Tuesday, October 19, 2004

How privacy may be detrimental to your health -- if you're a hostage in Iraq...

Sorry for the slightly cynical headline -- but this piece of news caught my eye today:

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Google 'saved' Australian hostage:
An Australian journalist kidnapped in Iraq was freed after his captors checked the popular internet search engine Google to confirm his identity.
John Martinkus was seized in Baghdad on Saturday, the first Australian held hostage in Iraq since the US-led invasion.
But his captors agreed to release him after they were convinced he was not working for the CIA or a US contractor. [...]
His executive producer at Australia's SBS network, Mike Carey, said Google probably saved freelance journalist Martinkus.
'They Googled him and then went onto a web site - either his own or his book publisher's web site, I don't know which one - and saw that he was who he was, and that was instrumental in letting him go, I think, or swinging their decision,' he told AP news agency.
Martinkus told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he was snatched at gunpoint from outside a hotel close to Australia's embassy in Baghdad by Sunni Muslims, and that they had threatened to kill him.

So the lesson seems that Mr Martinkus would likely have been killed had his name not been on a website. See how privacy can be detrimental to your health?!?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

U.S. Senate Wants Database Dragnet

From Wired News:
"The Senate could pass a bill as early as Wednesday evening that would let government counter-terrorist investigators instantly query a massive system of interconnected commercial and government databases that hold billions of records on Americans.
The proposed network is based on the Markle Foundation Task Force's December 2003 report, which envisioned a system that would allow FBI and CIA agents, as well as police officers and some companies, to quickly search intelligence, criminal and commercial databases. The proposal is so radical, the bill allocates $50 million just to fund the system's specifications and privacy policies.
The Senate will likely have its final vote on the bill, sponsored by Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), Wednesday night. The draft of the bill was based on recommendations of the so-called 9/11 Commission, which investigated the United States' lapse in intelligence and security procedures prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

It will be very interesting to see whether this bill (the National Intelligence Reform Act of 2004) will be passed or amended before it comes to the final vote!

On another note, I have safely arrived in Berlin and am connected to the 'net again. I much look forward to my period of research here -- although even before me some work arrived that menacingly awaited me in my new office :-(

Update from Secondary Screening:

"On Wednesday, the Senate passed it's version of the 9/11 recommendations by a vote of 96-2.
The bill is big, not just in size, but in the changes it will make to the country's intelligence service, information sharing and civil liberties/privacy atmosphere."

The House version will be voted on later this week -- then reconciliation of the Senate and House versions will take place in the conference stage. Watch this space!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Busy moving to Berlin

This is just to say that I am presently busy packing things to move from Oxford to Berlin. Thus there will likely be no entries for a few days -- so don't think I abandoned this blog ;-)
I expect to be up and running in Berlin around the middle of next week.