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Where is the British EFF? Just Around the Corner! 205

Posted by timothy
from the like-the-bobbies dept.
Drachan writes "A seminar at the UK's (BBC sponsored) technology conference 'Open Tech 2005' (organised by the fantastic 'Need To Know' (NTK) team as a follow on to last year's "Notcon 2004"event) posed the question 'Where is the British EFF?' The answer, as prompted by those attending the seminar was, of course 'Nowhere! so... uhh.. well... why don't We create it?' A PledgeBank page was set up within a few hours (available here) which states that the pledging person will donate £5 (GBP) per month to the support of a British EFF-style organisation provided that 1000 others also agree to do so. There is considerably more information at Danny O'Brien's Oblomovoka. Maybe this is a step in the right direction, after all the controversy over ID cards, the Anti-Terrorism Bill and general UK political disaster?"
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Where is the British EFF? Just Around the Corner!

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  • by mikeplokta (223052) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @04:48AM (#13163408)
    The current government is incapable of coherent thought: on the one hand, giving the police more powers to deal with the growing binge-drinking culture, while also loosening licensing laws so pubs and bars can stay open all day.

    But those policies are both intended to address binge drinking. If you don't have every pub in a city full of people drinking as fast as they can in order to drink as much as possible before the pubs close at 11, and then throw them all out onto the street at the same time, it will reduce rather than increasing binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled violence.
  • by Linus Torvaalds (876626) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @04:57AM (#13163434)

    Speaking as a UK citizen, the political setup is a rickety pile of hacked fixes, kneejerks, self-interest and outmoded traditions.

    Are there any governments where this is not the case?

    The current government is incapable of coherent thought: on the one hand, giving the police more powers to deal with the growing binge-drinking culture, while also loosening licensing laws so pubs and bars can stay open all day.

    That seems perfectly sensible to me. Why let a few drunken louts spoil things for the rest of us? It's like banning football because a few hooligans start fights.

    Not to mention the idiotic political correctness that sees Metropolitan Police officers take off their shoes before raiding a London mosque they have reason to suspect is harbouring criminals.

    Again, seems perfectly reasonable. Taking off shoes doesn't impede their raid in any way, yet it respects their religion instead of giving them more reason to resent the authorities. Trampling all over their religion is something the yanks would do [google.com]; let's not follow in their misguided footsteps and become as hated as they are.

  • by One Childish N00b (780549) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:09AM (#13163459) Homepage
    The parent is not a troll, from the outside, the comment tacked on the end about political disaster was completely unwarranted and does indeed look like a knee-jerk reaction to everyone's favourite warmongers getting new terms in office, so I can quite understand the parent's annoyance at Slashdot (a site supposed to report the news and not bias it with it's personal opinions) taking a swipe at the UK government.

    An uninformed person does not a troll make.

    The problem with the British political system is that, while stable, every party looks pretty much like every other party, only with slightly different reasons to hate them - in other words, people do not vote for the best, they vote for the least worst. Allow me to indulge in a non-partizan rant about the major political forces in the UK, this should give anyone else confused like the parent a little help...

    Labour Led by Tony Blair, these are they guys in power right now - Labour, traditionally, is a socialist, left-leaning party, but under the leadership of Blair it has swung very much swung hard towards the right, and have done all the awful things you've heard about on /. before, like flooding the country with CCTV, planning ID cards, etc, while the police are wholly incapable of dealing with what are essentially groups of kids. Blair, if not the party as a whole, is now very unpopular with many people, largely due to the Iraq war and the ID cards debacle - most people would like to see Blair step down and Gordon Brown take the reins, with many members of the party itself voting against him on important issues. The party, however, remains in charge because last time the other major force in UK politics was in power, they made things even worse.

