April 20, 2014

Mass surveillance simply does not work



The clip above is from the European Parliaments hearings on mass surveillance. Swedish Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström asks US Representative Jim Sensenbrenner if NSA surveillance has brought any terrorists to justice.

And here you have it: NSA global mass surveillance has led to NO convictions of actual terrorists in a court of law.

There has been one case, where a US cab driver tried to send USD 8,000 to a terrorist labeled organisation in Africa. He was convicted. But no real terrorists have been caught and convicted.

[Direct link to the clip »]

December 16, 2012

The EU - less and less democratic


In a rare moment of talking plainly, EU-Commission president José Manuel Barroso described the European Union as an Empire in the making. That alone ought to make all sorts of alarm bells go off.

Megalomaniacs tend to cause trouble on their journey to downfall. In this case, we are looking at the un-elected top dog of a political union with 500 million citizens – leading a bureaucracy with obvious ambitions to centralize power.

And Mr Barroso sees no problems with EU power grabbing. In another speech, he made it clear that there are no democratic problems in transferring powers from member states to Brussels – as long as this is made in a formal way, according to existing rules. Well... yes, it is true that democracy has the regrettable mandate and ability to dismantle itself. But is it really advisable?

It ought to be obvious to everyone that centralizing power will have undesirable effects, when it comes to citizens actually being involved in the democratic process. Having seen the EU machinery from inside, I can assure you that such a centralization of power brings no added value what so ever. On the contrary. The EU is not very competent. Rules and laws are rushed trough at a break neck speed that makes wise, balanced and dignified lawmaking impossible. (Even for the few who might know what is in the making.) And EU politicians normally holds special interests higher than public interest.

The EU is a very opaque organization. EU leaders often talk about openness and transparency. But reality is something totally different. If there is the slightest possibility that something is not in the interest of the EU, its leaders or its functionaries – they go stonewalling. At one point EU even changed the definition of what constitutes a "document", to be able to sidestep its own assurances about public access.

In most member states at least two out of three laws and regulations originates from the EU. This means that most laws are decided upon far away from people being affected by them. So, it might come as no surprise that many EU directives and regulations lacks contact with reality and often make assumptions that are not in line with simple facts. Not to mention ignoring local differences. One size is supposed to fit all, but fits no one.

Even good people are gradually being corrupted by the EU system, if getting involved in it. They soon realize that the only way is to adopt. If you don´t, you are out. But the pay is very nice.

On top of everything else, the EU is not a democratic organization as such. And the people do not want it.

A single, open market with free movement would do fine instead.

December 2, 2012

Don´t fiddle around with fundamental rights!


In politics in general and especially in EU politics you frequently run across the expression "striking a balance between fundamental rights and X" - where X might stand for war on terrorism, hunting down file sharers, protecting children or combating crime. Or just about anything.

Let's take this apart to see what it implies. "Striking a balance..." To achieve a balance you must weigh things against each other. An other way to put it is to compromise.

So, what is the compromise supposed to be about? "Fundamental rights." That is – the most important values that we build our society upon. The principles that guarantee democracy, rule of law and liberty.

Let's see... Hm... No.

No Fucking Way.

There doesn't even have to be any bloody terrorists – if our politicians are to disassemble our fundamental rights themselfes. Then we loose on walk over. Then politicians are the real threat to common people and to a decent society.

It gets especially absurd when X is protecting special interests from reality. For example protecting Big Busines from the free market.

Like the film- and music industry. They refuse to face reality. They demand special legislation to protect their outdated business models. And they are willing to kill a free and open Internet, put us all under surveillance and privatize law and order in the process.

Most politicians happily play along with this.

So, what's next? I could imagine farmers would find it very handy and cost effective if they could keep slaves. Striking a balance between fundamental rights and the farming industries need to make a buck.

No, there is no difference when it comes to the underlaying principles. You cannot just be a little bit pregnant. Either you respect our fundamental rights or you don't.

We cannot be sloppy when it comes to fundamental human rights and liberties. They must be defended, at all cost.

Even when the threat comes from some sweet old lady sincerely trying to protect the children. Sorry. Our fundamental rights are moore important. Naturally we should do our best to protect the children. But we shall not do it e.g. by introducing censorship, as suggested by EU officials.

The sloppiness has rised to a level where politicians often make infringing civil rights their first, spontaneous proposal - before even considering other (often better) options.

Today politics takes away a little of our civil rights here and a few of our liberties there. It is done in small steps and always with the best of intentions.

Everything can be justified or explained in one way or another. This also goes for really bad stuff.

That is why it is important that we draw a line. And that is exactly what fundamental rights are about. It's the stuff you don't touch. It is a no go-zone for politicians. It is what bureaucrats should not be allowed to tamper with.

