Farangland News

2015: Jan-March

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Campaign: My Car My Data...

European Automobile federations get together to campaign about another Brexit inducing EU policy that will see snooping devices inflicted on drivers from 2018

Link Here10th December 2015

Thousands of Europe's drivers will be spied upon by their cars from 2018 when every vehicle sold could alert advertisers, insurers, councils, tax authorities, traffic wardens and police to their habits and locations, a European motoring organisation is warning.

The Federation International de l'Automobile (FIA), a Brussels-based consumer body representing 111 motoring and touring clubs and 38 million drivers, has launched a campaign urging greater safeguards for the use of information on drivers gathered by tracking devices that will soon become compulsory in all new cars. FIA spokeswoman Andrea Campbell said its:

My car, my data campaign reflected the fact that information gleaned from cars is not protected by European data legislation.

From 2018, every new car will have a wireless box for road safety, and there is talk of retro-fitting telematics boxes into older cars. It's only a small step to offering infotainment, traffic information and rest stop promotions.

Manufacturers can track you, and lock you in to their terms and conditions. So we are pushing for dedicated privacy legislation for consumer data protection, greater consumer awareness, and a fair after-market for services.

Britain's AA motoring organisation is to join the campaign. Its president, Edmund King, said:

Connected cars offer drivers a vast array of new and exciting services and they can also help with breakdowns and crashes. But drivers may be unaware of just what information is collected, how it is used, who owns it and how is it protected. We support the FIA's campaign aimed at ensuring greater transparency.

Data-connected cars gather information on driving styles, including the duration of journeys, speeds, acceleration and sudden braking, as well as details of where cars park, refuel or charge their batteries, and latest destinations entered into on-board navigation systems.  Smart systems can identify driving violations and mobile phone use, record the number of passengers and relay information about engine trouble to emergency services. Such data can be sold to third parties.



The North Korea Experience...

Kim Jong-un offers prisons and firing squads as a unique form of tourist attraction

Link Here5th December 2015
 North Korea is implementing a drive to attract more foreign visitors and has announced a scheme to offer tourists a unique North Korea Experoience.

North Korea has started checking the browser history of every visitor to the secretive nation .

According to US travel warning customs officials will inspect your devices, looking through Internet browsing histories and cookies on travelers' computers and other electronic devices.

Officials are on the lookout for banned content, including pornography or material critical of the DPRK government. Possession of any media, either printed or electronic, criticizing the DPRK government is a criminal act. Bringing pornography into the country is also a criminal act.

A recent report by The Associated Press reveals that pro-South Korea materials and Bibles are also banned. The State Department says that anyone caught committing a crime could face years of detention in hard labor camps or death.

Perhaps adrenalin junkies and thrill seekers will consider the destination to be a worthy challenge, perhaps spiced up by smuggling a copy of Hairstyle Makeover magazine through customs



Pirelli calendar perishes...

Sexy nude models are dropped in favour of heavyweight celebrities

Link Here1st December 2015
For years, it has been the last word in glamorous women, style and high fashion. But now the Pirelli calendar has swopped the sexy nude models for women of achievement .

Shot by Annie Liebovitz, it will star Yoko Ono, Patti Smith and Serena Williams. Most of the women will be fully-clothed, with only comedian Amy Schumer appearing in the flesh as part of a knowing in-joke that she didn't get this year's memo .

Fran Lebowitz, writer and calendar model, joked: Women with their clothes on are having a moment .

Annie Liebovitz told a press conference that the calendar represented a shift in the way women were viewed in here world, with an increasing focus on achievement over looks.



Offsite Article: Unwanted Friends...

Link Here1st December 2015
Banks, insurers and even the taxman are trawling Facebook and other sites looking for information about you

See article from telegraph.co.uk



Offsite Article: Asking 'Where are you from?' is now deemed to be 'microaggression'...

Link Here 24th November 2015
Aggressive PC extremists launch an assault on everyday life. By Frank Furedi

See article from spiked-online.com



Declining Viewers...

BBC tries to shut down foreign access of iPlayer via VPNs

Link Here16th October 2015
The BBC is taking measures against the unauthorized use of its iPlayer service by actively blocking UK VPN services. The measures aim to prevent foreigners from accessing iPlayer without permission, but they're also blocking many legitimate UK citizens from surfing the Internet securely.

While the service is intended for UK viewers, who have to pay a mandatory TV license, it's also commonly used overseas. Recent research suggests that 60 million people outside the UK access iPlayer through VPNs and other circumvention tools.

