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04-08-2005, 15:37   #1
damien
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EFF Ireland - Formation / Reformation

Every now and again chatter about creating an EFF for Ireland surfaces and ebbs away again. There's been recent discussion about it here: http://www.freestater.blogspot.com/ with links to stories as to why it is needed.

I'd be interested to see who here would support an idea like the EFF?

Last edited by damien; 23-08-2005 at 18:37. Reason: (Changed topic title)
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04-08-2005, 16:15   #2
Chips Lovell
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As you might have guessed, count me in.
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04-08-2005, 17:18   #3
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04-08-2005, 18:13   #4
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OK, there are a bunch of issues here.

1. Commercial issues to do with things like software patents.

2. Civil liberties issues. The most obvious approaching one is the national ID card, but there's also the national DNA database, data retention and other things.

3. Things to do with Creative Commons licences.

4. Things to do with general journalistic-type legal issues.

These issues are all quite different, though sort-of related.

The reason I'm going through this is because there is a variety of groups operating in this space already, and a new group would have a clear role in the middle of all of this.

First, people who are wondering about legal stuff relating to blogging and journalistic-type issues, such as libel and interference with judicial procedures. It's just not feasible to provide this service without significant resources. By 'significant', I mean tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. Sure, you can give people a few suggestions and a few pointers over email for less, but that's not really legal advice. And there's very little to it. To be honest, there's very little new in this area that your local solicitor couldn't tell you about.

It's easy for EFF to do this in comparison. They have very substantial financial backing to bring forward or defend imortant cases. I can't see where a group in Ireland could get anything like that. but I could be wrong and would be happy to be proved so.

Second, civil liberties issues. The ICCL work hard at this, and have worked hard to gather resources to do it. I have met Aisling Reidy who runs the shop, and she seems very concerned about the issues. They have quite a wide, general agenda, and do get criticism, but at the end of the day, they have limited resources. Maybe we should concentrate on assisting their efforts, rather than supplanting them. As an example, I am sure that the ICCL would have gone into court on the ISPs/record companies log disclosure issue, but they just don't have the resources and it isn't the top priority for them.

Another area, commercial issues about patents. Really, the industry groups have to get their act together on this. It largely boils down to money and power. It's up to the software companies who are faced with this problem to get it together on this issue. If they aren't canny enough to keep groups like ICT Ireland on-script (they aren't), or can't form their own group, then there's not much point in expecting them to be much help to us. And at the end of the day, nothing happens without financial support.

I'm not saying it wouldn't be good to have a group to campaign on this. I'm just saying that we have to be realistic. The financial support just isn't there.

A final issue that was raised was CC licences and things to do with constitutional issues. There is a group in UCC working on this.

So anyway, my conclusion:

1. I think there should be a group, affiliated somehow to the ICCL to deal with civil liberties type issues, in particular, the national ID issue in a reasonable, measured way.

2. I think that Industry should get its act together to deal with the IPR issues.

3. Maybe there should be some sort of umbrella of these groups, if someone is prepared to fund it.
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04-08-2005, 19:43   #5
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Antoin, all valid points. Might be a good way of tackling this alright, to work with those that are already working on some of the issues people want to address.

However, as you say the ICCL are good people but I have little faith in them. For almost the past year I have been offering to help with time and skills. I have offered to redo their website, to set up discussion forums, to help with mailing lists. I have chased them about whether they wanted my help with their work and each time they tell me thanks and they'll get back to me.

It's not just me either, Michael Everson (Yoda) has been on to them too and offered his help. They are getting back to him too since last year.

The work the ICCL do is fantastic but I don't think they have the resources to do any of what people are looking for in the online arena. I don't think I have actually heard the ICCL comment on any kind of digital civil liberties at all.
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04-08-2005, 21:28   #6
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The ICCL were certainly involved in organizing a visit by a speaker from Privacy International about biometrics, so it's not true to say they aren't aware of the issue. I am pretty sure I heard an ICCL rep on the radio recently talking about the DNA database issue.

According to the website, they do have an 'e-rights' working group and a freedom of expression working group, and these are both obviously relevant to what we are talking about.

They may not have the resources to do what people are looking for in the online arena at the moment, but neither does anybody else.

Of course, the full solution isn't the ICCL. Industry bodies within the software industry are the key to sorting out things like software patents. Certainly the IFSO made a good effort at this. (Their weakness, in my opinion, was that they really didn't get their message into mainstream print and electronic media, unlike their opponents. But they had limited resources, so it's unfair to criticize them too much for that.) The System Administrator's Guild (SAGE) does a fair job of teasing out the practical issues around legislation, but without really setting themselves up as a lobbying organization.

There are other options to consider. For example, there is the Irish Computer Society which is a substantial organization which might be a good forum for certain issues.
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04-08-2005, 21:33   #7
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forgive me if i've missed someone pointing this out already, but something similar was tried 5 years ago or so I think.

example post i found after a brief brief search:
http://boards.ie/vbulletin/showthrea...hreadid=144822


I'm just pointing that out as at least some of those involved are still around and may have input & it may be worth digging up more stuff.

