We Want Our Website Back!

Amateur hour over at UKIP HQ, who seem to have forgotten to renew the domain name of their official website. Which doesn’t augur well for this afternoon’s whelk stall. Someone stick 50p in the meter…

UPDATE: A closer look at UKIP’s domain details shows the domain expires on March 22, 2016, but was mysteriously changed yesterday. Were UKIP hacked?

UPDATE II: It is a technical fault according to UKIP, “It is all paid for and will be up soon”. Have they tried switching it off and on again?

UPDATE III: Six hours later, it’s back up.

Social Media Sentiment is Mythical – Just Ask Alex Salmond

Labour are playing the best of a bad hand by bleating on about being outspent by the Tories, but they should be careful to avoid choking on their own Kool Aid. Pretending that Twitter can level the playing field did not work in 2010…

Guido has warned before, and will say it again; Twitter is just an echo chamber, not a voter battleground. Anyone following politics closely on there has already pretty much made up their mind how they are going to vote. Whilst it might be good for Labour morale, it’s not going to help them in the long run. 

There are 45.5 million voters in the UK, yet only 15 million people on Twitter. Only a fraction of those active users actually follow politics, so to pin your hopes on swinging an election by targeting this already partisan demographic is at best naive…

And it goes badly wrong. Alex Salmond was drafting his victory speech at 10 p.m. on Referendum Day because he was relying on social media sentiment analysis over reality based numbers. Euan McColm reports in the Scotsman:

“But, still, Salmond believed he had won. This was because of his secret Canadians. At huge expense, and amid considerable secrecy, the former SNP leader had brought in polling experts from across the Atlantic. With their new methodology, they’d be able to give him the most detailed predictions yet seen in political analysis. Or something like that.

The reason I mention these secret Canadians, apart from the fact that their existence remains a fascinating, if little known, aspect of the referendum campaign, is that unlike most traditional operators in their field, they placed great store on the use of social media among voters. By monitoring interactions on Face­book and Twitter, a fuller picture would be painted.

In the end, the fuller picture turned out to be a fake, but the fact that Salmond was willing to invest so heavily in his secret Canadians shows us how seriously the SNP – and, naturally, all other political parties – take social media as a campaigning tool.”

Has Douglas Alexander hired the same Canadian voodoo pollsters? 

WATCH: I’m So Ronery

After Sony cancelled the release of The Interview – a film about the assassination of North Korea’s leader – amid threats from hackers that they would target the company further, now Paramount has ordered US cinemas to cancel screenings of Team America, famous for its homage to Kim Jong-Il. Don’t let the cyber-terrorists win…

Read more about the Sony hacking story here.

UPDATE: The scene from The Interview the hackers didn’t want you to see:

Come See CITIZENFOUR TonightChristmas Drinks / Movie With TechnoGuido

techno-guido-citizen4

We’ve added 40 More Seats for tonight’s showing!

Guido presents a special readers’ screening of CITIZENFOUR, the new film starring Edward Snowden from Academy Award nominee Laura Poitras, next Wednesday, 6.30pm, December 17 at the crumbling old Guardian HQ on 119 Farringdon Road, London, EC1R 3ER. Come and see inside the Lubyanka-like former headquarters of the Guardian, watch the movie and enjoy a drink before Christmas.

This is a free screening for Guido’s readers and Techno-Guido will be supplying the drinks!

In January 2013, Laura Poitras several years into the making of a film about abuses of national security in post-9/11 America when she started receiving encrypted emails from someone identifying himself as “citizen four”, who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies.

In June 2013, she and reporter Glenn Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Edward Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely unique in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes.

