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The Electronic Police State 206

gerddie writes "Cryptohippie has published what may be called a first attempt to describe the 'electronic police state' (PDF). Based on information available from different organizations such as Electronic Privacy Information Center, Reporters Without Borders, and Freedom House, countries were rated on 17 criteria with regard to how close they are already to an electronic police state. The rankings are for 2008. Not too surprisingly, one finds China, North Korea, Belarus, and Russia at the top of the list. But the next slots are occupied by the UK (England and Wales), the US, Singapore, Israel, France, and Germany." This is a good start, but it would be good to see details of their methodology. They do provide the raw data (in XLS format), but no indication of the weightings they apply to the elements of "electronic police state" behavior they are scoring.
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The Electronic Police State

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  • Police state UK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by physburn ( 1095481 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:00AM (#27917615) Homepage Journal
    UK is particularly bad, the goverment want to have records of every single phone call, sms, email sent or web page read by every single person in the UK. Needless to say, this is a ridiculously expensive enterprise at a time when the UK's public borrowing is higher than every.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:24AM (#27917815)

      I think they have most of it dont they?

      Phone Logs - Check
      Email Logs - Check
      ISP Logs - Check
      Tracking domestic flights - Check
      Web Usage - Check
      Subscriber Information - Check
      Banking Records - Check
      Number Plate Tracking - Check
      Facebook friends list - Pending

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        so, dear americans, now what happens to "internet interprets censorship as damage and route around it", as there is no more free route for you?
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I'm sure Facebook would cave and hand over your friends list pretty quickly, if it wasn't already public.

        Currently there is a flaw in the way web site details are collected. Logs are made of DNS requests (they only log the top level domain, not the whole URL). If you don't use your ISP's DNS servers, you are currently safe. Ditto with emails.

        It isn't clear if they are planning to simply expand the current system or if they want to somehow try and foil these rather easy methods of avoiding their tracking.

        I w

      • by dargaud ( 518470 )

        Facebook friends list - Pending

        I have a facebook friend who's currently waiting for some top secret credentials for a job. He warned me that I may receive some questions from the FBI. It kinds of surprises me since I am not affiliated with the USofA. I guess he was pulling my leg...

    • Would it be that expensive? If you could order the phone companies to automatically send a copy of every phone call data stream, SMS, email from a UK owned ISP, and web page accessed from a UK isp, just how much data storage would you need? I bet a 1 terrabyte hard drive would hold enough info to spy on one person for years and years.
      • A one terabyte drive would last about a month for me, because i rarely call people.

        And it isn't just data retention it is also all the real time processing power needed to process and convert that stuff. Let alone transmit it to a required location. And if ISP hold it separately then you can be pouring through logs of random databases trying to find something useful with front ends made not to work right.

  • Is this for real? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ugen ( 93902 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:06AM (#27917687)

    I am sorry, but if you are claiming something to be a report on "national rankings" of "The Electronic Police State", you should at a very least have a clue.

    A few hints to the fact that this report is a bunch of crap (no offense to a good name of real crap) is clear lack of understanding of legal concepts, imprecise and not legally or scientifically accepted definitions and simply errors in basic terms and grammar.

    It is spelled "habeAs corpus". You do not start a paper that you want to be taken seriously with cheap usenet flame references to "Nazi Germany or Stalin's USSR".

    It is not a "criminal evidence" (what the hell is "criminal evidence" anyway?), unless it is admissible in court and no information as collected is admissible on its own merits. And how do you compare countries with completely different legal systems?

    I could go on and on, but really it isn't worth the time. This report should not be on a first page of "idle", much less on /. Really, editors - get a clue.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Why are you so surprised that one of kdawson's posts don't make sense logically?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:47AM (#27917959)

      The document might be crap - the rise and spread of "Electronic Police State" is quite real.

    • Seeing how quickly the Nazis get brought up is a great way to tell whether or not an article is worth reading. The higher on the page you see Hitler, the higher it will rank on the the unintentional humor scale.

      • Re:Is this for real? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nazlfrag ( 1035012 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @01:29AM (#27918203) Journal

        The usual image of a âoepolice stateâ includes secret police dragging people out of their homes at night, with scenes out of Nazi Germany or Stalinâ(TM)s USSR. The problem with these images is that they are horribly outdated. Thatâ(TM)s how things worked during your grandfatherâ(TM)s war â" that is not how things work now.