Irrespective of that, you have TCAL's support.
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05-08-2005, 00:58   #8
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More blog posts on this here here and here.
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05-08-2005, 16:47   #9
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Contacted the ICCL to see what they cover. Seems they haven not looked into this area for ages and their E-Rights group has been disbanded. Waiting to hear back from the ICCL for clarification on what areas of the digital domain they are researching. They have some research on privacy they'll be publishing.
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05-08-2005, 21:23   #10
 
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I've been researching something almost exactly along these lines for a few months (I had mentally excluded the ICCL, due to negative experiences with them in the past) after a conversation some time ago with John Naughton (http://memex.naughtons.org/). Ever since, I've been finding quite a few people interested in such an initiative, although we had also been including lobbying government on issues such as the incredibly wasteful and inefficient IT procurement procedures, which would not fall under the remit of an EFI-like body.

Anyway, the first thing is that there are already least 5 places I could be making this comment, so it's hard to direct people who may be interested to a central point of contact/discussion. Can I suggest that someone sufficiently associated with kicking this latest initiative off (Damien, Freestater, Bernie, Adam, Antoin) nominate or create something (board, mailing list, technorati tag, something) as a cohesive place to gauge interest?

I've posted a few initial thoughts in a comment on Antoin's blog at;

http://www.eire.com/2005/08/04/defen...land/#comments

One thing I forgot to mention and which I have not seen covered is EDRI;

http://www.edri.org/

EDRI is a Europe-wide organisation along the lines being discussed. Worth bearing in mind as another potential partner and source of experience. I've always found the EDRI people to be productive. EDRIGram is also a great source of information on how our neighbours are dealing with similar issues;

http://www.edri.org/edrigram

Oh, and count me in.
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06-08-2005, 14:31   #11
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Got confirmation from the ICCL that they are not involved in any of the areas EFI would cover and they don't envisage to get into these areas in the near future.

As per Antoin's suggestions I've contacted the Irish Free Software Organization and the System Administrators Guild of Ireland (both via emal) to see their thoughts on Electronic Frontier Ireland and if they want to get involved. Colm, do you speak for the Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-voting or should I formally contact Margaret? IrelandOffline will give input too to this new group.

As for a central place to discuss this, we can create that space once we hear back from the groups I mentioned above.
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06-08-2005, 15:06   #12
 
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SAGE-IE is complicated, right now it's going through a process of incorporation and I know that the SAGE working group has been retiscent to become lobbyists. Right now SAGE enjoys a consultative role within the Department of Justice on the Data retention issue, have had meetings with ministers and senior civil servants and so on, and are made aware of upcoming changes.

However SAGE-IE has thus far restricted itself to informing policy on a purely technical level. So rather than saying "Data retention is bad for personal privacy", they are saying "data retention would take this many rooms of tapes. cost this exorbitant amount and require this many resources" and so on. As a member of SAGE-IE, I have to say it's a policy I agree with - as SAGE is for system administrators, not for System Administators of a particular leaning. For example, if Electronic Voting were to come in, I would hope to be able to encourage the admins of such a system to join SAGE-IE. The neutrality is valued, and sticking to their area of expertise lends a lot of credibility.

There's a SAGE-IE in-person get-together this Tuesday, I'll make sure to bring it up and have it all discussed. But my intuition is that SAGE-IE may like to get involved in a consultative role and be happy to profer opinions on how policies affect sysadmins but would probably be unwilling to full subscribe to an EFI. I know that's what I've been consistently told by the SAGE working group.

As for ICTE, Margaret and I are spokespersons but noone really speaks for the entire group except on the core things that have been agreed. But from knowing everyone involved, I can see a lot of people will to get involved, help out and work hard for such an organisation. I'll mail the list about how people feel about it, and how people would feel about organisational affiliation.
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06-08-2005, 15:07   #13
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There was an EFF Ireland back in the day. IIRC DeVore was involved. Maybe ask him for advice on the matter.
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06-08-2005, 16:04   #14
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I have asked a friend with good contacts in ICCL to check out the situation there.

The big issue I see is funding. Where would the money come from to make this have any significant impact? A free-standing organization would need a good bit of cash to sustain it.
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06-08-2005, 16:13   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antoinolachtnai
I have asked a friend with good contacts in ICCL to check out the situation there.
Malachy Murphy the ICCL Co-chair was on to me yesterday evening and clarified it. I'll ask for his permission to quote from his email. Bottom line is ICCL are not going to be going into this area and would be happy for someone else to look after it. They have commented in the press about some of these issues only because nobody else appeared to be available.

Quote:
The big issue I see is funding. Where would the money come from to make this have any significant impact? A free-standing organization would need a good bit of cash to sustain it.
It all depends on what the eventual group will be doing. As has been stated both ICTE and IrelandOffline are pretty much zero-funding. IrelandOffline operates almost completely online so we have sfa costs.
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