activism Archive

Oh Canada

December 7th, 2008

It’s interesting to see how Harper’s suspension of democracy in Canada is being perceived to the south…

Turn off your engine…

June 27th, 2008

…and take climate action:

B52 Two Not Guilty

May 22nd, 2007

B52 Two

This afternoon Phil and Toby, two friends of mine from Oxford, were found not guilty in a unanimous verdict at Bristol Crown Court. They were charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage at an air force base in England in March 2003 when they tried to safely disable US B52 bombers in a non-violent and accountable action to prevent them from bombing Iraq. Their main defence, with which the jury agreed, was that they were acting to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, and war crimes by the aggressors (the use of cluster bombs and radioactive “bunker-busters”).

I think Toby sums it up quite well:

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people have still suffered as a result of the Government’s actions. It shouldn’t have come to the point that people had to take direct action to try to check the abuse of executive power.

It shouldn’t, but it did, and I have a huge amount of respect for Phil and Toby for having the courage to take action trying to stop an illegal war. They both spent three months in jail after their arrest and the last four years fighting this legal battle. Thank you both. The verdict today has highlighted, once again, that the UK government acted illegally in supporting the US-led attack on Iraq. It will be interesting to see the coverage in the media tomorrow as the conclusion of Phil and Toby’s case thrusts this issue back into public view.

Read more at b52two.org or on their blog.

Radical Energy Saving Action

December 7th, 2006

When the going gets tough, and people remain ambivalent towards the simple steps they can take in their lives to reduce their energy use, it seems there’s only one thing for it… It’s time to start breaking into people’s apartments, changing their light bulbs, dropping bricks in their toilets, and switching off their appliances by stealth, obviously! ;)

moveon.org’s privacy violations

November 29th, 2006

One of the great privacy features now activated by default in Mozilla’s Thunderbird email client (which I thoroughly recommend) is that it blocks loading of remote images in emails. This is a good thing. Why? Well, spammers, fraudsters, and unscrupulous companies mass emailing their customers just love to know for sure whether or not their emails have been read.

One way they can do this is using a tiny image know as a “web bug“. By quietly loading a one-pixel transparent image in the bottom of an email, via a specially crafted URL with a unique identifier, the sender of the email can, with no permission from the recipient, verify that the email has been read, that the email address is valid (this is really bad news if it’s spam, since valid email addresses are valuable and will be sold and spammed even more). It is also possible for the sender to track when the message was read, and where the recipient was at the time they read it, by recording the IP address of the computer the recipient was using at the time.

I’ve become quite accustomed to seeing the alert Thunderbird pops up to tell me that it has blocked remote images to protect my privacy. After all, quite a few companies legitimately add remote images with no tracking capability to emails – for example their logo. So, when clearing through a few unread messages from earlier in the week, I almost didn’t give this a second thought…

Screenshot of the Thunderbird email client blocking a webbug tracking image in an email from moveon.org

But for some reason I thought “that’s odd” and so I had a look at the html source of the message. To my surprise, this is what I found three lines from the bottom:

<img src="http://open.moveon.org/o.gif?id=9508-1945452-_97SI0eV1lc9R" HEIGHT="1" WIDTH="1">

That’s right, it’s a web bug. (I removed the end of the tracking code.)

The irony of moveon.org – which do some great work – campaigning to “stop AOL’s email tax“, and “save the internet” whilst at the same time using the exact same invasive methods of email tracking as spammers and fraudsters would be laughable, if it wasn’t so sad. Having worked on numerous campaigns and digital organising projects myself, I find the use of email tracking by a progressive campaign quite a despicable abuse of privacy.

If you’re reading this, Eli, I suggest you first of all apologise directly to the 3 million or so members whose trust you have violated, destroy any tracking data you are storing, and most importantly don’t do it again.



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