Traditionally the BBC hasn't taken any measures to prevent unauthorized use, but this changed very recently. Over the past several days TF has received several reports from VPN users who can no longer access iPlayer from UK-based VPN servers. Blocked viewers see the message:

BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only.

This effectively stops foreigners and expats from accessing the service, but it also affects license paying UK citizens who use a VPN to browse the Internet securely. They will now have to disconnect their VPN if they want to access iPlayer.

Several VPN users are not happy with the change and have voiced their complaints. The issue is also causing concern among VPN providers, which are looking for options to circumvent the blockade.



Commented: Aggressive abuse of the English language...

United Nations women's group calls for the international censorship of internet porn

Link Here2nd October 2015
A UN report titled, Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls has been published by members of the Working Group on Broadband and Gender with editorial inputs by teams from UN Women, UNDP and ITU.

It is very manipulative report, starting by discussing internationally reprehensible online behaviour such as making death threats. It then defines these as 'cyber violence' and establishes that such behaviour should not be allowed on the internet, presumably assuming concurrence by readers.

Then it pulls a fast one by defining a long list of other things as a 'a form of cyber violence', many of which are nothing to do with violence, but are just a wish list of things that feminists do not like. This list includes the adult consensual sex trade and inevitably, your bog standard porn. The authors claim:

Research reveals that 88.2% of top rated porn scenes contain aggressive acts and 94% of the time the act is directed towards a woman

Hence porn should be banned as 'cyber violence against women'.

Update: Cybersexism? Yet another feminist panic

2nd October 2015. See article from spiked-online.com by Ella Whelan

The UN's report on cybersexism is shrill and illiberal.



Karma Police...

Snowden has revealed that GCHQ has been monitoring everybody's internet porn use to identify suspicious behaviour. Presumably moralists not viewing porn are those under suspicion

Link Here26th September 2015
British spies have snooped on people's visits to online porn websites, according to documents leaked by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden .

The files appear to detail a top secret programme - creepily codenamed Karma Police - which has been storing and analysing the browsing habits of every visible user on the internet for seven years.

They revelations were published by The Intercept, who say they obtained the information from Snowden.

The Karma Police system collected and stored records of visits to Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Reddit - as well as porn website YouPorn. GCHQ have been correlating logs of websites visited with associated cookie information to identify the viewers.

The Snowden files give some idea of how they mine this data on an unprecedented scale, with the aim of detecting suspicious behaviour by anyone in the world.

The system also allowed spooks to track people who had listened to particular online radio stations, which they say were used to spread radical islamic ideas.

A report included in the leak showed how they selected one listener, from Egypt, and revealed they had also looked at porn site Redtube, Facebook, Yahoo, Flickr, Google, and a website about Islam. The report does not say whether the user was suspected of a crime or had links to terrorism beyond listening to a radio station.

The Karma Police system shares its name with a Radiohead song, the chorus of which goes: This is what you'll get if you mess with us.



Privacy Badger...

EFF provides a Firefox/Chrome add on to block sneaky ways of tracking your website browsing

Link Here31st August 2015

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released Privacy Badger 1.0, a browser extension that blocks some of the sneakiest trackers that try to spy on your Web browsing habits.

More than a quarter of a million users have already installed the alpha and beta releases of Privacy Badger. The new Privacy Badger 1.0 includes blocking of certain kinds of super-cookies and browser fingerprinting -- the latest ways that some parts of the online tracking industry try to follow Internet users from site to site.

EFF Staff Technologist Cooper Quintin, lead developer of Privacy Badger said:

It's likely you are being tracked by advertisers and other third parties online. You can see some of it when it's happening, such as ads that follow you around the Web that seem to reflect your past browsing history. Those echoes from your past mean you are being tracked, and the records of your online activity are distributed to other third parties -- all without your knowledge, control, or consent. But Privacy Badger 1.0 will spot many of the trackers following you without your permission, and will block them or screen out the cookies that do their dirty work.

Privacy Badger 1.0 works in tandem with the new Do Not Track (DNT) policy, announced earlier this week by EFF and a coalition of Internet companies. Users can set the DNT flag -- in their browser settings or by installing Privacy Badger -- to signal that they want to opt-out of online tracking. Privacy Badger won't block third-party services that promise to honor all DNT requests.

 EFF Chief Computer Scientist Peter Eckersley, leader of the DNT project said:

With DNT and Privacy Badger 1.0, Internet users have important new tools to make their desires about online tracking known to the websites they visit and to enforce those desires by blocking stealthy online tracking and the exploitation of their reading history. It's time to put users back in control and stop surreptitious, intrusive Internet data collection. Installing Privacy Badger 1.0 helps build a leaner, cleaner, privacy-friendly Web.

