5 billion a year.

Julian Assange, of Wikileaks, stated in a video interview by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: “Over the last 10 years, an international industry has grown up providing state intelligence agencies with mass surveillance equipment. Those industries are now exporting that equipment around the world in an uncontrolled manner.”

Assange continued: “This is something new. Previously we had all thought ‘well, why would the government be interested in me… I am not a criminal’. Now we have a situation where these companies sell to state intelligence organisations the ability to spy on the entire population at once, that is called strategic interception; take all telecommunications traffic out of a country and permanently record it.”

Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence officer, has written an analysis for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in which she describes a “military-industrial complex [that] is evolving into the military-intelligence complex. It is a world, I fear, that is propelling us into a dystopian surveillance nightmare.”

Machon stated:

“Since the attacks of 9/11, I have watched with increasing dismay as more powers, money and resources have been pumped into the international intelligence community to combat the nebulous ‘war on terror’. As a result, civil liberties have been eroded in our own countries, and countless innocent people have been killed, maimed and displaced across the Middle East.

“The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which was designed to allow our spy agencies to lawfully intercept our communications to counter terrorism and organised crime, has been routinely used and abused by almost 800 public bodies. MI5 admitted to making 1,061 mistakes or ‘administrative errors’ this year alone in its application of RIPA, according to the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy.”

Coming from an MI5 intelligence officer, that is worrying stuff.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in collaboration with Wikileaks and Privacy International, gained access document trove of 160 companies that sell surveillance technology to governments around the world.

Eric King, Policy Director at Privacy International, said: “The surveillance industry sells anything from mass interception equipment through to location tracking equipment. They provide technology that allows controller to read every single email, see every single webpage you visit, every text message you send, and these are companies that are selling equipment to some of the most repressive regimes in the world.”

What is also worrying is the lack of accountability and regulation with these companies that sell state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. Jerry Lucas, the president of the company behind ISS World, the international expo that brings surveillance and interception professionals together, did not deny that such companies sell this technology to repressive regimes. Rather, Lucas believes that a free market in surveillance technology is perfectly acceptable:

“The surveillance systems that we discuss in our seminars are available all around the world. Do some countries use them to suppress certain political statements? Yes, probably. But it’s not my job to sort out who are the good and bad countries. That’s not our business, we’re not politicians.

“Our business is to connect those who want to buy these technologies with those who sell them. You can sell cars to the Libyan rebels, and those cars could be used as weapons. Should General Motors and Nissan ask how their vehicles will be used? Why don’t you go asking questions to the car companies? It’s the free market. You can’t stem the flow of surveillance equipment.”

However, commenting on such technology, Lucas stated:  “This technology is absolutely vital for civilization. You can’t have a situation where bad guys can communicate and you bar interception.” – Yet Lucas seems adamant that it is not his ‘job’ to sort out who the bad guys are.

The rise in electronic communications, from social networking to Skype, from text messages to emails, and an increase in the accessibility of such technology means that it is increasingly easier for governments and corporations to intercept and store communications data. This year’s ISS conference, hosted in Dubai, saw around 1,300 attendees from all corners of the world. However, Lucas said that it was Middle Eastern governments that were the most avid buyers of such software and equipment.

“When you’re selling to a government, you lose control of what the government is going to do with it,” Lucas said. “It’s like selling guns to people. Some are going to defend themselves. Some are going to commit crimes.”

Such technology is being sold to repressive regimes such as Syria and Libya. Two links detailing Libya’s surveillance can be found here:

Eric King, of Privacy International, said that it is imperative that we do not allow “British companies to profit from selling equipment that is used to oppress in foreign regimes.”

However, it is not just repressive regimes that are a concern; domestic surveillance by corporations and governments is a real concern, as well. As Annie Machon warned. Continued her analysis for the BIJ, saying:

“The last decade has also been a boom time for companies providing high-tech surveillance capabilities. One aspect of this in the UK – the endemic CCTV coverage – is notorious. Local councils have invested in mobile CCTV smart spy cars, while cameras that bark orders to you on the street have been trialled in Middlesbrough.