As politicians and civil servants no longer seems to understand the value and importance of our fundamental rights – it is now up to us, the people, to defend them if we want to keep them.

[In Swedish»]

November 25, 2012

The EU could use some opposition


A thing that is rather troublesome with the European Union is that there is no proper opposition.

This is not only a democratic problem as such. It also mean that megalomaniac politicians and eurocrats can get away with the stupidest things, without ever being challenged.

Naturally, there is some opposition in the European Parliament. But none that really matters.

There is a small euro-sceptic group. But many of its' members are rather nationalist, goofy or just a bit hostile to foreign people. The most reasonable in this group seems to be the people from UKIP, United Kingdom Independece Party. At least they manage to stir things up, quite often by pointing out the obvious. But no one seems to like being told that the emperor is naked.

Then we have some pretty decent liberal and green MEP:s. But far too few. And us – a few Pirates – trying to cover as much of civil rights, democracy, transparency and freedom of information as we can muster.

That is about it. The Commission is Isengard and the Council is Mordor. Most journalists are covering Justin Bieber and X-factor, so they have little time for abuse of power, embezzlement of taxpayers money and the plain incompetence with which this union is run. (With exception from some British media, who have realized that much that is going on in the EU is just as silly and stupid as what is going on on your average tv reality- or talent show.)

I find the lack of opposition very strange. Because there ought to be room for some fair critique. One that put people over special interests. One that is interested in liberty and free markets. One that understands the value of openness and diversity. One that regards the people as individual citizens - not as a stupid, faceless mass. Or something along those lines.

Some real opposition might also liven up the stiff and rather dull EU nomenclature. Today, it shows signs of a late state of altitude sickness. These people cannot handle critique or admit mistakes. They are not willing to consider any alternative options nor to listen to other voices. They do stupid things just because they can. They are bureaucratic and revengeful. They stay away from logic, facts and principles. They dislike being evaluated and duck accountability. They make the freemasons seem transparent.

OK, I'm not perfect either. But then, I do not run for public office. And I have no urge to rule over other people.

The EU really could do with some liberal or libertarian, humanist opposition.

[In Swedish]

November 10, 2012

Privacy - the Political Divider


Privacy issues are political dividers.

Either you take the classical liberal stand – that citizens are individuals, who should be judged by their actions.

Or you choose a socialist or conservative stand – where citizens are to be seen and treated as a collective.

Almost no one denies the need for surveillance when it comes to people who are suspected for serious crime (or obvious preparation of such crimes).

The issue is if you want surveillance of all citizens, all the time. Just in case.

The public Big Brother-discourse seems to focus on things like terrorism, drug carteles, human trafficking, sexual abuse of children, public order and similar all alarming issues.

But the justification for surveillance has nothing to do with the approach to it as such. Everything can be excused. Practically everything.

How ever, we cannot draw the line on a case to case basis. Because the boundaries of what our elected representatives deem to be acceptable or not keeps changing depending on time, zeitgeist and place. There are no guarantees that the ruling classes will use surveillance only for reasonable purposes, at all times.

We must draw a line that stands on principle.

Surveillance should only be used if there is a tangible notion about a crime being committed or about to be committed.

When this principle is established – but at no earlier point – we can take on the day to day discussion about what should be legal and illegal. That is a never ending and ever changing process.

But first, we must accept and respect the right to privacy as a fundamental human right.

Today's day by day and case by case approach will with absolute certainty lead to the right to privacy being hollowed out all together. You need only to give politics a glance to understand that.

A society without the right to privacy will be a highly unpleasant, hostile and dangerous society. Not least for the innocent.

We, the people, must demand our right to privacy back. Because no one else will do it for us.

[In Swedish]

November 3, 2012

In the Twighlight Zone of Compassion


Having worked some years in the European Parliament, I will never be the same again. The way I view things around me has changed. I guess that is what happens to you, after falling through the looking glass.

Some things are just absurd. Like the cocktail party in solidarity with earth quake victims in Haiti. Or the three course french lunch to discuss what to do about the citizens of Europe being so fat. The cocktails opening an exhibition against drunk driving also fall into my mind.

Other things are totally freaking surreal. And on top of that list, I put the champagne reception against homelessness.

Members of the European Parliament are free to host exhibitions in the premisses. This is often used by corporations or special interests, wanting to show their work for the elected few.

Once in a while these exhibitions are used for different charities. In this case, to make a statement that homelessness is a serious problem. Fair enough. But the way it was done…

To start, some ten to twenty live sized metal cast sculptures of homeless people where placed in the exhibition area together with some posters informing about the problem.

Then, the exhibition was opened with lengthy speeches by a Member and a spokes person for some charity. Then - Champagne!

