Adrian Farrel

Adrian Farrel : Why Responding to Terrorism with Curtailed Digital Freedom is Wrong

It is hard for anyone to continue the political debate in the aftermath of the events of Monday 22nd may in Manchester. Our thoughts are all occupied with concern for all those affected, and with love for our own children.

But one of the objectives behind this sort of attack is to disrupt our political system, to damage democracy, and cause us to change our way of life. The intention is to instil fear into us all, to cause us to hide and become hostile, to make us different from the open and culturally diverse nation that we are. It is important, as a way to mitigate this attack, that we strengthen the political debate and act to preserve our freedoms, rights, and civil liberties. We cannot bring back those who were killed, and we can only hope that the wounds, both physical and psychological, heal with time, but we can show the terrorists that we will not allow them to take our society down.

Several questions that are close to the centre of Pirate Party politics need to be addressed immediately. They are fundamental to the debate about freedom and yet appear to offer direct methods to reduce the likelihood of future attacks.

1. Information on how to make bombs is available online

It is true that all manner of very horrible things can be found on line. Some can be put to bad uses by people who want to do us harm. Some things are of their nature unacceptable.

In general, where illegal material is hosted on servers in the UK, the police already have powers to have that content removed. No new laws or powers are needed.

The Importance of a Positive Campaign

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We have grown familiar with political campaigning in our country, and this General Election is bringing out more of the same. The focus is on the harm other parties might do, on the characters and capabilities of the opposing candidates, and on the flaws in the policies and manifestos that others are putting forward.

In short, the campaigns that are being run are largely negative. It's easy to see how we all get sucked into this way of talking. It is much simpler to put out a Tweet with a comical picture of a party leader and a witty comment than it is to think through your own beliefs and policies. And when you're immersed in a social media world that is swamped with similar conversations it is only natural to respond in kind turning political debate into a tribal battle.

But wouldn't it be nice if the campaign could stay positive? If we spoke up about what we want to see happen, what policies we support, and why? If we focused on what we have to offer rather than what we hate about the opposition?

Why It's Important to Make a Small Donation to a Small Party

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Our electoral system is skewed against small political parties – it's well known.

Perhaps the most obvious problem is the "first past the post" system of single constituency MPs elected to represent large areas by the largest number of votes but without a requirement for a majority. Thus, most of our representatives in Parliament got the largest number of votes in their constituencies, but do not have the support of the majority of the voters.

This translates to a Government that is hugely unrepresentative of the people. So-called "minor parties" in British politics can gather a significant proportion of national vote, but never be the largest party in any one constituency and never get any representatives in the House of Commons.

While there are many benefits to democracy from our system (stability, direct representation), the drawbacks lead to a feeling of distance and disenfranchisement. The incumbent major parties see no benefit to themselves in a change in the system and there is a consequent disillusionment and Sinicism among voters.

Marching for Science

Sunday, 23 April, 2017 - 16:45

Saturday 22nd April saw hundreds of thousands of people around the world marching in support of science. These weren't just scientists - "boffins" protecting their own relevance and importance. These were normal, concerned citizens who rallied to the call to support the role of rational thought and facts in everyday politics.

Is a Vote for Your Principles a Wasted Vote?

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The media are full of proposals for electoral pacts and ideas for tactical voting. These suggestions are based around keeping one party or another out of government, or making sure that a particular person is not returned to Westminster.

But where does this leave a minority party? Should it encourage its supporters to vote for candidates from other parties and maybe for different parties in different constituencies?

And what should voters do in our first past the post system where their first choice from one of the smaller parties is unlikely to get elected? Should they vote for the person they support or should they consider that a wasted vote?

I am personally very frustrated and disappointed by negative voting. At the previous election my MP said to me words equivalent to, "Vote for me because at least I'm not one of them." This is not exactly a resounding reason to do anything.

Adrian Farrel : Consequences of the IP Bill for You and Your Internet Service Provider

Well, like it or not (and I don't) the Investigatory Powers Bill has received royal assent and so is something that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have to take seriously. But what does it all mean for you and your ISP?

Internet Connection Records

The new bill requires that Internet Connection Records (ICRs) are retained by communications service providers. The intention is that government agencies shall be able to look at the retained data subject to due legal process allowing law enforcement agencies to attribute illegal activity on the internet to a person in the real world.

The Government has been famously coy in defining what an ICR actually is. They say things like, "Internet connection records (ICRs) are records of the internet services that have been accessed by a device. They would include, for example, a record of the fact that a smartphone had accessed a particular social media website at a particular time." And they give examples of usage such as, "Internet Connection Records when used with Internet Protocol (IP) resolution data would allow law enforcement agencies to trace the individuals who accessed [particular] images."

The Government is also are quite keen to say what they are not: "ICRs do not provide a full internet browsing history. The ICRs do not reveal every web page that a person visited or any action carried out on that web page."

But this is all very unclear. Does the ICR stop at noting that you visited www.blogspot.com, or does it go as far as distinguishing visits to mamarihanna.blogspot.com and womenhealth85.blogspot.com?

PPUK After the Brexit Referendum

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Ahoy fellow Pirates.

Regardless of which way you voted, I'm sure you're tired of hearing about the referendum and plundering politicians but PPUK is impacted by many of the issues raised by the process and fact of Brexit.

Transparency in Campaigning

Both the Leave and Remain campaigns were based on lies and fear. Little concrete evidence was supplied and both sides of the debate can carry some blame despite the fact that real information and data was available to researchers. It seems as though the politicians and campaigners were more interested in stirring up emotional responses than in having a measured and constructive debate.

What treatment would we in PPUK like to see for those who lie on a public platform during a referendum campaign? How would we like to see the media held to account? How would we expect information to be presented to the public in future campaigns?

Ridiculing of "Experts"

During the campaign, Michael Gove said: "People in this country have had enough of experts" and this seemed to strike a chord across the voting public.

Research Funding in a Post-Brexit World

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Whatever your view of the outcome of the referendum, you probably agree that the campaigns were threaded through with misinformation and confusion. We might hope that we are past that point, but as the debate about how we will negotiate the UK's exit from the European Union (EU) develops we are being exposed to more and distractions and disingenuous public statements.

A considerable amount of research funding comes to the UK from the EU through the Horizon 2020 (H2020) scheme [1]. This programme is providing over 80 billion Euros in grants over the period 2014 to 2020 and is envisioned as a means to drive economic growth and create jobs within the EU's member nations. The stated aim is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.

The chief beneficiaries of H2020 grants are research institutions (universities and independent research organisations) and the R&D arms of large companies [2], however there is a goal that 20% of the monies will go to small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

What Price Security Surveillance Now?

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A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Manchester branch of the Open Rights Group to discuss the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill known as the IPBill and currently about to be discussed and voted on by the House of Lords.

The meeting included a showing of The Haystack (http://thehaystackdocumentary.squarespace.com/watch/) a short documentary film about surveillance in the UK. We then had an open discussion of the film and the IPBill with a panel including Gary Herman from the National Union of Journalists, Gary Hough from Zen Internet, Loz Kaye from Open Intelligence, and myself.

While recognising the threats posed by terrorism, paedophilia, and organised crime, the room seemed unanimous in its belief that the IPBill is poorly conceived, lacking in detail, and over-reaching in its powers. For some background on the IPBill see https://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Investigatory_Powers_Bill.

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