“Drones are increasingly used for aerial surveillance – and the potential for militarisation of these tools is clear.

“All this despite the fact that the head of the Metropolitan Police department that is responsible for processing all this surveillance information stated publicly that CCTV evidence is useless in helping to solve all but 3% of street robberies in London. In fact, since CCTV has been rolled out nationally, violent crime on the streets of Britain has increased.”

Machon, calling upon her experience at MI5 and using recent examples, issued a warning:

“That would never happen in Britain – would it? We retain an optimistic faith in the long-term benign intentions of our government, while tut-tutting over Syrian police snatch squads pre-emptively arresting suspected dissidents. Yet this has already happened in the UK: before the royal wedding in April, protesters were pre-emptively arrested to ensure that they would not cause embarrassment. The intent is the same in Syria and Britain. Only the scale and brutality differs – at the moment.”

There is much more to be said about this matter, and the Wikileaks surveillance leak will provide much more information, hopefully sparking debate and discourse in the mainstream media. With the latest revelations of phone hacking and surveillance by tabloid newspapers, the British public may find such emerging information regarding the unaccountable, lawless surveillance industry distasteful.

 Despite her warnings, Machon ends her analysis on an optimistic note:
“The balance of power, bolstered by new technologies, is shifting overwhelmingly in favour of the Big Brother state – well, almost. The WikiLeaks model is helping level the playing field, and whatever happens to this trailblazing organisation, the principles and technology are out there and will be replicated. This genie cannot be put back in the bottle. This – combined with the work of informed MPs, investigative journalists and potentially the occasional whistleblower – gives me hope that we can halt this slide into a Stasi state.”

Anonymous threatens ‘Robin Hood’ operation to steal from banks to give to the poor

Two hacker groups, Anonymous and Team Poison, have released a joint statement on Youtube saying that they have joined forces to steal money from the banks and give to charities.

Operation Robin Hood is going to return the money to those who have been cheated by our system and most importantly to those hurt by our banks. Operation Robin Hood will take credit cards and donate to the 99 per cent, as well as various charities around the globe,” the duo said in a YouTube video statement.

The collaboration between the two groups, which they have dubbed Poisanon, seems to rely on the idea of stealing personal data of credit card holders and using it to distribute it to the poor rather than using it for their own ends. The group believes that the banks will be forced to reimburse the damages, meaning that they will be the ones losing out.

“We are going to make the banks deliver your money back to you with a smile on their faces and hate in their heart,” the group stated.

Anonymous has been in the news recently for targeting Lt. John Pike, the officer behind the notorious pepper-spray attack on students at UC Davis. The ‘hacktivist’ group released targeted Pike, releasing his personal details online including his phone number and address.

Supposed Anonymous members targeted another police officer a couple of months ago, posting personal information of NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna. An alleged Anonymous member wrote online:

“As we watched your officers kettle innocent women, we observed you barberically [sic] pepper spray wildly into the group of kettled women.”

“We were shocked and disgusted by your behavior. You know who the innocent women were, now they will have the chance to know who you are. Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!”

Team Poison have said that it carried out the hacking of a UN server and stealing logins and passwords of the international organisation’s employees.

Both hacker groups have taken credit for several high-profile attacks on computer networks in the past.

 

The Metropolitan Police: Ushering in a covert UK police state?

Earlier this year I reported on the Metropolitan Police’s purchase of the digital tracking software Geotime. The security program, used by the US military, collates digital data and then can generate a three-dimensional graphic showing an individual’s movements and communications with other people. It can collect the information from social networking sites, satellite navigation equipment, mobile phones, IP logs, and even financial transactions.

The purchase led to an outcry from civil rights campaigners. At the time, there were reports of the undercover police who infiltrated green activist groups, sometimes sleeping with activists to gain their trust. There was also the report of John Catt, an 86 year old man, who has had his presence at peaceful protests and demos logged in secret by police units over four years, despite never having been convicted or accused of illegal activity. Rightly so, people were worried about the implications of the Met Police having such advanced surveillance technology. Could they be trusted to use it conservatively? Legally?

