Accountability Theatre

I doubt you’ll remember reading about “Security Theatre” in my 2005 ID Card paper so I’ll repeat the passage here: I was commenting on the Home Office’s naïve concept of their ID Card as being somehow self-verifying.

It is a classic example of what Bruce Schneier calls “Security Theatre” where we make users go through the motions to make it look like we’re “doing security” but the procedures are actually meaningless “snake oil”

It’s taken me a while but I now realise that the concept is a useful template for another political/commercial deception I’ve been trying to tackle for some years. Most recently I’ve been trying to pique the interest of the only MP I know well enough to trust. Unfortunately he’s rather busy trying to manage at least two portfolios in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Despite which I see that he’s taken up the struggle against the Parliamentary Expenses Watchdog – IPSA – and their overweening bureaucracy.

I learned about his (so far) one man campaign from this standard mud-slinging DailyWail story  I’m sure Paul knows he’s got absolutely zero chance of succeeding with his proposal for fixed allowances. But the real issue he’s trying to address is an example of how a system designed to avoid real accountability has no idea how to create it when they’re forced to.

The normal mode of (All) Governments is to avoid disclosing any information which might be used against them while trying to appear as open and transparent as their citizens demand. The result is what I have decided, henceforward, to call “Accountability Theatre”. It can be defined thus:

ACCOUNTABILITY THEATRE

1 Setting up mechanisms, in order to pacify public demands for accountability, which are supposed to audit sundry claims and reassure the public that proper consideration and due process have been applied. But…

2  The mechanisms lack any provision for realistic forensically verifiable means of validating such claims. So…

3 The public are required to Trust the declarations of the auditor and the auditor is required to trust the limited evidence s/he is permitted access to.

4 Specifically, there is no mechanism for ensuring that the evidence accessed by the auditor is both complete and unedited.

5 In the most egregious examples, the auditor is also a member of or closely allied with the organisation they are supposed to audit.

As regular readers will know, the claims I’m most concerned about are those made by the State, such as “we only tapped this suspect’s mobile phone, to obtain call and location history because we had reliable intelligence that he was involved in a potential terrorist plot”

The Accountability Theatre in that situation consists of the fact that, at no point, can any potential auditor either see the raw data without the consent and collaboration of its custodian, nor, even if permitted to see it, to verify that it is complete and unedited. The entire process, in other words, is based purely on faith that the State can do no wrong, a ship which sailed at least a century ago.

Returning, briefly, to Paul’s complaint:

What MPs are stuck with, regarding Parliamentary Expenses is a direct result of recognising that they cannot get away with the normal Accountability charade in respect of their expense claims. i.e. following the expenses scandal  they are now forced to jump through a ludicrous set of hoops in order to retrieve sometimes trivial sums of money which are often not worth the effort. They are, in the name of “Transparency”, effectively forced to stand on the “naughty step” every time they hold out their hand to get back some of the money they spend while doing their jobs. Hence, for example, we know that both Jeremy Hunt and Amber Rudd each submitted claims of just 27 pence for two short car journeys.  This level of disclosure is considered necessary so that the public can be convinced that proper scrutiny of expenses claims is taking place.

And, frankly, it looks like they do a pretty good job. In the sense that no frivolous claims are ever likely to make it through a pretty rigorous checking system. The “Quick Guide” to what they’re allowed to claim  is a mere 11 pages. The detailed version  weighs in at 75 pages. IPSA employs about 70 civil servants, full-time, and are run by an “independent” board which includes at least one judge, at least one ex MP and an at least one real auditor. All this to manage the Pay and Expense claims of just 650 MPs, at an annual cost of around £5 million.  In a typical commercial organisation of similar size, you’d expect 2 or 3 relatively junior staff to deal with that workload. They’d report to the Company Secretary or Financial Director. Total cost, probably less than £150k.

I hasten to add, in case it’s not obvious, that what IPSA are doing is most definitely NOT Accountability Theatre. It is Political Theatre, designed to demonstrate just how thoroughly we’re now watching our elected representatives. It is also a useful distraction from the unpublished detail of much more serious matters we ought to be demanding.

Contrast the obvious overkill effort they put into scrutinising what MPs claim on the Expenses, with the trivial and meaningless scrutiny put into examining the thousands of security requests  routinely dealt with by the Home Office. At her Mansion House speech, June 2014 Theresa May proudly proclaimed that her role as Home Secretary included:

“If the Security Service wants to place a device in the property of a terrorist suspect, or the National Crime Agency wants to listen to the telephone calls of a drugs trafficker, they need my agreement first. On the basis of a detailed warrant application and advice from officials in my department I must be satisfied that the benefits justify the means and that the proposed action is necessary and proportionate.

The warrant application gives me the intelligence background, the means by which the surveillance will take place, and the degree of intrusion upon the citizen. Neither the Security Service nor other intelligence agencies, nor the police, nor other law enforcement agencies, can undertake sensitive surveillance without providing these details and gaining my approval. Ministerial oversight – which I share with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – is a crucial safeguard to make sure that the most intrusive powers are used only when they are necessary and proportionate.”

Now then, how long do you think it would – or should – take to make a thorough assessment of the validity of just one such warrant application? Checking the content of the intelligence and, if necessary, its provenance; considering whether that content, in context, justified spying on a citizen; considering the means and degree of espionage being recommended; investigating whether the individual has previously been targeted and what, if any parallels there are between the circumstances of that targeting and the one being proposed; verifying that the appropriate risk assessments have been made and properly recorded; verifying and justifying the proposed cost etc. etc.

It is impossible to answer such questions without a detailed academic study, which we will, of course, not be permitted to make, but an intelligent guess has to be between one and five days of pretty intensive study. Yet, as MP David Davis pointed out in 2015, Theresa May was required, during the previous year, to approve up to 10 warrants a day – and that was just for phone interceptions.

That speech was supposed to illustrate how seriously she takes her responsibility for “political oversight”. I have no doubt she was sincere and believed that what she was doing actually constituted meaningful oversight. It was obviously, in reality, just a box ticking exercise and classic “Accountability Theatre”. I doubt she has the faintest idea how to seriously examine the validity of those warrant applications. She’s been trained and advised to rely on her Civil Servants, who will do all the real work on her behalf. All she needs to do is feed the monkey.

Their defence against such a charge would likely be along the lines:

well of course the Home Secretary doesn’t research the applications herself, that’s what the “advice from officials in my department” is supposed to mean.

But that’s no more than one branch of the establishment giving the nod to another branch, with which it has closely entangled, even incestuous relations. Why on earth are we supposed to trust that arrangement?

Their ultimate answer to that is the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which, ostensibly has the power to question everybody and see everything. Yet the Snowden revelations came as a surprise to this ultimate oversight body (search the page for “Snowden”)

And their subsequent investigation of the revelations regarding GCHQ “rather promptly” resulted in an absolutely clean bill of health. So “promptly” that even a former Chairman of the same committee, Lord King, was moved to comment that:

“the decision by the Rifkind-led committee to swiftly endorse the work of GCHQ was “unfortunate” because the endorsement came while new disclosures from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were still being published by the Guardian and other newspapers around the world.

“I think their response was pretty quick,” said King, a former Northern Ireland secretary. “It came at a time when revelations were still coming out. It is very important the ISC maintains public confidence as a scrutiny committee.”

Quite so.

Not only are the committee members obviously part of the establishment that they are supposed to police, but NONE have anything like the skills or expertise required to make a thorough examination of the work of GCHQ, especially “promptly”. They don’t even know the right kind of questions to ask.

The ISC is designed to be Accountability Theatre and, on this occasion, they panicked and fluffed their lines. Normally, they would have made a big show of visiting GCHQ, interrogating its mandarins in both public and private, and, after a few months of due consideration, announced their august whitewash. But the veil slipped for a few moments and those of us who were paying attention spotted the naked Emperor.

So now let’s turn to the serious shit.

The Government Case for Watching All of Us All The Time

The chief response of the Government, to being caught with its pants down over the unregulated Bulk Surveillance of its own citizens has been to frame new powers which retrospectively justify that outrageous invasion of privacy and to pretend it hasn’t already been going on, illegally, for years. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can read their arguments here:

It may surprise you but I am not going to take issue with any of their arguments for Surveillance. Such objections are, in my view, the weakest argument made by the Privacy/Liberty lobby and the one most easily defeated by the State. Given the right circumstances, there is NOTHING which can be definitively ruled out as a legitimate counter-measure for a State to employ in defence of its citizens. I certainly include the occasional need to assassinate one or two citizens in order to protect other citizens. Perhaps the most recent unarguable example of the legitimacy of that counter-measure being the killing of the French lorry driver who deliberately ran down 86 of his fellow citizens in Nice on Bastille Day.

But given that such circumstances obviously have arisen from time to time and will, inevitably, arise again, it must follow that less dramatic circumstances will arise which will justify all manner of lesser measures like Surveillance and other intelligence gathering activities. Here, I include, for example, the highly controversial embedding of “deep cover” agents inside hostile organisations.

But if we’re prepared to delegate such powers to the State, then it ought to be obvious to any intelligent citizen that nothing and no one should be (digitally) watched more closely than those we delegate such powers to. Then we would be in a position, after the event at least, to determine whether their action was justified and proportionate. And THAT is where we’ve dropped the ball. Or, rather, that’s where the State has chosen to run off with the ball and not allow us even to see it.

I really don’t want to start giving examples of how often and how badly the State has made indefensible and often disastrous decisions in this field and how seldom anyone has ever been held truly accountable for them. This blog and my other writings contain hundreds of examples and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already read a few of those and many other similar analyses dotted around the web.

I’ll just touch on one area; the embedded agents. We used them to penetrate the IRA. That was necessary and justifiable; even when our agents took part in some of the killings. Anything less would have blown their cover. We’ve almost certainly got or are trying very hard to get embedded agents inside ISIS and Al Qaeda and their more serious offshoots. Those agents too will have to participate 100% like the real thing. That means they’ll take part in recruiting other Jihadis and even occasionally have to kill innocent civilians just to maintain their cover. Some of those citizens might even be British.

But if and when something goes wrong with these operations, the agents are exposed, the shit hits the fan and everything goes titsup, who are we going to trust to tell us the whole truth about how and why it happened? The people who screwed up in the field or in the back office? The politicians who authorised it?  Or should we trust the half-tamed “Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation” who has just endorsed the Bulk collection of Private Data as having a “clear operational purpose” as they “play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield”?

He can’t, unfortunately, provide concrete examples but he does advocate “very considerable caution” without coming close to providing a meaningful mechanism for proving that such caution was exercised.

And if you study the government’s own case for such powers (see the link above), you’ll find 3 references to “Safeguards within the Bill” and in each case, those safeguards amount to an assurance that the powers can only be used for purposes specified (chiefly National Security related) and will be independently audited.

Real – Digitally Verifiable – Accountability

If ever a government gets serious about Accountability, here’s what it will need to do, not just for matters related to snooping on their own citizens but for ALL government decision-making processes; though the obvious starting place is “Watching the Watchers”.

The audit trail should contain digital copies of all evidence, relevant conversations, policy decisions and the operational recordings of implementation, pertaining to the events being audited. Each item should have been cryptographically fingerprinted (hashed) and the hashes lodged on a public accessible immutable database (blockchains or protected hash-chains) in real-time as the items were created.

Case folders or periodic snapshots of such data should be similarly hashed so that no item can be withdrawn after the event, without the gap in the data being obvious.

