Big Data is the DNA of Big Brother

December 14, 2014

Big Data” has become a popular term in information technology and business circles, but what is it and what should we think about it?

“Big Data” is often talked about reverently and passionately by its exponents and its supporters. According to them, “big data” can solve a myriad of economic and social problems; it will mean a faster and more efficient digital economy that is responsive to the needs of both consumers and producers.

Industry will love “big data”, we are assured, because it will mean less waste, more targeted advertising, and a better “fit” between knowing what consumers want and the ability to stock retail shelves with the right goods. For service providers, “big data” means easier connections with those seeking their help and expertise.

In short, “big data” is wonderful, it will benefit all of us and there’s nothing to worry about.

If this sounds too good to be true, it’s probably because it’s more than likely we haven’t yet found the hidden fish hooks – the problems and worrying unanswered questions – that might cause us to think twice before jumping into the “cloud” with the “big data” enthusiasts.

So let’s start with a simple definition, an answer to what should be your first question: “What is ‘big data’?”

“Big Data” refers to the vastly expanding mountains of information that can today be gathered and stored on fast-running servers (supercomputers) and in the “cloud”. The “cloud” is another term that needs some discussion in this context because it is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Cloud computing and “big data” go hand-in-hand. The “cloud” is a fancy name for off-site storage of data using a network of supercomputers. Several companies are now offering retail cloud services, including Google and Apple’s iCloud.

Big Data is the type of material that can be stored in the cloud and retrieved via the public Internet or over a secured point-to-point private system. Big Data is often associated with the “three Vs” of information architecture – volume, velocity and variety.

Volume is just that – the exponentially growing amount of information that we generate each day through online transactions, social media interactions, emails and files that we send and receive. This represents a business opportunity for some and, to others, a vast trove of secrets to be uncovered.

ibm-big-dataVelocity is about speed – the pace at which new data is created and exchanged in both structured and unstructured ways. Harnessing this speed is also a business opportunity. On the global money-trading market, for example, an advantage of just seconds can mean the difference between a profit and a loss on any one transaction.

Variety is also about complexity as data comes in many forms – some are innately useful (e.g. documents, plans, financial records) while others are less structured (e.g. our tweets and Facebook status updates, our online “likes” and Instagram snaps). However, being able to marry these things together is what “big data” is really all about.

If it is possible to know where I am, who I am connected to via social media, what I like to spend my money on and, more importantly, how much disposable income I have, then my data becomes a marketing goldmine. When all of this is connected to my GPS-enabled smartphone, and my every move can be monitored, I cannot escape the siren call of seductive advertising that is all about “me”. It’s personalised to my tastes and it is designed to empty my virtual wallet quicker than I can refill it at the end of a working week.

So at the heart of “big data” is another important definitional “V” word – “value”. No amount of data is worth more than the bytes it’s assembled from unless you can do something with it. And in terms understood implicitly in a capitalist economy, “doing” something with the mountains of data now stored in the “cloud” means monetising it.

Data is monetised when value can be added and subtracted. By turning data into a commodity it can be priced, bought and sold. In other words, somebody, somewhere will be making money from the data – mine, yours and everyone else’s.

At this point we lose control over our own data; we become the objective of big data and cloud computing, not its subjects. Our data belongs to someone else and what they do with it is entirely up to them.

Did you read the fine print before signing up to Facebook or that new cool app for your phone that allows you to locate the nearest new cool bar? No? I didn’t either, and most of us don’t.

In fact, those who control “big data” would prefer we didn’t read the T&Cs. That’s why they are usually a gazillion pages long in 6-point type, and all the nasty bits are buried so deep in that you’d need a team of lawyers and a million dollars to read and understand them. In short, what you are doing when you lazily click “Agree” is giving away all and any rights now and in perpetuity to the data that you are about to hand over to Faceless Corporation.com. What they then do with your data is none of your business, even though it is all about your business.

Everything that Faceless Corporation.com knows about you and every new bit of information that you share when you use their apps and visit their website is suddenly part of “big data” and it now has value.

When the insignificant tidbits you share on social media are all aggregated, sorted, mashed, crunched and scrunched, the analysts at Faceless Corporation.com know more about you than your grandmother, and perhaps even more than your GP.