Now the Met has purchased more covert surveillance technology, this time in the form of technology that allows them to directly control and intercept mobile phones within a 10 sq km radius. The technology masquerades “as a mobile phone network, transmitting a signal that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, intercept communications and gather data about thousands of users in a targeted area.”

Strictly classified as “Listed X” under government protocol, “it can emit a signal over an area of up to an estimated 10 sq km, forcing hundreds of mobile phones per minute to release their unique IMSI and IMEI identity codes, which can be used to track a person’s movements in real time,” the Guardian reports.

So far, The Met has refused to confirm whether the system is used in public order situations, such as during large protests or demonstrations. The Met would not comment on its use of the technology or give details of where or when it had been used.

The use of the technology by The Met raises serious concerns. Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, warned the technology could give police the ability to conduct “blanket and indiscriminate” monitoring: “It raises a number of serious civil liberties concerns and clarification is urgently needed on when and where this technology has been deployed, and what data has been gathered,” he said.

“Such invasive surveillance must be tightly regulated, authorised at the highest level and only used in the most serious of investigations. It should be absolutely clear that only data directly relating to targets of investigations is monitored or stored,” he said.

Such technology, coupled with the Geotime software, could allow The Met to gather highly sensitive data about innocent people without their knowledge, for example with large numbers of protestors at a peaceful demonstration. The technology could not only track their movements, but also record and intercept any SMS messages sent or phone calls made. It could also transmit a signal that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, leading to a scenario such as in Egypt when mobile phone networks were shut down at the behest of the government during a time of civil unrest.

This is also coming after the UK riots, when Cameron is stated to have wanted to shut down the internet. There were fears that the riots were largely organised through the use of mobile phones and social networking sites. As a result, the government was considering options that included shutting down internet access, and closing or monitoring the Blackberry network. Although Cameron was persuaded against such measures, it is still worrying that such measures were considered. As technology improves, it will become easier to enact such control measures with ease. Future rioting, and further pressure from the media and the British public, could lead to such proposals becoming a reality.

Although the government did not enact these proposals, The Met has the technology to enact such policies, with the ability to shut down mobile phone networks within a large radius [10 sq km]. The transmitters can be about the size of a suitcase, and can be placed in a vehicle or at another static location and operated remotely by officers wirelessly. This could possibly lead to several such transmitters, covering a radius over several kilometres. Even if The Met does not shut down mobile phones, they have the ability to monitor and collate information covertly from thousands of users in a targeted area.

Index on Censorship, a British free speech organization, warned that the right to freedom of expression in the country was at risk after the UK riots saw the government announcing potential plans to censor and restrict internet access. Their letter to William Hague is still relevant:

“The government’s record on freedom of expression and privacy is less than ideal. Britain’s desire to promote these ideals internationally are being hampered by domestic policy,” the group said.

“The government is currently considering greater controls over what legal material people are allowed to access on the Internet. This is clear from recent public support by the Prime Minister, and through Claire Perry MP’s ongoing inquiry, for plans to filter adult and other legal material on UK Internet connections by default. The new PREVENT counter-terrorism strategy contains similar proposals for the filtering of material that is legal but deemed undesirable. Earlier this year the Prime Minister suggested there should be more powers to block access to social media, a policy that drew praise from China and which the government swiftly backed away from. There are also plans for more pervasive powers to surveil and access people’s personal information online.”

The group concluded: “We call for the UK government to seize this opportunity to reject censorship and surveillance that undermines people’s rights to express themselves, organize or communicate freely. That is the only way to both enshrine the rights of citizens in the UK and to support these principles internationally.”

Walking into a Police State?

The procurement of such technology in the hands of the UK’s biggest police force is potentially worrying. There is nothing to ensure that innocent people, in their hundreds or even thousands, are not covertly spied upon. The technology now allows vast amounts of data to effortlessly be collected on thousands of people simultaneously. Such data would include movements through time and space, SMS messages sent, recorded phone calls, IP logs, social networking info, and much more. Such technology also allows for the police to wirelessly shut down mobile phones within a very large radius, leading to a mobile phone blackout in a specific, controlled area.