These techniques are not new. I’ve been promoting them for more than a decade myself but Bitcoin has done a much better job of waking people up to the significance of immutability.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the government “Safeguards” contain no mention of real-time mandatory data storage on an immutable database, so there will be no way for the independent auditor to determine whether he is seeing the whole story and whether what he’s been  allowed to see is as it was when originally stored. The proposed safeguards are just routine Accountability Theatre.

In the optimally Accountable world, whenever an issue is raised regarding the validity of behaviour by the State, the audit team will include appropriate experts in the technical, legal and financial fields they are about to investigate. Their proceedings will be overseen by a Jury, not a Judge. It might be a specially vetted Jury and it may often choose to sit in Camera in order to protect genuine National Security. But Democracy requires the power to reside not in State Appointees who may have a vested interest in hiding incompetence or malfeasance but in  ad hoc representatives of the People who will, for the duration of the audit at least, have no other agenda.

The audit will have unfettered access to the data. With such a provably complete and unalterable (without detection) audit trail, the audit team and their Jury can now sift through the evidence and decide for themselves what questions need to be asked and whether the evidence fully answers them. If it doesn’t, they can establish culpability and publish the relevant facts, with due care to ensure sensitive secrets are not exposed. If all the questions are answered and the actions taken shown to be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, they can publish that finding and, unlike the situation today, we could safely believe them.

In such circumstances, for example, how do you suppose that process of true Accountability would have dealt with the disgusting overreach of the State in those other more famous embedding cases such as the 7 women who unwittingly had long-term relationships with undercover cops who were paid by the State to infiltrate legal political organisations like environmental groups, animal rights groups and Trade Unions? I suggest the mere knowledge that it would be impossible for the Police to hide such behaviour from the Audit would be enough to prevent that kind of abuse in the first place.

The Pitchford Inquiry  is supposed to be investigating a whole raft of other similar abuses. But many have already commented that unless the relevant Police could be compelled to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it will be a waste of time. Given that none of the relevant material was immutably recorded at the time, we will never know how much, if any, of “the truth” they are telling. So the entire inquiry is bound to be just like all the other major inquiries. The Accountability Theatre Players will throw just enough meat to the baying wolves to make them think there’s been a real kill and then everything will return to normal.

The State already has vast Surveillance capabilities and total freedom to use them without any meaningful independent oversight. The crimes committed in our name in this century alone have illustrated the desperate need to eliminate Accountability Theatre with the relevant technology and the laws required to mandate its use. Yet, instead of moving in that direction, the government is intent on ramping up the extent of surveillance  to levels which make even the Police State of America’s USA PATRIOT Act look restrained.

If you’ve read this far can I suggest that if you wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, you could make a useful start by demanding that your own MP explain how s/he is going to fight Accountability Theatre.

BOGOF. 1. Trump>Drumpf 2. House-training Windows 10

There is no obvious connection between the slow train wreck represented by Donald J Drumpf’s inevitable nomination and the almost equally irritating but, eventually, reasonably benign Windoze 10 upgrade, though some would no doubt beg to differ. The fact is I have spent the last 3 months fighting Microsoft’s paternalism and finally cracked the last major problem which was holding me back from recommending it to anyone else. Didn’t even touch it, till Spybot had issued their fix for the privacy breaches (see below), but was really pissed off by the forced Updates. It’s taken me that long to find the fix so we can get back to the kind of control we’ve been used to since Windoze 3.1. I had in mind to publish a quick guide as a public service for those who are banging their heads against the same wall. Not the sort of thing I normally do but, hey, you only live once; organically, at least.

And I couldn’t be arsed to write two blogs so you’re getting two for the price of one. We’ll deal with Drumpf first, then the taming of Windoze 10. It’s John Oliver’s fault. He interrupted my preparation of the guide and I couldn’t resist the urge to alert either of my readers who might have missed it. You really shouldn’t. If anyone has performed a better hatchet job on Drumpf, kindly let me know. In fact, if anyone’s done a better job on ANY politician, ever, please share. Meanwhile, for those of you who haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, check this out (Unfortunately, if you’re outside US, you’ll need a proxy):

Apparently a third of a million bitizens have already downloaded the Chrome Extension. Make that a third of a million and one.  We desperately need more John Olivers. I wish he’d come back to the UK and speak the necessary truth unto power here. The desperately sad truth, however, is that his intervention is likely to have zero effect on the Trumpsters. Yes, those of us who recognise the Viagra driven Authoriarianism and the howling pack it has awoken among the disaffected Redneck & Religious crowd, will hug ourselves with glee that someone has finally had the balls to say what needed to be said as brazenly, and publicly, as Drumpf makes all his own pronouncements, and yes, anyone with an IQ higher than their shoe size will glory in the surgical precision and (reasonably) restrained eloquence of Oliver’s delivery.  But it won’t change a single mind. Those minds that need changing are way – WAY – out of reach of abstract notions like truth, rationality, civilisation or even RealPolitik.

The only question now, is what percentage of American minds are in that feverish condition. I’ve been confident for more than a decade that only about 25-30% of American Voters (and about 70% of American Politicians) are certifiably insane. If I’m right, your next President is likely to be another Democrat. It won’t help. Neither Clinton nor Saunders will be permitted to do anything that might actually heal the growing rift in American Society. Is anyone offering odds yet, on a second Civil War? If so, put me down for 10 bucks.

But you’re not here to listen to me gloating over the disintegration of the United States, you’re here to seize back the control of your Privacy and their Updates which Microsoft, in their infinitesmal wisdom, have tried to take away from you, after virtually shoving Windoze 10 down your throats. Whoever is responsible for their commercial strategy should be made to listen to every speech and read every tweet that Donald J Drumpf has ever made. And then, they should be shot. Slowly, as usual.

I can think of no faster way to alienate your customers than to force them to accept a free upgrade that eliminates their privacy and does many other things in a way they’re not used to and/or don’t like. It is as insane as a Trumpster arguing that Drumpf “says it like it is”. Perhaps there is a connection after all.

The irony is that Windoze 10 is actually OK. Nothing special. No fantastic improvement over 8.1. But a reasonable step in the steady progress towards stability and reliability that might one day result in an Operating System we can trust. I’ve been using it for a few months now, with only a couple of BSODs on the 4 main machines I use and I’m now dragging a handful of my own clients into the (slightly) new world. And though it has to be said that it is designed with some horrendous defaults which would result in Microsoft knowing more about you than your mother, if you let it, and it’s tried to stop you using all sorts of useful tools that you can’t do without, we’ve managed to find cures for all of that shit. And once those cures are in place, it’s OK. And given that it’s for free, you might as well go for it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but after the way they’ve behaved, they don’t deserve one.

The single worst offence they committed was the change to the update policy. Completely unforgiveable and, had I not, at last, found the fix, I’d have said it was a deal breaker. No software author in their right mind would do what they have done. Forcing updates on users, without allowing for the billion different environments in which those users operate is as close to technological insanity as I’ve ever come across. I’d bet another 10 bucks that there isn’t a single windoze user on this planet whose past or present windoze system hasn’t been broken by at least one of their updates. Cretins.

So here are the two most important things you need to know in order to survive their stupidity.

Protect your Privacy. By default, W10 sends huge amounts of data, potentially revealing almost everything you do on your machine, back to base. No doubt for the purest of motives – to learn how they can help you even more than they always have. But given the fact that even if they were inclined to keep such intimate details from the more hostile eyes of the Police State, they’re not actually allowed to, and that we’re witnessing, as we speak, the proof of that Police State intention to go after that kind of interesting material whenever they see fit, now is not a particularly sensible time to force the masses into such total abject exposure.

The easiest solution is Spybot’s Anti-Beacon.  You need no technical skill or understanding. Just download and install it. With about 8 clicks, you can shield yourself against all the privacy breaches. Click “Immunize Now”. Then Click the Options tab and select all the options on that page, with the possible exception of the Bing IPs. It may be useful to keep that channel open in case you need to look up Windoze help online. You can’t do that if you shut off the Bing as well.  However, if you’re not prepared to concede even that much personal contact, it has to be said that googling windoze symptoms as they occur will usually turn up better and more readable results than Microsoft’s own turgid prose, so you’re not losing much.

I’ve read rumours that Microsoft has wised up to what’s going on with our blocking them in the hosts file and that they are beginning to hard code around the obstacle. I’m confident we’ll find or create the countermeasures as required.

Regaining Control of Windoze Updates is, I’m afraid, not quite so easy, so if any of the following instructions look like something you don’t already understand, you’re probably better off avoiding the fix, and, if you’ve got one, phoning a friend instead.

Let’s start with the heavy stuff. If you don’t know how to run something like gpedit.msc, it’s probably better that you don’t try. For those who are happy to proceed:

Run  gpedit.msc and go
Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Updates\Configure Automatic Updates

Click “Enabled”

In the popdown list below “Configure Automatic Updating”

select “2 – Notify for download and notify for install”

Apply or OK

That’s enough to prevent Windoze doing any updating without your permission. It’ll notify you when downloads are available and it will put up a dimmed screen that makes it look like you don’t have a choice, but that’s a bluff. Just escape and carry on.

But it doesn’t deal with the remaining problem, which is that, by default, whenever you do realize, like it or not, that you need to update, at least to get the security glitches fixed, Windoze 10 will download ALL available updates, regardless of either your lack of need for them (eg, I use Office 2010. Word, Excel and, occasionally, Powerpoint ONLY. Despite which, I was getting updates for Outlook, One Note, Sharepoint, Publisher etc, none of which I have installed or intend to use. Ever.) Worse, some of their updates will break your system. Their recent Cumulative update broke mine because it failed to cope with the fact that I’d installed my SSD drive as something other than Drive Zero. (Good idea to do that, I now know. Or else disable UEFI in the BIOS, which is what I’ve now done) And thousands of other punters have had their systems broken by driver updates imposed on them without choice.

So here’s how you crack that problem.

2 DOWNLOAD WUSHOWHIDEDIAG.CAB from Microsoft. (that link active as of time of writing. I’ll change it or even post my own copy if they move the goalposts again)

Put a link to it on your desktop, you’ll be using it every time you decide its time for an update. I’ll get to “how” in a minute.

3 Amend the default settings for the Updates.

PC Settings\Update & Security\Advanced Options
You should see, given the changes you made above, that “the Choose how updates are installed” has changed to “Notify to Download” (might need a reboot before you see it)

Click the box “Defer Upgrades”. May not be absolutely essential but in principle allows you to avoid updates for ever (except, I believe for “Security Updates”). Which is not what you actually want, but it’s nice to know you can.

From this point on, you are back in the driving seat. You can either wait for Microsoft to notify you that there are updates available or do a manual check whenever it suits you.

The key step, which is essential if you want control of WHICH updates are downloaded is this:
Before you check for, or permit ANY updates, fire up the WUSHOWHIDE.DIAG  CAB you linked from the desktop

Microsoft has presumably been obliged to create this option to avoid being firebombed by irate users or, more likely, head off the major class actions from all those users whose machines have already been  borked by incompatible updates, like the examples above.

So it appears in the guise of a fault finder, but you’ll be using it as an update selector.

Let it initialise and it will go online to find any available updates. It will list them just like it always used to. and NOW you can tick all those you DON’T want and “hide” them.

Then go back to  PC Settings\Update & Security\ “Check for Updates” and let it update any it finds, which will not include those you hid.

