25 February 2003
Blogging goes to Harvard -- Dave Winer on News.com: http://news.com.com/2008-1082-985714.html?tag=fd_nc_1
2:30:53 PM  #   your two cents []
Mark Lawson: Why don't Americans get our jokes?. Ali G has arrived on American TV and critics are not amused. Hardly surprising, says Mark Lawson. [Guardian Unlimited]
12:20:37 PM  #   your two cents []
Régis Debray: "Europe no longer possesses that euphoric arrogance. It is done mourning the Absolute and conducts its politics politically. It is past the age of ultimatums, protectorates and the white man's burden. Is that the age America is intent on entering? One can only wish it good luck." [Paris blog]
12:20:04 PM  #   your two cents []
Lance Knobel: "Demos, one of the most interesting policy think tanks in the UK, has created a weblog for its staff to note ideas and developments, called the Greenhouse."
12:18:46 PM  #   your two cents []
Hey -- it's me, slashdotted [grin]: Secret Irish Data Repository Uncovered [Slashdot]
12:17:35 PM  #   your two cents []
The Linux Uprising: BusinessWeek Online has a new special report on the topic  of Linux.
10:36:48 AM  #   your two cents []
Should Google be regulated?. "Is it time to set up Ofsearch, a regulator of search engines asks technology consultant Bill Thompson" on the BBC News site. Reader responses include one from Danny Sullivan, founder of the SearchEngineWatch site. [onlineblog.com]
10:17:57 AM  #   your two cents []
Open-source audio wins MP3 player support. Open-source audio technology Ogg Vorbis will get its first official entry into a commercial portable MP3 player next month. [CNET News.com]
10:16:40 AM  #   your two cents []
Jean Giraudoux. "Only the mediocre are always at their best." [Quotes of the Day]
10:15:39 AM  #   your two cents []
IDT Submits Bid for Global Crossing. IDT said that it was submitting a bid to buy Global Crossing out of bankruptcy, contending its proposal should be favored by government officials. [New York Times: Technology]
10:14:40 AM  #   your two cents []

Editor: Bush Cited Report That Doesn't Exist

There was only one problem with President George W. Bush's claim Thursday that the nation's top economists forecast substantial economic growth if Congress passed the president's tax cut: The forecast with that conclusion doesn't exist.

Bush and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer went out of their way Thursday to cite a new survey by "Blue-Chip economists" that the economy would grow 3.3 percent this year if the president's tax cut proposal becomes law.

That was news to the editor who assembles the economic forecast. "I don't know what he was citing," said Randell E. Moore, editor of the monthly Blue Chip Economic Forecast, a newsletter that surveys 53 of the nation's top economists each month.

1:30:23 AM  #   your two cents []
Shock! Horror! Gasp! And here we all were, thinking web metrics were infallible!: Agency says it erred in Web site data. ComScore Media Metrix, one of the leading companies that measure Web site audiences, has discovered flaws in its method.
12:15:50 AM  #   your two cents []

Benefits of mesh from Intel: The BBC reports on Intel's mesh networking technology demonstration and gives a primer on mesh's utility.[80211b News]

12:11:22 AM  #   your two cents []
Cisco to give away Wi-Fi technology. The network equipment maker will share key technology at no cost with chipmakers and computer companies to help drive the use of wireless networks within businesses. [CNET News.com]
12:10:40 AM  #   your two cents []

Ireland has had a secret data retention regime in place for almost a year: I spent Monday afternoon at the Department of Justice forum on its proposed data retention bill. An interesting range of people attended, from the Irish Sysadmins Guild, to the Bar Council, to some of the operators, to a member of HEAnet (the Irish academic internet network), to the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, to the Irish Commission on Human Rights. Some of the people were there because they found out about the event and asked to be added, not because they were invited. To be fair to the Minister, he had included a number of lawyers with interest in the area. To be critical of the Minister, his Department should have had no trouble producing a list that included many of the organisations that had to request invitations or came along with someone who was invited or were entirely ignored.

Instead, many groups that should have led the list of participants were never asked -- the Irish Software Association, ICT Ireland, the Irish and Dublin Chambers of Commerce (which have groups of prominent membership that cover the whole e-business and tech areas), the Sysadmins' Guild (who asked to attend and whose representative Donal Cunningham, asked the first question from the floor [well, the other side of the big oval table], ahead of all those lawyers...), the universities with their research networks and huge numbers of student users, the unions, the employers organisations.

