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If you are suspected of social security fraud in the once progressive city of Nijmegen, you might get your very own camera, pointed directly at your front door, so the municipal fraud detection squad can better keep an eye on you. It would appear from these documents that this has already been approved by the city council and the CBP (our data protection authority / Bundesdatenschutzbeauftragter). Who probably feel wonderful about themselves for getting Nijmegen to only use it if they feel it’s really really necessary, and to make sure there’s a “separate decision” made before using the camera at night.

Words fail me. That is: words suitable for this polite blog fail me. I bet this will quickly catch on in other places and for a range of other suspected offences. Now there’s probably still some theoretical way for this all to not end where I think it will end, but you’ll have to excuse me for not seeing it right now. Also do note how it will be some time before this level of privacy intrusion is deemed suitable for people suspected of defrauding society of 10.000 or 100.000 times more while working at a large bank.

Surveillance: NOT a first world problem

I have been to a few meetings and conferences now where people have claimed that the global surveillance state is a First World problem. After all the majority of the people in many developing countries are way to worried about water, food, shelter or other basic needs to worry about something as abstract as government surveillance. The latter is true, of course. But what poor people do not worry about may still be an important factor in maintaining a system that increasingly serves the few and ignores the needs of the many, and that may eventually make the planet uninhabitable for all of us.

Surveillance is a status-quo enabler. It strongly favours those with the money and other resources to listen to everyone else. The global surveillance infrastructure is a huge part of what enables the rich countries to do as they please and get away with it. I happened to be at the COP15 meeting in Copenhagen, at the end of which many people realised our governments were simply not going to deal with climate change in any useful timeframe. I remember talking to the person from the environmental ministry in Bangladesh over lunch and not being hungry anymore.

The story of the US government efforts to listen to everyone at the Copenhagen meeting – so they could be even better at doing nothing about climate change – makes me want to puke.

That could be why U.S. negotiators took the positions they did going into the conference, a Danish official told Information. “They simply sat back, just as we had feared they would if they knew about our document,” the official said. “They made no constructive statements. Obviously, if they had known about our plans since the fall of 2009, it was in their interest to simply wait for our draft proposal to be brought to the table at the summit.”

Members of the Danish delegation indicated in interviews with Information that they thought the American and Chinese negotiators seemed “peculiarly well-informed” about discussions that had taken place behind closed doors. “Particularly the Americans,” said one official. “I was often completely taken aback by what they knew.”


In a world that will need to change the status quo really quickly, surveillance of the poorest by the richest threatens us all.

Eben Moglen

I am in awe. I’ve been working on making sense of “it all” myself recently. But I could not even dream to come close to expressing it remotely as well as Eben does. Free up an undisturbed hour of your life and watch this. Make it today if you can. I would pose that this will become widely recognised to be one of the more important speeches of our time.

( If you happen to subtitle videos for a living, please transcribe and subtitle this one. I do hope the next lecture in this series has slightly better sound and video. But you will see why it is fitting for our present condition that the thoughts we really need to hear are not read off a teleprompter on a well-lit stage and filmed in HD, but presented in a modest classroom and filmed on a handheld telephone. )

Identity Fraud?

It looks like a majority in Dutch parliament is about to adopt a change in the law that would criminalize the use of fake name, address or phone number on the internet. The article (in dutch) goes on to say that perpetrators of fraud can already be convicted of, well, fraud. The point here is that the use of fake credentials in and by itself will become a criminal offense, punishable by 5 years in jail and/or a fine in the tens of thousands of euros.

So who will tell my friends who are not using their real names on Facebook? And what about all the times I’ve entered 020-1234567 as my phone number?

As I read it, this law seems like it can be used to put a sizeable portion of the dutch population in jail. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll only use it against the terrorists.

Mediawiki help wanted

Anyone here really good with mediawiki? I recently upgraded two installations to 1.20 from 1.13.4, ran the update.php and all was fine except uploads don’t work anymore. (Could not create directory “mwstore://local-backend/local-public/3/37”). It’s not the owner/permissions on /images or children but something more subtle that seems (seems) to involve the mwstore://local-backend part not being translated into a filesystem path. With my primitive debugging it looks like it’s giving that path straight to mkdir. I’ve done the Google and short of trying to wrap my head around the mediawiki codebase I’m out of ideas, I guess.

Update: Problem solved. Turns out the new database backend thing in mediawiki doesn’t like database names with dots in them, and doesn’t tell you. Thank you Florian Holzhauer for finding it!


Wow. See this video and then show it to your daughter.

I’m beginning to really appreciate the Dove campaigns. This feels genuine and deep, far beyond mere advertising. (I know how icky that sounds, given that in today’s world that merely describes the holy grail of advertising, but so be it..)

(Yes, I know. I’ll blog more often.)

More on Belgian e-Voting

Sigh, it’s all so depressingly predictable. My last post contained some headlines on problems with the new Belgian e-Voting system made by Smartmatic. As it turns out there’s a real problem with quite a few people unknowingly voting a preference for the candidate whose button (on the second screen), happens to be right where the button for his/her party was on the first screen.

A few days after my last post there’s

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Belgium goes e-Voting

Interesting. During the elections our entire country was up in arms because the election results came in a few hours later than with the (black-box, readily hackable, completely non-transparant) computers we had before. Somehow nobody complains when forming a government takes months, but election results must come in immediately.

But when neighboring Belgium introduces new voting computers, nobody here wonders how they are doing. I collected some headlines, just so the people currently screaming for

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RIP Bill (billsf) Squire

Sad news… I got word today that Bill Squire has passed away. The global hacker community lost a legend. In various hackerspaces avant-la-lettre, Bill generously shared his deep knowledge of phones, pranks, electronics and technology in general. In the very early nineties, Bill was the phone phreak and electronics wizard without whom our magazine Hack-Tic would never have been as funny, as rebellious or as well-known.

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10-lane facepalm

I need a new country. This one is lost. To illustrate this I’d like to translate an article about a major current political issue in the Netherlands for you. It’s about the maximum speed on a newly upgraded highway.

Speed on widened A2 highway can be raised to 170 km/h

Engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV says the maximum speed on the widened A2 highway between Amsterdam and Utrecht can be raised further.

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What I read

People sometimes ask me what I read. I’ve replied to a few e-mails with small selections, but I guess I should write it down a little bit more elaborately and share it. I don’t read much fiction, and not all that many books. I’ve been buying e-books from Amazon recently. I have a Kindle but I’m mostly reading e-books through the Kindle app for my iPhone. I do read loads and loads of long and

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Two Minutes Hate: Black Ops 2

The upcoming blockbuster military realistic first person shooter Black Ops 2 features, I kid you not, a main villain that appears modelled after Julian Assange:

The game’s main villain is Raul Menendez, described as the “idolized Messiah of the 99%”—a Julian Assange-like character who’s old, experienced, and hell bent on starting a global insurrection against the status quo.

From the trailer:

“He’s like … a celebrity now. People – in America – idolize

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