This information can then be sliced, diced, interpreted and amplified by new incoming data. It is then packaged up by Faceless Corporation.com to be commodified and on-sold to someone else – let’s say Buy This Junk.com – who will then bombard your inbox or your Facebook or your Twitter feed with advertising for their own products and services. If you, for example, use Buy This Junk.com to order a new widget then within days, if not hours, if not minutes, you will see in your social media feeds advertisements for widget-holders, widget-cleaners, widget reseaters and all kinds of widget-related paraphernalia that you didn’t even know you needed.

But now, at least you know why this is happening: Faceless Corporation.com sold your data to Buy This Junk.com and they, in turn sold your data to the companies that service the wide world of widgets and widget fanciers. Of course this is an endless chain. If you were to buy some widget-cleaning goop from Widgets R’Us.com they will, in due course, also be packaging up data about you and your widget-keeping habits. The next thing you know… well, you get the picture.

My example might seem trivial, but the point I’m making is not. Big Data is about recording, storing, surveilling, quantifying and monetising every aspect of our lives beyond anything we might have imagined even a decade ago. There is literally no place to hide anymore, unless you go completely off the grid.

There is a carrot-and-stick effect associated with “big data” that makes going “off-grid” unattractive, if not almost impossible. If you don’t agree to the T&Cs you don’t get the benefit, the goods or the services. Now it is getting worse because we are moving in the direction of a “cashless society”; everything will be done from smart cards, smartphones or even (if the scientists are right) from implanted biometric chips that store our credit and our identities and that are always on and always scannable. If there is GPS tracking as well then, short of digging out the chip with a scalpel, we can never disappear.

This is the beginning of what I have described as the “surveillance economy” – a capitalist system in which the drive to encapsulate everything within “big data” is the engine driving economic growth and profitability. In a system prone to crisis – as global capitalism inevitably is – “big data” looks to some like a panacea, the golden goose and the fountain of economic youth. Unfortunately, I do not share this utopian view of the surveillance economy and if you can read Robert O’Harrow’s 2005 book No Place to Hide you will begin to understand why.

Control of “big data” is in the hands of global transnational corporations that operate to increase shareholder value, not for the benefit of the public interest. Big Data is being harnessed by these corporations in order to control economic activity now and into the future, and it is being done with the full knowledge, support and encouragement of governments around the world.

logentries-big-data

Perhaps I don’t need to spend much time on this aspect of “big data”. Here in Australia we are now familiar with the Federal government’s recent moves to increase the data surveillance powers of ASIO, ostensibly to keep us safe in a dangerous world filled with terrorist threats. However, perhaps we should be alert to, and alarmed about, new laws that appear to give security agents the ability to monitor the entire internet on the basis of one warrant and to keep information about their spying activities out of the public domain.

Critics of “big data” – in both its commercial and its government guises – argue that we will no longer have any real hope of personal privacy at the same time that secrecy surrounding the actions of corporations and government agencies is increasing. I agree with them.

It’s clear from the documents provided by the brave and vilified whistleblowers, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, that Australia is heavily involved in the so-called “Five Eyes” syndicate of Western powers who are also the leading nations prosecuting yet another war in the Middle East on the pretext of fighting global terrorism. This alliance is led by the US National Security Agency (NSA), which is the world’s leading financier of research into making the collection and storage of “big data” even more efficient.

In fact, there’s another book that you should read that can explain all of this in much more detail than I can in the space left to me here. The book is also called No Place to Hide by American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who worked with Edward Snowden on the release of the NSA’s files last year. What he discovered is quite shocking. The NSA works to the principle of “collect everything” and is in the process of making this slogan a reality. I worry about this and I think you should too.

The alternative to dropping off the grid is to stand up and take back control over your own data. It’s not going to be easy, but we have no choice.

There is no place to hide.

First published in Issues magazine, December 2014

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Many places to hide information in the national security media

August 2, 2014

No place to hide: Snowden, Greenwald and Australia’s “national security media”

This piece was first published in New Matilda on 29 July 2014

Eyes On: The Five Eyes agreement means Australia is implicated in the global surveillance economy

Australia is about to get a new raft of national security legislation – the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill – that will radically increase the scope and powers of our spy agencies to snoop on private citizens. The justification for this ramping up of ASIO and ASIS espionage power is the supposed threat from Islamic radicals who, having fought overseas in Syria and Iraq, will be likely to import violent jihad back into Australia. It is a line run almost daily in the Australian news media over the past few weeks .