    The Conservatives In the last election, led by Michael Howard, but with him stepping down it looks like Kenneth Clarke may be replacing him sooner rather than later. In my opinion it's a bad idea for them to be considering placing another unpopular figure from the last Conservative government in charge, which proved a major negative point for them during the last election. More right-wing in terms of immigration (a sensitive issue in the run-up to the election and an even more sensitive one in light of the London bombings) and promising to pull troops out of Iraq, the major factor against them is the fact that when they were in power (when Margaret Thatcher and later John Major were leaders) they very nearly crippled the country with severe mismanagement. Arguably the largest factor in their election failure, in light of the unpopularity of Blair's government, was the spectre of those old governments in the form of Michael Howard, who was Home Secretary under the former Conservative rule.

    Liberal Democrats Led by Charles Kennedy, and could be summed up as 'lacking voice'. Their PR assault during the last election boiled down to, while the other two parties slogged it out over immigration, ID cards and the War in Iraq, the Lib Dem PR machine putting out a statement that Kennedy's wife had had a baby. Even in the UK of reality TV stars being involved in supposedly serious political debate and tabloid newspapers declaring they could decide the election simply by siding with one side or the other on election day, this didn't get them the votes they needed, falling far short of their target of overtaking the Conservatives as the 2nd-largest party in Britain. Very left-wing in their views, they are disliked by many for their open-doors views on immigration, which as I previously pointed out was a sensitive issue at the time of the election, with many Britons fearing being swamped by immigrants largely from Eastern Europe. This, combined with their status as perpetual also-rans in general elections for as long as I can remember pretty much scuppered their chances of winning this election.

    British National Party Led by Nick Griffin. A media campaign against the BNP by the BBC led to Griffin's arrest under religious hatred laws
  • by MartinG (52587) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:20AM (#13163484) Homepage Journal
    I just don't get why everyone's so worked up over this

    For me it is exactly the same as if the government said they were going to force each citizen to pay 100 quid towards having their house painted white in order to raise educational standards.

    My point is the card costs money but nobody has yet adequately explained what problem it actually solves and how.

    I don't care whether costs are kept low or not. Is it good value is the real question and that requires knowing what it is actually supposed to do.

    Also, google around a bit and see how mandatory id systems have been abused in the past.
  • by strider44 (650833) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:26AM (#13163495)
    To be honest, I don't see a *huge* problem with mandatory ID cards.

    The question is, what about people who do see a *huge* problem with mandatory ID cards? Why do you presume to speak for them?
  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:46AM (#13163533) Homepage
    It used to be like that...

    Labour copied the conservatives to get into power ('New' Labour).

    This freaked the conservatives out so much they basically collapsed in a mess (they changed their internal rules after a lot of fighting, elected a succession of lame duck leaders who nobody can remember the names of, and they've just changed the rules again... who knows if they'll get out of the pit their in.. politics suffers when there's no opposition)

    only in the last couple of years are they starting to be a credible oppositition, basically by taking a leap to the right to differentiate themselves, and copying everything Labour do.

    The problem is Labour just keep pulling the same trick.. if the Conservatives ever have a good idea it'll be government policy within a couple of weeks.

    The only people with any guts now are the Lib Dems and they're able to be like that as they're unlikely to get elected in my lifetime anyway.
  • by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:54AM (#13163552) Homepage
    Going back a little further Edward Heath had *excatly* the same problem with Unions (3 day week anyone?)... back then it wasn't a party political issue but an endemic one to britian.

    Thatcher sorted that out, it's true (and should be commended for that). She also mishandled the economy so badly we ended up in the worst recession since the 30's.

    It's pretty much the memory of Thatcher that keeps the conservatives out of power (not of John Major, who was too uninteresting to be hated).
  • Re:Why not FFII? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:05AM (#13163579)
    Well, of course it would. Likewise, when local grass-roots action is needed an organization like FFII is not the most efficient (pardon the pun).

    To say that smaller-than-EU-wide orgs are not needed is just plain wrong -- organizations like this are needed on all levels where the powers-that-be work in (from municipal to global).

  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:50AM (#13163695) Journal
    But it is going to cost too much, it is going to use RFID, it is going to use biometrics and it is going to be data-protection-act exempt.