The Minister made a point of insisting the forum was neither closed nor secretive, and that he could have filled Croke Park with people who might be interested in adding comments to the proceedings, but the fact remains that there would have been a dearth of industry representation had the groups not been tipped off by some interested parties to get some bodies in there (and industry representation was still very thin). The Department did not send out press invites until less than 24 working hours before the event, late last Friday. Surely as a result, almost no journalists were there, and one of those there had not even been told he could attend the whole event but to come at 4 for a supposed press briefing. The 'press briefing' turned into two radio journalists asking questions about the drinks bill and allowing the Minister to conveniently talk at great length on that subject, rather than data retention. Because they didn't bother to attend the actual event, they also used up the rest of the time getting a long explanation of what data retention was for their little soundbite for Today FM. Great. Children, you missed the REAL story. Which was:

Ireland has had a secret data retention regime for almost a year, after the Cabinet confidentially instructed telecommunications operators to store traffic information about every phone, fax and mobile call for at least three years.

Data Protection Commissioner Mr Joe Meade revealed that former Minister for Public Enterprise Ms O’Rourke issued secret  Directions for data retention last April when a dispute arose between the operators and his office over how long they should hold such data.
[complete story here (free version) or here (Irish Times, subscriber only)]

The more I think about it, the more amazed I am -- the Cabinet just arbitrarily decided to impose on the Irish people a mandatory data retention scheme and told the telecoms operators to say nothing about it. Because it was a Cabinet level decision the Data Protection Commissioner (see his speech today here) could say nothing about it either. We've had the only data retention scheme in Europe, perhaps in the western world, as far as I can tell. Why could this not have been told to phone users?! That's a good question for the Taoiseach, and for our supposedly pro-business Tanaiste (deputy Prime minister), and for the previous Minister for Justice, Mr O'Donoghue, who was in office at the time.

I'll also have some more detail on Friday on what industry had to say, for example, to the general idea of data retention (basically, it's --surprise!! -- that you, the consumer and business internet/phone user, will pay for whatever costs the telecoms/internet industry has to shoulder because of a data retention scheme). Esat/BT estimated the cost of retaining and storing and managing the internet/email oriented data traffic that is handled by one of their server clusters at euro34million for four years, and they have 7 to 8 such clusters.

Now: I do not care for many of Minister McDowell's policies, but he is not the incarnation of evil, as some would have it, nor is he a fool. He is not in the pocket of law enforcement either. Indeed, my sense was that he is indeed seeking some sort of balance between privacy rights and the access capabilities that law enforcement says it needs. My sense also was that he has not really heard any point of view except that of law enforcement until today. He seemed surprised to be told of the technical difficulties and some of the costs that email/net traffic data retention would involve (setting aside the Esat/BT example which is definitely an exaggeration -- the UK estimated an industry cost of £100 million for a population over 10 times as large). And, though a PD, he apparently hadn't considered the ramifications for business  (ie, the ways in which Ireland would immediately become unattractive as an e-business and general business location if businesses know three years of their sensitive business communications data will be stored on some third party system, with all the risk that implies).

That said, it is extraordinary --especially given his remarks that this was an extremely complex process and that he believed the Oireachtas would have to bring in framework legislation that could be better defined as time passes and cases are considered -- that McDowell and his department did not initiate a consultative process back in early summer, when it was clear they would attempt to bring in a retention bill. Especially if they were aware a crisis was looming, to the extent that they had watched a secretive retention scheme be put into place as a stopgap measure by the cabinet.  Now we are being told the process does not allow for long and involved hearings and must be hurried along to meet the EU deadline for legislating in this area.

The upside of this is that the arguments against data retention are there to be persuasively made by civil libertarians, industry people, and Irish and multinational businesses. The downside is that so few people seem to care and the business world seems unaware that this is looming -- Irish citizens will get quite worked up about US troop planes refueling at Shannon or about vague EU meddling in their affairs (the Vote No to Nice brigade) and do nothing as their most fundamental privacy protections are stripped away and the EU helps cart them all off.  

And where are the opposition parties in all this? Yet again, they get a major issue handed to them on a platter, and they get in a tizzy over pissy little details. Sigh.

Wake up, wake up, wake up!!

If you want to jump into a discussion on some of these issues, try jumping in here. Also, an Irish branch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (to take a stance on digital issues such as data retention, copyright, cybercrime law in Ireland) is reforming and needs volunteers. Interested? Let them know here.

12:08:55 AM  #   your two cents []