Aristillus

A large crater to dump my thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘politics

De technologiefetish van de Nederlandse politiek

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Er zijn maar weinig leden van de Tweede Kamer die een fatsoenlijke technische achtergrond hebben, en dat is zo af en toe helaas goed te merken. De gehele politiek lijkt groot voorstander te zijn van elk gebruik van technologie, zonder daarbij ook maar enige kanttekeningen te plaatsen. Het is dus ook geen wonder dat er de afgelopen jaren het nodige gepruts is geweest met technische dossiers.

Zo klonk er bij de verkiezingsuitzending vanavond weer dom geklaag van o.a. Charles Groenhuijsen en Wouke van Scherrenburg – die ik verder overigens hoog heb zitten – dat het zo onnodig was dat we tot laat in de nacht moesten wachten op de uitslag, alleen maar vanwege “een kluppie rare nerds”. Natuurlijk zou het fijner zijn als er geen blik vrijwilligers de hele nacht papieren stemmen hoeft te gaan tellen, en als de politieke junkies onder ons niet de hele avond naar Herman van der Zande hoeven te staren terwijl die de uitslag in elke van de 400 gemeenten oplepelt. Maar is dat ene nachtje extra wachten nou zo’n ontzettend groot probleem? En moeten we daarvoor de betrouwbaarheid en transparantie van de verkiezingen – en dus de democratie – riskeren?

Door alles te centraliseren – één van de consequenties van in ieder geval de vorige generatie stemcomputers – wordt grootschalige fraude vrij gemakkelijk, en het digitaliseren maakt het vrijwel onmogelijk voor waarnemers het proces goed te observeren. Stemmen op de computer is geenzins goedkoper dan op papier. Toch willen verschillende politieke partijen opnieuw investeren in electronisch stemmen – inclusief de partij waar ik zelf lid van ben. In zijn recente column op Webwereld gaat Arjen Kamphuis in op de vraag waarom ook verbeterde stemcomputers een slecht idee zijn. Naast alle technische bezwaren is het natuurlijk de vraag of die tientallen miljoenen niet beter besteed kunnen worden.

Maar het gaat niet alleen mis bij stemcomputers. Het Electronisch Patiënten Dossier (EPD), de OV-Chipkaart en de bewaarplicht zijn andere grote voorstellen die een forse en risicovolle investering in technologie vereis(t)en en waarvan het netto nut op z’n minst onduidelijk is. Technologie is een middel – maar geen wondermiddel – en mag geen doel op zich zijn.

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Written by aristillus

September 12, 2012 at 23:31

After Democracy

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The VPRO, one of the only quality Dutch broadcasting organizations, has an English-language Youtube channel.

Last year they broadcast a documentary from Chris Kijne about democracy and its shortcomings earlier. It includes an interview with John Keane, whose book on Democracy I’m reading at the moment. The documentary with English subtitles is up on Youtube:

Written by aristillus

September 1, 2012 at 20:48

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About this “statistics” thing

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The political party that apparently has no problem generalizing large groups of people apparently has problems with generalizing large groups of people:

Written by aristillus

March 27, 2011 at 18:06

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Gonggrijp on hacking, politics and the motivating power of mild depression

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Rop Gonggrijp gave an excellent keynote at 27C3. I recommend watching the full keynote (transcript here), but here are some excerpts:

On civil liberties in the Netherlands:

The Netherlands used to be a country like Sweden or Denmark. Then it was a country like Germany for a bit in the nineties and after a confusing period with political murders and truly insane political developments we are now approaching England. I’m still guessing we’ll level out before we reach Italy, but it really is becoming hard to tell.

On the erosion of privacy:

At the same time Apple, Google, Facebook and the more geographically challenged traditional governments will try to make all of humanity enter their remaining secrets, they’ll try to make attribution of every bit on the internet a part of the switch to IPv6, they’ll further lock us out of our own hardware and they’ll eventually attempt to kill privacy and anonymity altogether.

We still have to tell most of the people out there, but privacy is not in fact brought about by some magic combination on the intentionally confusing privacy radiobutton page on Facebook. It does come from, among other things, code some of us have already written and code that we still need to write: we need many things by yesterday. And we need to properly security-audit the tools we build, even if that means we can’t put in new features as quickly.

Written by aristillus

January 3, 2011 at 08:34

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Wikileaks and responsibilities

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So, Wikileaks.

Perhaps the thing that most shocked me was the fact that secretary Clinton asked diplomats to gather credit card numbers and DNA of UN diplomats. I’m sure there’s plenty more ahead.

There are no reported casualties from the information published by Wikileaks so far, and that suggests that they have actually done a pretty good job of censoring any information that could e.g. harm informants physically. No doubt that if such cases were known that the US government would be all over it.

The responsibility for the leaks appears to be placed almost exclusively on Wikileaks itself. That seems wrong to me. They are just the medium that is being used to publish these documents. The more fundamental problem is probably that over two and a half million people have access to these documents. Just based on those numbers alone I find it very optimistic to assume that among those there aren’t any others who are leaking documents – perhaps not to the press, but (more dangerously) to foreign powers. In other words, if three million people have access I wonder how “secret” these documents should be considered in the first place.

I’m very disappointed by the reactions of some of the pundits and politicians on the most recent leak. At least our PM responded appropriately (much to my surprise), stating that the leak was “hugely damaging” (within the boundaries of what can be expected when something like this happens to an allied country) but without pointing the finger at Wikileaks. As I commented earlier, it is strange to see some of the same US politicians who were previously defending Scooter Libby are now calling for Assange to be assassinated. If any action is taken against Wikileaks I would hope it is done according to law by the public prosecutor and through the judicial system. That said, nothing at this point suggests that Wikileaks or Assange have actively encouraged the leaking of these documents, which puts them in the same spot as “normal” media like the NY Times.

Wikileaks’s itself seems to have the ultimate goal of a completely transparent government. There is a
good writeup of Julian Assange’s views here (from a couple of years ago). Personally, I think there is reason for states to keep some information secret on a temporary basis, where justified – so e.g. diplomacy can work. But all of this needs to happen within reason. The public needs to be well informed, so they can (in theory, at least) monitor the government. Covering up civilian casualties and misinforming the public is not within reason.

And of course, leaving the question of ethics aside for a minute, it also just very interesting to see what is going on beneath the surface.

Written by aristillus

December 2, 2010 at 20:33

Dying freedom

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Over the last few months I’ve seen various foreigners comment on Geert Wilders, claiming he is an “extreme liberal”. It’s all over his rhetoric – the suggestion that there is some sort of war going on between the “Free West” and the “totalitarian Islam”.

In fact, Mr. Wilders and his party (“The Party for Freedom”) is not quite the liberal he is made out to be. He is a proponent of freedom of speech only when it benefits him. He has argued that several books, including the Quran, should be banned. He generalizes and lumps together groups of people for no good reason (so much for individual freedom). He is a threat to civil liberties – he has proposed opening a “Guantanamo Bay” in the Netherlands as well as a ban on public display of religious signs. He wants ethnic registration, exclusion of immigrants based on religion and to make the (in his opinion) Judeo-Christian roots of the Netherlands part of the constitution. I don’t see what’s so “liberal” about any of these proposals.

Written by aristillus

October 31, 2010 at 22:39

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