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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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  • ID Cards Refuseniks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baljet (547995) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:11AM (#13163313)
    There's been a fair bit of recent noise comming from pledgebank for example the No2ID campaign: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/07/25/id_refuse_ resist/ [theregister.co.uk]
  • by bvdbos (724595) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:12AM (#13163314)
    Of course there's the European Digital Rights-EDRI (http://www.edri.org/ [edri.org]) which is the joint organisation for digital rights in Europe. In the UK the
    * Campaign for Digital Rights-CDR (http://ukcdr.org/ [ukcdr.org])
    * the Foundation for Information Policy Research-FIPR (http://www.fipr.org/ [fipr.org]) and
    * Greennet (http://www.gn.apc.org/ [apc.org])
    are members. I would suggest consulting them first.
  • In my country every citizen has to have an Id card from the age of 15. But I see no problem with this. Even without the Id card, government agencies already know about any person.
    • by t_allardyce (48447) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:30AM (#13163363) Journal
      That's not the problem, the problem is that they want these cards to be mandatory to carry at all times and include fingerprint and possibly iris scans. They also want to make them exempt from the data protection act so that you won't even have the right to know what information they store. As if that's not enough they will also use RFID (and we will probably see that broken) and they want to charge each of us for the honour, an estimate of £100 to £300 each!
      • To be honest, I don't see a *huge* problem with mandatory ID cards. People always say "Papers, please" as if that by itself is supposed to be argument enough against mandatory ID, but it wasn't just having ID and being required to present it that made such regimes oppressive. It was the limitations on what you could do and where you could go that was the real evil.

        Now, I do object to being unable to know all of the data stored on your ID card. I'm also leery of these systems using RFID. But as long as
        • by MartinG (52587) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @04:20AM (#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.
          • Indeed.

            Lets not forget that all the london bombers would have had no problem getting ID cards.
            • And the overwhelming majority of those involved in 9/11 were in the Unites States legally. In fact (IIRC) the few (3-5 max) who weren't there legally had entered the country legally on temporary visas, and simply overstayed for a couple of weeks after their visas expired.

              And yet every single time a terrorist incident occurs the government concerned trots out the "ID cards would have prevented this!" bullshit. Just once I'd like to hear them explain how.
              • To be fair Charles Clarke (UK Home Secretary) said the exact opposite after the London attacks: BBC Story [bbc.co.uk].

                Whilst the man may be attempting to force ID cards into law he was at least honest this time.
                • Yeah, I suppose. But I strongly suspect had he (or the government) attempted to make political capital out of events the way Bush did with 9/11, he'd have been hung drawn and quartered by an outraged mob.

                  You'll notice also that the question was introduced by the interviewer (not the interviewee), and that Tony Blair (who's been leading the pro-ID card charge from the front) has been merely quiet on the subject, rather than admitting it would have done bugger-all to help.

                  Most telling bit of the interview:
            • THe 9/11 hijackers all had valid passports and visas, but I dont see that as a reasonable arguement for not having passports and visas.
              • Thats because passports a visas are not touted as measures to prevent terrorism.

                Passports and visas are there for other, good, reasons.

                There are no good reasons for ID cards.
                • Really? I thought visas was supposed to stop unwanteds from gaining permission to enter the country. You mean terrorists arent unwanted?
                  • Touché - interesting point.

                    Doesn't that suggest, then, that it would be more proper to simply fix the broken visa system than to institute draconian and privacy-invading observation laws on every person already in your country?

                    And of course I'm ignoring for a second the whole argument about whether it's right to give up essential liberty for a little temporary safety [ushistory.org]...
                  • Really? I thought visas was supposed to stop unwanteds from gaining permission to enter the country. You mean terrorists arent unwanted? If you mean that passports and visas serve a valid purpose, I think you'll find that the GP already said that.

                    Alternatively, if you mean that ID cards will perform some useful anti-terrorist function, perhaps you might explain what that function is and how it will operate. I know a lot of us have been waiting for the government to address that very point.

                    • Im personally not looking at the ID cards from a terrorism prevention point of view, but I am looking at them from the point of view that it would be nice to have a government backed proof of identity. I dont drive, my bank cards only have my name on, I wont carry my passport around all the time, therefor I dont have a photo ID on me, and it would be useful in some circumstances for me to have one. Yes there are identity theft issues, but there are also the same issues with passports etc.

                      Theres no such
                    • by Shaper_pmp (825142) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:20AM (#13163981)
                      If you want a government-backed ID card then sign up for a Citizen Card [citizencard.com] (yeah, the website sucks). These are photo ID, require references to apply for one, and are supported by the Home Office.

                      Importantly, they're also optional, administrated by a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, and have to conform to strict Data Protection laws, none of which apply to the ID card if the government decides otherwise.

                      With options like these available it seems like simple ignorance or laziness to support the ID card scheme. You have your option. You have your benefits.

                      Leave our rights and privacy alone.

                      Apologies if this post seems somewhat terse, but you've just advanced the most intellectually lazy and unashamedly self-serving reason I've ever heard for supporting a national ID card scheme.
                    • I've re-read your post, and two more points occurred:

                      You won't carry your passport (which, these days, fits in a wallet) around all the time, but you'll happily carry a card around? Why?

                      True, there are identity theft issues with passports, which is why I don't carry mine with me all the time. And that's exactly why I object to being forced to carry around yet another weak point in my personal and financial security, let alone one I'm charged £300 for up-front, and doubtless a mandatory replacement
                    • I am looking at them from the point of view that it would be nice to have a government backed proof of identity.

                      And this is going to give what, precisely, that your passport does not? No one insists on a passport before they accept a cheque.

                      What does this governemt backed ID get you?

                      What purpose can it serve that your passport cannot?