Bingo, we’re back to normal control.

But while we’re at it, here’s a bonus fix for one of their tweaks that had thousands of us tearing hair out. The idiots have replaced the standard Windoze Photo Viewer with their “Photos” app. As soon as you try it, and realise you can no longer cursor back or forward to the next image, you think WTF? and kick the cat. After you calm down, you find that someone else has kicked their own cat before you and  created the quick(ish) fix.

Oh, and don’t forget to install Classic Shell, free, open source and a lot easier to  configure than any menu system windoze has ever included. And if you seek reassurance that you control how any third party software might be abusing your system, downstall at least the excellent free version of Spyshelter. And finally, nothing to do with Windoze 10 directly, this works on all windoze systems from 7 up. If you’ve ever lost a file that you know you haven’t deleted but just cannot find, you need the nearest thing to magic I’ve come across on the Windoze platform. Again, totally free, though if anyone deserves a donation, Everything, is my nomination. That 10 bucks, at least, has gone to a good cause.

Once you’ve got that lot installed, Windoze 10 can be almost fun to use…

 

Authority V Liberty (Round 4,287,541)

Nobody would contest the desirability of knowing exactly what was in the killers’ heads and history; preferably before they managed to gun down fourteen fellow American citizens in San Bernardino in December. The FBI obviously thinks this is a poster child for their demand for American tech companies to provide back-doors into our encrypted gadgets.

If you’re remotely inclined to sympathise with the FBI, consider this.

It is not just conceivable but highly likely that within 10-20 years, we will have technology capable of ferreting that information out of anyone’s  head. And if you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at this.

or this

or this

or this

or this

or this

or this (added 2016-06-15)

I could go on. The point is that those links illustrate the amount of effort being put into digital mind-reading and the extent to which it’s already been achieved; and that some people are already fully aware of the potential threat, which makes ALL other Privacy invasions pale into insignificance. My 10-20 year time-frame is probably conservative.

I’ve been taking a close personal interest in this technology since Dr Larry Farwell had his 15 minutes back in 2003 when he  managed to get his Brain Fingerprinting evidence accepted by a court which resulted in the release of Terri Harrington, who’d, by then, served 23 years after being wrongly convicted of murder.

I wrote to Farwell at the time, suggesting that his technology could offer the “perfect bio-metric”. I postulated, for example, that it could identify me, uniquely, by observing my neural reaction to seeing a photograph of my late father.  No one else’s brain could simulate my reaction so no one else could pretend to be me. I also suggested that another obvious benefit would be to solve the most intractable problem in secure authentication; viz: access under duress. “Yes they are entering the correct password or revealing the correct retinal scan, but are they only doing that because someone is holding a gun to their head?”

I’m still waiting for a reply!

But it’s obvious that, since then, the technology (and America’s military interest in it) has been marching on. So, whether you like it or not, it’s on its way.  And the authoritarians who are funding the most meaningful research don’t share my views on the use of the technology to prevent privacy invasion. Quite the opposite. They see it as the greatest possible advance in privacy invasion and you can expect laws to change to permit it as we get closer to it. In a sense, that’s exactly what’s happening today.

Once digital mind reading is possible, it will be plausible to argue that, for example, airlines should be allowed to put every passenger through such a mind scanner, in order to ensure that no-one with evil intent against the aircraft is permitted to board.

That’s not my fevered imagination either. Comes from the man himself, almost certainly, given the date of that article, as part of his personal reaction to 9-11.

A first reaction, given my fear of flying, is that I might even think its a good idea myself. Particularly if the “duress protection” was mandated as part of the technology, so that no one could be coerced into having their mind read. And if there was a formally agreed set of questions to which our brain responses would be measured, with no recording of data, alarms raised only on appropriate warnings etc etc, I’d certainly welcome the assurance that, provably, no one sharing that flight with me, had any intention, when they boarded at least, of bringing the plane down.

But as we’ve seen, in some detail, over the past decade, that’s not the way Authority works.   Duress protection, independently citizen audited surveillance of the process and strictly limited application are never on the authoritarian agenda. Instead, they demand back doors, weak encryption, surrender of passwords etc etc.

Society is divided into two groups. The authoritarians and their followers form one group and they will argue in favour of allowing the mind-scanners and insisting that we all step through them.

Once we’ve conceded that for something as serious as air travel, it will be only a matter of time before they mandate it for (in roughly descending order) weeding out Pedophiles, Rapists, Tax dodgers, Copyright cheats,  Trolls, Recreational drug users and Dissidents. Then, depending which level of authoritarianism you live under, they’ll move on to apostates, homosexuals, marital cheats, speeding motorists and other ne’er do wells.

Those who understand Liberty and the nature of threats like the above will probably have to fight the authoritarians literally to the death in what may come to be known as Humanity’s Final War.

The current Apple battle is an early skirmish in that war.

Pick your sides now and be sure of a good seat…

Finally, if you want to hear an intelligent presentation of the current state of the relevant science, and some of the issues, check this out:

4 Failed Remotes? Coincidence? I Don’t Think So!

I wouldn’t usually bother you with the domestic trivia of failed remote controls. But this is some seriously weird shit. Thought a) you might be interested b) I want it on record.

It also occurs to me that perhaps I might not be the only one experiencing the weird shit. I can’t decide whether, if I’m not, that would make it more or less weird…

Beginning August 8, 2015 about 8 pm

The remote control on the TV stopped having any effect. In hindsight, I misinterpreted this. I’ve been having ongoing problems with the Sky HD box; having to reboot it daily, sometimes twice, because it becomes locked and entirely dysfunctional.

PIA.

So I assumed it was another case of frozen Skybox, rebooted the little expletive and got on with my life.

One darts session later, I went to catch Newsnight. See what they’re headlining at least. The system was ludicrously unresponsive. It took multiple keystrokes before anything would react. Took me 5 minutes just to get on to BBC2 and 3 more to get out of the TV guide.

And this was with two different controllers; the one supplied by Sky and the Multi-Controller I use for everything. So now I’m sure it’s the Skybox. Can’t possibly be two simultaneous failures of two entirely independent remote controls.

Bollocks. Have to call Sky tomorrow and get the box replaced. Goodbye to all that good shit I’ve got stored. Never Mind. Bollocks.

Right, let’s watch the first episode of Ripper Street which I downloaded from iPlayer a few days back. See if the series is going to be worth recording this year…

Want to watch it on the big screen. Enable it on the PC, pick up the remote control for the TV and try to switch the input from Skybox to PC. The TV Remote has no effect. Bollocks, must be batteries. Change batteries. No change.

wtf?.

I try the same thing on the Multi-Controller. I don’t usually control the TV from the MC cos it’s too many keystrokes to switch between the different devices it can control. But it’s useful to have it as a fall-back in situations like this.

It didn’t work either. WTF?

Fuck it. Watch it on my biggest monitor in HD. Up close, it’s damn near as good as the big screen.

But I still want the sound through the hifi.

Redirect the PC sound to the hifi and try to reduce the bass so I can hear the speech more clearly. I’m losing the upper ranges. Have to compensate. No biggie.

Bleedin’ amplifier has become unresponsive to its remote control. WTF? WTF? WTFFFF???

ALL FOUR OF MY REMOTE CONTROLS OR ALL THE DEVICES CONTROLLED BY THEM HAVE SIMULTANEOUSLY CEASED TO COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER.

What are the odds on that being a coincidence?

By coincidence I spun round in my chair and angrily pressed the relevant amplifier remote key again. But this time, the remote control was only about 25 centimetres – 12 inches in old money – from the amplifier. And this time, it worked. I was able to do whatever I wanted with the remote at this ludicrously short distance. Not so much a “Remote Control” as a “Close Control” and rather undermining the purpose of having a detached control unit at all.

Hmmm… I wonder if any of the other “Remotes” are behaving as “Closes”.

I shit you not. ALL FOUR ARE NOW FUNCTIONING ONLY WITHIN 12-15 INCHES of the devices under their control.

First thought. Solar flux? Somehow “damping down” the infra red remote control signal. Can’t see how that would work but let’s check it out.

Not today. Today’s solar flux is running just about as average as you can get – according to the data at Solarham

So now I’m stumped. I can only speculate that some other kind of radiation or electric field – and one which is not usually present – is acting as a “damping field” and massively reducing the range of my remote controls. What kind of radiation or field could that be? Or could even do that? And how can I detect or record it?

Will check periodically to see what range I’m getting. But just as an example, I frequently use the Amplifier Remote and Multi-controller from the other end of the living room which is about 15 feet from the devices. No problem at all. Usually.

I’m open to suggestions…

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Postscript: 1 oclock in the morning. About to retire for the night. Decide to record the phenomenon with the intention of tracking any changes. Check they’re all still limited to close range. They are. Set up the video. Start videoing. I don’t believe it! They’re all back to normal range! So, apart from the camera itself, nothing else in the environment has changed. But whatever was damping the control signals seems to have retreated. Am I allowed to get paranoid yet?

David Anderson takes a Step In the Right Direction

With David Anderson’s report, we finally look like we may be moving in the right direction.

However, his solution to over-reach is aiming at the wrong target. Prior authorisation by his proposed new judicial body is really no more than a band-aid on the amputated limb.

The 2800 authorisations issued last year are enough to illustrate the limitation of “control by authorisation”

There is no way that serious consideration of the facts and arguments underpinning any relevant surveillance request can possibly be conducted, at that rate, by the small organisation implied by a Judicial Commission. In fact, as David Davies argued on Radio 4, it’s not credible that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, even with the resources of the Home Office, can give genuinely appropriate levels of attention to such requests at the rate of 7 a day. Especially on top of her day job.

Frankly, however, we shouldn’t really care who signs off the authorisation for any given task. All they need to authorise is that the new rules I’m about to propose are being followed to the letter. That, in short means that a new digital case file has been opened and that everything related to the case will be stored in that file and made available, on demand to the independent oversight body and/or political authorities.

What matters far more – and is absolutely vital to ensuring true democratic control of the State’s surveillance apparatus – is the complete and routine data-capture (to an immutable audit trail) of the entire surveillance decision-making process and subsequent implementation of those decisions. In other words, nobody should be watched more closely and comprehensively than the watchers themselves. Think helmet cams, body cams, discreet microphones, Smartphone and GPS location tracking, Google glass and a host of similar technologies. Think ubiquitous CCTV and Webcam coverage in all secure areas and offices.

These are the experts in surveillance. They know exactly how to ensure that everything they say and do, in the line of duty, is captured to that immutable audit trail. They know how to keep their own data safe and secure and available only to those who have legal authority to access it. (If they don’t, they have no business keeping ours) It would probably be cost neutral or slightly beneficial.

Most importantly it will facilitate precisely the democratic oversight which is needed to ensure that everything the authorities do is on the record (or is automatically a criminal offence) and available for review by whatever oversight body we determine is necessary to earn the Trust of the British People.

That body must have untrammelled authority to inspect ANY relevant data at ANY time from the moment of authorisation forward. Indeed, it must even have authority to conduct spot inspections of anything relevant to their oversight with the sole and reasonable limitation that they can watch but not impede an ongoing operation. They must also be allocated resources which permit independent and trusted expert evaluation of what they find.

The technology will allow them to rewind any operation and see for themselves what evidence justified the operation and whether the implementation of the operation was entirely necessary and proportionate. Note, I don’t even insist that it was “legal”.