        Seems like a perfectly reasonable statement to me. Context matters, people. It won't stop everyone shouting 'Godwin!' and giggling like imbeciles but it is actually a very good metaphor to use when talking about how the imagery people associate with police states is outdated.

        • by smchris ( 464899 )

          Seems to me it's a balance of techniques. I always think of the discussion of whether apartheid South Africa was "fascist". After all, the homeland reservations weren't death camps, as such, and people only now and then "slipped in the shower" or "jumped out the police station fifth floor window" or got dumped in the ocean alive from planes. But a whole lot of fascist characteristics were present in the society without death camps.

          South Africa relied on force nonetheless. Hell, they outlawed television

          • Every time I see an American flag in a trailer court or row house window it makes me want to cry.
            Not sure if you're trolling, but hell. Everytime I read something so inane on the internet it makes me want to laugh. The thought that American patriotism makes someone what to cry, in a world where they still beat the women in Kumar, makes me chuckle.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Legal systems? Wtf? Like many Slashdotters I live in Germany, and at the moment our politicians are very busy to adapt our legal system to make it fit the needs of a police state. I think the only one who has no clue is you.

    • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @01:33AM (#27918217)
      Plus, no matter what you're ranking the countries of the world in, there will ALWAYS be those at the top, those farther down, and those at the bottom. It's all relative! The question shouldn't be "which rates the worst?" but "which rate below acceptable?" (which of course all of those mentioned in the summary probably do)
  • What is freedom? (Score:2, Interesting)

    Does freedom mean that you can do anything you want any time you want? Or is freedom the life you lead based upon rules set out by the government?

    What does freedom require of you? Is responsibility a facet of freedom? Is societal responsibility actually slavery?

    Maybe after we stopped throwing around loaded code words like Freedom and Police State, perhaps we can find that sometimes freedom isn't what we think it ought to be, but that the actual practice of freedom is more humane and invigorating than true f

    • by e9th ( 652576 ) <e9th@tupodex.EULERcom minus math_god> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:19AM (#27917771)
      It's the "rules set out by the government" part that bothers me, because I see an increasing disconnect between the government's interests and mine.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Perhaps then an anarchy like Somalia would be more preferable to you than an oppressive nanny state like England?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          *Ahem.* Somalia is more like a conglomeration of warring mini-states than an anarchy. The problem isn't that there are no rulers (an-archos), it's that there's too many, and they fight each other.

        • by Tuoqui ( 1091447 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:48AM (#27918865) Journal

          Is it too much to ask for a limited government that is by the people and for the people?

          Surveillance should be in the opposite direction. We should be able to see what our elected officials are doing 24/7. Have microphone on them at all times to make sure they arent being bought by lobbists and taking bribes and what not.

        • by jvkjvk ( 102057 )

          Im sad that you've switched from analogies to just making blatant false dichotomies.

      • You know, I'm really saddened these days (and I'm not saying this is you, just using your words here without other context of your mind as an example) how it is that government is used as a vehicle to drive interests, rather than sticking to the proscribed constitutionalism and operating within that framework, actually amending when considered (and only when considered as a matter of utmost caution) absolutely necessary (usually it hasn't been done with utmost caution--look at how the 16th has made our Fede
      • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )

        It's the "rules set out by the government" part that bothers me, because I see an increasing disconnect between the government's interests and mine.

        Damn straight. It should be people setting the rules for the government, not the other way around.

    • Freedom is a physical right, not some bullshit abstract right created by man. Freedom is given to every known thing in the universe. There is only one true freedom, the freedom to move (or likewise, refusal to move). All other "freedoms" are derived from this one basic freedom, i.e. freedom of speech is actually one's ability to move their mouth and move molecules in air, etc. Mathematically, staying on earth will gradually lead to an erosion of freedom, unless population growth is stopped. Increase in popu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:09AM (#27917711)

    with no information on how it was compiled

    good job

    Next up, we'll publish a list of the top 50 mutual funds to invest in...with no mention of the criteria for generating the list.

    • by biocute ( 936687 )

      Additionally, is "Enforcement Ability" as(or more, or less) significant as "Financial Tracking"?