Next time a riot occurs in London, I would find it difficult to imagine The Met not utilising such technology.

During the last riots, the media and the British public were frenetic, calling for draconian measures to stop the looting. Such reactions have led to harsh prison sentences designed to “send a message” rather than enact proper justice, calls for the internet to be shut down, measures to ensure that the police have access to water cannons for the first time, and more. There were even calls from some members of the public to enact martial law.

If another riot broke out in the future, which is not implausible, I would find it difficult to believe that The Met would not utilise their Datong mobile surveillance technology, in conjunction with Geotime. Such technology would allow them to track and monitor, covertly, the movements and communications of thousands of people simultaneously.

Initially, thousands would be monitored covertly but, after calls from the public and the government, The Met would (undoubtedly) shut down mobile phone communications across specific areas.

But this is not all.

Now it has been revealed that The Met has a fleet of spy planes, each costing around £3m each.

The planes have been in use since 1997, though their existence has never been publicly disclosed. The planes cost around £3m each, and many hundreds of thousands more to operate. Despite the vast cuts (around 20% of their budget) the police face, the spy planes are still in use, flying regular sorties.

As The Independant reports: “The planes have apparently been fitted with secret surveillance equipment capable of intercepting mobile phone calls or eavesdropping on conversations.”

So now we have secret spy planes, military-grade digital tracking software and technology that fits in a suitcase, intercepting and controlling thousands of mobile phone technology. Yes, it reads like a dystopian, science fiction text, along the lines of Ghost In The Shell, Blade Runner or even 1984.

My question is, are we walking into a covert police state? Is it, perhaps, becoming an electronic police state? Wikipedia defines such a state as:

Electronic police states are characterized by government surveillance of telephone traffic, cellular telephone traffic, emails, Internet surfing, video surveillance and other forms of electronic (including fiber optic) tracking. A crucial characteristic of this process is that the data is gathered universally and silently, and only later organized for use in prosecutions in legal proceedings.

The inhabitants of an electronic police state may be almost fully unaware that their communications and activities are being recorded by the state, or that these records are usable as evidence against them in courts of law.

It also goes on to say:

The United Kingdom is often seen as an advanced electronic police state, with mass surveillance and detention without trial having been introduced by the government, followed by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s MTI program, which aims to intercept and monitor all e-mails, website visits and social networking sessions in Britain, and to track telephone calls made over the internet as well as all phone calls to land lines and mobiles.

Do we trust The Met to hold such technology, and to use it appropriately and legally? Is technology developing too quickly, outpacing civil liberties we once took for granted?

Anonymous, ‘The Hydra’, warns NATO: “This is no longer your world”

KTTV Fox 11 investigative report on Anonymous.

Image via Wikipedia

In a response to a recent NATO security report regarding ‘Anonymous‘, the mysterious online ‘organisation’ (I use the term loosely) has posted a lengthy public response cautioning NATO that “This is no longer your world”. [The full response will be posted at the end of this article, for the website that it was posted on is currently experiencing server issues]

The underground group – responsible for the attacks on MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon and, allegedly, Sony – posted the public message as a response to NATO’s report, issued last month, which warned about the rise in politically-motivated cyberattacks and singled out Anonymous as the most well-known and sophisticated of the so-called ‘hacktavist’ groups.

The NATO report stated that: “Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted,” the report read, also asking, “Can one invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty after a cyber attack? And what response mechanisms should the Alliance employ against the attacker? Should the retaliation be limited to cyber means only, or should conventional military strikes also be considered?”

Recently, the UK and US have suggested that they consider such cyber-attacks as actual acts of warfare. The Washington Post reported that “The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.”

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that “The UK is developing a cyber-weapons programme that will give ministers an attacking capability to help counter growing threats to national security.”

