Barack Obama wins

So Barack has done it. He has another four years in office. Let's hope without pandering to get re-elected he can try and play genuine hard-ball with any of the Republicans who mess around in the House or the Senate. After all, the \“\best is yet to come\”:

Child benefits

Angela Epstein has written an article in the Daily Fail complaining about the coming changes in child benefits. In part I agree with her, the fact that one household where both parents earn less than £50,000 can still receive full benefits but a household with one parent working earning more than £60,000 will receive no benefits is absurd. Angela further argues income shouldn't come into it.

On this I disagree, household income should be considered. You may ask why should the children suffer, as she does:

But why should my children lose out, simply because their parents have had the temerity to work hard and earn a good living?

This is where I have a difference of opinion with Angela. I agree that children shouldn't lose out. However, Angela, you are in a position where your children shouldn't. How about you buy one less pare of Laboutin shoes per year, or go on a one week holiday as oppose to two week holiday.

The point is, you have choices to make so that your children don't suffer. A poor house hold doesn't. They can't afford to fully and completely provide for their children. It is absolutely right that we provide assistance for them.

We can have discussion as to how exactly is the best way to means test and their will always be a small number of people who are at the cutoff point and thus feel hard done by. Thats just a fact of life.

But I humbly disagree that child benefits shouldn't be means tested at all.

Iran is not helping herself

The article closes with

the West can rely on one of the world’s oldest political ailments to cripple Iran more effectively than its enemies intervention ever could.

This is what the U.S. and The E.U. is trying to achieve with its sanctions. Effectively siege the Iranian economy into submission so that they agree to fully and transparently comply with the NPT.

*[NTP]: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

Facebook Timeline shenanigans

Recently Facebook decided to expand their Timeline feature. Timeline was introduced to replace a user\’\s wall. It is meant to be a history of a user\’\s time on Facebook. So they started putting posts from earlier on the Timeline. Now when you go onto someone\’\s Timeline and go back a few years you will see posts by them and to them from back then.

This freaked people out. They thought private messages were being made public. This simply isn't the case. No-one is yet to provide categorical evidence that it is. Instead people are finding that these 'private' conversations were actually public.

I think what we are seeing is evidence of a shift in our interaction with social media. Back in 2008 it was really just students on Facebook and we were much more relaxed with how we conducted ourselves and what information was visible and what information was hidden. As Facebook has gotten bigger, and as of June 2012 Facebook has 955 million active users, people have become more careful about the information they share.

Then they are presented with how they acted back in 2008 with this new Timeline feature, and they can't believe they could have been so careless with regards to privacy.

Privacy is going to continue to be one of the key issues. As we enter the Information Age it's going to be more important that we can control what information is shared an what isn't. I don't think this bodes well for Facebook. They don't answer to the users, they answer to advertisers. I draw hope from more open services, like Diaspora or App.net.

Wolfram's Facebook report and Facebook's future

Go to the Wolfram website and allow it access to your Facebook data and you will be bestowed with a whole wealth of information. (Be warned! It will ask you to create a Wolfram ID.) It analyses not just your data, but information about your friends.

So, for example, I now know my average post length is 7.66 words. Though there are some longer posts in there as well.[^graphs] With Facebook and awesome being some of the more frequent words in my posts. One thing I found perhaps slightly depressing is that of the 2,058 photos I've uploaded, the most commented on photo has received a measly twelve comments, and it's from four years ago.

Not surprisingly most of my friends are male, 71.2% of them to be exact. There's also a pretty even split between how many are single, and how many aren't. I imagine that will change as we all get older. I also have an impressive geographic distribution of where my friends are from. How cosmopolitan we are these days.

This is all data Facebook has. Every status you've ever made. Every photo you've uploaded. Every page you've liked. Every friend you've made. Facebook has all this information themselves. You can be damn sure they know a lot more than they reveal publicly. That girl's photo albums you like to perv through? Yeah, Facebook know as well. And what will they use all this information for? Advertisements. As the saying goes, if you're not paying for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

Many times Facebook has redesigned its site or added new features which are seemingly not in the users interests. Or how about the Facebook privacy policy or terms of service. Whilst these have been getting better over time due to external pressure, they are weighted heavily in Facebook\’\s favour. Pictures you upload are essentially Facebook\’\s to use as they will, from their terms of service page:

you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

They can do as they please with the picture. Literally, they could \“\sell\”\ it to the New York Times to be used as a cover story picture and you wouldn't receive a cent.

This then becomes interesting when one considers recent Facebook activity especially with regards to the much talked-about IPO and subsequent stock price shenanigans. Business Insider have written a very good article about the matter. What's interesting is a letter written by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook co-founder, to shareholders. Quoting the articles summary here's what Zuck thinks:

  • Facebook\’\s social mission is more important to Mark Zuckerberg than Facebook\’\s business.
  • Facebook\’\s business exists to support Facebook's product development, not the other way around.
  • Facebook\’\s CEO is an extremely patient man who does not flinch under criticism.
  • Facebook will never care as much about clients and shareholders as it does about its service and users.
  • Facebook cares about the long term, not the short term (read: decades, not months).