      Every item gets a score between 1 and 5, but do they all carry the same weight in the study?

  • Scores vs Rankings (Score:5, Informative)

    by biocute ( 936687 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:16AM (#27917753) Homepage

    I downloaded the raw data. Some countries are missing, and the results are quite different from the PDF:

    54-United Kingdom: England & Wales
    53-United States of America
    49-United Kingdom: Scotland
    44-New Zealand
    36-Czech Republic
    36-South Africa

    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      Why is the UK split in to two categories? What point are they trying to make, and what biasis are they carrying? And what about Northern Ireland - is there a third category not listed, or do they not want to include that?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Holmwood ( 899130 )

        Scotland has a different legal system from England and Wales. See here for example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_law [wikipedia.org]

        Also, historically, camera surveillance wasn't quite as omnipresent in Scotland, though that seems to be changing, based on the last time I was in Edinburgh.

        I'd have to agree with some of the other comments: the data doesn't seem to add up (even accepting their evaluation criteria at face value), and there do seem to be strange omissions (e.g. the lack of looking at police surveillance c

      • England+Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all have separate and distinct legal systems. I guess perhaps NI is too small to include.

        • While the stats may be accurate, the terminology isn't. If you leave out Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can't use the term 'United Kingdom'. Citing 'The United Kingdom (England and Wales)' is akin to saying 'The United States (California and Texas)'.

          • by Doches ( 761288 )

            The way Republicans down in Texas keep talking, saying 'The United States (California and Texas)' is akin to saying 'The United Kingdom (England and Massachusetts)'

            Also, technically the UK doesn't include Northern Ireland. The 'United Kingdom' is the United Kingdom of England and Scotland; 'Great Britain' is England, Scotland, and (Northern) Ireland.

  • by tetromino ( 807969 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:36AM (#27917889)

    So, if you download their XLS raw data, and add up their scores, the worst 6 nations are:

    1. China, with a score of 3.47
    2. UK (Englad/Wales), with a score of 3.18
    3. US and Singapore (tied for 3rd place), with a score of 3.12
    5. France and Germany (tied for 5th place), with a score of 3.06

    And as for Israel and Russia -- they are tied for 11th place, with a score of 2.82

    Quite different from the top offenders list in the PDF, eh? It gets worse: North Korea and Belarus (in the top 5 according to the PDF) are not even mentioned anywhere in the raw data XLS... So not only did these "experts" pull their data out of their asses, but they managed to fail at adding up their own funny numbers!

    • by biocute ( 936687 )

      North Korea and Belarus (in the top 5 according to the PDF) are not even mentioned anywhere in the raw data XLS

      Covert Hacking
      State operatives removing - or adding! - digital evidence to/from private computers
      covertly. Covert hacking can make anyone appear as any kind of criminal desired.

      • There is no "Covert Hacking" column in the raw data. There is a "Warrantless Hacking" column, though - I'm assuming that's the same thing (arriving at a consistent naming scheme is yet another area that the authors fail at). And there is no data for North Korea or Belarus in the "Warrantless Hacking" column, just like in all other columns.

        In any case, I fail to see how the concept of covert/warrantless hacking is even relevant to North Korea: there is nothing in the country to hack, since virtually no North

  • One minor complaint, it's habeas (a 2nd person verb, "you (shall) have"), not habeus (which could be a 2nd declension noun in the nominative, or a 4th declension in several cases). Habeas corpus (corpus is a 4th declension noun, here in the accusative) means "you have the body." It should be pretty clear what it's about in that case -- it was traditionally used when someone felt they were being falsely imprisoned.
  • Drumming up hysteria (Score:5, Interesting)

    by el_flynn ( 1279 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:03AM (#27918345) Homepage

    After skimming that report, and comparing it with what's on the Cryptohippie website - it looks to me that the document is more of a marketing tool to promote their company. Am I the only one who thinks this?

    Here's what the group claims to do: "Cryptohippie USA, Inc. exists to protect individuals and organizations against attacks on privacy by agents of industrial and competitive espionage, organized crime, oppressive governments and even hired hackers. We do this with the best of encryption technologies and a closed group of highly protected networks - for your peace of mind and safety."