“The armed forces minister, Nick Harvey, told the Guardian that “action in cyberspace will form part of the future battlefield”, and though he said cyber-weapons would not replace traditional weapons, he admitted he now regards them as “an integral part of the country’s armoury”. It is the first official acknowledgment that such a programme exists.”

Anonymous’ response to NATO began by stating: “you have singled out Anonymous as a threat to “government and the people”. You have also alleged that secrecy is a ‘necessary evil’ and that transparency is npt [sic] always the right way forward.”

The public statement laid out clearly that Anonymous and Wikileaks are “distinct entities”, describing how they were not working together but that they do share a common attribute: “They are no threat to any organization – unless that organization is doing something wrong and attempting to get away with it.”

Anonymous continued by seemingly berating NATO for acting as if the organisation were some kind of cyber-terrorist organisation, or were somehow acting for their own agenda and not for the good of the masses: “We do not wish to threaten anybody’s way of life. We do not wish to dictate anything to anybody. We do not wish to terrorize any nation.

“We merely wish to remove power from vested interests and return it to the people – who, in a democracy, it should never have been taken from in the first place,” the statement continued.

Anonymous also state: “You know you do not fear us because we are a threat to society. You fear us because we are a threat to the established hierarchy. ”

The statement concludes with the warning: “Do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent.

“Your only chance of defeating the movement which binds all of us is to accept it. This is no longer your world. It is our world – the people’s world.”

I shall post the full response below. It is well worth a read, and it will be interesting to see whether NATO responds with a statement in return, or whether they ignore it. Time will tell, but it is clear that we are entering an age where, truly, “action in cyberspace will form part of the future battlefield” – for good or for evil.

The public statement:

Greetings, members of NATO. We are Anonymous.

In a recent publication, you have singled out Anonymous as a threat to “government and the people”. You have also alleged that secrecy is a ‘necessary evil’ and that transparency is npt always the right way forward.

Anonymous would like to remind you that the government and the people are, contrary to the supposed foundations of “democracy”, distinct entities with often conflicting goals and desires. It is Anonymous‘ position that when there is a conflict of interest between the government and the people, it is the people’s will which must take priority. The only threat transparency poses to government is to threaten government’s ability to act in a manner which the people would disagree with, without having to face democratic consequences and accountability for such behaviour. Your own report cites a perfect example of this, the Anonymous attack on HBGary. Whether HBGary were acting in the cause of security or military gain is irrelevant – their actions were illegal and morally reprehensible. Anonymous does not accept that the government and/or the military has the right to be above the law and to use the phoney cliche of “national security” to justify illegal and deceptive activities. If the government must break the rules, they must also be willing to accept the democratic consequences of this at the ballot box.We do not accept the current status quo whereby a government can tell one story to the people and another in private. Dishonesty and secrecy totally undermine the concept of self rule. How can the people judge for whom to vote unless they are fully aware of what policies said politicians are actually pursuing?

When a government is elected, it is said to “represent” the nation it governs. This essentially means that the actions of a government are not the actions of the people in government, but are actions taken on behalf of every citizen in that country. It is unacceptable to have a situation in which the people are, in many cases, totally and utterly unaware of what is being said and done on their behalf – behind closed doors.

Anonymous and WikiLeaks are distinct entities. The actions of Anonymous were not aided or even requested by WikiLeaks. However, Anonymous and WikiLeaks do share one common attribute: They are no threat to any organization – unless that organization is doing something wrong and attempting to get away with it.

We do not wish to threaten anybody’s way of life. We do not wish to dictate anything to anybody. We do not wish to terrorize any nation.

We merely wish to remove power from vested interests and return it to the people – who, in a democracy, it should never have been taken from in the first place.
The government makes the law. This does not give them the right to break it. If the government was doing nothing underhand or illegal, there would be nothing “embarassing” about Wikileaks revelations, nor would there have been any scandal emanating from HBGary. The resulting scandals were not a result of Anonymous‘ or Wikileaks’ revelations, they were the result of the CONTENT of those revelations. And responsibility for that content can be laid solely at the doorstep of policymakers who, like any corrupt entity, naively believed that they were above the law and that they would not be caught.