What matters is that We The People would agree that it was justified. Not that a “here today gone tomorrow” politician – with a potentially hidden agenda – asserts that it was justified and demands that we trust them.

The oversight body would be empowered to disclose whatever they thought necessary to the British Public. We need to be completely confident that if they say the operation was clean and justified, but that the details need to remain secret, we would probably have agreed with them if we were in possession of all the facts.

By the same token, where they clearly uncover illicit behaviour, we must be equally confident that they are able to disclose everything we ought to know, however embarrassing for the State, that disclosure may be.

Personally I don’t trust unelected Authoritarians, even relatively tame ones like most Judges, to wield that disclosure against the elected Authoritarians and I would much prefer that Oversight body to take the form of a Standing Jury with a few dozen members selected randomly from a national pool of civic-minded volunteers.

I don’t think we should object if the Security services wanted to Vet those volunteers and weed out any that might be a threat to the necessary discipline and security that such a Jury would have to work under. But the Jury itself would be the final arbiter on any such exclusions from Jury Service.

Such an arrangement would render the process truly democratic.

We should, perhaps, have no objection to a tribunal of experienced judges being available to advise and guide the Jury on all points of law and precedent, but the Jury itself should be sovereign and make the final judgements.

With all that in place, you can perhaps see why we needn’t care so much about who authorises the actual operations.

Provided we can see, after the event, who was asked, why they were asked, why they agreed, what the consequences were and how it was handled, frankly I don’t give a give a damn what it is they actually authorise – up to and including the assassination of a fellow citizen – or even an attack on a wedding party in Pakistan. There are potential legitimate reasons for any of these activities.

But where the consequences are that extreme, nothing less than a Jury of our peers, taking an entirely uninhibited look, on our behalf, at what went on and why, will satisfy any rationally sceptical citizen that the decisions were reasonable and rationally based on reviewable evidence; or that the implementation of those decisions was carried out in the least destructive and damaging way possible in the circumstances.

To be blunt; how many of the USA Police brutality incidents we have been bombarded with for the past few decades would have survived that level of scrutiny? Or, to put it another way, how much of that brutality would we have eliminated, how many lives would we have saved, had they been under that level of scrutiny?

Yes, the American Police are a far easier target for our opprobrium than the British Security Services.
We’d rather like to keep it that way!

So Journos get a bit more Protection, what about the rest of us?

The Daily Mail is crowing over its small victory but, as usual, hasn’t grasped the bigger picture.

The Authoritarian Law (RIPA), whose abuse they have reported on for years, is about to be tweaked with another Law forbidding cops from prying into Journalists’ phone records without more serious oversight than the pathetic “superintendent level authority” required for the police to carry on spying on the rest of us.

First, it’s a VERY small victory. It reputedly only even attempts to improve the protection for Journalists. Not citizens. So, at most, a few hundred of our fellow, more privileged citizens, will be “protected” by the proposed new restrictions.

But second, note the quote marks around “protected”. That’s no accident. The truth is that the Law does NOTHING to protect us from abuse of surveillance powers and never has. At most it might deter those who think they are at risk of being caught snooping, which given the fact that they are not being snooped on themselves, is a very low risk.

But, as the RIPA saga amply illustrates, the vast majority of its abusers don’t even grasp the concept of “Abuse” in this context. They have routinely justified their illicit access as “proportionate and necessary” in pursuit of their aims to pursue petty criminality, littering, illegal parking, dog fouling, fly tipping, cheating to qualify for access to favoured schools and other matters of dubious relevance to our “National Security” which RIPA was deemed necessary to protect. And what we’ve suffered here in the UK is trivial compared to the institutionalised abuse and assault on civil liberties arising from the wholly illicit USAPATRIOT Act and its associated legislation in the United States.

This kind of mission creep is rampant around the world. The USA clearly does it most egregiously and most “professionally” but while they’re among the worst offenders, there is probably no government on the planet which doesn’t routinely abuse its authority to obtain illicit access to private data for reasons which no intelligent citizen would approve.

And anyone who thinks “The Law” can protect them from this kind of abuse doesn’t begin to understand the problem. The only way to prevent such abuse is to make it technically impossible to spy without audited authority. Wot that mean?

It means that it has ALWAYS been technically possible to control access to the data they want to snoop on. It means that such control can easily be made to include a form of authentication and authorisation which ensures that all the relevant data is captured to an audit trail which cannot be tampered with by those requiring the authorised access. It means that, though we can never guarantee to prevent illicit access, we can guarantee that we can always discover it and who was responsible for it.

Laws which make something illegal and threaten sanctions are, at best, only a minor deterrent, as we see in real life every day (think War on Drugs, Fraud, Burglary, Rape etc etc as well as the routine abuses by the Authorities themselves).

Conversely, the near certainty of detection is a major deterrent.

The audit trail would, itself, contain no sensitive data and could thus be entirely publicly accessible. It would serve three functions.

First, all requests for access could be technically blocked and only permitted to proceed on receipt of a key from the audit trail. That one time access key would only be issued once the audit trail has been persuaded that the requestor was a) authorised to make such requests and b) had proved deposit of the documentary evidence required to justify the reason for access.

Second, the public audit trail presents to the world an anonymised record, in real-time, of what the authorities are doing. That public record would not, for example, reveal whose phone records they had just requested access to, but would reveal that one or more such access requests had been made in the last few seconds or minutes. Nor would it reveal who had requested access. But it would reveal at least the organisation responsible for the access request. That might be as vague as “The Home Office” or “NSA” or it might be as specific as “Precinct 99” or “East Devon County Council”. That’s a matter for negotiation.

Over the course of days, weeks, months, it would reveal the extent of surveillance activity against the citizens and the patterns of what authorities were doing what kind of snooping.

The third function of the audit trail would be, in the event of any challenge to the authorities, over a specific access session, to verify (or falsify) their claims as to why they did what they did. Remember the one time access key? That only gets issued if the authority requesting access asserts that it has documentary evidence supporting its reasons for the request and that they meet the terms of any relevant laws. They have to “prove” the existence of that evidence by lodging its digital fingerprint (a “hash” for those who aren’t yet familiar with this incredibly useful crypto tool) with the audit trail.

Come the challenge, they must present that documentary evidence to the auditors and, possibly, a court. The beauty of the Hash is that, while maintaining the complete confidentiality of the evidence, it proves unequivocally whether or not the documents they present are identical to those they claimed, at the time of the request, supported their access request. If they don’t match, or if they are found to be attempting to bypass the audit trail altogether, they are automatically committing a criminal offence.

If they do match, the auditors/court can now study the documentation to make a judgement as to whether their reason for access was legitimate or not. If not, then, once again, they’ve committed a criminal offence. If they do match, then it’s a fair cop!

None of the above is rocket science. It doesn’t require any new technology. It does require some new programming and authentication procedures but nothing dramatic, even though the effects would be.

There are two roles for the Law in this area. First – what they already do – they need to define what we democratically agree to be acceptable and unacceptable practice, with a view to enabling appropriate sanctions against those we find in breach of the law. Their second, so far absent, and more important role, is to mandate the implementation of the kind of technical protection which makes the abuses we’ve forbidden impossible to hide. No more, no less.

If the media, including the Daily Mail, could understand this issue and campaign for the introduction of such legally mandated technical protections across the planet – or at least in their own backyards – then they might actually improve the human condition, and not just protect their own interests.

Now that would be something worth crowing about.

Optional Mortality – The Informed Consent Protocol

It’s time we set the rules for reviving digitally stored humans, once the revival technology has become available. I’m sorry if you had other plans, but this is important.

I don’t usually post responses to my forum comments on this blog but given my recent ramblings on our future as Digital Humans, it seems apt. First off, hat-tip to MrJSSmithy for the nudge. His question (Ah. If you get nagged about the unknown certificate, on the way in to the forum, please allow the “security exception”. Oh, and don’t forget to wipe your feet.) His question forced me to accept that my assumptions (about when we might choose to be revived in digital form) were a) hidden b) possibly unfounded or at least not necessarily universally applicable and c) needed to be made explicit.

There are multiple reasons we need to consider an Informed Consent Protocol, some of which are touched on in the play (Resurrection), where I introduce the notion of Omortality (optional mortality). Other reasons are touched on in my initial reply to Smithy.

While the arrival of the technology capable of sustaining our digital existence is obviously still speculative, it is certainly reasonable to assume that we’ll achieve the prerequisite storage capacity and brain reading techniques required to capture the human brain map well before we achieve the ability to revive that map as an autonomous human clone, psychologically identical to its source, but in a digital environment. Personally I reckon that gap (between the ability to store and the ability to revive) will be at least a few decades. Kurzweil is more optimistic.

When would Sir like to be revived?
In any case we can certainly anticipate that many bitizens will sign up for storage before they can ever know whether it will even be possible for them to be revived. Which means, if and when the revival technology is available we’ll have a backlog of – possibly millions or even hundreds of millions – of dead but digitally stored humans available to be re-activated. One obvious potential ethical issue will be the question of whether and in what circumstances each relevant individual has consented to be revived.

This is the most important issue which I am proposing to tackle with the Informed Consent Protocol. The idea is to allow anyone who opts to be digitally preserved to record, for the benefit of the eventual Revival Team or Computer, the conditions under which they would like to be re-activated and, optionally, the extent of that re-activation. As you may have gathered, I do not regard it as a simple “Yes/No” question.

There are definitely conditions in which I, for one, would not wish to be revived. For instance, if the planet is about to be struck by a massive asteroid or if the current batch of Islamic Terrorists has won their war against the modern world and humanity all lives under a new Caliphate – or any other form of Theocracy. Revival Mr Stottle? Think I’ll pass on this occasion.

Yes, I know that even the option of Revival would almost certainly have disappeared under a Caliphate but, a) I’m merely illustrating the point that there are potential circumstances under which I’d prefer to stay in storage. (Try me again in a coupla hundred years). And b) even (or especially) under a Theocracy, there will be a Resistance movement and it might be them who are trying to revive me.

So the Protocol needs to allow bitizens to set the parameters or conditions under which they would wish or not wish to be re-activated.

and how much of you shall we revive?
There are also potential levels of activation, short of full autonomy, which an individual may wish to accept in preference to full activation. The protocol needs to capture these preferences as well.

I’ve already made it clear that I wouldn’t wish my digital self to wake up in “the wrong sort of future”. But that doesn’t mean that no part of me could be revived without the full Stottle. In a digital environment the options are limited only by our imagination.

One such is a functional avatar, based on me but without the conscious spark (whatever that turns out to be) that makes it “me”. Such an avatar could serve two useful purposes. First, it could answer, on my behalf, any question that I’d be able to answer and could choose to answer or not based on its awareness of whether or not the full “me” would consent to answering. Second, it could identify the presence of the conditions in which I would be happy to be fully activated. And that possibility would make the protocol much easier to implement.

Instead of trying to describe all the possible reasons you may or may not wish to be revived, it would be much more straightforward if you could just say “Revive my Avatar to the point where it is capable of making the decision for me”.

Wake me up when I’m thirsty…
As well as deciding the moment of initial digital re-activation, I have predicted elsewhere that this (functional Avatars) is how future digital humans may well cope with living potential eternal lives. Unlike some, I do not imagine that, after living a few million years, some individuals might become bored and choose voluntary personal extinction. But I can imagine that, in some circumstances (eg travelling to a distant galaxy which might still take millions of years) where individuals might choose to become dormant until or unless their permanently conscious Avatar wakes them up because something interesting is about to happen (or just has).

