Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Succumbing to the call of the vodka

by Suw on September 21, 2005

Ok, so I've had my arm twisted and I'm going to be at the drinks in Fulham tomorrow night. Come. Join me. (And buy me vodka.)


Open Rights Group update

by Suw on September 21, 2005

Just posted an update on where we're at with ORG over on the temporary ORG blog, along with some information on Free Culture UK and Open Geodata. The most important thing, though, is that we really need to whip up some fuss about data retention:

Urgent Data Retention ACTION NEEDED BY THURSDAY 2005-09-22
You don't need us to tell you that the mandatory retention of data about every EU citizen's calls, mobile phone movements, and internet usage would be a bad thing (if you do, check for a joint letter from EDRi and Privacy International to the Council of Ministers on the problems with data retention).
But it's happening anyway: the EU Commission just published their proposal to do just that:
And there's a live streaming press conference with Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini on the 'retention of data and the radicalisation and recruitment of terrorists' today (Wednesday 21 Sept) at 12.15pm.
One of the key EU institutions considering their position on this proposal is the ARTICLE 29 WORKING GROUP: that's all of the Information Commissioners (data protection registrars) in the EU, acting as one. Word has it that many of the Article 29 Working Group want to fight data retention.
But the UK Information Commissioner says he can't join the fight because he doesn't feel that he can publically stand against the UK government's recent paper “Liberty and Security: Striking the Right Balance”.
Short summary: it has a CCTV picture of the London Bombers on the front page. Says civil liberties are nice and all but, woo, terrorism.
Longer summary (from the excellent Privacy International coverage):
EDRi has produced a short analysis of the paper, which finds that none of the examples used by the UK government would justify their data retention proposals:
The latest draft of the EU's data retention plans have already excised the Article 29 working group from overseeing what sort of data gets retained.
The group want to fight, but the UK commissioner is reticent.
You can get them fighting back. Tell your Info Commissioner to stand up for your rights.
Visit and sign European Digital Rights (EDRi)'s Europe-wide petition. EDRi is working hard at the EU level to alert politicians to the issues with data retention; the petition helps it demonstrate the size of the constituency it represents and will help boost Article 29's confidence.
The UK Information Commissioner doesn't answer to the government: he answers to Parliament, and from them, to you. His mission (should he choose to accept it) includes: “protecting your personal information”.
For that he doesn't need the government's backing: he needs yours.
1. Write to your MP, and tell him or her that you want the UK Information Commissioner to speak in the EU on your behalf against data retention. Use
2. When you're done, copy and paste your message to the Commissioner's office email at: If you like, cc: us at
(You may want to check before you send that second mail. We want the information commissioner to know we support him, but don't want to spam him to death. If he complains, we'll put up a sign.)
3. Forward this mail. Feel free to cut out everything but this plea. But make sure you include the expiry date: THURSDAY 2005-09-22.
Here's some points you could mention in your letter to your MP:
* Ask your MP to tell the Information Commissioner to speak for you, not the British government. Your right to have your personal data protected will outlast the current incumbents and must be assured by the appropriate legislation.
* The Commissioner has previously commented on both the expense of and lack of need for data retention. Ask your MP to ask that he fully and thoroughly investigate any data retention plans before rolling them out across Europe. Try not to mention “45 minute claims”: it makes MPs uncomfortable and sweaty.
* The “Liberty and Security” paper published by the government actually only asks for “internet logins and logouts”. The EU proposal also demands the To: and From: of emails. Tell your MP that even if the Commissioner is beholden to the government's stance, he should agree to no more than the minimum amount of data requested.
Be polite; be pursuasive: we want him on our side.
But most of all, be prompt. The Article 29 Working Group meets Thursday and Friday of this week.
We'll let you know how you get on. Remember, 850 people have your back.

And if you haven't already, please do go and sign the Pledge – we have over 850 signatories now, so we're getting close. If you've already signed it, please convince just one of your friends to sign as well.
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The Decrepitorium

by Suw on September 21, 2005

It's been ages since I've blogged a dream, primarily because they've actually all been rather dull lately, but this morning I had one of those surround-sound ultravivid IMAX-type dreams, which I can only summarise poorly in writing.

I'm outside some gates – multiple gates, set into a bay in a limestone wall far too high to look over. I've been here before. I recognise the avenue, the trees. Last time we couldn't get in, and I couldn't read what was above the gates. Now I can:

Arlingham Decrepitorium

It's a museum about death. The Decrepitorium. We're taken in through the gates by a small, balding, ferrety-looking guide, my dad and I, and into what looks like a small limestone mausoleum. Like so many mausoleums, this one is bigger on the inside than it looks and it's full. Of bodies. Mummified bodies. Plasticised bodies. Bodies in formaldehyde. Lots and lots of human bodes.
And death memorabilia. Stuff from Egyptian burials, small models of the embalming process, grave goods from countries I'd never even heard off. Coffin nails (including massive copper ones and ones with little jewels in). Loads of it. Mountains of the stuff.
And then there was the Decrepitorium Mirror. It ranged along a wall, with outlines painted onto it so that you could line yourself up, and when you gazed into it, it showed you what you would look like at various stages of decomposition. For some reason, I resembled Dominic Monaghan (the guy that plays Charlie in Lost), which is odd because he doesn't much look like a decaying corpse.

I love the idea of a Decrepitorium. It really would make a fantastic website – I can see it now, all gothic and Dave McKean-ish. And it's just a great word, although according to Google, it doesn't exist. Or didn't, until I dreamt it.
Thusly do I donate to the world a new word: decrepitorium. Make me proud. Get it into circulation and thence to the dictionary.