A lot of government and corporate comment has been dedicated to “how we can avoid a similar leak in the future”. Such advice ranges from better security, to lower levels of clearance, from harsher penalties for whistleblowers, to censorship of the press.

Our message is simple: Do not lie to the people and you won’t have to worry about your lies being exposed. Do not make corrupt deals and you won’t have to worry about your corruption being laid bare. Do not break the rules and you won’t have to worry about getting in trouble for it.

Do not attempt to repair your two faces by concealing one of them. Instead, try having only one face – an honest, open and democratic one.

You know you do not fear us because we are a threat to society. You fear us because we are a threat to the established hierarchy. Anonymous has proven over the last several years that a hierarchy is not necessary in order to achieve great progress – perhaps what you truly fear in us, is the realization of your own irrelevance in an age which has outgrown its reliance on you. Your true terror is not in a collective of activists, but in the fact that you and everything you stand for have, by the changing tides and the advancement of technology, are now surplus to requirements.

Finally, do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent.

Your only chance of defeating the movement which binds all of us is to accept it. This is no longer your world. It is our world – the people’s world.

We are Anonymous.
We are legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us…

Outcry from civil liberty groups as Police buy digital tracking software

One Nation Under CCTV

Image by tj.blackwell via Flickr

The Metropolitan Police have bought a security programme which can track suspects and their associates in the digital world, prompting a backlash from civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners, the Guardian reports.

The Met, Britain’s largest police force, has its hands on Geotime, a security programme used by the US military. It can collate digital data and can be used to generate a three-dimensional graphic,  showing an individual’s movements and communications with other people. It can collect the information from social networking sites, satellite navigation equipment, mobile phones, IP logs, and even financial transactions.

Given the contention with the Met’s policing of the recent demonstrations, it is natural that there would be an outcry against such a purchase. It is emerging that the Met has been keeping tabs on “domestic extremists” – ordinary citizens who attend peaceful demonstrations or affiliate with activist groups. A recent example has been that of John Catt, an 86 year old man, who has had his presence at peaceful protests and demos logged in secret by police units over four years. He is currently attempting legal action against the police. He has no criminal record, yet has been systematically stalked by police units.

There has also been an outcry against the infiltration of green activist groups by undercover police of late. Civil rights and privacy campaigners and lawyers are expressing concern at how the software could potentially be used to monitor innocent parties, in breach of data protection legislation. As their current track record is not immaculate, these concerns are potentially very valid.

Alex Hanff, the campaigns manager at Privacy International, said: “Once millions and millions of pieces of microdata are aggregated, you end up with this very high-resolution picture of somebody, and this is effectively what they are doing here.”

“We shouldn’t be tracked and traced and have pictures built by our own government and police for the benefit of commercial gain.”

Sarah McSherry, a partner at Christian Khan Solicitors, which represents several protesters in cases against the Metropolitan police, said: “We have already seen the utilisation of a number of tactics which infringe the right to peaceful protest, privacy and freedom of expression, assembly and movement. All of these have a chilling effect on participation in peaceful protest.”

“This latest tool could also be used in a wholly invasive way and could fly in the face of the role of the police to facilitate rather than impede the activities of democratic protesters.”

The Met has confirmed that Geotime has been paid for, yet has declined to give a figure. Several possible uses for the software are being assessed, yet there has been no comment on whether the software might be used during investigations into public order offences.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Met stated: “We are in the process of evaluating the Geotime software to explore how it could possibly be used to assist us in understanding patterns in data relating to both space and time. A decision has yet to be made as to whether we will adopt the technology [permanently]. We have used dummy data to look at how the software works and have explored how we could use it to examine police vehicle movements, crime patterns and telephone investigations.”

Alongside the Met, the Ministry of Defence is also examining Geotime. A spokesman said: “The MoD is assessing Geotime as part of its research programme but it is not currently being used on operations.”