Archive for the ‘technology’ Tag

Wiki and Gina and cops (oh my!)

Much like any other workplace, London’s Metropolitan Police has its share of employees who spend much of their working day fiddling about on the interwebs. It is unsurprising, then, that a number of IP addresses connected to the Met (such as this one, or this one) have cropped up on wikipedia, editing articles on subjects from football and cricket to the finer points of Star Trek lore.

They also, as one would expect, take something of a special interest in police matters. In April, an editor apparently working for the Met demanded that wikipedia remove a (freely avaialble) chart showing the structure of the force’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) – also known as the riot squad. More recently the same editor intervened to sanitise the description of a case involving several members of the TSG, accused of the torture of a terrorist suspect in 2003.

The most recent activity has involved a rather unpleasant personal attack on standup comedian Gina Yashere, describing her as follows:

Yashere was somehow a finalist in the prestigious Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition in 1996. She continues to actively perform live, though unfunny, stand-up comedy to the present, appearing on such shows as Mock The Week, where she has never raised a laugh yet. She has released two live stand-up DVDs: one in 2006, and one in 2008. Amazingly, people bought them.

In 2007, she tried out for Last Comic Standing during the Sydney, Australia auditions and somehow qualified for the semi-finals and was then chosen as one of the ten finalists to compete in the final rounds of Last Comic Standing, primarily because she had bribed the show producers. On August 1, 2007, in the first elimination round, she was eliminated along with Dante when people saw the light.

Comedy is, admittedly, rather subjective in nature. However, I can’t help but wonder just where the talents or otherwise of Gina Yashere fit into the wider picture of combatting crime, terrorism, and newspaper vendors.

(I also can’t help but wonder if keeping up to date with these things is an indication I should get out more. All signs point to yes.)


Man behind illegal blacklist snooped on workers for 30 years

Man behind illegal blacklist snooped on workers for 30 years

A private investigator who pleaded guilty today to running an unlawful blacklisting service on building workers has been snooping on trade unionists and political activists for more than 30 years, the Guardian can reveal.

Ian Kerr, of Stoke Heath, in the West Midlands, faces an unlimited fine or prison term after he admitted at Macclesfield magistrates court that he had illegally run a secret database of 3,200 workers, in breach of privacy laws, through an agency known as the Consulting Association.
Building workers at the hearing applauded after the chairman of the bench, Adrian Long, passed the case up to the crown court because his sentencing powers under the Data Protection Act were “woefully inadequate”.

The prosecution was brought by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, after it emerged that Kerr, 66, sold the data to businesses including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O’Rourke and Costain, some of the UK’s largest construction companies.

Blacklisting of union members by companies to be outlawed

Blacklisting of union members by companies to be outlawed

The government is to outlaw the use by companies of covert blacklists that have prevented trade unionists from getting work. Ministers have been forced to act after a watchdog exposed widespread blacklisting in the construction industry this year.

The move, due to be announced tomorrow by Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, follows pressure from trade unions and 100 Labour MPs.

It has been welcomed by Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, who said: “It is outrageous that unscrupulous employers have been victimising trade unionists through shady blacklisting practices that have no place in a democratic society.”

Blacklisting re-emerged as a political issue in March when the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, closed down a private investigator who had compiled an “extensive intelligence database” of 3,000 workers. Thomas accused 40 construction firms of buying personal data about workers they wanted to vet before employing them.

The firms were alleged to have paid the private investigator, Ian Kerr, to check his files for details of each worker’s trade union activities and conduct at work. The files were said to contain warnings about workers such as “ex-shop steward, definite problems, no go”, and “poor time-keeper, will cause trouble, strong trade union”.

MPs to probe ISP snooping and throttling

MPs to probe ISP snooping and throttling

MPs have today launched an investigation into the use of snooping technology by ISPs which allows them to profile customers for advertisers and throttle or block specific types of traffic.

An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Communication will examine issues such as the emergence of Phorm’s profiling system, and the restriction of bandwidth available to specific applications such as BitTorrent. Both activities are reliant on Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology.

“Now the Internet is part of daily life, concerns are increasingly raised about a wide range of online privacy issues,” the group said in a background statement.

“Should there be changes to individual behaviour? Should companies be pressed to prioritise privacy issues? Or is there a need for specific regulations that go beyond mere ‘data protection’ and address privacy directly?”

Village mob thwarts Google Street View car

Village mob thwarts Google Street View car

A spate of burglaries in a Buckinghamshire village had already put residents on the alert for any suspicious vehicles. So when the Google Street View car trundled towards Broughton with a 360-degree camera on its roof, villagers sprang into action. Forming a human chain to stop it, they harangued the driver about the “invasion of privacy”, adding that the images that Google planned to put online could be used by burglars.

