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Archive for February, 2019

When I first read these words (by Cory Doctorow), I was quite surprised. Could an executive entity be so… stupid… ?

The EU Commission has been forced to retract a Medium post in which it patronised and dismissed opponents of the controversial Article 13 proposal that will force platforms to surveil and censor users’ postings with copyright filters, calling them a “mob.”

The Commission characterised the opposition as being stooges for Google, hoodwinked by the company to carry water for it, despite the fact that Google has quietly supported the idea of filters as an acceptable alternative to other forms of regulation (Facebook, too, has supported the proposal).

The answer to my question above is: yes. And just to be clear: I oppose some of the Articles in the proposal, but no-one has paid me to do so!

If you want to read what the EU Commission published, head over to TorrentFreak – they have archived a copy of the text.

Does the text of the Commission in anyway address some of the critiques levelled at the current proposal? Not really. It tries to explain the rationale behind it, but hides that attempt between a number of fabrications that can only be classified as condescending, disrespectful and anti-democratic. How else can you interpret a text that says “Do Google, Facebook or others really need to pay to persuade?“, when you know that such companies are among the biggest lobbyists in Brussel (just check LobbyFacts.eu).

Anyway, let’s talk facts: if you want to know what’s wrong Article 13, head over to the EFF website and read “Artists Against Article 13: When Big Tech and Big Content Make a Meal of Creators, It Doesn’t Matter Who Gets the Bigger Piece“. In short: Article 13 is about filtering content, and no reasonably-size forum can do so without automation. Given that all pattern-recognition software (that’s what AI is about) is strongly dependent on the input used to train it, it’s more than likely that many errors will be made. Obliging the platforms to police the content of its users amounts to a form of privatisation of censorship – without much recourse to a fair trial to redress errors and fraud…

What worries me, as a longtime supporter of Europe, most about the EU Commission’s blog post is that incidents like this one are very likely to diminish enthusiasm for the European unification and for the upcoming European elections; it certainly does so for me. Two decades ago, being an elected official for Europe was an ambition for those with a genuine will to make the European Union a success. These days, it seems more like an extension of local and national politics: you try to be elected because one way or another there’s (big) money to be made there… I know this is a very cynical view – but I can’t help feeling that whoever wrote that EU Commission post as far more cynical about democracy than me!

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Raspberry Pi Gets Even Cooler

Where did they get their inspiration, I wonder?

More details can be found on TechCrunch: “The Raspberry Pi store is much cooler than an Apple Store“.

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The latest EU Copyright Directive has reached a final state before going to the EU Council and the EU Parliament. Unfortunately, some of its articles are still unpalatable for anyone wanting to keep the Internet a place where censorship, be it by official authorities or by commercial entities, has no place. I refer you again to the words of Cory Doctorow of the EFF in one of his many explanations about the current proposal, and to the detailed analysis written by MEP Julia Reda. For details on the latest version of the proposal, you should read Reda’s “The text of Article 13 and the EU Copyright Directive has just been finalised“.

I fully understand the desire of artists and authors to be rewarded for their creative efforts if they so desire. Any copyright law must take that into consideration. But I’m not so sure that the current proposal will help them: the only winner will be big, rich companies… not the authors! The proposal, through Article 13 for example (which does not even mention the creators of content, only “rightholders”!), will reinforce monopolies and reduce competition. Unreliable automated filtering of content, without any means of contesting the results of those filters – is that what we really want?

Keep up the pressure, contact your MEP and tell her/him that this Directive in general, and certainly Articles 11 and 13, is not what Europe needs! And vote smartly in May, when the European Parliament needs to be reconstituted.

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The list proposed isn’t perfect, but multiple items on the list are a good start: “Security Checklist: Be safe on the internet“. It’s an “open source checklist of resources designed to improve your online privacy and security“, and it does cover the basics: a password manager, strong passwords, two-factor authentication where possible, device encryption, etc. As a Belgian citizen, I don’t know what a “credit freeze” is, so I ignore that suggestion.

I’m not certain if I should classify it as a minor or a major flaw, but I feel that Keepass (and its variants/derivatives) should have been mentioned explicitly. I have written about Keepass in the past, and in my mind it’s still the best password management solution. Yes, it requires a bit of tinkering, but you really don’t need any advanced computer skills to build a strong, working solution for multiple devices that works online and offline. I prefer that to a paying solution which at the same time stores your precious data in a place that you just have to trust…

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Usually, December is the gloomiest month of any winter. But during the first half of this year’s January I was convinced the situation would be reversed! But – as usual – a few sunny days later on made January a sunnier month than the previous one, although the electricity production from our panels was below what we expected. Onwards then, with less gloom and more sun.

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