Tag Archives: software

Why are we paying hundreds of pounds to help Matt Hancock improve his social media profile?

Taking our cash: Matt Hancock claimed public money to boost his own social media profile.

Death ‘Health’ Secretary Matt Hancock has claimed nearly £1,000 of public money for software from a firm that claims to help boost social media profiles.

It seems he wanted to use the software from Sprout Social to improve his image on the internet (fat chance).

I don’t know about you, but I object to public money being used to “big up” these Tory maniacs. Hancock helped cause more than 150,000 unnecessary deaths (so far) in the Covid pandemic.

A spokesperson for Matt Hancock said: “Mr Hancock needs to communicate with his constituents as effectively as possible, including on social media. All expenditure is within the rules and transparently declared.”

Oh, really?

Then why have we not been told which social media accounts have actually benefited (if that’s the word) from this software?

Until we know that, we can only believe that Hancock is using the nation’s cash for his own personal profit. And, last time I checked, that definitely wasn’t “within the rules”.

Source: Matt Hancock claims hundreds on expenses for social media management platform | indy100

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Police state Britain: Failed facial recognition pilot leads to fine for disorderly conduct. WTF?

Surveillance: This is an unmarked police facial recognition van. If you passed it in the street, would you realise police officers were taking photographs of you in order to match your face with that of a known offender?

Would you want the police to be allowed to scan your face as you walk down the street, minding your own business?

I would not. These authorities are famously irresponsible.

Remember when people started finding out that they had criminal records falsely attributed to them? These crimes turned up when prospective employers carried out background checks and led to innocent people losing jobs for no good reason.

Or how about the DNA database scandal? Genetic material belonging to millions of innocent UK citizens was being kept by the police, and some of it was used in genetic research, without permission. This is an ongoing issue.

Now the police are testing out facial recognition software as a way of tracking down criminals – by taking photographs of innocent people as they walk down the street.

This has proved to be a disaster; instead of catching people who have already committed crimes, it has provoked angry altercations leading to the application of a fine against at least one man for disorderly behaviour.

The incident was recorded and broadcast on the BBC’s Politics Live:

I commented on it at the time the programme went out:

And don’t be convinced by the spokesman’s claim that the trial is intended to ensure that police can protect human rights and safeguard the public at the same time:

Facial recognition scans have wrongly identified members of the public as potentially being criminals in no less than 96 per cent of scans in London so far.

That’s according to figures compiled on eight trials in London between 2016 and 2018. Here‘s The Independent:

“Eight trials carried [out] in London between 2016 and 2018 resulted in a 96 per cent rate of ‘false positives’ – where software wrongly alerts police that a person passing through the scanning area matches a photo on the database.

“Two deployments outside [a] shopping centre in Stratford last year saw a 100 per cent failure rate and monitors said a 14-year-old black schoolboy was fingerprinted after being misidentified.

“Police allegedly stopped people for covering their faces or wearing hoods, and one man was fined for a public order offence after refusing to be scanned in Romford.

“Scotland Yard called the trials ‘overt’ but The Independent found shoppers unaware facial recognition was being used, and campaigners accused police of rolling out the technology ‘by stealth’.”

Despite the obvious failure of this technology, the police are determined to hold on to it – and so is your Conservative government, which is always looking for ways to keep the proles down.

Going back to the Independent article, we have a statement from policing minister Nick Hurd, who said facial recognition has “real opportunities”.

There’s more: “We are not a surveillance state and have no intention of becoming one,” Mr Hurd added. “That means that we must use new technologies in ways that are sensitive to their impact on privacy, and ensure that their use is proportionate.”

Fail. It’s not sensitive to privacy and its use isn’t proportionate. But the Tories – and the police – won’t withdraw it, so we can only conclude that we do – indeed – live in a police surveillance state.

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Are we really stupid enough to believe Israel is spending £7.8bn on CRYPTOGRAPHY?

[Image: International Herald Tribune. America has been debating government surveillance for a while now.]

[Image: International Herald Tribune. America has been debating government surveillance for a while now.]

After yesterday’s article on Gaza was written, Yr Obdt Srvt opened the new edition of Private Eye and read the following on page 29:

“Downing Street’s promise on Monday to review all the UK’s arms export licences to Israel will come as no surprise to anyone who has perused a recent report from MPs… The report revealed the continuing mystery of licences for £7.8bn worth of equipment, mainly ‘cryptographic equipment, software and technology’.”

Really?

But page 5 of the same magazine states: “Many of the countries the UK supplies are flagged up by the Foreign Office as being ‘countries of human rights concern’. They account for £11.9bn of UK arms sales and include China, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, who have been sold ‘cryptography’ equipment – essentially kit to disguise communications, infiltrate external websites and protect their own from surveillance.”

Really.

That costs £7.8 billion in Israel but only £3.1 billion to all these other countries, does it? And it’s before taking out sales of any shoot-bang-kill weapons, too.

Arms exports to Saudi Arabia total more than £1.5 billion, and to China another £600 million or so. That leaves £1 billion between Yemen, Iran (!) and anyone else not mentioned in the article.

It’s not believable. Even if the software licence was the most expensive ever, it beggars belief that Israel would be willing to pay 16 times as much as – for example – Iran, for the same equipment.

Meanwhile, an article in today’s Guardian clarifies how this kit will be used. The country’s right-wing government is intent on suppressing dissent against its military operations in Palestinian areas and has worked hard to ensure that around 95 per cent of the public support it.

This leaves five per cent of the population, who are afraid to voice their opinion openly for fear of being attacked in the street. Left-wing commentator Gideon Levy, who has written in opposition to the assaults, has suffered epistolary attacks from (among others) Eldad Yaniv, former political adviser to ex-prime minister Ehud Barack. Yaniv wrote on his Facebook page: “The late Gideon Levy. Get used to it.”

It does not seem far from the realms of possibility that a government that has generated this kind of support would buy surveillance equipment to snoop on its detractors in search of any evidence that could bring them down.

“What is different this time is the anti-democratic spirit,” Levy states in the Guardian article. “Zero tolerance of any kind of criticism, opposition to any kind of sympathy with the Palestinians,” says Levy. “You shouldn’t be surprised that the 95 per cent [are in favour of the war], you should be surprised at the 5 per cent. This is almost a miracle. The media has an enormous role. Given the decades of demonisation of the Palestinians, the incitement and hatred, don’t be surprised the Israeli people are where they are.”

Is this not exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews in Germany, back in the 1930s? Isn’t it exactly what Roger Waters was protesting against, as mentioned in yesterday’s VP article? And did the Nazis not use surveillance techniques via their secret police, the Gestapo, to ensure dissent was suppressed and propaganda in support of their policies held sway over public opinion?

(It should be noted that none of this should be used to suggest that the Palestinian organisation Hamas was right to launch attacks on Israel. The plight of the people of Gaza is real but must be settled by peaceful means; violence can only ever make matters worse in the long run.)

Now come back to the UK, where we have a right-wing government that has worked extremely hard to ensure that the mass media put forward only stories supporting its policies and point of view. Is it not possible that a government in possession of the kind of surveillance equipment it is exporting to ‘countries of human rights concern’ – a government that is known to have extremely unsound beliefs about human rights – might turn that equipment on its own people?

These are dangerous times for all of us.

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