Download Firefox/Chrome browser add on from eff.org



Offsite Article: Ghostery and Privacy...

Link Here25th August 2015
If ad-blocking continues to rise, what happens to the web's business model? By John Naughton

See article from theguardian.com



Update: 10 reasons to give it a miss...

Windows 10 set to block pirate software that it detects or refuse to allow 'unauthorised' hardware

Link Here17th August 2015
According to a report by PC Authority the latest update to the Windows 10 EULA (End User Licence Agreement) says that Microsoft can block you from using pirated software and unauthorised hardware peripherial devices :

Sometimes you'll need software updates to keep using the Services. We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices. You may also be required to update the software to continue using the Services.

And it seems that the definition of 'unauthorised' is left to the whims of Microsoft.



Offsite Article: Ministry of No Sound...

Link Here17th August 2015
How the British authorities are suffocating night clubs with oppressive and unnecessary regulation

See article from telegraph.co.uk



Offsite Article: Broken Windows Theory...

Link Here5th August 2015
An even better article on protecting your self from Microsoft Windows 10 snooping

See article from slate.com



Offsite Article: Windows 10 spying...

Link Here2nd August 2015
How to opt out of Microsoft's intrusive terms of use

See article from independent.co.uk



Targeted by Hashtag Harpies...

US store Target stands up against PC bullies and refuses to pull 'trophy' t-shirts

Link Here23rd July 2015
US retailer Target has refused to stop selling an ironic T-shirt which alludes to women as trophies with a spokesperson explaining that women of all ages love the controversial item.

A few PC bullies have been flooding social media with threats to boycott the store via the inevitable Change.org petition. User Amanda R. from Milwaukee, Wisconsin started the petition last month for Target to Stop Selling Sexist "Trophy" Shirt That Demeans Women , claiming that the shirt's message encourages rape culture.  The petition has been signed by about 11,500 people and moans:

The word trophy should not refer to any person, man or woman, because we are not THINGS - we are human beings. Labeling any person as a "Trophy" is demeaning their humanity and objectifying them as a tangible object that can be bought, used, and disposed of.

Target have responded in statement to USA Today:

It is never our intention to offend anyone and we always appreciate receiving feedback from our guests,  The shirt you're describing is part of a collection of engagement and wedding shirts that are available in our women's and plus size departments.

The collection also included shirts that say "Team Bride", "Mrs" and "Bride". These shirts are intended as a fun wink and we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests.



Shameful separation of couples over minimum income requirements...

Protests against the human rights abusers of the British government

Link Here 10th July 2015
Immigration laws leave an estimated 33,000 people unable to remain with spouses in Britain as they do not earn enough to satisfy visa requirements.

The rules were introduced on 9 July 2012, and every year dozens of couples who have been separated from their partners and children gather outside the Home Office to protest a law which means around 47% of Britons do not earn enough to fall in love with a foreigner.

Don Flynn, of Migrant Rights Network, which hosted the demo along with BritCits, an organisation for affected couples, said the British economy had suffered because of the law:

The government claimed it would save 650m, but research from Middlesex University found that if, as expected, most of these spouses would have found employment, that would have made a contribution of over 850m.

There was a common thread among those who came to protest on Thursday, regardless of their background. All said that everyone they met thought the law was wrong.

Among those protesting were family members with children living abroad, unable to return because of visa laws.

Nigel Johnson brought his 11-year-old stepson Jeff to the protest from north Devon, with the youngster proudly wearing his British public school uniform. Nigel's wife Burphan, Jeff's mother, is still in Bangkok. J ohnson said:

We don't even intend to stay here long term, but we've scraped every penny together from the extended family to give this boy a proper British education. In just two years, with English as his second language, he's top of his class. But of course, he misses cuddles from his mum.

I've cut grass, I've cleaned holiday cottages, I've worked six jobs to get my income over the threshold and still we are being turned down.

The legal fight against the law is now in its final throes. In 2013, the high court found the threshold of 18,600 was too high, with Mr Justice Blake calling the law unjustified but it was overturned by the court of appeal and the case is now at the supreme court, due to sit this September. That same month will also see a report from children's commissioner Anne Longfield examining the effects of the law on children separated from a parent.