Warning: this movie has strong libertarian undertones…

Tickets available below:

MPs Warned to Disguise PM’s Number Over Security Concerns

Tired and emotional MPs stumbling into cabs late at night have been warned to change the Prime Minister’s name in their phone contacts to something inconspicuous, amid fears his mobile number could fall into the wrong hands. Many MPs – and researchers too – sync their mobile phone contacts to their Outlook email accounts, meaning the personal phone numbers of Cabinet members all the way up to Cameron are automatically in their phonebooks. Gavin Williamson, the PM’s PPS, has advised MPs not to have his number saved as “David Cameron”, replacing it with something less identifiable. As a Guido reader discovered over the weekend, this is probably a wise move:

GCHQ would need a full team working round the clock to keep safe the mobile phones of pissed up MPs…

Nigel Mills MP Opens New Westminster Office

Well it is very addictive…

Rifkind Defends Tech Giants

This week’s Speccie cover on the state’s war on tech is well worth a read. Its author wisely warns against heading down the slippery slope of surveillance:

“There’s no means of monitoring terrorists that doesn’t leave every-body else thinking you’re monitoring them, too… Think of Britain’s experience over the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which was introduced to allow the surveillance of serious criminals, and expanded, chaotically, to enable councils to spy on people suspected of fiddling school places. Make it much, much easier for Special Branch to read Geoffrey Al-Wannabi-Jihadi’s email, in other words, and how long until the local council can read yours, and use the fact you booked a rafting holiday as an excuse to cancel your disabled badge?”

In the end, he concludes attempts by the government to crack down on the likes of Google and Facebook are futile and disingenuous:

“If these vast new media empires were railroads, or sewage systems, or fibre-optic networks, then the clamour from governments would be to counter their own impotence by nationalising them… If Google and the like cracked on encryption and rolled over for every state demand, would that make us safer? Perhaps, but only for a week or two. For as long as there are other services more secure, or even just more obscure, those who do not wish to be seen will use them. The security services must know this, and increasingly I struggle to comprehend why they pretend not to.”

Malcolm Rifkind, chair of the Intelligence and Security committee, could do worse than heeding the advice of his son, Hugo…

Nameless ‘US Internet Company’ Blame Game

Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the Intelligence and Security select committee, is seeking to blame an unnamed ‘US internet company’ for failing to pass on suspicious online behaviour by one of the suspects to MI5:

“What is clear is that the one party which could have made a difference was the company on whose system the exchange took place. However, this company does not regard themselves as under any obligation to ensure that they identify such threats, or to report them to the authorities. We find this unacceptable: however unintentionally, they are providing a safe haven for terrorists. There is then a significant possibility that MI5 would have been able to prevent the attack.”

Rifkind is effectively saying it is the responsibility of every app, website, email provider or social network to monitor every single word written by its users for anything that could be at all suspicious, then pass the messages directly on to the security services. A cynic might say the implication is that if they do not, the security services should be allowed to do it themselves. Pure coincidence that today’s report was released the day before the government’s new counter terrorism bill tomorrow..

UPDATE: This is the verdict of civil liberties campaigners Big Brother Watch:

“The conclusion that a failing of an unnamed technology company should determine future legislation, whilst the catalogue of errors by the intelligence agencies is all but excused, is of grave concern.

The report revealed multiple failures by the intelligence agencies to use the powers available to them to monitor communications. The government should use this report as a blueprint to re-evaluate the decision making and record keeping processes of the intelligence agencies, as well as the training and resources allocated within the counter terrorism community.

It is vital that existing powers to combat terrorist activity are used effectively before any further intrusive legislation is considered by parliament. Failure to do this will merely increase the burden on the agencies whilst unnecessarily intruding on the public’s civil liberties.”

Democrats Bullying Voters With Big Data

Is this rather menacing letter being pushed through doors stateside evidence of the Democrats resorting to bullying voters with big data? Worth having a read of this passage from Sasha Issenberg’s “The Victory Lab”, the seminal text on Obama’s digital campaigning. Issenberg writes that the Democrats previously considered the exact same tactic, but “no candidate or group wanted to be associated with a tactic that looked a lot like bullying – and a bit like blackmail”.

This time round it seems they’ve decided to play nasty…

Apple’s Tim Cook: iGay

Apple’s Tim Cook has confirmed the obvious:

“While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.”

Never mind his private life, what about fixing the battery life?