But even if such Avatars become possible, we still need the Informed Consent Protocol so that each digitally stored human can record their unequivocal consent to the revival of, first, the Avatar and second, subject to the Avatar’s judgement, the fully restored human mind.

The other reason we need the protocol is, of course, that such an Avatar may NOT be possible, so we have to be able to leave some kind of guide to the conditions which would meet our consent.

So with all that in mind, here’s my first stab at the kind of questions you’d have to record your answers to, in order to allow a future Revival Team/Computer to make a reasonable assessment of your willingness to rejoin the human race. I do not intend to design some kind of “form” we’d fill in. I’ll just describe the issues the “form” has to cover. I’ll leave it for the legal eagles to create the paperwork.

Section 1 – Identity.
Obviously the Revival team will need a fool-proof way to identify you as the owner of the relevant digital store. That’ll almost certainly require a cryptographic proof. So a digital notary will verify your identity, record your consent and have it protected on an Immutable Audit Trail. It will include embedding the hash of the digital store (which we can assume to be unique itself) in the document which describes your consent to revival. This will tie the consent to the data. (It might even form part of the key which must be used to decrypt and unlock the data) The crypto-geeks will no doubt improve on that outline as we get closer to needing to store the data.

Section 2 – Avatar consent
Here we’d sign up to allowing an Avatar, judged – in the technical context of the time – capable of representing your wishes, to make the judgement on your behalf as to whether “now” is the right time to revive you. This is obviously a conditional consent based on the existence of technology which makes the Avatars possible and capable of that level of functionality.

Section 3 – Unaided consent
This is the more difficult scenario where we have to try to anticipate, today, all the possible reasons which might exist tomorrow which might deter us from being revived. Or an overriding positive condition which will authorise our revival regardless of any potential obstacles.

However, I don’t think it’s as difficult as it may first appear. Because, in short, you could always decide to go back into hibernation. So you could stipulate that you’ll act, in a sense, as your own Avatar. You’ll wake up, take a look around and decide whether or not to make the awakening permanent or hit the snooze button for another thousand years.

That would only require one condition to be true in order for your revival to be permitted and that condition is simply that the newly awakened you will retain the sole authority on whether and how long you stay re-activated. You might even make that the ONLY condition for your revival. “Don’t wake me up until and unless when I wake up, I can choose to return to indefinite storage”, or the more positive “Wake me up as soon as it becomes possible for me to exercise the option to return to storage”

Section 4 – Arbitrary conditions
Where the first three sections really deal with the technical issues of identification and available functionality, this section needs to deal with non-technical issues which might affect the stored individual’s decision on revival. If the (section 2) Avatar consent is possible, then this section would be unnecessary, but if not, then the individual may need to list the conditions which they consider would block or permit their revival; or should at least be present/absent before attempting revival under (Section 3) unaided consent.

For instance, someone might stipulate that they would only want to be revived if other named individuals had also chosen to be revived. Or, more negatively, if other named individuals had NOT chosen to be revived.

Section 5 – Simultaneous Consciousness and the “Right to Murder”?
This section is the direct result of MrJSSmithy’s question. It is probably not going to be an issue for the first generation of digitally stored humans because it won’t be possible, as mentioned above, to re-activate your stored version until the technology has advanced to make that possible and that is likely, in my view, to be a few decades after we’ve begun to store ourselves in digital form.

But step forward, say, a hundred years from now and there is no obvious reason why your digital clone could not be re-activated as soon as the backup is complete. As I said in the forum, I’ve always been conscious of the myriad of awkward issues this would raise and assumed that we’d avoid the problem by forbidding such activation while the “source” (or “Simulee” as I’ve named it in the forum reply) remained alive. (see the reply for more detail)

That, I now admit, was essentially a personal prejudice. I wouldn’t permit it for my clone, but I can’t think of any technical reason why it would not be possible to have multiple versions of yourself active at the same time. I’m quite sure we will do that deliberately when we ARE digital humans. For example, I can imagine sending a version of myself off to live on the plains of Africa to observe the wildlife in real-time for periods of decades at a time. It might be an advanced Avatar or a full clone. It might have no physical form, or the form of an insect just large enough to fly around with an HD camera, or whatever, and it might link up other versions of me, from time to time to merge experiences.

The question is, would such an arrangement be feasible or “a good idea” while your organic self was still around and gathering experience and data in its own pedestrian organic fashion? The biggest single problem being that, whereas digital versions of yourself could easily choose to merge their experiences, and will thus always comprise the full organic you, plus any new experiences the clone/s gather in their new existence, the traffic is likely to remain very much “one way”. i.e. the organic you will never be able to assimilate the experience of your active digital clone/s…

… and a major consequence of that would be that the inevitable divergence between the personality of source and clone/s may quickly reach the point at which they can no longer be considered the “same person”. Indeed, as I suggest in the forum discussion, the clones might actually become antagonistic to their own source!

For me, therefore, simultaneous consciousness is a big “no no”. But others may be indifferent or even think it’s a good idea. So this final section of the protocol needs to spell out whether, while you remain alive, you would consent to the full activation of the clone. And even that, even for me, is not going to be a simple “yes/no” question.

Attending My Own Funeral
For example, as I say in the same place, I can well imagine circumstances in which my organic self deteriorates into the senescence of old age and dementia robs me of the ability to meaningfully consent to anything. At which point I would be happy for my digital clone to be activated and assume “Power of Attorney” over my organic shell until it shuffles off this mortal coil. Indeed it is the vision of that future which led to my saying somewhere in the distant past “I hope and intend to be one of the first humans to attend (perhaps even conduct!) their own funeral”

Actually I now recognise that to be a bit too optimistic. Although I hope and still expect to survive till the storage technology becomes available, hanging on till revival is also possible is probably a bit of a stretch given that I’m already in my sixties.

Nevertheless, this final section needs to allow the organic source to stipulate the conditions under which activation of the clone could take place during their organic lifetime. And it is actually the most potentially controversial component of the entire protocol.

Essentially, this section needs to cover the issue of whether or not the organic human can “murder” their own digital clone, and even, in the Power of Attorney scenario, permit almost the exact opposite – where the clone, for example, eventually gives the final authority to switch off the life support system for its organic source.

I point out, in the forum reply, that the ONLY reason I would want to activate my own clone while I was both alive and fully functional, is that I would need to be convinced that the clone really was “me”. (I raised the point, first, during a lengthy debate, on whether that was even conceivable)

And that the only way I can currently imagine being sufficiently convinced would be to engage in a fairly lengthy and confidential conversation with my clone to probe it’s conformance with me. For which reason it would obviously have to be activated.

When Does My Clone Achieve Normal “Human Rights”?
But that immediately raises the question of the legal basis on which I can then effectively say, “yup, you’ve convinced me, now go back to sleep”. That, of course, would NOT be murder. (because the clone could eventually be revived again) but if we allow the more extended activation suggested by MrJSSmithy’s question, it raises the possibility, as I’ve already mentioned, of the clone become hostile to the source, or even without such hostility, developing characteristics which so horrify the source that the source decides s/he needs to terminate their own clone. i.e wipe the storage – not just put the clone to sleep. Would we – COULD WE – ever permit that?

I think that’s likely to become a hotter topic once the technology exists and clones have started to be stored. But I can certainly imagine a rule which would encompass the simpler situation described by my own preference.

For a start, given that my own clone would start out as psychologically identical in all respects to me, I have no problem in stating, on behalf of my clone, that I am willing to be put back to sleep after I have convinced myself that, as a clone, I really am “me”. I have no problem further stipulating that if my clone indicates, during the persuasion period, that it has changed its mind and now wishes to remain active, that this should be taken as direct evidence that it is a faulty copy (because it clearly does not mirror acceptance of this crucial condition) and should thus not just be de-activated but destroyed.

The first question, if you like, for the newly activated clone, would thus be: “do you still accept these conditions?” If not, the clone is immediately destroyed, whereas, if it indicates it is still happy with the conditions, then it has already consented to de-activation after persuasion.

But that only really deals with the relatively simple scenario required for the short “period of persuasion” and I don’t anticipate that such periods will even be necessary once the technology has been running long enough for people to trust it without such tests.

So the really difficult question is whether and how we would frame rules to deal with de-activation or destruction after a clone has been allowed to develop its own new life during the lifetime of the organic source. My gut instinct is to avoid that problem by blocking the option, as I would do for my own clone. Once you’ve allowed the clone to become a “different person” you can no longer kill it. The only law I can imagine being consistent with our current notions of autonomy and “human rights” – once a clone has been permitted to diverge to the point where it no longer wishes to become dormant – is one that states, from that point on, the clone is one of us…

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(Feel free to discuss this here or on the forum. You have to be a WordPress member to post comments here and you need to join my forum to add comments there. Be seeing you…)

NSA Backlash limps into action


Kudos to the Real News for that interview.

I’m still surprised and disappointed at the miserably subdued backlash against what the American authoritarians and their poodles have been getting away with against the citizens of the world.

But perhaps I’m just impatient and the Resistance is building. Today I hear that there are demonstrations in the streets of Washington, under the banner “Stop Watching Us“. No word yet on how many turned up.

That matters. If it’s a handful, the regime will read that as a green light to continue. It would need to be a several hundred thousand to have serious political impact.

Authoritarian defenders are crawling around trying to find ways to defend the indefensible. One of the most cringeworthy was Cameron’s puerile posing at yesterday’s EU summit

“What Snowden is doing – and to an extent, what the newspapers are doing in helping him doing what he is doing – is frankly signalling to people who mean to do us harm how to evade and avoid intelligence and surveillance,” he said. “That is not going to make our world safer.”

What the fuck has that got to do with listening in on Angela Merkel’s private telephone conversations?

The answer, of course, is “nothing whatsoever” but they haven’t got any kind of justification for that abuse, so, instead they fall back on a childlike reference to the reason they routinely give for snooping on everyone else, in the hope that somehow, the “bewildered herd” will conflate the two issues and conclude that spying on 35 world leaders is all necessarily part of the “War on Terror”

Well those 35 and many other members of the international political classes are beginning to smell the coffee. And they’re beginning to feel their blood pressure mounting as they take on board the extent of American (and British) hubris. This has already resulted in growing demands for NSA-proof communication systems between them and, as you’ll have seen in that Video, countries like Brazil are going a whole stage further and demanding communication channels which bypass America altogether.

This is a very welcome development for the politicians at least. Let’s hope they remember that any secure sauce considered good enough for the political goose is equally good for the citizen ganders.

None of the so-called “Revelations” are actually new…
Coincidentally, “Nothing Whatsoever” is also the answer to the question: how much does the average politician, including the British Prime Minister, understand about “Security”? He and many others we’ve seen squirming in recent weeks have frequently repeated that absurd argument quoted above.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, NOTHING in the Snowden revelations is new or unexpected. We have been able to read about it for years, and not just in conspiracy fetish forums where they don’t believe Man has ever walked on the Moon, but in well documented and highly respected sources like the trilogy of exposes written by James Bamford over the past 30 years (“Puzzle Palace” 1983, “Body of Secrets” 2002 and, with specific reference to all the web snooping, “Shadow Factory” 2009)

All Snowden has added to the picture is detail (like the name of the relevant program – PRISM) and some notion of scale. Mostly he has simply confirmed what we’d read in Shadow Factory. (Actually, in my case, I was 2/3 of the way through that book when the Snowden revelations hit the street. That made it somewhat more pressing and relevant!)

