Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Things that made me go 'grrrrrr'

There is a current frenzy of activity around fingerprinting. School kids having to give prints to take a book out of the library or sign in, consumers having to give prints to hire a car, police carrying mobile devices to check prints remotely...

It's a shame they're so easy to fool isn't it?

Beau Bo D’Or provides his usual high standard of commentary on the issue. As an aside it's good to see Beau Bo D'Or's images being published by both the Guardian and Channel 4 in regular spots. Top notch.

So, fingerprinting frenzy. Police trying to target criminals before they're criminals. Evidence that the new secure passports are easily cracked. Reports from the information commissioner that we're adopting uncomfortably high levels of surveillance... surely it can't really be that bad. I mean, the people in authority who have access to this data won't abuse it will they? People given power must be responsible, level headed and able to keep things in perspective?

Bah. Sometimes I just want to run away to the hills and pretend the rest of the world doesn't exist. Then I remember that it's only a wee bit of the world that drives me crazy, and that I should stop being so overly dramatic.

The annual reports from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada are a fine example of someone talking sense on these issues, and contain a nice response to the "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" brigade.
The truth is that we all do have something to hide, not because it's criminal or even shameful, but simply because it's private. We carefully calibrate what we reveal about ourselves to others. Most of us are only willing to have a few things known about us by a stranger, more by an acquaintance, and the most by a very close friend or a romantic partner. The right not to be known against our will - indeed, the right to be anonymous except when we choose to identify ourselves - is at the very core of human dignity, autonomy and freedom.
Quite right.

There's some upbeat news on the release the music front too. A "well placed Government source" has told the BBC that the Gowers report won't be supporting an extension to the copyright term of musical recordings. Although, as the BPI kindly point out, the Government can ignore this report, and that of the Institute for Public Policy Research that came to the same conclusion, but frankly that would just be wrong. And silly.

Neil McCormack, a music journalist quoted in the BBC article commented
"You can make a record in 1955 and have been getting royalties .... Suddenly they're gone."

So, someone records a song in 1955. The law states that they can receive income from it for 50 years before the recording enters the public domain. They get income from it for 50 years. Income stops after 50 years*. Apologies if this seems harsh but surely that's only "suddenly" a problem if they're an idiot?

Fran Nevrkla, chief executive of rights societies the PPL and the VPL, is quoted in a Guardian article as saying
"I sincerely hope this government ... will not duck this critical issue by conveniently hiding behind academics and other 'thinkers'"
Oh my! I love that. Pesky thinkers eh?

Thinkers are obviously trouble though. For example someone with an obvious tendency towards thought pointed out that Fran, in his role at the PPL** earned £487,000 last year, over 0.6% of all performance income in the UK. Not bad eh? The FT has a great column about the impact of the proposed extension; breaking the deal and on a related note Suw Charman of ORG has started an e-petition up at the number 10 petition site to request the right to private copy. Worth putting your name to if you want to be able to turn your music CDs into MP3s without breaking the law. I'm interested to see how the petition site goes, and pleased with the number of people signing up to scrap ID cards anyhow.

Oh dear. I've rambled on far too long. Have a look at this superb collection of souvenir photos while I disappear and stop reading articles about things that make me explode.

* As an aside, if they composed the song they retain those rights for life plus 70 years; the 50 years is for recordings.

** a music industry organisation collecting performance royalties in the UK

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Lot's to think about. Human rights has gone out the window in this country but most people don't realise.

On the music comment it wouldn't surprise me if this government ignored all the advice and did try to push through a change in the law. There is so much BLATANT corruption in politics these days I would find it difficult to name one politician I had faith in.
It is very messed up at the moment. In a rather warped way I wonder if the current excesses will be a positive thing in the long run as the legislation will inevitably start impacting on the majority. Moral or ethical arguments seem to have little impact with this government, maybe losing votes will do it.

And I fear you have a good point about the music stuff too. I hope we're wrong!
I've been working with fingerprints for ten years now: they're simple and convenient as a way of providing identity for something that isn't critically important, but they are fairly easily spoofed - technology at the moment doesn't provide an unbreakable biometric, and even though processor power and price has made biometrics mass-market and cheap, it is no better now in terms of security than it was ten years ago. Salesmen for the various companies involved are often oblivious to the lies and inaccuracies they purvey, and gullible purchasers (including politicians) want to believe that this is the solution to all their problems, so don't question too deeply. But what worries me most is the government's plan for a database of every time an ID card is used - it's totally insane.
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