This contrasts with what was discussed above. First we have this idea that Facebook doesn't care about users, but about advertisers and making money, then we have that actually what Facebook cares about, or more particularly what Zuckerberg cares about, is the users of Facebook. So which is it? Maybe in the long term these two ideas will converge. Facebook ultimately needs its users in order to make money. After all, Facebook is simply a website and could conceivably be killed by The Next Big Thing™.

[^graphs]: This kind of information is displayed in graph form. I can't work out how to embed those graphs here, at least without joining Wolfram Pro.

*[IPO]: Initial Public Offering

What's going on with Assange?

Some people seem to support Assange so much they hate Sweden. So what is really going on? There's lots of misinformation being spread. The New Statesman has a good summary of misconcetions.

Essentially, Swedish authorities want to arrest Assange to question him about a suspected case of rape. People think Assange, having been extradited to Sweden would then be extradited to the U.S. Just ask Manning how the U.S. treats people they don't like.

However, as the article makes clear, there really is no reason Assange shouldn't face the charges brought against him by the Swedish authorities. Due process has been followed.

The Euro is Not in Trouble; the People Are

Succinctly put:

The Euro and its system of governance are working beautifully for those who have the major voice within the Eurozone today. The ECB is instructing the governments of its monetary zone to dismantle Social Europe and they are doing it.

Though I do wonder who these people with "major voices" are?

Auschwitz era ends

From the article:

A spokesperson says last surviving member that escaped in 1942 has died

How sad, though it just highlights the mortality of humans. The title is a little confusing though, there are still people who were libertaed that are still alive.

May their memory live on.

News this week (12w26)

Half way through the year!

Brazilian prisoners can now have their sentences shortened by reading books and writing essays on them. I hope they follow this up with research on the recidivism rates of the participants. Other studies seem to suggest that education can be more useful than enforcement. Well here's a real test of the idea.

A German court has ruled religious circumcision of infants a crime. This was ruled in a regional court in Cologne. I'm not sure how the legal system in Germany works, but it appears that this isn't an absolute ban across all of Germany. Still, it brings up an interesting debate of religious freedoms. Any infant that has been circumcised clearly didn't have the ability to consent to their body being modified. Should this be allowed?

In Tahrir Square, Cairo, a British journalist was sexually assaulted. This unfortunately doesn't seem to be a one-off incident. There was a journalist for France 3 that was 'brutally molested' a year ago. There was also the case of Lara Logan, who was also sexually assaulted. Now that Egypt has supposed democracy let's see if they can protect their women such degrading behaviour. No-one deserves to be violated against their will in such a horrible manner. No-one.

A U.N. report has come out which names Cannabis as the most used recreational drug. Clearly are laws aren't working and we should clamp down even harder! Well, no, it's about time we got rid of the stigma associated with discussing drug law reform. Why don't we take all the money we spend locking up drug addicts and spend it on rehabilitation?

News this week (12w25)

Egypt had an election recently, with the results coming out now. The new president of Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi. He was the main candidate running that wasn't associated with the previous Mubarak regime. We'll see how things go for Egypt now.

Julian Assange is seeking asylum in Ecuador after his appeal against extradition to Sweden was rejected. Sweden want to question him, with a view to bringing charges later. It's interesting why he wouldn't want to go to Sweden, here's a great comment on reddit.com about the issue:

I have said this in a couple of places already, but since there seems to be a lot of confusion about the possibility of an extradition from Sweden to the US, I hope this can be seen by more people.

First, under Swedish law, a person cannot be extradited to a country where he/she risks death penalty or any physical harm. The extradition to Egypt was a major fuck-up, sure, but given the publicity of the Assange case it's not gonna happen again. There's also a difference since in the Egypt case, they were applying for political asylum and got denied, difference from someone that Sweden has requested to come here.

Secondly, Sweden cannot extradite people for political crimes, which, most likely, would be what Assange would be charged with in the US. Even if the US would label it as "terrorism" it would still be up to Swedish courts to independantly decide if it would be political or not.

Thirdly, an extradition from Sweden to another country has to be approved by the UK, since they have agreed to an extradition to Sweden, not any other country.

Assange is being extradited to Sweden for questioning in the case, not a trial. So far he has not been charged with any crimes. I've read parts of the custody memo which was filed to the court when the prosecutor requested Assange to be put in custody in absentia, and it's pretty much a "he said, she said" case without much evidence. I'd be surprised if it would even go to trial and if it did, I'd be even more surprised if Assange was convicted from the way things look now.

I'm a Swedish lawyer, if anyone has any questions about the Swedish legal system I'd be happy to answer to the best of my abilities. Going to bed pretty soon but I'll carry on tomorrow if there's need.

ACTA has been rejected by another EU committee. We now have to see how the European Parliament will vote on the treaty in July. Whilst there are good things, it does too much damage to basic human freedoms. Until they address this issue in an ACTAv2 or something, I will continue to oppose it.

My name is Jonny Barnes, and jonnybarnes.uk is my site. I’m from Manchester, UK .

I am active to varying degrees on several silos:

My usual online nickname is normally jonnybarnes for other services. I also syndicate my content to the IndieWeb friendly site micro.blog. Here’s a profile pic. I also have a PGP key, with fingerprint. You can email me at jonny at my domain, or message me on XMPP.