So the notion that the “evil-doers” didn’t already know this is utterly stupid and exactly the kind of misapprehension that those who do understand Security would NOT be labouring under. Such naiveté might have been widespread among terrorists at the turn of the century but after 12 years of targeted drone strikes and other successful assassination attempts, the spooks KNOW that their main genuine targets are very aware of the need for secure communications and, almost certainly, avoid using the web altogether (at least not for operational communications).

The only “terrorists” who are going to be caught through their web activity are the terrorist equivalent of those “script kiddies” who created a bunch of irritating but mostly harmless malware in the Nineties and Naughties. They’re the “wannabe jihadists” who, even if they aren’t caught, are rarely going to have the aptitude and experience to pose real threats.

Exposing the scale of the NSA dragnet has, therefore, done “nothing whatsoever” to alert the real bad guys. Which is not, however, to say that the exposure doesn’t help the terrorists. It does, but obviously the spooks haven’t bothered to tell the Prime Minister and other politicians how. Perhaps they think it’s too complicated for him and the rest of the bewildered herd to grok. Or perhaps they’re too embarrassed to admit that they’ve shot themselves in both feet.

How Snowden HAS Helped the Terrorists…
Here’s how Snowden’s high-profile confirmation is going to make life easier for the terrorists and the few other genuine anti-social bastards (like the paedophile network, or people traffickers) we really do need the security services to try to keep tabs on.

At the moment, none of the serious targets will ever be caught discussing anything (significant) online in plain text. If they use the web at all they’ll be using adequate encryption, almost certainly beyond NSA’s capacity to break. But it’s unlikely they’ll even use much in the way of encrypted emails because they will also be aware that even if their messages cannot be read, traffic analysis and the so-called “metadata” we keep hearing about provides a huge amount of significant data on its own, even without knowing the content.

The NSA have huge programs designed to trace the networks of connections between ANY given bunch of targets. As you can read in that link, they (and others) can easily create ad hoc network diagrams for any given targets. But they live in a “target rich environment”, so they have to spend most of their time focussed on those most likely to be sharing sensitive data. Thus they’re most interested in the connections between users of encrypted email. Because, they reason, if the senders are hiding something, it is probably worth reading, and definitely worth knowing who is talking to who.

And, at the moment, tracing those connections and compiling the relevant “organisation chart” is relatively simple. I doubt if, even globally, more than a hundred thousand email users regularly securely encrypt their messages. And mapping the links for that hundred thousand or so is well within the NSA reach.

But a major consequence of Snowden’s leaks is already beginning to be visible as the number of users of serious encryption begins to rise. And some significant political and commercial muscle is going into the mix. For example, Brazil, as we’ve heard, is now demanding a secure email system for their politicians and it’s quite likely they’ll make it available and recommend it for their citizens.

German entrepreneurs, meanwhile, have already come up with a partial solution and appeared within hours of the Merkel revelations, to exploit the advertising opportunity for their SecuSmart micro SD card “encryption dongle” – available for all smartphone users and in use by the German Government since July; which might be why we’re now hearing that Merkel was targeted from 2002 up until June this year. Once the card was fitted, NSA would have lost their ability to bug her – although not necessarily their ability to track who she was calling or being called by. Any communications between two users fitted with those cards can at least be confident that the content of their conversations is not being overheard (providing, of course, that the phones themselves haven’t been tampered with and they’re not bugged in any other way)

We can confidently expect a rash of genuinely secure phone and email products to appear on web pages near you in the near future. Who knows, Google and some of the other major players might even tweak their own services to make them snoop proof (by giving users the ability to add their own secret keys).

So there is a very real prospect that within, say, 5 years, instead of a hundred thousand secure emailers, there will be a hundred million and, as any fule kno, the complexity of a network diagram is proportional not to the number of nodes, but the square of that number (“Metcalfe’s Law”). So the NSA task isn’t going to be a mere thousand times more difficult, but around a million. And even their shiny new Utah Repository isn’t going to be able to cope with that.

Which means that it will shortly become much safer for terrorists and others to use their own encrypted emails. Fish are always safer swimming in the sea. Up till now, they’ve been forced to swim in a rather small pond and have, thus, been easy to target with a hand-held net. Snowden’s revelations, with the help of those media not afraid to talk truth to power, have already achieved far more exposure than Bamford’s. His book is currently languishing at number 72,169 in the Amazon sales rankings, which I reckon must mean that probably fewer people have so far read his (much more detailed) exposure than my guesstimate of the number of users who routinely encrypt their mail.

So the sharks we really do need to keep an eye on are about to get the comforting camouflage of another hundred million or so fish and the reasonably sized Sea they need to swim in more safely. This is what they call, in the trade, Blowback. Nice one NSA…

Digital Evolution – Another Step Closer

This is a key step towards our digital evolution and our migration from organic to digital lifeforms. Basically, if we can’t record the human brain in sufficient resolution, we can’t migrate. Period. No Omortality

But this research looks like we’re poking our sticks in the right ant-nests! If we get this right, then, sometime in the next 10-20 years, we’ll have the technology to record and store the information constituting a complete human brain, probably in a few 10 minute sequences, to the resolution required to preserve our entire personality, memory and neural matrix well enough to be re-animated, later, when a digital substrate exists to house us.

Unfortunately, that might be MUCH later. Like another 50-100 years. So we might, I’m afraid, still have to spend a few years technically dead. Although, interestingly, along the way, technology should reach the point where the brain maps could be interacted with as a kind of “living in the permanent present” avatar, like Henry Molaison, who we’ve been hearing about only this last week…

This isn’t a breakthrough, but it is a major step in the direction we need to travel in order to achieve the break-through.

Oh, and along the way, it’s going to have some fascinating commercial and security spinoffs:

Ferinstance, I give you: the perfect authentication device. It not only verifies, unspoofably, unique individuals, but can even detect the absence of informed consent and thus even block those attacks based on coercion. You couldn’t unlock the safe or file even if you did have a gun pointed at your head. And the attacker will know this, so they won’t even try that. It will even enable version 1 of the Mindlock I mused on back in April.

And of course, it makes possible the Perfect communication and self-surveillance device I was fantasising about in the History of Digital Telepathy

…and think of the impact this is going to have on VR. I think we can bet that “Full Immersion” will come along shortly after the first wave of smart dust adopters have begun to appreciate the benefits of receiving data direct to the sense processing parts of the brain.

And obviously, whatever we record, subject to our informed consent, can be played back. Think what that’s going to do for the sex industry. Just a thought. Though I challenge you not to think about it.

It’s happening Reg! Something’s actually happening!
Just remember, you ‘eard it ‘ere first. Righ’!

Heather Brooke’s Successful battle to expose political corruption

I concur…

Heather Brooke’s Homepage

Mindlocks on the horizon

Wasn’t expecting this development quite so soon after my mention of mindlocks in the context of Digital Telepathy. But is precisely the sort of thing I was talking about.

I first proposed brain based authentication in an email to Dr Larry Farwell about 10 years ago when I came across an article describing his own work as the discoverer of “Brain Fingerprinting” My specific proposal was based on the conjecture that, for example, my own brain wave reaction to, say, a photograph of my own late Father, would be dramatically and reliably different to anyone else’s reaction to the same photograph and that, if measured, that reaction could be used as a form of biometric identifier for the purposes of authentication.

But actually my main hope for brain based authentication is that it offers the only conceivable solution for the “final” authentication problem; viz the one thing we can’t yet test for – is the individual whose identity we have just verified operating under duress? This is a vital authentication test in certain critical situations. For example, it would very useful to build it into the protocols which control the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles! I’m perfectly sure that existing procedures can reasonable verify the identity of the operators arming the missiles, but can it tell whether the operator is only performing their task because they have a gun pointed at their head? Of course it can’t. But it would be very reassuring to the rest of us if we knew the system COULD make that assessment and block the launch if the operator was found be performing under duress.

But it would also be just as useful, though not quite so dramatic, if we could ALL protect our important actions the same way. If and when I ever have a million quid in the bank, for example, I would quite like to know that I couldn’t transfer the dosh to another person’s bank account without the authentication system verifying that I wasn’t conducting the transfer under duress.

And, of course, in a Trusted Surveillance system, the same tests would trap all sorts of evil, from corrupt border guards to forced sexual consent.

The mindlocks which I casually mentioned in the Digital Telepathy story are based on a related notion, not, this time, of duress but of “intentionality”. The idea being that if – as in the story – we’re all capable of digitally recording everything we’re in range of, then the first level of abuse will be the illicit publication of such recordings without the consent of the other parties present. I propose privacy locks to solve that problem. They involve the recordings being locked with shared keys and a cryptographic protocol to ensure that all parties present have agreed and implemented the locks. But that would also prevent “private” playback within even your own head which is a) too restrictive and b) blocks potentially extremely useful functionality (aides memoire, personal diaries, recording minutes, private pleasure etc).

Mindlocks based on intentionality could solve that problem. They would permit private viewing of the recordings (only within your own head) and instantly lock the recording if they detected any intention on your part to share the recordings without the required consent of the other parties.

This research brings all the above a small step closer.

The History Of Digital Telepathy

I know this won’t be the first time you’ve heard it, but on this day, of all days, we are entitled to remind ourselves, with a certain amount of mutual back slapping, that we are living in the first period in recorded history in which there has been no verifiable armed conflict between nation states anywhere on planet Earth, for more than a decade. In some quarters there are even nervous whispers that it might, at last, be safe to come out from under the bed. John Lennon’s dream may have come true. War – as “diplomacy by other means” – may finally be consigned to human history.

It is easily the most far-reaching and widely accepted benefit of the digital telepathy we now take for granted so perhaps it’s worth briefly reviewing the history of how we got where we are today.

Step 1 – The Smart-Phone
Scholars argue that the demand-driver for DT were the antique smart-phones we see proudly displayed in p-resin as antiques in many modern homes today. They were the first platform which made ubiquitous conversation possible. The ease with which they integrated into the emerging online infrastructure of social networking and video sharing made it trivial, in turn, for the ubiquitous conversation to become the universal conversation, where we could all, for the first time in our history, begin to share in real-time, events happening to ordinary citizens around the world. The appetite for this connectivity had never been anticipated, not even by the world’s most imaginative science fiction writers. Smart-phones and the early web not only generated that appetite but, given the limits of early 21st Century technology, made a pretty good stab at satisfying it. But what those prototypes really did was to illustrate the desire for something much more complete.

Historically we recognise that the transition from a global economy based on profit, to one based on utility was well under way by the early 21st century. As Sarah Klein puts it in her award-winning “From Money to Merit”:

“While we can clearly see that commercial organisations continued to dominate innovation in (capital-intensive) hardware, the clear majority of important innovations in software, even before the inception of the Web, came from the Open Source movement, which made most of their product available at no cost to the consumer. The most important, of course, being the effective cryptography, on which modern society depends” (GooLit, 2053)

Credit must be given, however grudgingly, to the late capitalist compulsion to pursue profits, if necessary even by generating new markets – with their knack for “creating the solution to no known problem”. Selfish though such motivation usually was, there can be no denying the effect it had on technological innovation. Although we now recognise software to be the more important component of our socio-economic infrastructure, that software needed the hardware to run on. Like it or not, the greedy capitalists did far more than socially focussed collectivists to make that happen. Without the combination, however, today’s prosperous, healthy, peaceful and money-free society simply wouldn’t have been possible. So despite their overall brutality, we have a lot to thank the Capitalists for. They got things done. And when their time was over, unlike the Authoritarians who depended on their support, they had the good grace to sink relatively peaceably back into society with no hard feelings between us.