This is a tenuous justification at best. The historic evidence shows that the police – at both state and federal level – and the nation’s spooks already have ample power to deal with any real and present danger posed by jihadists. For example, Operation Pendennis, which led to the conviction of 13 alleged terrorists in 2007-2008, was conducted using existing phone-tap and other surveillance powers. Between July 2004 and November 2005, the Pendennis dragnet accumulated 16,400 hours of recordings from bugs and 98,000 telephone intercepts; but now ASIO, the Federal Police and state agencies want to sweep up even more calls and even more data.

Additional powers – to tap phones, infiltrate and hack computer networks, give spies the power to entrap suspects and to store electronic metadata for several years – are not necessary under current conditions. However, that has not stopped Attorney General George Brandis (aka “Raging Bedsore”) from touting the new laws as measures to save Australian lives and to keep safe the national interest.

Well, of course the Government – and her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – would say that wouldn’t they? It’s no surprise that the nation’s politicians, who govern through the promotion of irrational fears and promises of a quick fix, would jump on the “more powers to the spooks” bandwagon. After all, there are votes and endorsements in “security” issues; as well as happy feelings of safety and warmth induced by the vague and unfounded notion of keeping the country out of “harm’s way” and by appearing to be “tough” on terrorists. It is the tried and true method of invoking the sexy beast Laura Norder; and in a world of uncertainty, devastation and death (think Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan Gaza, MH17 and other global hotspots) her warm, comforting embrace seems like a haven from the horror and bloodshed.

But perhaps we might have expected a little more searching, or a little more critical and independent analysis from the nation’s leading media outlets. Maybe it would not have been too much to ask for at least one correspondent or pundit to write a “think piece” about how the call for more spying and less oversight could result in less freedom, not more. Surely there is one “national security” correspondent or “defence” editor out there in the media world who feels it necessary to add a note of caution about our unthinking stumble towards Nineteen Eighty-four?

If you’ve been looking for that op-ed or the news piece quoting critics of the Government’s new legislation, you’ve no doubt been thoroughly disappointed. It is missing in action; not there, invisible and unreported. Instead what we’ve seen in the last few weeks is article after op-ed after editorial praising and supporting the unseemly rush to becoming a nation of spies and spied upon.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at the lack of critical reporting; and, if you’ve seen Glenn Greenwald’s excellent recent book, No Place to Hide , you might be slightly and wryly amused at the lack of opposing views, but you won’t be surprised.

Greenwald has written his insider’s account of meeting Edward Snowden for the first time in a Hong Kong hotel room and coming to terms with the enormity of Snowden’s selfless action and the implications held in the treasure trove of National Security Administration data held in the cache of secrets he handed over for public scrutiny.

That story should be familiar to New Matilda readers. Unless you’ve been on Mars for the past year you will know about the NSA documents that revealed, inter alia, Australia’s spying on the Indonesians, the Americans spying on the Germans and pretty much any nation and anybody with a copper wire communication network, an Internet connection or mobile phone.

The sheer scale of snooping – billions of intercepted messages every day – is mind-boggling enough. Greenwald is convinced (and convincing) on the point that the NSA has a goal to collect every bit of electronic information that blips its way across the global communication network. He writes that the NSA mantra is “collect everything” and it is the logistics of doing this, then storing and sorting the results, that he forensically dissects in No Place to Hide.

One of the realisations that any intelligent reader of this book will come to is that the NSA and its “Five Eyes” partners (UK, New Zealand, Canada and Australia) [https://www.privacyinternational.org/reports/eyes-wide-open/understanding-the-five-eyes] could not manage the collection and sifting of so much data without the explicit cooperation of the world’s major telecommunications companies. Yep, just about everyone you deal with for your electronic data life is implicated – Yahoo, Skype, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Verizon, Dell, Facebook and countless others – everyone is scooping and sharing your data with the NSA and God knows who else.

As Edward Snowden told Greenwald during one of their first Hong Kong interviews: “I saw firsthand that the State, especially the NSA, was working hand in hand with the private tech industry to get full access to people’s communications.”

A quick reminder that Snowden was employed by the private consulting firm Booz, Allen Hamilton while working at the NSA HQ is all you need to grasp the implications of this. The entire global economy is now systemically and irrevocably enmeshed in an alliance with Governments to suck, squeeze and pulp our data in order to make the juice of profits and to keep the world safe from people like us.

That’s why it is really good to have strong individuals like Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden in the world today. If we relied on the mainstream media to tell us this stuff, we would never know.