I will never be able to free my mind from this picture. Expensive suits and dresses, french hair work and an air of exclusive eau-de-toilettes, the guests hands grasping Champagne glassware and plates of cocktail canapés - mingling with the static, bronze cast less fortunate citizens.

Mind you, this was not a fund raising event. Nothing of substance was given to or done for the homeless. The whole point of this exercise was to show off an image of commitment and compassion, from a very high altitude.

The thing is, this kind of behaviour does not in any way strike the average Member as elitist, von oben, disturbing or even odd. This is what life is like in the political bubble.

An ordinary Member is never closer to an actual homeless people then when whizzing by them in a chauffeur driven black Parliament Mercedez-Benz.

This is the ruling political class. The band of the morally unkempt – from left to right, from north to south. The view of Very Important People in their glass tower.

I and my boss, Swedish Pirate MEP Christian Engström, watched this picture in disbelief on our way out of the Parliament - to pay for a pint or two by our selfs, in the real world.

On Place Luxembourg we found an actual homeless Belgian man. For a moment we considered escorting him in to the Parliament and take him to the event. But we soon recognized that it would not be appreciated...

[In Swedish»]

May 3, 2012

Intellectual Property - Breaking the Rules...


If Intellectual Property is a fundamental right (such as physical property), it strikes me as rather odd that it can be limited in time. Patents are normally limited to 20 years. Books and recorded music have protection times varying between 70 and 90 years.

If we are talking fundamental rights, could such be limited in time? That is something that goes with no other negative rights. Either a right is for ever or not at all.

The alternative, time limited rights, would give us an unpredictable and rather unpleasant society.

Putting this into the concept of Intellectual Property – I guess even the most hard core IP-lobbyists would agree that everlasting, infinite copyright and patents could result in some really troublesome consequences.

This is a clue that Intellectual Property cannot be a fundamental right. Every time politicians, record companies or lobbyists try to mess around with protection times, they undermine their own claim for the sanctity of Intellectual Property rights.

One does not fiddle around with fundamental rights. They are not relative nor negotiable.

Then we have the fact that alleged Intellectual Property rights conflict with fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, the right to privacy and some aspects of property rights.

A good rule of thumb is that fundamental rights are not in conflict with each other.

There are strong reasons to be suspicious about Intellectual Property rights. They do not behave as any other rights.

This leads me to believe that there is something fishy about Intellectual Property. That it is not a fundamental right at all. It might be described as a positive right – that is, a privilege but not a proper part of the fundamental set of rules that build society.

April 24, 2012

Book: The Case for Copyright Reform

Pirate MEP Christian Engström and Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge just presented their book The Case for Copyright Reform in the European Parlament.


On the web page www.copyrightreform.eu you can find it for free in various electronic formats (PDF, ePub, OD etc.). If you are on a mobile phone, you might want to go to the mobile-friendly minimalistic HTML-file, to start reading on your browser at once.

And if you are sitting by your computer, and have Flash installed, you can read it right here, right now:


Do you prefer a book on paper? Order it at Lulu (ww) or Books on Demand (Scandinavia).

March 28, 2012

Document Freedom Day 2012 - Sound files




Part 1: Document Freedom Day 2012 - Open Standards in the eBook Market. Seminar i the European Parliament arranged by Greens/EFA. You will hear Malika Benarab-Attou (MEP), Dr. Carl-Christian Buhr (Euroean Commission), Jean-Luc Satin (Bookeen) and Dr Charles Haley (Frogfish Technologies). Plus Q&A. Part 1 of 2.



Part 2: Document Freedom Day 2012 - Open Standards in the eBook Market. Seminar i the European Parliament arranged by Greens/EFA. You will hear Christian Engström (MEP), Jeanne Tadeusz (April), Ann-Cathrine Lorrain (Communia) and Karsten Gerloff (Free Software Foundation Europe). Plus Q&A. Part 2 of 2.

Shortly you will also be able to see the recorded video web stream by following this link – if you prefer pictures as well.

February 29, 2012

Taking Google Bashing a bit too far


We have just made the greatest sacrifice people in the Brussels-EU-machinery can imagine: We walked out on a free lunch.

This is the story...

ICOMP (Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace) organized a luncheon seminar entitled "Data Protection and profiling – How 'big data' is used to create your online identity". Which pretty much sounds like something Pirate party representatives should attend.

However, already when we received the seminar documents at the entrance – we realized that this really was something else: A Microsoft-funded Google Bashing lunch.

Google Bashing is a very popular sport in the EU, these days.

First, let me make one thing clear: Yes, there is a problem with sweeping privacy policies, which most users accept just as a pure routine. It is an issue that deserves a serious discussion.

However, privacy is not what Google Bashing in Brussels is about. Here it is rather a question of a number of Google's competitors trying to whip up political criticism, for business reasons. They simply don't like that Google more or less own the search market.