Some argue that the vital step towards DT was the first smart-phone implant (remember the “Mind-Phone”? – you won’t find many of those hanging on living room walls!) and there is no denying that it had enormous consequences. On the road to DT, it was, for a start, the first time you could make contact with someone just by thinking their tag. But it was the effect it had on social control which scores much higher in my analysis.

Step 2 – Citizen Surveillance v Privacy
To begin with, even though it was now simpler than ever to communicate, privately or publicly, with any other similarly connected individual, that first generation of mind-phone users were no more likely to communicate with their fellow early adopters, than they had been as smart-phone users. What had much more dramatic impact was the routine and effortless ability to record, privately and securely, anything and everything they did or witnessed. Being able just to think “store that” rather than dig a phone out of a pocket, unlock it and press a few buttons, made recording so easy that it became the default. Combined with pre-capture and growing memory capacity, it became easier to record virtually every waking moment – and perhaps discard the mundane or unwanted – than try to anticipate what might be worth recording and run the risk of missing it. With trusted time-stamps and hash-indexing against secure auditing databases it became trivial to retrieve forensic quality evidence of any arbitrary event from your own past with verifiable accuracy – provided only that you’d bothered to store it. And it being so effortless, why wouldn’t you?

Initially no one perceived its significance. It merely expanded the opportunities for egocentric adolescents to make fools or heroes of themselves and publicise their antics on the early attempts at digital sharing (remember “Facebook” and “YouTube”? Those were the days!) Scandalous headlines arose fairly quickly, when one or two (thousand) “minders” abused the technology to record and then playback intimate sexual encounters or other sensitive private moments without the informed consent of the other parties. That kind of abuse encouraged the widespread adoption of privacy locks, so that any such recording could only be shared if it was unlocked with keys belonging to all parties present at the original recording. Indeed, until the invention of the mindlock, locked data couldn’t even be replayed internally by the record holder unless the relevant parties pooled their keys.

Then came the question of how to deal with either tragic or sinister situations. Democratic random key distribution and trusted key escrow systems took care of those issues. In the tragic scenario, the individual’s own nominated trusted key holders could recreate the missing keys if death or serious incapacity was medically certified and at least 75% of them agreed that key assembly was necessary and appropriate. In the sinister scenario, like suspected rape or murder, where a suspect perpetrator chose to with-hold their keys and their trusted key-holders also refused to co-operate, the keys were constructed so that any 750, out of a thousand randomly selected citizens could – if persuaded that there was a strong enough case – reassemble the missing keys from their own copies of the distributed key store. Today, of course, we require 900, but, for its day, that degree of democratic control was almost revolutionary.

On its own, though, it was not enough to produce the legal and social revolution which knocked away a major pillar of the Authoritarianism that still ruled humankind in the 3rd decade of this century.

Step 3 – The Legal Victories
The first few successful prosecutions of corrupt or bullying police officers and politicians – made possible by evidence gathered beyond their control and beyond reasonable dispute – didn’t have as much impact as you might have expected. Again, it seemed like only a small step from the same kind of exposures produced by the already widespread digital sharing that had kicked off “citizen journalism” at the tail-end of the previous century. But as the numbers of such incidents began to grow in the typical “successful market” exponential manner, the consciousness began to rise – simultaneously within the citizenry and the authoritarians – that, largely due to the massively improved verifiability of the stored content, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the bullies to hold sway.

What the authorities hadn’t anticipated was that the same cryptographic protections which were essential to protecting individuals from illicit access to their thoughts (which were, of course, accessible by the implants) would prove so valuable in validating any claims made by those individuals in respect of evidence gathered in the routine recording of their daily lives. The crypto protocols didn’t just protect, they forensically validated every transaction and recording that they protected. Their audit trail was bullet proof and beyond reasonable challenge.

By the time some of the more extreme authoritarians woke up to the threat and tried to outlaw the technology in a belated attempt to hold back the tide, it was already becoming almost impossible to detect that an individual even had an implant; particularly after the introduction of the first generation of biological implants genetically configured to operate within the brainstem. And it became increasingly implausible, in the light of all the obvious crime it was detecting – and thus deterring – to argue that citizens shouldn’t avail themselves of this growing benefit. Many authorities pointlessly tried shielding their own contacts with the citizens, which only affected the ability to stream data in real-time – which nobody with their head screwed on ever attempted because it immediately made the implant eminently detectable. It had no impact, however, on our ability to record, with trusted timestamps and hash-chains, at either end of a shielded session, and thus to verify our account of the session, to the rest of the world on demand.

If they knew you had an implant, the more corrupt authorities even tried to use the privacy locks to their own advantage. In the guise of offering the victim their own trusted record, they insisted that all mutual sessions be recorded but privacy locked. If the victim subsequently complained, the authority would routinely try to hide behind its own absolute right to privacy. They would, occasionally, even attempt denial that any contact had taken place. It took them a while to understand that although they do not reveal content, time-stamped and shared privacy locks can easily be used to prove that contact had taken place between the sharers, and the routine authoritarian refusal to unlock audit trails covering disputed events made it increasingly obvious they were lying or abusing their authority. Of course, once the victim was arrested and able to prove the privacy lock times and locations, such authorities then found themselves bound by the rules of disclosure and though they often managed to persuade a judge that executive privilege was justified, they also often failed. And the more often they failed, the more likely it became that some other judge or jury would see through their naive pretences. Eventually it became abnormal for their pleas to succeed.

It was very entertaining to witness the Authoritarians’ own long time mantra coming back to bite them: “If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear” had been their excuse for the authoritarian surveillance they had increasingly imposed, without consent, on a pliant society. How could they possibly argue against our recording what went on when they dealt with us? And how could they defend not revealing the content of those recordings?

Step 4 – The State Found Guilty of Murder
But what really mobilised the masses was when it became widely understood that citizens with implants could not just win any “your word against mine” argument over trivial disputes with friends, colleagues and family, but could fairly easily prove themselves innocent against even the most the malicious charges of a corrupt authority, however much tax-funded effort they put in to framing their victim.

The infamous case of Wilson v the United States is the pivotal case every student learns about and which exposed the levels of corruption endemic in the so-called Justice system. The police, under the direct instructions of a political aide (Adrian White) to the then Vice President (Joanne Schwarzewild), and with the explicit knowledge of the Attorney General (Carlos Martinez), were shown conclusively to have planted evidence and commissioned witness testimony with the corrupt and direct intent to convict an innocent student – David Wilson – in order to conceal the part played by the FBI in the assassination of the wife (Carole) of a Republican Senator (Alan Liebowitz) who had inconveniently caught said Senator cheating on her in an election year. Unfortunate timing on both sides.

Not only was the student able to prove his own alibi by giving a comprehensive and indisputable record of his movements and location during a critical 14 hour period, but, following his arrest, he endured the routine “legal” blackmail session known as “plea bargaining”. They didn’t know he was implanted and he captured virtual admissions by the police interrogators and prosecutors that he was being set up as a Patsy, that he had “no chance of beating the State machine that you’re up against and your own best interests would be served by admitting guilt even though we all know you didn’t do it”.

The political clincher was the testimony provided by a White House secretary, Marion Downey, present during a conversation in which the Vice President casually made it clear to the Chief of Staff (Sydney Walden) that the suitable target had been found. The VP informed the Chief of Staff that David Wilson regularly earned a bit of extra cash tending the extensive gardens of the Senator’s New England Mansion on Saturday mornings. He could be put in the right place at the right time.

Downey didn’t take much notice at the time because she misunderstood it as a trivial domestic arrangement for the Senator’s gardening requirements. It was only when the Senator’s murdered wife popped up on all the News feeds a couple of weeks later, followed by a startled looking David Wilson being arrested for the murder that she realised she was in possession of incriminating evidence. And for reasons which have been replayed since in a dozen dramatisations of the story, she didn’t much like the VP at the time.

Downey swore testimony and offered to reveal her data to the court but both the Vice President and Chief of Staff pleaded the Fifth and refused to share their privacy-locking keys, citing grounds of “National Security” and “Executive Privilege”; which, for the first time, the entire planet understood to be an inescapable admission of guilt.

The judge (Justice Steven Warren) – clearly part of the conspiracy – tried to rule her testimony invalid and even tried to block the expert testimony of the mathematicians and forensic software consultants who could explain how and why Wilson’s alibi was incontrovertible. Famously the Jury went on strike – together with elements of the local police – who had caught the mood of the masses and refused to make any arrests. The media storm and widespread public protests eventually forced the Government to concede a retrial under the famously incorruptible Justice Mary Elizabeth Sterning.

The technical evidence demonstrated to the court how Wilson’s evidence could not have been spoofed.

The assassin hired by the FBI had killed the Senator’s wife 15 minutes before Wilson was due to report for duty on Saturday morning, expecting him to show up just before the Police snatch squad sent to arrest him with the smoking gun. But he had consumed rather too much alcohol at a Frat party the previous evening and didn’t make it to the Mansion. His ability to prove his movements sunk the prosecution case and under the judge’s direction, the jury gladly, and unanimously, found him not guilty and made their now famous declaration finding “Agents and Agencies of the Government guilty of murder in the first degree, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury to a degree amounting to Treason against the people of the United States”.

As well as the huge and inevitable political storm this provoked, overnight the American “successful prosecution” rate, always considered as infeasibly high, plummeted as it quickly became clear that a significant percentage of prosecutions were without verifiable foundation and resulted from virtual blackmail in the form of the corrupt plea bargaining system. Outside America the corruption of its judicial system was widely recognised, not least as a result of the direct inverse correlation between the wealth of the defendant and their probability of conviction. But getting Americans to see it with their own eyes was absolutely crucial. Once their authoritarian domino began to wobble, all the others realised the peril that was upon them.

Step 5 – Changing the Game and the Players
Once the chances of successful prosecution against provably innocent victims fell to near zero, the entire plea bargaining system crashed and burned. One after another, juries refused to follow the edicts of obviously corrupt judges and made it impossible to convict the innocent. Honest judges, who fortunately still formed a majority within the judicial system, began rejecting Police evidence routinely unless it was digitally recorded, with trusted time-stamps, on a protected audit trail. The crunch came when the still largely Authoritarian Congress tried to pass new laws, dramatically reducing opportunities for – and the powers reserved for – Trial By Jury. Simultaneously, they tried to mandate trust in Police evidence even when not digitally preserved. Nearly one and a quarter million American Citizens surrounded the Capitol and refused to move until the vote was taken. The Sacking of Congress, which followed the infamous vote is, of course, the day we now all celebrate as the birthdate of our real democracy.

In the famous words (*) of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Pilliakov – the only sitting Supreme to try to fight the State’s attempt at resisting the revolution (and one of the first into the Capitol on that famous Tuesday):

“Yes, it is still necessary, in some circumstances, for society to delegate Authority to public employees but on this historical day we have finally come to terms with Lord Acton’s axiom: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” And at last we have found the solution…

From this day forth, the rule of Law shall be modified thus:

Citizen: Innocent until proved Guilty

Authority: Guilty until proved innocent.”