    If the police stopped me and wanted to see some ID I would be more than happy to show them my drivers license, student card or anything else with my name on it. However I would also not expect to be arrested if I didn't happen to have my wallet on me. If they suspect me of something then they can take it further, if not then let me go on my way.

    If my description matches someone they are looking for then fine. If they think im an illegal immigrant or a known terrorist then at the nearest police car or station they can check my fingerprints on the immigration, expired visa or terrorism database. Oh wait... Tony, you do have a fingerprinted immigration, expired visa and terrorist database don't you? don't you?!?
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:55AM (#13163899)

    OK, let's get this straight right from the start, because while no doubt well-intentioned, the parent post is Just Plain Wrong on several counts.

    I won't presume to speak for everyone, but here are some of the main objections to the specific plans currently being advocated by the Labour government in the UK.

    • The cards are not likely to bring the claimed benefits. The government has switched its argument for the cards from anti-terror to reducing benefit fraud to immigration issues, each time as the previous "advantages" were debunked. Little evidence has been provided that any of these causes will be advanced by the introduction of the government's proposed scheme.
    • The cards will be expensive. The government's own estimates put them at nearly 100 pounds already, though they try to hide this behind the claim that we need biometric passports already and they'll cost nearly as much on their own. Independent estimates have put the figure as high as 300 pounds already, and no major UK government IT project in recent years has come in anywhere close to on-budget.
    • The cards present a risk to civil liberties. While the government is keen to stress that having an ID card will not be compulsory at first, it is on the record as saying it wants them to be compulsory within a few years. The government also says that it won't be compulsory to carry them in the street, but without that they'll be even less effective, and once everyone has them it's a short step away. Civil rights campaigners argue that simply walking the streets of our own country is likely to become a privilege rather than a right.
    • The National Identity Register is subject to abuse. One of the main objections is not to the cards themselves, but to the creation of a national, government-controlled ueber-database. The government has made noises about restricting access to this database very carefully, but history suggests that they aren't as good at data protection as they claim.
    • The National Identity Register is subject to human error. Even if the system is reasonably resilient to malicious interference, any database that's dealt with hundreds of times a day by civil servants is inevitably going to get incorrect data entered occasionally simply through keyboard error and the like. Examples have been given (I personally am one) where a similar error in the existing tax office computer systems have left individuals out of pocket by large amounts of money for several months, with essentially no way to get compensation (since this part of the government is conveniently has Crown immunity from prosecution). There have been no guarantees made about the failsafe procedures to protect victims of innocent mistakes. While the government says the Information Commissioner (who usually enforces our data protection rules) will have some authority here, the Information Commissioner himself has criticised the proposals.
    • The scheme could make things worse. If the scheme becomes the established, universal form of ID that it's supposed to be, then it will present a single point of attack for identity thieves. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in our country today, and recovering after having your identity stolen can take a huge amount of time and effort.

    Several of the claims in the parent post (mandatory carry, exempt from individual access) have been explicitly denied by the government at the present time. Such rules would certainly be even more unwelcome, and are definitely a cause for concern, but perhaps we should concern ourselves more with the damage that may be done by the proposals the government is actively and publicly supporting already?

  • Re:Good luck! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by che.kai-jei (686930) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @08:30AM (#13164053)
    despite there being no national id card they were identified pretty easily anyway so were the other bombers AFTRE THE FACT!!!

    id cards are useless.

    dont belive the doublespeak

    unless you have vested interests in repeating it.
  • by mickwd (196449) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @01:45PM (#13167397)
    "The only people with any guts now are the Lib Dems and they're able to be like that as they're unlikely to get elected in my lifetime anyway."

    The biggest thing preventing them from being elected is the fact that millions of people around the country think it's not worth voting for them because they'll never get elected.

    If those people got off their a**es and just voted for them anyway, they'd be much, much closer to being elected. So close in fact that people might just start voting for them.....

    If only people here were less like sheep sometimes.

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