Total Visits

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

THE END OF FREEDOM?



THE END OF FREEDOM


The above was the bold headline in the Daily Telegraph on 24th March 2020.

The Government is now in the process of passing an Enabling Act, every bit as draconian as the one Hitler got passed after the burning of the Reichstag.  This is on the back of the current scare over the Corona Virus pandemic and has been called by the media the “Coronavirus Act”.

Behind all the new rights to make legislation for Ministers, behind the new detention without trial and the end of freedom of assembly and, indeed, the end of the role of Parliament itself, there is also the creeping use of technological surveillance on “citizens”. 

There was an article buried where most people would not see it in the Business section of the Sunday Telegraph, which confirms the direction of travel and below that is an article demonstrating what use the Chinese Communist dictatorship has put this technology to use for so far

Does anyone think that, once the Government has got such access, that it will ever be released? 

Here is the article:-

BT ready to share data that tracks people’s movement

By Christopher Williams, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH BUSINESS EDITOR
22 March 2020 • 5:00am

The chief executive of BT, who is recovering from coronavirus, has said the company stands ready to use its technology to help track and manage the outbreak.

In an interview with The Sunday TelegraphPhilip Jansen said BT is working with officials on plans to share data to monitor population movements and on a system of mass communications via smartphones.

He said: “If the Government feels it’s appropriate in the next few weeks we can help understand the flow and dynamics of people as the situation develops.” It is envisaged that mobile operators such as BT could share such insights with officials on how mobile phone users are moving around the country as the pandemic spreads.

The data could be used alongside the latest NHS figures to help decide when and where to tighten or lift restrictions on travel and businesses, for instance.

Mr Jansen, 53, said BT and other mobile operators are also talking to officials about how they could help communicate public health advice. He said: “We are looking at whether we can be a helpful communication vehicle for our 30 million customers.

“There would be push notifications for all mobile customers on all operators.”

The most advanced communications work involves simple mass nationwide text messaging. However, a more advanced “cell broadcast” system that would allow alerts to be targeted to coronavirus hotspots is also under discussion.

Mr Jansen said the BT network is currently coping well with increased demand from people working from home and that he expects to return to the office on Monday.



Here is the earlier article on what the Chinese Government has done:-

China unleashes its surveillance technology to fight coronavirus
From facial recognition to infrared cameras, authorities have deployed a range of technologies – but at what cost?
By Michael Cogley, TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT11 February 2020 • 11:29am

China is the hallmark of the surveillance state – the living experiment of George Orwell’s Big Brother.

The watchful eye of the Chinese government uses a range of technologies to monitor its citizens, ranging from social media monitoring to CCTV cameras boasting facial recognition and thermal tracking.

The cameras can be used to spot people with low-grade fevers while its railway systems can provide a list of people sitting nearby should a patient hop on board a train. Authorities are using the technology to monitor the spread of the deadly virus.

Trading one’s privacy for a safer country is a constant debate. If China can prove its monitoring methods are a force for good in battling something like the coronavirus then it could set the world on course for more widespread adoption.

Facing up to failure
Facial recognition has been deployed in numerous public locations across China, from train stations and airports to hotels and city streets. While it is used in many cases to cull criminal activity it is also vital to everyday life, such as entering gated communities and paying for things.

The technology has hit something of a snag however in its bid to monitor the spread of the virus: surgical masks. The ubiquitous adoption of masks has proven to be a nuisance to those trying to use FaceID to unlock their phones or pay but has also caused Chinese authorities headaches when it comes to tracking its citizens that may have been exposed to the virus.

“The practice of facial surveillance has been enthusiastically embraced in China,” says Jessica Helfand, author of ‘Face: A Visual Odyssey’.

“It is evident in everything from scanners installed in public restrooms in Beijing to catch toilet paper thieves, to a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Hangzhou where you plug into Alibaba’s “smile to pay,” online paywall, to a rise in supermarkets so certain of their surveillant skills that they are increasingly free of clerical staff.”

In some cases faces can be identified despite the obstruction, however much of the time the tech can prove to be useless.
A study from the University of Florence found that the removal of the upper half of the face led to a “more significant” drop in recognition that the bottom half. However, coverage by an item like a mask still led to significant levels of confusion in the software.
Similarly, Huawei’s vice-president Bruce Lee said that the mask-wearing scenario was tested on the company’s Mate 20 Pro.
“The eyes and head have too few feature points to guarantee security,” he said in a post on Chinese social media site Weibo.
“Eventually, the face recognition unlocking in the scene with masks and scarves is abandoned. That’s why we still keep fingerprints on our phones that support 3D face unlock.”

Other technologies
Facial recognition is far from the only technology being deployed by the Chinese to fight the virus. Should a patient suffering from the virus board a train, the railway network’s “real name” system can provide a list of people sitting nearby.

Similarly mobile apps can tell users if they’ve been on a flight or a train with a carrier. Maps can even show the locations of buildings where infected patients live.

Surveillance camera firm Zhejiang Dahua says it can detect fevers with infrared cameras to an accuracy within 0.3ÂșC.

One such app, the “close contact detector”, tells citizens if they have been near someone who has been confirmed or suspected of having the virus. It was developed alongside the China Electronics Group Corporation and uses data from the country’s health and transport authorities.

