Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Hat tip to IanPJ for this latest development:
EU Parliamentarians have sent a letter to the Commission requesting that ALL documents relating to the EU funded INDECT scheme be released.
What is INDECT? It is a research project related to develop the basis for electronic profiling via gathering data from freely available online media (including social networking sites), and also enable it to be merged with privately held data (e.g. police records).
The get out clause provided is that such profiling would only take place after a specific crime had been detected (presumably online). Of course nothing in the software itself would prevent it being used in other situations and we're all well aware of the EU's function creep fetish. In any case, as you will see however from reading the description on the project's front page, what might be considered a crime is sufficiently vague and wide reaching that anyone who expresses a strong opinion, or shares any files should consider themselves at risk (I can hardly wait to see how this interacts with uniquely British efforts like PHORM and the Digital Economy Act).
You can browse for youself the currently available list of deliverables. There is a lot of information here. In particular, I would recommend anyone with a computing background look at Deliverable 4.1 - this gives extensive details on the planned methodology and also will suggest to anyone with some knowledge in this area numerous lines of attack for countering such invasive surveillance technology. In this context deliverables 4.2 and 4.3 would also be worth consulting.
Also of interest may be a similar project that appears to be focusing more on the conceptual issues (also hat tip to IanPJ for noticing this): Detecter
The bad news:
The bad news is that this event highlights just how pathetic the EU parliament is. This is basically a begging letter to the EU Commission; the unelected executive who determine the EU's policies (and who are also able to keep all of their discussions secret if they choose to). It is very likely the Commission will simply say no. Or if it doesn't, there will be a very quiet announcement that will be missed by our wonderful mass media. Which brings me to my final point:
Tips to the blogosphere:
As per usual the mainstream ("quality") media has consistently let us down on these type of EU funded research projects. It is difficult to understand because all of the EU funded projects must release deliverables to the public. Not only that but many of the researchers are keen to generate publicity and thus are open to contact. Despite these incredibly rich picking grounds, especially knowing how the News Factory Churnalists are often desperate for quick copy, it is incredible to see so little comment on these projects.
I worked on a couple of these projects previously. There is a lot of interesting work going on, some very good and positive, some very detrimental. There is very little reporting on either. However it is a massive area for research and exposure by the blogosphere community. The EU operates numerous - what it calls - 'framework programmes', each one running for a few years, issuing calls for proposals for research funding in areas dictated by the EU as important. Each programme is numbered sequentially FP6 projects have just ended and FP7 projects are now starting. You can search for all of them on CORDIS. Googling any search terms you like and also adding 'FP6' or 'FP7' can also be effective. Have at it!