But many of the couples at Thursday's protest who had successfully managed to settle in the UK said they had used a legal technicality known as the Surinder Singh route, after the landmark case. It paved the way for Britons to work abroad in another European Economic Area country before bringing a non-European spouse to the UK, so EEA law on spouses, which is more generous, can take precedent.

Mrs Pineda-Andrews said the system had coloured her view of Britain. I experienced so much bigotry, to be with the person I love. She smiled as she held up her passport, with the British visa inside. We are still fighting because we want change, I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy. Well, maybe on Theresa May.



Dancing til the rising sun...

Japan's parliament ends restrictions on late night dancing after police drag up old law to harass night clubs in Osaka

Link Here17th June 2015
Japan has repealed an old law banning dancing after midnight. But of course politicians can't entirely let go of their control freakery and have retained the ban in low-light venues.

Japan's parliament voted to relax the laws, which date from 1948. The laws were introduced during the US occupation amid supposed concerns that the relatively liberal social attitudes of the Americans were corrupting Japan's youth. It was also an attempt to curb prostitution.

In recent times enforcement of the law had declined, but after decades of turning a blind eye to the clubs, police unilaterally decided to resurrect the law following the 2010 death of a 22-year-old student after a fight in an Osaka club.

Hit by a wave of raids by police who claimed they wanted to prevent an excessively hedonistic atmosphere at clubs, most of the city's venues were shut down for licensing violations, pulling the plug on Osaka's thriving dance scene.

This ban on midnight dancing drew fierce criticism from dance and music industry figures who said the government should promote Japan's growing, vibrant dance culture.

Under the new law, which is expected to take effect by June next year, dancing after midnight will be allowed if the club has a light level of at least 10 lux. This light level is approximately equivalent to what a movie theatre looks like with the lights on.



Making Allowances for a Bankrupt Exchequor...

UK government postpones grossly unfair tax law demanding that UK expats lose their personal tax allowance

Link Here17th March 2015
The UK government has confirmed the continued availability of UK personal allowances for expats until April 2017 at least.

Five million Brits who live abroad were fearful after the government proposed the grossly unfair policy of demanding that non-residents pay income tax from the first pound in a budget statement last year. The British government now states,

Last year the government launched a consultation on whether or not to restrict the income tax personal allowance for non-residents. Whilst the government believes there is a strong rationale for doing this, it recognizes it is a complex change for both employers and individuals who may be affected. The government will continue to discuss implementation of this change with stakeholders. Should the government decide to proceed, a more detailed consultation will be undertaken. No change will come into effect before April 2017.

Tax specialists say that the government has backed down, at least for now, because there are too many categories of expats to fit a one-size-fits-all solution. John Dolan said:

There is all the difference in the world between retirees living here on small pensions and wealthy individuals with jobs in Thailand and property in UK which they rent out. If the scheme had been introduced, the pensioners would have been worst hit.



Why has Britain's top cop declared war on pubs?...

I have a real problem with our country's leadership, precisely because of this sort of nitwittery. I shake my head and wonder how someone who spouts this kind of evidence-free claptrap gets to that level.

Link Here16th March 2015
Full story: Drinking Restrictions...Drinking becomes the target of killjoy politicians



Offsite Article: Less Hassle...

Link Here7th March 2015
Banks set to ask customers to enable location monitoring via smart phones so that credit card fraud can be reduced

See article from bangkokpost.com



Updated: Big Brother's Listening...

Particularly closely to Samsung Smart TV viewers

Link Here14th February 2015
Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.

The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.

Such TV sets listen to some of what is said in front of them and may share details they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.

Privacy campaigners said the technology smacked of the telescreens, in George Orwell's 1984, which spied on citizens. Presumably the 'third parties' receiving the data are the likes of GCHQ and the NSA.

Samsung's privacy policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands or queries are issued via the remote. It goes on to say:

If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.

Soon after, an activist for the EFF circulated the policy statement on Twitter comparing it to George Orwell's description of the telescreens in his novel 1984 that listen to what people say in their homes.

Samsung explained further in response to the international interest:

If a consumer consents and uses the voice recognition feature, voice data is provided to a third party during a requested voice command search. At that time, the voice data is sent to a server, which searches for the requested content then returns the desired content to the TV.

Samsung claimed that it did not retain voice data or sell the audio being captured. But this does not really deny the possibility that the data is passed on to GCHQ.