Beyond the criminals in Authority, it became effectively impossible for criminals in the wider world to know – in advance of their attack – whether or not someone was capable of recording their attacks, so once the adoption rate passed the critical mass of about 25%, it rapidly became too dangerous for most attackers to take the risk. Of course, if you actually intended to kill the target, it was still relatively simple to arrange a murder before the victim’s sensors could identify the attacker, for example using a sniper rifle at distance, but almost all other attacks became too costly to the attacker. And once the technology adoption rate achieved the 95% level, the ability to track down attackers purely by a process of elimination became feasible and crime fell to the levels it still sits at today where Murder and Rape are now so rare that each one becomes a sensation for a few weeks after it is uncovered.

Step 6 – Making Public Lies Impossible
The next major enhancement was AAI – Augmented Artificial Intelligence. Some of us are old enough to remember its humble beginnings as a simple audio-visual prompt which would remind users of the name of that acquaintance you’d bumped into in the street. You’d only met them once, and that was a few months back. It was so damn useful to have that name and bio prompt and be able to greet each other, convincingly, like old friends!

But then AAI’s language and context recognition skills began to be turned in another direction. RTFM – Real Time Fact Monitoring – was the killer app that did for Authoritarianism what that prehistoric asteroid collision did for the Dinosaurs. Their use of covert and overt violence to control the population had already been made untenable by the citizen surveillance arraigned against them. Now it became increasingly impossible for them to control any part of the political messaging system unless it genuinely fitted the facts.

At first it was a tool for the satirists. They’d replay a political speech but with the AAI analysis showing up as subtitles. We all smirked as politician after politician was shown to be misinformed, prejudiced, selective, manipulative, superstitious or lying. Bigoted journalists, exaggerating CEOs, Evangelist millionaire ministers and a host of other routine social parasites were all publicly exposed in the same way.

It quickly became obvious that the game was up. No public statement, nor even a private one – if if was based on facts in the public domain – could be made without the increasingly infallible RTFM flagging up all attempts at deceit and manipulation. Dishonest politicians, in particular, found it impossible to continue their centuries old tactics and quickly became unelectable. And although it took a full fifteen more years for the effects of RTFM to sweep the planet, and one or two regimes fought to the literal bitter death, Authoritarianism died, not so peacefully, on January 5 2058, with the public hanging of Iran’s “Guardian Council”.

And as we all know, we’ve seen massive drops in crime against the person, mirrored around the world, and despite the on-going genuine conflicts which continue to exist between citizen and citizen, between State and citizen and between State and State, since that date there hasn’t been a single day of armed conflict between any two or more member States of the United Nations. It seems that once it became impossible to lie to each other about anything which could be instantly fact-checked or, if necessary, remotely or citizen surveilled, wars become essentially impossible to create.

This year, as multiple celebrations are regularly reminding us, is the centenary of the recognised starting point of the digital age – January 1 1970. And today is specifically the 50th anniversary of that first smart-phone implant on April 1 2020 – the birthdate of Digital Telepathy.

I give you “Happy D Day”


*Pilliakov’s speech in Context:

“Yes, it is still necessary, in some circumstances, for society to delegate Authority to public employees but on this historical day we have finally come to terms with Lord Acton’s axiom: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” And at last we have found the solution.

From this day forward, let it be known to anyone aspiring to the exercise of Authority in this land: if ever you are delegated powers to act on our behalf, you shall be assumed fully accountable for every second of your life while you remain in office and, if appropriate, for a number of years before and after you leave office.

What this means in practice is very simple. Should you be accused of any crime or misdemeanour, in contrast to the Citizen, whose innocence will continue to be assumed until a Jury can be persuaded otherwise, the starting point for anyone in Authority is the exact opposite. Your guilt shall be assumed unless a Jury can be persuaded otherwise.

For some years, a growing number of ordinary citizens, now constituting a large majority of the population, have, for a wide variety of their own purposes, voluntarily and routinely captured comprehensive detail about own their lives; so comprehensive, that some innocent citizens have famously defeated the infamous attempts by a corrupt State and corrupt judicial system to continue their embedded practice of widespread judicial blackmail and tens of thousands of false imprisonments.

That same technology shall, in future, be deployed to further protect the Citizen from rogue Authority. Unlike ordinary citizens, for whom the adoption and precise use of such technology will always remain optional, if you are appointed to a position of Authority, it is, hereafter, a condition of your employment in such a post, not only that you be monitored by the technology, but for that monitoring to be provably continuous.

You shall record your every move, your every conversation, your every heartbeat. They shall remain just as private and secure as the data stored voluntarily by private citizens. But unlike the private citizen, about whom there can never be certainty about what data they have captured and chosen to archive, the world will know that you are legally obliged to possess your own digital record of any disputed event.

The world will thus know that, if you are innocent, you will be able prove it, just as thousands of innocent citizens have managed to do themselves, even under direct attack by the Authorities and Rules which were supposed to exist to protect them. Under these circumstances, it is, of course, reasonable, should you be accused of anything untoward, that you are given the opportunity to prove yourself innocent. But should you choose not to present such evidence, even if you claim that the evidence has been destroyed, or that a system failure prevented storage, your guilt shall be formally confirmed.

From this day forth, the rule of Law shall be modified thus:

Citizen: Innocent until proved Guilty

Authority: Guilty until proved innocent.

“Anonymous” Takes Aim At The Wrong Target

I’ve only just stumbled across it but a few months back, Anonymous issued some bizarre guidance on avoiding face recognition technology:

For a bunch of skilled hackers, they’re being oddly naive. Every single countermeasure they suggest will be defeated by the authoritarians within a few months or, at most, a few years. Tilting your head more than fifteen degrees is one of the more ludicrous examples. First off, although the software might currently have a little difficulty spotting a face at that angle, to a human observer, such behaviour would stick out like a sore thumb and prompt much more detailed attention. But, in any case, it’s not going to take them a huge amount of time to improve the software to the point where it’ll easily recognise a face even if it’s carried under your arm and upside down!

And “so what?” if they have difficulty spotting your face? They’re already working on things like gait recognition (even from satellites ferchissake!) and earlobe recognition not to mention the FBI’s well advanced research into the use of voice recognition for both surveillance and forensic purposes, which, given their already illegal but ongoing (and ignored by congress) practice of warrantless wiretapping, and the medieval law they’ve passed which allows them to detain citizens indefinitely without trial (habeas corpus? habeas bollocks!). Or the recent acknowledgement of the growing use of Drones to watch their own citizens. Or the (previously) secret Trapwire program itself – which raised the face recognition issue in the first place but goes much deeper and wider than that – and so on and so on…

Are we smelling the coffee yet? Do you really think that pulling a few ridiculous stunts to make face recognition a little more awkward is any part of the solution? If so, I fear you don’t yet understand the true scale of the problem.

What we’re up against here is the most powerfully equipped authoritarian menace in human history. These people make the STASI look like well-meaning amateurs. They are enthusiastically creating the infrastructure required to police a Totalitarian State in which your every movement, contact and, ultimately every belief and even thought can be logged, analysed and risk assessed with a view to “mitigation”.

One of the few things we’ve still got going for us is that they haven’t yet figured out a way to hide the consequences of (some of) their actions or their involvement. As a result they still feel a trifle constrained to operate within some kind of limitations which would pass, at least, the rigorous investigative probing of the “Journalists” at Fox News. That gives them a fair amount of leeway but god help us if they ever turn nasty.

The solution to this problem is not to confront the enemy in the battlefield of their own choosing. This war requires the classic strategy of the martial artist. We need to use the enemy’s energy against them. For example, at least 1% of those in sensitive posts will be as horrified as we are about the increasing tyrannical nature and potential of the activities they are engaged in. We need to ensure they have secure channels through which to leak the crucial evidence. And if and when we ever win this war, we need to reward and honour those who had the courage to blow the whistles when it most mattered.

I’ve been blathering on for some years now about the (increasing) need for a Trusted Surveillance program which will wrest control from the Authoritarians by making them genuinely and unavoidably accountable. Here, for example, is part 1 (all 8 parts are on youtube) of my 2007 attempt to explain how it might work in the context of the prescient movie “Enemy Of The State” (the movie was made back in 1998 – so this isn’t just a post 9-11 problem)

Implementing Trusted Surveillance will be partly technical and partly political. It requires the abolition of many existing laws and the implementation of new ones. Some of the new laws are genuinely revolutionary and we can expect major resistance from all parts of all establishments as they fight to maintain their hold on power. But, as I hint in various places, the battle we are now engaged in is the final battle for the human soul. It will determine whether, in the coming centuries, our species consists of largely free individuals or regimented hordes required to conform to and service the demands of their rulers.

A battle on this scale requires much more than brute force (which, in any case, the enemy has a near monopoly on, despite the relaxed gun laws in the USA). It requires creative intelligence, in which weapons such as subversion, satire and sedition will play a much greater role than bombs and bullets. We need to make the enemy a laughing-stock. We need to get to the point where even the most ignorant sheep-like citizens are too embarrassed to support their patronizing shepherds. In this regard, the likes of Jon Stuart and Stephen Colbert are every bit as important as, say, Wikileaks and whistleblowing.

I may, of course, be wrong in every detail of my proposals but I am utterly certain that I am at least focussed on the right target and that the problem is every bit as far-reaching as I describe in my various rantings. So if you don’t agree with my solution, fine, but you’d better start coming up with an alternative while we’ve still got the freedom and scope to implement it. Meanwhile remember:

Citizen – Innocent Until Proved Guilty
Authority – Guilty Until Proved Innocent

Assassination Politics recruits new high level supporter

this delightfully sinister US Government page doesn’t actually state that they will assassinate any of the high-profile targets named there, but it’s bleedin’ obvious that, should any “tips” they receive lead to locations in the middle of Pakistani, Yemeni or other middle eastern hinterlands conveniently far enough away from journalistic surveillance, they’ll be saying farewell to a few more drones.

I doubt they appreciate the irony of how much their technique resembles Jim Bell’s infamous proposal for controlling the world’s authoritarians and other bullies. The major difference is that the money isn’t put up anonymously by a peeved public but blatantly offered by a State that thinks it can make its own laws whenever appropriate.

And they certainly won’t appreciate or even comprehend why they’re both wrong for exactly the same reasons. And both right.

Assassination is certainly a more humane way to fight war than carpet or chemical bombing. And if the Islamist’s 9-11 attack had merely put bullets through the brains of the leading neo-cons and money-men who had already decided they needed a war, the “terrorists” would have won a lot more respect and a lot less hostility from a grateful world.

I wonder if they’ll pay out on a drone strike…

Neuromarketing – How to Focus the message on YOU

Yet another reason to ensure you’re using Adblock.

I’m betting this won’t work for broadcasting, except in those very rare cases where there is a genuine consensus, like, say, the desirability of living long and prospering. In the more typical scenario, where beliefs and opinions are divided, sometimes bitterly, any neuromarketing broadcast to the population at large, will be as likely to alienate as motivate. Mind you, I concede that provoking such polarization will occasionally be the aim and yes, it will work in that context.

But when they start narrowcasting with these techniques, we’ll see some really serious social, commercial and political manipulation made relatively scalable and trivial. And targeted web advertising is right in the centre of their sights as we speak. It’s whole point is narrowcasting, where they know, already, what mindset and beliefs the target holds. Armed with that insight it is clearly going to be pretty easy pretty soon to pick the symbolism which will most profitably leverage that knowledge.

You’ll even persuade yourself you wanted to do it.