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Archive for June, 2011

Facebook in talks to take over MI5

MI5 HQ

Unconfirmed rumours suggest that Facebook, the giant US-based social networking service with detailed database records on one tenth of the world’s population, could be poised to take over responsibility for counter-intelligence and surveillance services that were, until now, the monopoly of MI5.

Ministers are tight lipped but insiders say that Prime Minister David Cameron is impressed by the superior performance of the US-based operation headed by Mark Zuckerberg.

Superior

News reports about the government’s public sector privatisation plans have indicated this government’s willingness to contract out almost any public service if private companies think they can make a profit. The security services and judiciary had until now been thought exempt.

Nobody was available for comment at MI5’s Thames House headquarters. We were, however, able to reach an Inspector G. Lestrade at Scotland Yard, who offered some insights into the possible reasons for the policy change.

“Facebook’s intelligence gathering puts traditional services like MI5 into the shade”, said Lestrade. “In a few short years they’ve obtained a depth of information about citizens which even the KGB or Stasi couldn’t achieve in decades”.

Chief Inspector James Japp, a colleague of Lestrade’s agreed. “Some of us have had great results using traditional methods, and we’re not against bringing in private specialists when necessary, but Facebook is something else”.

Intelligence in depth

Where Facebook succeeds against traditional intelligence gathering is in the sheer depth, breadth and quality of the information, always up to date.

Facebook is believed to hold information on roughly 26 million Britons. Observers say that, in a nation of 46 million adults, that’s  impressive in itself.

Whilst intelligence operatives have relied in the past on limited supplies of low quality, grainy photographs of citizens under special scrutiny, Facebook supplies dozens of high quality photos on each subject, helpfully tagged with details of ‘associates’, dates, events and places.

“The clever thing”, says Japp, “is that even people who don’t want to show their own face on their ‘profile’ get tagged in photos taken by friends. Facebook even use facial recognition to suggest they do it”.

“This is streets ahead of the methods used by the Stasi”, he added.

“With Facebook we’ve got it all”, adds Lestrade. “Facebook knows who you associate with, and the friends of your friends. They know what you’re saying and when, what you like, the things you’re reading, and where you were when you read them. Facebook’s intelligence personnel need never leave the office”.

Combined operations

Facebook is also lauded for the subtle ways in which it has mastered how to keep tabs on a mobile population. Whilst other corporations have done their part in persuading most citizens to willingly carry a personal GPS tracking device everywhere, Facebook is, in the jargon, the “systems integrator”.

With people spending an increasing part of every day communicating through the service, Facebook seems to have it all.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home or meeting associates for a drink, they know about it”, says Japp. “They know the internet address of your home computer today and yesterday, so they don’t have to waste time getting this information from telecoms providers. They know in advance where you’re planning to go, because you told them, and they know who else is there at the time when you arrive”.

Savings

Facebook’s methods mean that conventional intelligence operations just can’t compete. They are said to have none of the operating overheads that have traditionally contributed to the high cost of operations.

“Think of operatives shivering in stakeout operations … that’s all gone. And, with it, the overtime”, laments Japp.

“These private sector operatives we used to employ … they had expensive methods too, always running around the country, staying in expensive hotels”. “And don’t mention the opiates”, adds Lestrade.

Further initiatives

Sources say that if this deal goes through, and it seems likely, then the government may reappraise other areas which David Cameron had previously ruled off limits. The secret service, MI6, could be next.

Secret feasibility studies are also underway to decide whether the judiciary could be replaced by Judge Judy.

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Piggy Bank(er)

Leaked Treasury documents reveal that Chancellor George Osborne is planning an audacious raid on children’s Piggy Banks in a bid to eliminate the nation’s fiscal deficit by a week on Tuesday.

The plan, which will probably be carried out by Liberal Democrat junior ministers in door to door visits, follows existing measures targeted at public sector employees, disabled people, pensioners and women.

Using emergency measures that already grant officials access to homes on the flimsiest of pretexts, crack teams will search every house with a child under the age of 16 with orders to find and penetrate the familiar porcine cash containers.

Operational instructions contained in the leak spell out that, where possible, piggy banks should be left intact after emptying … suggesting the government may plan a second raid when parents have refilled them. However, sources close to the Chancellor suggest he is prepared to see pigs smashed in front of their owners if they don’t easily yield their contents.

Commenting on the plan city economist Ivor Lott explained, “these measures may seem harsh but they are entirely necessary to balance the nation’s finances”. He continued, “Someone has to pay for our part of the world’s economic crisis. We’ve already targeted children’s futures but their savings had been overlooked”.

The Treasury has ruled out suggestions that corporations should be forced to pay taxes avoided by ingenious accounting schemes, or that bankers and financiers should bear direct responsibility for mistakes requiring public  bail-outs.

“We need to concentrate on what’s practical”, said a spokesman. “Rich people would be angry if we asked them to pay taxes or compensation for the bailouts we’ve given them.”

Asked whether public sector staff, disabled people, pensioners, women and children might not be angry too the spokesman shook his head. “What these people have got to realise is that we’re all in this together”

 

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I dread to think of the roaming charges

SpacePhone

The story goes that NASA are sending an iPhone into orbit for the first time ever, aboard the very last Space Shuttle mission next month.

This news has prompted one wag to speculate what the settings screen might look like.

Laptops have been going into orbit for years of course. In fact the International Space Station is stuffed full of them. We never get to see the screens so we just can’t be sure how many are playing Solitaire. We’ll just trust that they’re all doing science.

However, this is the first time an iPhone (or any mobile device?) has been taken aloft.

In fact they’re taking not one but two (presumably for those multi player games).

Apparently, according to Wired Magazine, NASA have some special apps which they’ve developed to test the principle of using a mass market device like this on future space missions. You never know when you might bump into E.T. … and he or she may want to phone home.

Just watch those roaming and international data charges guys.

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Knitted Smart

Friends and avid followers will know that I’m a great fan of the Smart Car.

I’m currently on my third one in nine years of happy motoring.

My first Smart (Harriet) was bought new when I left my role as an IT / Business consultant back in January 2002. It was decorated funkily with huge digits ‘4’ and ‘2’ (because it’s a ‘Smart for two, geddit?)

My second and third Smarts (Hermione and Henrietta respectively) were both bought in extremely generous part exchange deals from a showroom salesman who had taken a shine to me.

Henrietta has recently had her first MOT and, with just 16,000 miles on the clock still has lots of life in her.

However, when I saw this cute crocheted Smart on the company’s Facebook page the juices of desire instantly welled up.

I could really go for one of those. Oh .. and can I have it with an electric drive too?

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