Update: Samsung rewrites its privacy policy to remove the ominous sounding '3rd Party'

11th February 2015. See  article from  theregister.co.uk

Samsung hasn't actually changed how its TVs' voice recognition works but it has just changed the language of its privacy policy to help clarify how the voice-recognition works. Samsung no longer warns customers about the perils of speaking too freely in front of their televisions. Here's what it says now:

To provide you the Voice Recognition feature, some interactive voice commands may be transmitted (along with information about your device, including device identifiers) to a third-party service provider (currently, Nuance Communications, Inc.) that converts your interactive voice commands to text and to the extent necessary to provide the Voice Recognition features to you.

The new language appears to indicate that Samsung is only sharing the audio data it captures with a speech recognition provider and not with more sinister partners, such as GCHQ and the NSA.

Update: Microsoft and Apple Too

14th February 2015. See  article from  dailymail.co.uk

Millions of Britons are being spied on in their homes by Microsoft's voice-activated Xbox game consoles, Apple smartphones and other hi-tech gadgets.

Kinect-controlled Xboxes listen to everything around them, silently waiting for commands such as Xbox turn on or instructions to load up computer games.

Apple also records what people say when they press a button on their iPhones and issue a command to its voice activation service Siri, but the firm says the data is anonymised, but this can usually be unpicked with information such as GPS location. According to a source, Apple hangs on to the information for up to two years.

Microsoft's Kinect gadgets are so sophisticated and pervasive that Britain's telecommunications security agency, GCHQ, is even said to have considered using them to monitor families.

Like most gadgets that use voice recognition, Xboxes controlled by Kinect record what people say then translate that information into text commands so that the device knows what to do. Simple commands such as Xbox turn on are recorded and processed on the spot, but more complicated instructions are sent to powerful remote servers for translation.

Microsoft said its customers can stop Kinect listening by unplugging it.



Update: What a bunch of big girl's blouses...

Chinese TV censors ludicrously cut cleavage from popular TV series. (Just like Thai TV censors too)

Link Here10th January 2015
There's been a bit of an online backlash in China over censors cutting all cleavage from scenes in a popular TV drama about China's only female emperor.

The drama, The Empress of China , also known as the Saga of Wu Zetian was pulled from the schedules of commercial satellite station Hunan TV for technical reasons late last month, Xinhua reported.

When it returned a few days later, the show, starring the famous Chinese actress Fan Bingbing in the title role of Wu Zetian had been conspicuously edited.

Scenes of female characters, with cleavage showing dressed in period costume, had been cropped out, leaving only close-ups of their heads.

The Global Times insisted that a system of control was necessary. it wrote in a propaganda piece: 

The reality is that censorship exists in many countries and it is unlikely to be reversed in China.

Changes to The Empress of China sparked fury among mainland internet users, who argued that censors had gone too far. An online survey released by the Sina Weibo microblogging service on Monday found that nearly 95% of respondents disapproved of the censorship of The Empress of China.

Some mainland bloggers, who renamed the drama The Saga of Wu's Squeezed Breasts , mocked the decision by censors. They circulated a series of edited pictures on social media, showing people how to highlight the head and hide the breasts when it comes to other characters.

The Global Times newspaper noted the defiance in an editorial:

While the censorship was largely done out of moral concerns, the resulting public outcry should serve as a warning for the future. While it is powerful, censorship lacks authority. In this sense, when using censorship, more considerations should be given to public opinion to garner support and avoid similar incidents.



Netflix Goes all Territorial...

Netflix website disables access via VPN and proxy

Link Here5th January 2015
Netflix is starting to block subscribers who access its service using VPN services and other tools that bypass geolocation restrictions. The changes, which may also affect legitimate users, have been requested by the movie studios who want full control over what people can see in their respective countries.

Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library.

Some people bypass these content and access restrictions by using VPNs or other circumvention tools that change their geographical location. This makes it easy for people all around the world to pay for access to the U.S. version of Netflix, for example.

The movie studios are not happy with these deviant subscribers as it hurts their licensing agreements. Previously entertainment industry sources in Australia complained bitterly that tens of thousands of Netflix VPN-pirates were hurting their business .

Over the past weeks Netflix has started to take action against people who use certain circumvention tools. Thus far the actions are limited in scope, so not all VPN users may experience problems just yet. However, TorGuard is one of the VPN providers which noticed a surge in access problems by its users, starting mid-December.

Netflix is reportedly testing a variety of blocking methods. Eg querying the user's time zone through the web browser or mobile device GPS and comparing it to the timezone of their IP-address.

TorGuard told us that if Netflix continues with a strict ban policy, they will provide an easy solution to bypass the blocks. Other services, such as Unblock-us are also suggesting workarounds to their customers.

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