Labour Expenses Piggy’s Wikipedia Edited From Parliament

Back in 2012 the Bureau of Investigative Journalism exposed former Labour MP Joan Ryan for deleting references to her expenses scandal shame from her Wikipedia page. She was caught red-handed and ‘fessed up, and details of her flipping her second home were returned to her entry. This week they mysteriously went missing again. 

Wikipedia’s “revisions” analysis shows that yesterday the section “Involvement in the expenses scandal” was removed from Ryan’s page. Curiously, the changes were made anonymously from an IP address located within the Houses of Parliament. This is what the mystery deleter didn’t want you to see:

“In May 2009, it was reported that Ryan had claimed more than £4,500 under the Additional Costs Allowance for work on a house she had designated as her second home. In February 2010, based on an audit report looking into the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, Ryan was asked to repay £5,121 mortgage interest.”

Whoever they are, they certainly seem to have a strong opinion on the subject:

Could an old friend of Joan be trying to clean up her record ahead of her ambitious attempt to stand for parliament again?

H/T @parliamentedits

UPDATE: A parliamentary source gets in touch to report that none other than Joan Ryan visited the Commons yesterday, the day her page was edited from a parliament computer. Curiouser and curiouser…

WATCH: GCHQ Staff Form Giant Human Poppy

Or did they?

Clouded Oversight

GCHQ-ALWAYS-LISTENING-TO-OUR-CUSTOMERS

The Intelligence and Security Committee is finally investigating what GCHQ has been up to and will report in due course that everything is fine. It always does.

GCHQ’s operations are technically complex, and during this week’s session with the Shadow Home Secretary one committee member displayed the sort of technical prowess that we’ve come to expect from the political guardians of our liberties from over zealous spooks. On distinguishing between “internal” and “external” interception under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, Lord Lothian (Michael Ancram), highlighted exactly the sort of insight you would expect from someone tasked with oversight of GCHQ, whose projects include the subtly named “Mastering the Internet” programme – the £1 billion digital mass surveillance programme that would have made Big Brother’s eyes pop with jealousy. Ancram has been thinking:

“I thought, until about three months ago, that I understood this, until suddenly I start reading about cloud and wondering whether anything sent to cloud, whether its from here or anywhere else, is actually external because cloud is based somewhere in California.”

How will GCHQ pull the wool over his eyes?

Snapchat Now More Popular Than Twitter Among 18-34s

Remember those crazy Snapchat guys who turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook for their zero revenue firm? Bloomberg reports they are now in funding talks which value the app at $10 billion. Data from Business Insider shows that 1 in 3 US smartphone users between the ages of 18 and 34 are using Snapchat, twice as many as nine months ago and considerably more than Twitter. If Facebook had bought them out Mark Zuckerberg’s company would now own the three most popular social networks in America…

Why Do App Developers Prioritise Apple?

android

Given Android has shipped three times as many units as Windows or Apple’s iOS you have to question why so many app developers choose an iPhone first strategy. Apparently iPhone owners are bigger spenders more willing to pay for apps. Are they 4 times as willing to spend? Old media often goes for an iPad conversion of their dead tree product first. This is not a mass market solution, it excludes 80% of the operating systems shipped annually. The coming ubiquity of HTML5 cross compatibility will bring this to an end hopefully…

Hat-tip: Business Insider

Positive Twitter Day

Guido is supporting #PositiveTwitterDay today. Twitter, especially the political Twittersphere can be a horrible nasty place, well today Guido will do his Christian best to be nice to all in his tweets. The idea comes from the invariably polite Sunder Katwala.


A number of well known Twitter curmudgeons have already re-tweeted the hashtag #PositiveTwitterDay and entered into the spirit of the day. Guido for his part is determined to have civil, positive discussions today with the likes of Polly or Mehdi. The power of positive tweeting…



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Quote of the Day

Matt Zarb-Cousin cracks a good ideological joke…

“Conservatives don’t like a ‘robot tax’ because it means they’d have a tax on their own leader – the Maybot.”

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