No Place to Hide also provides clues as to the “Why?” of the MSM’s silence on the downsides to the creeping, all-seeing surveillance state. There’s a fantastic chapter that details the media’s complicity in not reporting, or more often mis-reporting, the actions of the NSA. The details are different, of course, but the general outline is applicable in Australia. We are experiencing the world of the “national security news media”.

The roots of the media’s complicit silence in relation to surveillance go back to the immediate political reactions to the events of “9/11”. Since that time, Greenwald writes, “the US media in general has been jingoistic and intensely loyal to the government and this hostile, sometimes viciously so, to anyone who exposed its secrets.” The same thing applies here. Even today some columnists cling to the lie of Iraqi WMD, preferring to spout the line that they just “haven’t been found yet”; more than a decade on from the disaster of Iraq some commentators refuse to see that it was a terrible mistake, built on fabrication and probably a war crime. But, history is written by the victors and its first “rough draft” is compiled by the loyal stenographers in the political press corps.

When it comes to “national security” and the surveillance state, loyal news editors and respected senior writers on policy and politics continue to toe the

When Greenwald appeared on the talk shows he was accused of helping a traitor [Snowden]

When Greenwald appeared on the talk shows he was accused of helping a traitor [Snowden]

line. When Greenwald was doing the rounds of American political talk shows, he was confronted with a wall of hostility from his journalistic colleagues: “Many US journalists resumed their accustomed role as servants to the government.” In June 2103 the story turned from the expose of “serious NSA abuses”, to one that Snowden had “betrayed” the US, “committed crimes and then ‘fled to China’”.

In Australia, the Snowden is a “traitor” line continues to be vehemently pursued in the Murdoch newspapers, which increasingly reflect a kind of Aussie-fied Tea Party ideological bent. And it is Murdoch’s The Australian that is leading the “national security”: cheer squad for Bedsore’s touted “improvements” to ASIO and ASIS spying powers. However, to be fair, the Fairfax outlets are well and truly in-line and waving the flag almost as vigorously as News Corps.

I call this proposition the “position of the complicit insider” and it’s not a new phenomenon. The political media – Press Gallery journalists in Australia – enjoy a privileged status alongside politicians, political advisors and senior bureaucrats. Reporters and commentators are often seduced by the close access they gain to the centres of power and political operators are therefore able to prevail upon them to non-disclosure of uncomfortable secrets. As well as this agreement not to rock the boat too hard in return for favours (in reality scraps of information that the insiders want revealed), political reporters feel a false sense of duty to act “responsibly” and not reveal information, or write stories that might damage some false notion of “national security”.

Anyone who regularly reads the “quality” press in Australia (including The Guardian), or who watches political chat shows on television will instantly recognize this problem.

In July 2014 we saw a good example of the supportive opinion piece genre in The Weekend Australian. Associate Editor Cameron Stewart wrote a lengthy commentary endorsing the Government’s proposed tougher surveillance powers and data retention laws . Stewart noted the “hand-wringing” of Left and liberal commentators when the then Howard Government updated and upgraded anti-terror and security laws in 2005 and added that in 2014 it was only “the Greens and a handful of human rights lawyers” who seemed to be complaining. Stewart repeats all the claims made by Bedsore and ASIO boss David Irvine that returning jihadists pose a significant danger and that the collection of electronic “metadata” is just a harmless means of identifying potential threats.

In Stewart’s worldview, any opposition to greater surveillance powers is dismissed as being an issue of concern only for “the Left” and its “prism of Cold War excesses”. Security officials are uncritically quoted about the effectiveness of metadata collection in previous terror-related prosecution. Stewart has only one area of concern: that journalists could be targeted by new provisions to prevent Snowden-style leaks. Stewart’s newspaper has never had much regard for Edward Snowden, whom it says – echoing the American view – is a traitor, not a whistleblower.

The Weekend Australian also carried an editorial supporting the boosting of security laws; ironically the paper seemed to blame communications technology for creating the need to change the law:

In the internet age, legislation governing Australia’s intelligence agencies must keep pace with terrorists’ capacity to use technology

When it comes to the Snowden materials, Greenwald makes the argument that the well-connected Washington media will never go all the way. He says it is an “unwritten rule” that only a few documents from such a vast treasure trove of secrets would be revealed, “so as to limit its impact…and then walk away, ensuring that nothing had really changed”.

This sensibility is evident in the recent Australian reporting of ASIO seeking more powers, or police breach of their own rules for eavesdropping.