By the way, these Google competitors shouldn't be talking. When it comes to privacy and exploiting dominant market positions, well, they are not as white as snow themselves.

And if your agenda is, shall we say, a little soiled – then maybe you should try to use a somewhat delicate approach?

But, no.

ICOMP's seminar began with one of Microsoft's lawyers, Pamela Jones Harbour from the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP speaking about everything that Google does wrong, everything Google is accused of doing wrong, and every kind of wrong Google could conceivably consider. Even their future unknown actions were plain and simply wrong.

Oh.

It all felt tawdry and incredibly biased – moreover the sender might not be the most credible, in particular not when it comes to whining about competitors' market share.

(By the way. What lobbying firms arrange this kind of events? It may be that they think that EU policy makers are stupid, easily led cattle. However, showing it in such a blatant way, feels, well a tad rude.)

At the Pirate's bench, we soon reached boiling point. Finally, the party's founder Rick Falkvinge (who has been visiting us here in Brussels) had reached his limits, got up and marched out of the room - along with Pirate MEP Christian Engström and the rest of us.

A flustered and gesticulating lawyer from ICOMP followed us.

Kind 'a bad mood. But a demonstration that was in place. ;-)

Again, this blog post is not about Google or it's policies.

Here I would rather point to how big companies use politicians as a tool to eliminate competition and stop their more successful competitors. How lobbyists are wasting the MEP's (and their staff's) time by inviting to supposedly interesting seminars, that turn out to be almost hate sessions against competitors. And how rigged most of the seminars and conferences here in Brussels actually are.

And one more thing. Whether the criticism of Google is justified or not – it leads us away from a bigger and more important privacy issue: The role of the state - that is, the EU and the Member States play in the surveillance of citizens.

Related: The Economist and Falkvinge

February 17, 2012

Something about... some stuff


On the agenda for the European Parliaments session in Strasbourg in March, I found this item...

The Quisthoudt-Rowohl report on Amendment of certain regulations relating to the common commercial policy as regards the procedures for the adoption of certain measures.

Transparent as porrige.

December 21, 2011

Pirate MEP Christian Engström on ACTA



Pirate MEP Christian Engström on ACTA in the European Parliament's committee on Legal Affairs, JURI. 20 December 2011. [Youtube] [Vimeo]

November 17, 2011

Back to the Future?

The new Italian government seems to consist only of technocrats and people from Big Business.

Didn´t they already try that, once upon a time?

BBC

October 20, 2011

Hasbrouck on PNR

Edward Hasbrouck talking about Passenger Name Records (PNR) at The European Parliament 19 October 2011. Moderator: MEP Eva Lichtenberger.







Via: Erik Josefsson on Vimeo.

October 2, 2011

European Superstate Rising

A few clips from the "State of the Union"-debate in the European Parliament 28 September 2011. A bit scary, if you ask me...


[Direct link]


[Direct link]


[Direct link]

May 6, 2011

Freedom of expression online

A seminar in the European Parliament May 5:th 2011 hosted by Greens/EFA.

Part 1: Jörg Polakiewicz (Council of Europe), Erich Möchel (Austrian investigative journalist), Rafik Dammak (internet activist and blogger via Skype from Tunisia) & Caroline de Cock (N-square consulting).

Freedom of expression online, Part 1 by Henrik Alexandersson

Part 2: Petter Ericson (Telecomix), Gerard de Graaf (EC DG Information Society and Media), Susan Morgan (Global Network Initiative) & Smari McCarthy (Icelandic Modern Media Institute).

Freedom of expression online, Part 2 by Henrik Alexandersson

All is intresting. End of part one extra god. Part 2 = Hot, with interventions by Joe McNamee (EDRi).

Enjoy!

[Direct link] Downloadable. CC=0.

March 30, 2011

Document Freedom Day 2011


Document Freedom Day (European Parliament) from Henrik Alexandersson on Vimeo.

Seminar held on Document Freedom Day 2011 (30 April) in the European Parliament.

With Kaido Kikkas (Estonian IT College & Tallin University), Håkon Wium Lie (Opera Software) and Stefan Gradmann (Europeana & Humboldt-University in Berlin). Arranged by members of the Grens/EFA-group in the EP.

A bit on the long side, but very interesting for everyone who wants to look around the corner, when it comes to Information Society, IT and the Internet. Open Standards and a broad Public Domain can help expand access to culture and information.

CC=0

January 23, 2011

WikiLeaks, The Internet And Democracy



Paul Jay, Daniel Ellsberg, Clay Shirky, Neville Roy Singham, Peter Thiel and Jonathan Zittrain on a panel at the Churchill Club – on WikiLeaks, The Internet And Democracy.

A Must See!