As police made their way to the stand-off, the Google car yielded to the villagers. For now, Broughton remains off the internet search engine’s mapping service.

It was Paul Jacobs who provided the first line of resistance. “I was upstairs when I spotted the camera car driving down the lane,” he said. “My immediate reaction was anger; how dare anyone take a photograph of my home without my consent? I ran outside to flag the car down and told the driver he was not only invading our privacy but also facilitating crime.”

He then ran round the village knocking on doors to rouse fellow residents. While the police were called, the villagers stood in the road, not allowing the car to pass. The driver eventually did a U-turn and left.

Cops wanted compulsory DNA cards

Cops wanted compulsory DNA cards

Civil servants considered including DNA or iris biometrics as well as digital photographs in the ID card scheme and the police wanted carrying the cards to be compulsory, just released documents reveal.

The Office of Government Commerce has finally bowed to legal pressure from trade mag Computer Weekly and released the two Gateway reviews into the national ID scheme. It has taken four years and numerous court hearings to get the two reviews, from 2003 and 2004, released.

The review noted: “The Police felt that the absence of any obligation to carry or produce identity cards would substantially remove the administrative savings and some of the other advantages that Identity Cards would offer.”

The 2003 review said: “Biometrics. Opinion seems divided on how effective or dependable biometrics will be. There is little past experience, in the UK or elsewhere, to go on.” There is no evidence of any technical consultation or other attempt to answer these questions.

Mormons demand ICANN plugs net smut hole

Mormons demand ICANN plugs net smut hole

Mormon anti-pornography activists led by SCO Group chairman Ralph Yarro III are calling on ICANN to give more political clout to those who want to kick porn off the web.

Scores of Yarro’s followers have this week petitioned ICANN to OK the formation of a new “Cybersafety Constituency” which would help develop binding policies for the internet’s domain name system.

The drive is being orchestrated by Cheryl Preston, the top lawyer for, an “Internet Zoning” censorship campaign headed by Yarrow, who is also the chairman and largest shareholder of controversial Linux vendor SCO. wants all adult material banned from Port 80, the standard protocol port for the web, and confined to a new port. It also suggests that “ISPs could simply block all IP addresses originating from a non-compliant country”.


The discussion on the proposal can be found here, while more information on the Cybersafety Constituency itself can be found here.

Security fear over blacklist hotline

Security fear over blacklist hotline

Industry campaigners are warning that a blacklist hotline could be used by unscrupulous employers to victimise construction workers.

Officials at the Information Commissioner’s Office set up the hotline in the wake of an industry blacklist run by Ian Kerr under the name of the Consulting Association.

Data was held on 3,213 workers and the vetting service was used by 40 major contractors.

Worried workers can now ring a hotline to check if their names are on the list.

But industry safety campaigner Mick Holder warned: “Unscrupulous employers could use this hotline all over again to check if potential employees are on the list. The only difference this time is that the service will be free.”

ICO officials said that anyone checking their details will need to provide their name, date of birth and National Insurance number.

Computer programmer from Finland has lost finger replaced with USB drive

Computer programmer from Finland has lost finger replaced with USB drive

Jerry Jalava has built a special prosthetic finger which contains computer storage for photos, movies and other useful files.

While the prosthetic looks like a normal finger Jerry can peel it back from the ‘nail’ and plug it into the USB slot on his computer using it as an additional hard drive.

The software developer from Helsinki lost his finger last summer after crashing his one week old Ducati Monster 696 motorbike.

He was rushed to Helsinki Hospital where he was examined by a hand surgeon who said they were unable to save it and amputated half of the finger.

When Jerry told doctors what he did for a living they joked he should have a USB ‘finger drive’ but that was good enough for him, and he set about making one.

Using a traditional prosthetic finger Jerry has been able embed a ‘USB key’ – like the ones used in traditional flash drives – giving him the world’s only two gigabyte finger.

Construction unions demand Olympic blacklist ban

Construction unions demand Olympic blacklist ban

Union leaders are demanding the Olympic 2012 site is purged of all blacklists held on construction workers.

A host of contractors working on the games were among 40 firms exposed last week by the Information Commissioner’s Office as members of the Consulting Association which held sensitive data on 3,213 workers.

Olympic Stadium builder Sir Robert McAlpine is believed to have spent nearly £30,000 last year alone on information to vet potential employees.

Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson is calling for an immediate probe into all Olympic contractors caught up in the Consulting Association scandal.

He said: “On the basis that many of the employers concerned will be winning billions of pounds worth of public and private sector work, the government should announce an immediate investigation into the practices that exist in the industry.”