Eurostar and the “Lille Loophole”

  1. The Eurostar travells from Brussels-Midi to London St Pancras via the French station Lille Europe.
  2. The Eurostar has an unusual border-control arrangement, whereby passport control is done while boarding the train.
  3. France and Belgium are both in the Schengen Area, which means that people can pass freely between them. The UK is not.

The practical upshot of all this is that UK border control agents in Brussels check the passports of only some of the people getting on the train. Those who have tickets only as far as Lille are not checked by UK border control. It is then fairly easy for them to use standard fare-dodging tactics, stay on the train beyond the station where they should have alighted, and get through to Britain without going through any border control.

The simple and obvious solution would be to change Point 2 above, and do the border control in London, at least for the Brussels trains (this problem doesn’t apply to the Paris trains: they also pass through Lille Europe, and many of them stop there, but for pick-up only, not set-down).

That’s the simple and obvious solution. The solution the UK Border Agency actually tried was to attempt to profile “Lille loopholers” and interview them. The Belgian police soon put a stop to that: The UKBA has no legal authority to interview people travelling between Belgium and France. In at least one case, Belgian police actually threatened to arrest UKBA staff.


How May Day became a workers’ holiday

May Day is celebrated around the world as a labour holiday. One of the few countries that doesn’t celebrate it is the one where it all began, the USA. The origins of May Day as a workers’ holiday go back to strikes, police brutality, and a miscarriage of justice in the USA of the 1880s.

Interesting reading.


Google Glass: Privacy, Surveillance, Technology, Data

Google’s new product, Glass, will enable secret video recording.

Now pretend you don’t know a single person who wears Google Glass… and take a walk outside. Anywhere you go in public – any store, any sidewalk, any bus or subway – you’re liable to be recorded: audio and video. Fifty people on the bus might be Glassless, but if a single person wearing Glass gets on, you – and all 49 other passengers – could be recorded. Not just for a temporary throwaway video buffer, like a security camera, but recorded, stored permanently, and shared to the world.

Recorded video will be stored not on users’ own computers, but in Google’s data-centres. With Google’s excellent technology, indexing such videos using face recognition and voice transcription many not be too far behind. And who will have access to that data?

This is, of course, one of those things that, in general, matters far more to the margenilised  (who are often poor) than it does to the early adopters (who, in the case of this expensive product, must be rich). And so, as ever, the concerns of the margenalised are not heard in the public debate.

Someone in Seattle has been deliberately annoying people by videoing them in an intrusive fashion. His actual purpose is unknown (he’s anonymous), but it seems he’s trying to make a point:

In most cases, people become agitated and tell him to stop. That’s when the cameraman makes his point: Cameras are everywhere already. This one just happens to be held by a person instead of mounted on a wall or traffic light.

That said, surveillance cameras are often not reviewed, and the footage is usually deleted unless there’s a crime to investigate. What will happen with Google Glass footage is anyone’s guess: it probably won’t follow existing proven solutions.

One possiblitity, of course, is strong social shaming of people who use such technology. Physical assault is probably going a bit too far, though it has been attempted.

I mentioned recently that I am mystified by right-wingers. One of our many points of difference is that they’re more scared of powerful government, and I’m more scared of powerful corporations. Governments are scary too, but at least we get a chance to vote on them. Monopolies, less so.

And monopolies really are a problem. Putting all surveillance into the hands of the “authorities” (be they the police, transport authorities, or simply business owners) isn’t safe either. Citizen recording of police action has helped out in more than one incident of violent assault by police officers, and CCTV footage does have a tendency to go missing when it shows police in a bad light. Steve Mann refers to this citizen check on authorities’ actions as sousveillance, and he does have a point. So where does, and where should, the power ballance lie?


Maamtrasna Murders: Photos

The Maamtrasna murders, 130 years ago, were shockingly brutal, but they are more remembered today for the blatant miscarrage of justice in the following court case. Myles Joyce was hung, protesting his innocence to the last. Recently, the National Library of Ireland has acquired photographs of Myles Joyce and the other nine men accused of the Maamtrasna murders.

Another report adds:

A monoglot Irish speaker, Myles Joyce, who had no English, was defended in court in Dublin by a solicitor and barristers who spoke no Irish. The evidence he gave as Gaeilge was ignored in court. Evidence which might have helped his defence was withheld and the trial also heard from informers gave false evidence against him.

The judge and jury who convicted him had no Irish and the jury deliberated for less than six minutes to decide on his guilt before sentence of death was passed.

An Coimisinéir Teanga, Seán Ó Cuirreáin, said Mr Joyce’s case was one of most significant and distressing cases ever concerning the denial of language rights.


I should be thinking about this

Here are three stories. They’re about about discrimination and they’re about about gay and trans people.

Maggie Gallagher rebuts Maggie Gallagher, in which arguments purportedly against marriage equality actually appear to work better as arguments for it. (This leads to a comment thread on the subject of adoption, which I feel to tired to take in right now.)

Appeals court finds for Palm Springs cops, not “filthy mother-fuckers and cocksuckers” (the original has a bowderlised title, to keep the website on the good side of web filtering software), in which courts don’t see a problem with police entrapment and homophobia.

Transman files complaint against spa, in which I’m confused. This article is possibly transphobic (I don’t think it is, but I could well be wrong); some of the comments certainly are. But the issue it brings up is interesting, and I really should be diving into the comment thread (which is very long for BTB), reading everything, possibly posting a little myself, and at least thinking about the relevant issues. I’m not. I’m tired.


Victim Accused

Note: This is a story about rape and about police misconduct and the treatment of victims of rape.

“There is a national crisis,” said Carol Tracy, of the Women’s Law Project, an advocacy group in Philadelphia. “We’re witnessing the chronic and systemic failure of law enforcement to properly investigate crimes of sexual violence.”

Sara Reedy was raped. When she went to the police, she was accused of fabricating the story to cover a theft, arrested, and charged. She has now, after a massive legal battle, succeeded in changing US law around rapes and won a $1.5m settlement from the police.


“Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device”

U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902 appears, from a quick scan, to be yet another “concept” patent, awarded not to an actual invention, but to a general idea. This is a bad thing in general, because it serves to stifle innovation, not to encourage it. (It is sometimes said, for example, that it is now completely impossible to design a method for encoding video without trespassing on many of the overly broad patents which exist in the area.)

In the specific case of this patent awarded to Apple, though, there are other problems:

What that means in real-terms is “preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings),” and for, “forcing certain electronic devices to enter “sleep mode” when entering a sensitive area.”

But the patented technology may also be used to restrict protesters’ right to free expression in oppressive regimes around the world — if you haven’t checked recently, there’s plenty of them — by preventing camera images and video being taken at political rallies and events.

Because while Apple may patent the technology, it would not be they who threw the switch.

Of course, this invention would not, in actuality, force phones or other mobile devices to shut down or to disable certain functions. What it would do is send a signal telling the phone to turn off the camera. So make sure your phone ignores those signals. This is yet another reminder that we control our destiny better by supporting Free Software.


Evelyn Hooker and Lord Wolfenden, 1957

I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated, “all my homosexual patients
are quite sick”, to which I finally replied “so are all my heterosexual patients.”

— Ernest van den Haag, psychotherapist

The studies which demonstrate that there’s nothing psychologically wrong with homosexuals are considerably older than you might think.

Note: This article and its meaning is further discussed in the comments at Slacktivist.