                      I still haven't heard anything worth shelling out 100 quid for.

                      And yes, there are identity theft issues. And privacy ones. And issues of civil liberties. And th

              • Passports and visas are basically a way to track who comes into and who leaves your country. This is understandable and essential, because without it you couldn't have any kind of meaningful border controls (immigration controls, customs & excise, etc, etc), and no way to track even the rough population of your country (taxes, budget, statistics, public spending, etc, etc, etc).

                It is important to note that if you don't wish to leave the country, you don't need a passport (indeed, I know of a few 50 ye
                • Originally passports were there to proev you were a member of the nation you say you were to the local authorities. The old blue British passports had something in the front which basically boils down to ...

                  "The person carrying this passport is a subject of Her Magesty and if you mess with them you'll have Britain to deal with." ...together with a disclaimer saying that if you're also a member of the local nation then tough.
          • My point is the card costs money but nobody has yet adequately explained what problem it actually solves and how

            Obvious really. The proposed ID card scheme is necessary to stop those currently committing the crime of not possessing an ID card.
        • 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?
        • To be honest, I don't see a *huge* problem with mandatory ID cards.

          You lose the card. You can't cash checks, withdraw money from your bank, shop at the grocery store, go out drinking with mates, buy plane tickets, get on a plane.

          The point is: it is a limit being put on the actions of society. When you need an ID card in order to buy milk, your life will revolve around whether or not you have that ID card on you, or not.

          It may seem strange to the modern citizen, but it is actually possible to live a sa
        • "...it wasn't just having ID and being required to present it that made such regimes oppressive. It was the limitations on what you could do and where you could go that was the real evil."

          Right, but you can't effectively restrict what people do and where they go without a national ID system.

          There's nothing wrong with a National ID card. And there's nothing wrong with police asking you to see it instead of another form of ID. And there's nothing wrong with every government or utilities-related transacti
        • 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
        • Part of the problem is that automation has made tracking and profiling easier than ever before. If everybody carried an ID card with an RFID chip it would be trivially easy to track people's movements, find out who they associate with, and round them up at short notice. You might not object to the current government having that kind of power, but countries can turn from democracies to dictatorships in a matter of decades. Measures like ID cards, which centralise knowledge and power, arguably accelerate the
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:55AM (#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?

      • Fingerprints?!?!? What nerve do they have! They want you to have to carry around a card all day that has your fingerprints stamped on it? That's absolutely preposterous! Next thing you know they will want you to bring your hands and fingers along when you leave the house!! Don't you think the fingerprint concern is a bit alarmist as you are already carrying around your fingerprints?
    • So the obvious question is asked and modded as Flamebait.
      Lovely.

      No wonder the people on Slashdot fear the hive mind, conform or be outcast, "don't ask that question citizen" mentality, because it happens here everyday.
      • I agree. Bad modding decision.

        I think it reflects the frustration of those of us who do not support ID cards. It seems that every single time we get into a discussion about setting up pledges, organising protests, trying to get the story out about them etc. etc., we end up covering the same old ground as to why we are against them.

        Especially if the "obvious question" is framed in the context of "Why don't you want an ID card, what have you got to hide?"

        (NB: I realise that this isn't the case in relation
  • You need it... World leader in camera surveillance, recent terrorist attacks... hm...
    • There are many good reasons to criticise the UK Govt, but putting those two together makes a pretty weak argument when you consider we have quite good cctv pictures of the terrorists [bbc.co.uk] so we can catch them. They would, incidentally, all have qualified for a legal UK id card.
      • Yeah, if only we had taken pictures of the terrorists in the *US* before they blew themselves up so that we could...uh...make proper headstones?
        • Re:Good luck! (Score:3, Informative)

          by BenjyD (316700)
          No, the important pictures are of the second group of bombers - the ones who forgot to keep their explosives in the fridge and therefore didn't meet quite the 'glorious' end they were hoping for.
      • Re:Good luck! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by che.kai-jei (686930)
        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 Spacejock (727523) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:34AM (#13163375) Homepage
    We can all yell 'EFF off!'
  • Why not FFII? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @03:53AM (#13163420) Homepage Journal
    Why don't they just join forces with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure [ffii.org]? That seems to me the closest European equivalent to the EFF. Even if the goals are not exactly the same, an organization at european level would have a stronger voice than an organization based in a single state, I should think.
    • Re:Why not FFII? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jussi K. Kojootti (646145) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @05:05AM (#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).

    • Why don't they just join forces with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure? That seems to me the closest
      European equivalent to the EFF. Even if the goals are not exactly the same, an organization at european level would have a stronger voice than an organization based in a single state, I should think.


      You scare me very much.
  • by flajann (658201)
    With the way the British gov has been acting lately, squashing privacy everywhere in that country, it is about bloody time they get into operation something akin to EFF.
  • signed up (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cederic (9623) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @06:13AM (#13163763) Journal

    I prefer to avoid signing up to things, especially when they want money.

    However, Danny O'Brien is that rarest of beasts, a journalist I trust. I've also experienced a lot of his work in this arena in the past (or, more accurately, been informed by him of the work being done by and with people he knows).

    Some of the other names mentioned are also ones I've recognised, and a couple of the people I've met.

    I may not agree with everything they propose, but I do agree with their general aims, and I'm happy to do a little to help it. Since I'm a lazy sod (rarely doing much more than writing to my MP/MEP and posting on slashdot) contributing a small amount to help fund someone to do my campaigning for me sounds like a fine idea.

  • Hey! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Mike Savior (802573)
    Where's the ..Beff?

    Wait a second.. that doesn't sound right..
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Tuesday July 26, 2005 @07:16AM (#13163964) Homepage
    and probably visible to some CCTV camera.

    It's going to be an uphill battle for England.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_

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