25 June 2010

LIKE 15 - "Everything we work on is batshit insane"

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has an important role to play in campaigning for our digital rights and so it was brilliant that LIKE 15 was a talk on Protecting your bits by Glyn Wintle of ORG.

Glyn's enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject were infection and the conversation that he started at 6:30 was still going when I had to drag myself away at 10pm.

A lot happened in the middle from Dalek knotting patterns, why chip-and-pin is a con, the UK government's attempt to block access to Wikipedia, why you can go to prison for not giving a policeman all your passwords, and various top-secret projects that I am not even supposed to think that other people think that other people think might exist.

It was a roller coaster of a ride through the evening going in all directions at bewildering speeds with stomach churning changes of direction but if you sat back to enjoy the ride a couple of themes came to dominate; copyright and surveillance.

Most of the copyright stories are familiar to us in the industry, e.g. Sony's crude attempt to stop CD copying by secretly installing software on people's PCs, but they were none the less worrying for that. Particularly as the Digital Economy Act was passed earlier this year despite being seriously flawed.

Digital surveillance is a big worry as it is so secretive. When Pc Plod stood in shop doorways taking photos of people on protest marches everybody knew and could see what was going on. Now PC Plod has a telecoms or statistics degree and is doing incredible things with your call traffic. And Pc Plod does not have to tell anybody that he is doing this or account to anybody for his actions.

Gloomy tidings indeed.

Thankfully the things that make LIKE an unmissable event each month rose to the occasion and managed to dispel some of the gloom. The friends old and new, the chunky chips and the Wainwright bitter all conspired successfully to lift the spirits despite what the brain was being told.

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