    Here's what the report posits:

    * "In an Electronic Police State...[every electronic flotsam you produce is] criminal evidence, and they are held in searchable databases, for a long long time."
    * "Whoever holds this evidence can make you look very, very bad"
    * The State knows everything you do, a-la Big Brother

    They are trying to frame this paranoia into a neat little package, which sets you in the right mood to accept what they have to sell - which is protection against attacks on your privacy.

    Classic marketing technique? Sorry, it just looks like another insurance agent to me.

  • This is a good start, but it would be good to see details of their methodology.

    No, it would be good to see details of their method. Methodology is the study of methods. It is not a synonym for method.

  • by unlametheweak ( 1102159 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @02:41AM (#27918533)

    A quote from the articles' referenced PDF:

    1. We really don't see how it is going to hurt us. Mass surveillance is
    certainly a new, odd, and perhaps an ominous thing, but we just
    don't see a complete picture or a smoking gun.
    2. We are constantly surrounded with messages that say, Only crazy
    people complain about the government.

    As a person who has recently (over the past couple of months) done some review and a lot of reading into Nazi Germany, I can see the same types of Authoritarian trends and psychological tendencies to dismiss the worst case scenarios in "Democratic" countries (I scary-quote the word "Democratic" because there appears to be a cultural assumption that Democracy is necessarily equated with Freedom and justice, which, at the most is an accident. Democracy only assumes voting power (to an extant, for the majority of people), and not Freedom from oppression. I will emphasize that Democracy is generally a more utilitarian means towards Freedom than other forms of government. Benign and beneficent Autocracies would be great if they weren't "Utopian" [that is, mythical] in nature).

    There also appears to be a tendency for people to appease authority in order to minimize worst case scenarios.
    There also appears to be a tendency for governments to rationalize extremist and authoritarian practices. Hitler (and perhaps more tellingly Goebbels [who wasn't intellectually fanatical against Jews, but realized the value of Fear, Ignorance, and Hatred]) used the Jews as his main propaganda vehicle. The contemporary West uses the "pedophile" and the "terrorist" as the excuse. In both cases the regimes generally tend to have financial support from big businesses and the "conservative" voting class (I don't mean to slight well-meaning Conservatives here, but I am taking my language directly from the history books, some of which are contemporary to the history I am talking about). In both cases (Nazi pre-war Germany and the Authoritarian-leaning democracies of the West) share the same thing: the propagation (propaganda) of fear and nationalism. Think of the children is certainly a motto that Hitler used (I'm not going to bother to look up the references; they've been pointed out before on Slashdot). "Terrorism" too, was used as an excuse by Hitler; granted that much of his terrorism was contrived (like the Russian government bombings of residential buildings. Yes, I am aware that the Russians claim it was the Chechens. Western Intel AFAIK and have heard, seems to think differently).

    Like the British and American public of 1930's, and much of Europe for that matter, people rationalized away their fears. The moderates in Germany at the time appeased the authoritarian measures as well. They kept thinking that a giving up a little freedom was politically expedient. Like the famous poem goes, people don't put much thought into things until it happens to them (ref: First they came [wikipedia.org]. Considering the fact the US has the most amount of people in jail than any other country in the world, I would be concerned (A popular and fairly good reference: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2494/does-the-united-states-lead-the-world-in-prison-population). Notice that I'm not talking about secret CIA prisons, MK-ULTRA type covert activities, etc., just the stuff that is well documented. Life is fine if you are "middle-class" and lucky enough not to piss off the wrong people. Don't hold your breath.

    • by dajak ( 662256 )

      "Terrorism" too, was used as an excuse by Hitler; granted that much of his terrorism was contrived [..]

      There was of course also a lot of genuine terrorism in Nazi occupied Europe, at least in the sense that the events really happened as reported. Newspapers that were still legally in print here in the Netherlands during WWII often referred to acts of resistance as terrorism, and the press (even sometimes the resistance friendly illegal press) also editorialized about the immorality of doing things like stea

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:01AM (#27918641)

    1 in 31 people in the U.S. are in prison, on parole or on probation.


    The U.S. has more people in prison that the Peoples Republic of China.

    It doesn't really matter if it is an electronic Police state or not.

  • I clicked on the link, expecting some half-baked vilification of modern society, but aside from the inane introduction, the ranking system appears clear, logical, fair, and relevant.