The state-run news agency Xinhua reported that users can make an inquiry as to their current condition by scanning a QR code on their phones. 

Elsewhere Chinese telecoms providers have quietly tracked the movement of their users. Text messages were sent to Beijing residents this week telling them they could check where they had been over the last 30 days as part of a service offered by China Mobile. Reuters reported that it did not explain why users might need this but that it could be useful if they’re questioned by police.
“In the era of big data and internet, the flow of each person can be clearly seen. So we are different from the SARS time now,” epidemiologist Li Lanjuan said in an interview with China’s state broadcaster CCTV last week, comparing the outbreak to a virus that killed 800 people in 2003.

“With such new technologies, we should make full use of them to find the source of infection and contain the source of infection.”

Deadly killer
More than 43,000 people have been affected by the disease and its spread has continued at a rapid pace. Four more people in the UK have been tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of infections in England to eight.

The total death toll of the virus is at least 1,016, following the death of another 108 in China people on Sunday.

The unsettling spread of the virus has forced the Chinese government into drastic actions, including the construction of a 1,000-bed facility in Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated from.

The ethical question
China’s use of mass surveillance has constantly drawn the ire of privacy advocates, even in scenarios where it is being used to tackle the spread of a deadly virus.

Director of Big Brother Watch Silkie Carlo says the surveillance infrastructure was designed for “population control” and that it could easily be “weaponised against its own people”.

“Facial recognition cameras are reportedly being used to log people's whereabouts and proximity to others, for example on public transport, creating detailed searchable records of exposure to people who might have the virus,” she said.

“China's mass surveillance architecture could have especially sinister consequences in this crisis. This tinderbox for turnkey tyranny should be a warning to every aspiring 'smart' city and surveilled nation in the world, including our own.

Helfand says the surveillance protocols employed by China are “vast” and that this level of people-watching can isolate, label, and stigmatise.

“That a country seeks to contain a viral epidemic is understandable,” she says.

“That cameras embed themselves everywhere to catch us in public seems a different issue entirely, and strikes me as more socially aggressive than clinically wise.”

Here is a link to the original of the article>>>

Friday, 20 March 2020

THE LIMITS OF EXPERTS’ MEDICAL ADVICE


 THE LIMITS OF EXPERTS’ MEDICAL ADVICE


It is an old wisdom that if you ask any expert specialist, particularly a medical expert specialist, for their advice on how to keep safe, you will wind up with advice that focuses too much on the immediate problem and too little on your general welfare.

Let me give you an example. 

My own father in his late 70’s developed cancer and was therefore given the standard recommendation of six doses of chemotherapy. 

Anyone who has had cancer will know that with each dose of chemotherapy your general health is impacted more and more seriously. 

By the fourth dose I said to my father that I thought he should not take any more.  After all the prognosis on this cancer was one where, even if it came back it was sufficiently slow developing that he would probably have died of something else before it could get him. 

My father, having been a good soldier was determined to carry on with the cancer specialist’s instructions and so he did complete the course of six chemotherapies.  The impact on his health however, was so bad that the last one had leached the calcium out of his bones and as a result he had a collapsed vertebra, which left him in agony for the rest of his life.

The Government in its panic over the Chinese Virus (aka Corona Virus) has asked its medical experts and specialists for medical advice on what is best to do to keep the vulnerable safe.  The predictable result has been that the medical experts have advised such a thorough Safety First policy, that the Government probably already crashed our economy by following it. 

This is of course a drastic failure of political leadership. In this type of situation it is the job of politicians to balance the expert, specialist, medical advice with the need to keep the economy and society going. 

It is worth remembering that so far as we can tell, all those who are under 65, unless they have underlying serious health conditions, are unlikely to be seriously affected by the Chinese Virus. 

The more elderly, the more at risk people are.  That is of course partly because the older you are the more underlying health issues you naturally acquire and the more fragile your health becomes. 

People who are at risk should of course, on any sensible basis, consider taking precautions, however the rest of society which is not at much risk really should be carrying on as much as they can without unnecessarily putting those at risk at yet greater risk.  That would have been the sensible approach. 

What we have seen instead are wild panic measures for a disease which may well be far less dangerous than would have called for such measures.

I thought it was interesting that, when asked by Jeremy Hunt in the House of Commons Health Committee earlier this week, the Government’s medical expert admitted that we might well have 55,000 cases in the country with just over 100 people who have now died of it.  If that is the percentage of deaths to infections, then the Chinese Virus is far closer to the death rates in flu, than it is to the death rates for Bubonic Plague as the above graphic shows. 

Our political system, as it currently stands, seems to select far too many people for high office who prove to be incompetent once appointed.  This inherent political incompetence, combined with wildly irresponsible, hysterical scare-mongering by our wholly unprofessional mainstream media, seems, yet again, to be creating a policy disaster. 

The excessive “Safety First” type of thinking on a much more minor scale has become all too prevalent in the Health and Safety “Precautionary Principle” based thinking of officialdom. 

There is of course no true “safety” for any of us. As the Book of Common Prayer's Funeral Service, rather gloomily, points out:- 

“Man, that is born of woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?”