A June 2014 story headlined ‘New surveillance powers aim to boost fight against terrorism’, by the Fairfax “National security correspondent” David Wroe, is framed in such a way that the move seems both natural and necessary. The lede clearly suggests that the move is necessary, “amid growing fears about the terrorism threat posed by Australians fighting in the Middle East.”

In the second par the clear distinction is made between “innocent third-party computers” and “a computer used by a suspect terrorist or criminal”, but already the scope of the powers is broadened from just a “suspect terrorist” to now include “criminal” behaviour.

The third par equates the reader’s interest with the point of view of the security services themselves by suggesting the new rules would benefit law enforcement “dramatically freeing up surveillance powers”. Of course, there’s really nothing to worry about because the new, expanded spying powers would only be used, reassuringly, “under ministerial authorisation”.

In the fifth par we are lulled to sleep with the anodyne phrase the “intelligence community” and with the further assurance that what this benign community group has “long called for” is to remove “hurdles” in the way of legitimate “investigations” and to fix a “failure of the law to keep pace with technology”.

The report goes on to tell us that the changes are based on recommendations made by a “parliamentary inquiry, last year, supported by Labor” – the appearance of bi-partisan support is meant to be reassuring too. We are reminded that the report to parliament “stressed there needed to be strict safeguards, including guarantees that the intrusion on the third party’s privacy would be minimised”.

The security community worldwide is fond of the word “minimised”. “Minimisation” is supposed to occur in the US context too, where it means that all non-relevant information is stripped from surveilled communications before it is passed on for analysis. However, as the Snowden documents reveal, in the race to “collect everything”, non-relevant data is always collected and nearly always stored, analysed and archived for later retrieval.

In other words, we cannot trust our political masters; they are probably lying to us and they are most certainly pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible “National security reporters” like David Wroe. Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh by suggesting Wroe is gullible and there is another explanation that stands up. If you are the “National security reporter” it really is not in your interests (or your employer’s) for you to run foul of the key sources who inhabit your beat. If you were to write critically about an official source, for example, the next time you call for a comment, s/he might hang up on you. More likely, their departmental boss will call your boss and you’ll be back on the shipping rounds.

Whatever the ultimate cause, the gulling of the public continues in Wroe’s June 2014 article when he pulls in a “third party” expert to assess the situation. In this case the expert is hardly an independent analyst:

Tobias Feakin, a cybersecurity expert at the Australian Strategic Police [sic] Institute, said the changes would update legislation that was ”well out of date”.

Oops, an interesting Freudian slip by David Wroe; Dr Feakin is actually attached to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and has solid ties into the defence and security establishment, including the Royal United Services Institute (a UK-based military think tank) where he was “Head of Homeland Security Capabilities” and “Director, National Security and Resilience Department” between 2006 and 2007.

Most of the time we don’t bother to check the CVs of these experts that are put in front of us, all too often without question. If “expert” and “official” sources say something then a journalist will usually just report it with stenographic accuracy and perhaps (if we’re lucky) offer up one or two tame questions to be kicked away by the expert.

Dr Feakin is particularly popular on ABC News24 where he pops up on an all too regular basis, confirming Greenwald’s central thesis about media complicity. In September 2013 Dr Feakin was used as a source in an Australian Financial Review story about the new and expensive ASIO headquarters building in Canberra. This story reveals that when ASIO and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) occupy their new building, private companies in the security industry will be offered the opportunity to “collocate” some of their employees alongside the nation’s senior spooks.

It is expected the centre will allow executives and security staff from select industries to share knowledge and learn from government cyber specialists…in a bid to liaise more frequently with private industry, a task DSD cannot easily do as a Department of Defence entity.

This is another classic play from the American security state experience that highlights with some certainty that the Security State needs to be enmeshed with the security industry in order to function at a high level. If you ever thought the interests of the State and of Capital were not contiguous, let this dispel you of that myth right now. The AFR article confirms it with this simple statement:

Senior intelligence officials said they remain deeply concerned about the ­vulnerabilities that exist outside a few “islands of excellence”. They said ­relatively “hardened” areas include the major banks and Telstra, which last year hired a former DSD deputy director, Mike Burgess, as its chief security officer. (emphasis added)

Dr Feakin makes an appearance in the final two paragraphs of the story and it is abundantly clear which side of the security fence this “independent” analyst sits:

[Feakin] welcomed the move to integrate private firms into the new cyber operations centre, but said companies would have to be “willing to share data with government, otherwise momentum will be lost and they won’t keep their focus on such efforts”.

The story of Dr Feakin is also a salutary lesson that we should never take for granted the so-called independence and bona fides of the experts served up to us by a complicit and compliant media.

We can expect to see more of this type of “national security news” over the coming months as the new expanded spying power legislation is passed and bedded in. If you want to really know what’s going on, look beyond the mainstream media, which has decided to enjoy the comforts of the insider and to lull the rest of us into a false sense of security.

Remember, there really is no place to hide any longer.

 


More police misconduct – Met threat to press photographers

April 25, 2009

Back in March, the UK Guardian published video footage showing how the police were surveilling protestors and journalists at an environment protest. Well, after apologising for their actions, which included following journos into a McDonalds and threatening them, the Metropolitan police were at it again during the recent G20 protests in London.

A new video has surfaced showing the cops threatening to arrest news photographers covering the protest. The cops apologised again, but they obviously don’t mean it. The UK seems to be moving inexorably in the direction of a police state  like Orwell’s Airstrip One in 1984.

This comes on top of loads of evidence that the cops were heavy-handed in their treatment of the largely peaceful protests and the death of Ian Tomlinson, a guy who had nothing to do with the G20 protest, but was just walking past the cops. He was pushed to the ground, he died a few hours later.

[Tx Colleen]

BTW: While checking out stuff for this post I came across a good UK blog that used to be called “Airstrip One”, but is now known as Did you steal my country.  The guys behind DYSMC describe themselves as conservative(ish) libertarians, but they write well on interesting and useful topics. I also came across this bitter post Life on Airstrip One at OpenDemocracy.


Media a target for zealous police – not it’s not Russia

March 12, 2009

Thanks to Colleen for this tip.

The Guardian has an interesting story and video clip about police surveillance of reporters covering an environmental protest late last year.

Secret footage shot by two police surveillance officers during the protest, obtained by the Guardian and broadcast online over the weekend, confirmed officers have been monitoring journalists at protests. Senior officers had previously denied journalists had become the target of surveillance units.

The footage showed that while officers had been asked to monitor protesters against the Kingsnorth coal-fired power station, they showed particular interest in journalists.

An ITV news crew, a Sky News cameraman and several photographers were among members of the press placed under surveillance as they left the camp in August. Later in the day journalists were followed by another surveillance unit to a McDonald’s restaurant where police filmed them.[We wre wrong]

It’s interesting that the cops feel quite at ease following journos who are legitimately doing their jobs. It’s very worrying and clearly the informal extension of surveillance by the police is just a normal part of function creep.

It’s really just their creepy function to keep tabs on undesirables like journalists.

Read the rest of this entry »


Facebook and surveillance: “You can leave your hat on.”

January 20, 2009

The lesson here is when you’re committing a crime, no matter how hot it gets, keep your balaclava on.

Queenstown police nabbed a burglar after posting security camera images on the internet networking site Facebook of him trying to crack a safe.

Police said it was the country’s first such Facebook arrest and they would use the site again to fight crime.

“Facebook was very handy, and it’s a good little tool,” said Senior Sergeant John Fookes. [NZ Herald]


Gopalan Nair free on bail – still facing charges

June 6, 2008

I just saw an AFP news feed, 8 hours ago [around 7 on Thursday evening Sydney time], saying the Singapore blogger Gopalan Nair has been released. As of now I can’t find any coverage in the NZ Herald or the Dominion Post.

Nair posted $5000 bail and walked out of prison after four days, but without his US passport. Nair arrived in Singapore on 25 May and challenged authorities to come and get him from his hotel.

He had posted his room and phone numbers on Singapore Dissident [link inside]. Gopalan’s charged with insulting a judge in a defamation case involving two of his political allies. His blog, regularly criticises the government.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is protesting Nair’s arrest. He was in Singapore to cover the defamation trial involving Democratic Party activists Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Chee Siok Chin.

That trial is also a story worth following as Nair is trapped in Singapore and now facing serious defamation charges himself.

Read the rest of this entry »


Slap on the writs!

May 15, 2008

So the NZ police have finally acted against the Fairfax editors and journalists who wrote about the leaked “Urewera” terror case affidavit. The police issued a “warning”, but I can’t really see what the effect of that will be.

Is it supposed to “chill” any enthusiasm the media has for publishing similar details in the future? If so, one would hope that it fails miserably. On the other hand, if the reporters and editors have breached Section 312K of the Crimes Act, why aren’t they being prosecuted? Read the rest of this entry »