  • by Budenny ( 888916 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:03AM (#27918937)

    England is a very curious case. In law its in a situation in which any authoritarian government, having got itself elected, would never need to call another election. There are a host of measures which have been passed in the last ten years which would permit the suspension of Parliament and rule by decree. The terrorism legislation would allow such a government to imprison anyone it liked for any or no reason. Then there is the surveillance, which is on a scale only previously found in science fiction. All travel, all communication (including this post) are logged. Henry Porter's articles in the Guardian and Vanity Fair detail the whole thing. Recently an opposition Member of Parliament was arrested, on Parliament premises, on suspicion of 'conspiring to encourage misconduct in public office'. Well.

    Yet, it is obvious that England is a far pleasanter and freer place to live than the countries it is being compared to. Its also obviously, if you look at the recent deep embarrassment of its politicians over expenses, ruled by people who feel accountable to public opinion in a way that none of the true authoritarian states do. You will still find vigorous debate in the media. Only today, for example, Polly Toynbee in the Guardian runs up one side of the Prime Minister and down the other, and calls on the Party to get rid of him in the next three weeks. There will shortly be elections, relatively properly run, and the goverment will take a huge hit, and will accept it.

    What has happened is that a genuinely democratic party, elected admittedly on a flawed and not particularly representative electoral system with a minority of the vote, one which consists of pleasant and well meaning people, has gradually without realizing what it is doing, passed legislation which would enable the British National Party, should it ever take power, to be as unrestrained by legislative limits on its powers as the Nazi Party in Germany 1933.

    At the moment what stands between the English and either left or right authoritarianism is tradition, an independent judiciary, and the goodwill of the ruling party. We are effectively Weimar, with all the legal framework any future government will need to turn us at will either into Nazi Germany or the GDR.

    We just have to hope that the wrong people don't get elected. If they do, its all over.

    • god help you if the BNP ever get in power

    • by jez9999 ( 618189 )

      I agree with most of what you say, except for two things.

      1) Labour have not passed most of this stuff 'accidentally'. I honestly think that they don't like governmental and police restrictions, and just don't want to bother with them. Sure, they think THEY'll govern 'fairly', but they seem to have no concept of why we had those limitations in the first place. You wonder whether they wouldn't just support something that literally allows the police to do anything 'in pursuit of justice'.

      2) Labour aren't th

    • ...only couple of things wrong with this,

      what makes you think it is possible for the BNP to ever get into power? With our admittedly flawed electorial system this is actually very unlikely (or would be the will of the people)

      and what makes you think this could not happen elsewhere? Get someone in power in the USA and they can emend the constitution, so they can rewrite it, so they can basically do what they like if they have the will of the majority of the senate, representatives and the president ....A c

  • I've checked raw data xml and was quite surprised. Take for example Israel, which I'm quite familiar with. While Israel could be very close to police state for obvious reasons it does not look like electronic police state to me.
    Now raw data for Isreal form TFA (scale 1-5):
    Daily documents - 3. Not quite reasonable, I would put 4 at least.
    Border Issues - 3. Wrong. While border search is intrusive, electronic data are not inspected usually.
    Financial tracking - 3.Plausible.
    Gag order - 3.Questionable.
  • by DeanFox ( 729620 ) * <spam@myname.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:56AM (#27920577)

    I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't in fact a group of smart men behind the scenes running the show. That the face put forward as stupid politicians is just that.

    Any Google on "exponential growth human population" or "failure understand exponential growth" will help illustrate what we're looking forward to. It will be in our lifetime where the population will grow beyond the ability for the state to police it using just human manpower (police-person). Very soon maintaining civil order will require automation. It already does.

    Whomever is running the show does seem to understand and are taking steps necessary building the infrastructure we're going to need in 25-50 years. And a 25-50 year build-out for infrastructure is about right. The ratio of citizen to state will easily rise to hundreds of thousands to one. Cameras are needed, the ability to mass collect people will be needed.

    Anyone familure with the courts already know. If 100% of the population demanded jury trials the system would collapse. The only way they're able to hold it together is that +90% plea to "lessor" charges. The courts are already like the Airline industry as in hurdling cattle. When the population doubles even this stop gap measure won't be enough.

    This automation of state control is evidence to me that either the politicians aren't as stupid as the face they put forward or there is a group behind the scenes running the show that do understand exponents.


"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments