Tag Archives: Equens

Privacy and (fake) fears

It has been all over the news. The US government has access to your email and your details. It was quite the show to read this all yesterday and the issues this morning was set in a nothing less than A-level theatre play. A play that would make Robert Ludlum envious I might add.

The issue is that the US Government (NSA in this case) is reading your e-mails. They have been doing that for some time. Basically, it was the Patriot act that opened the (back) doors for them to get access to all this information. As they were dealing with data on a lower level in those days, their task was simple. Find Terrorists! Find those who attack America and deal with them. So readers, here is your fake fear! This is one moment where I agree with President Obama 100%. You cannot have 100% security and 100% privacy. Anyone claiming different is lying to you.

The NSA is not interested in you soliciting erotic acts from a recipient on the other side of the e-mail track. They are not interested in the deals you make offering a quick buck! So those in fear (roughly 99.8932353%) you have nothing to fear but fear itself. The part you are not afraid of is the part that SHOULD scare you. You see all that data that you ‘surrender’ to Facebook, Google, MySpace, and Friendster and so on. All THAT data you gave can be crunched, marketed and sold to companies, corporations and all who would buy them. THAT is an interesting part. That is the fear people need to have when they looked at the dangers that Dutch Equens represent (as reported in the earlier blog: ‘You might soon be sold by the banks!‘).

It is not just that part, it is the possibility that data miners offer as they combine data files in one coherent file that could be a personal ‘danger’ to you.

The NSA issues are not that. They need these abilities to fight the existing and growing threat called ‘the lone wolf terrorist’. These people are guided by sources like ‘Inspire’ magazine, which is created by AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula). It is however not that simple. The real lone wolves get their ‘guidance’ remotely from sources most do not know and all that under the eyes of the Intelligence Community. To have a grip on stopping these people, monitoring the internet is essential to keeping us the common people safe. If you think that reading mails was enough, then you are wrong. The further going plans by some to monitor the internet is going to be an essential part. Do not think that this is a fun exercise for those involved. It is pricey, it drains resources and it is never ending. As people move to the cloud the need to monitor upcoming dangers will only increase.

Most readers will have heard of the soldier killed in Woolwich UK. Home Secretary Theresa May was quoted when the mention came that this attack was not from a ‘Lone Wolf’ terrorist. I am not opposing this thought. Yet, it cannot be denied that magazines like Inspire might be central to these events. As such it is no wonder that GCHQ wants to peek over the shoulders of the NSA to see if dangers are hitting their small island (I meant the UK, for those who wonder).

There were additional issues that are growing on several grounds, which give weight to the need of monitoring and in all of these cases people like you and me are not an issue.

For most of you feeling fear of this, your fear is unwarranted. Your fear should be how Microsoft and Sony are very interested on squeezing your details out of you as they are preparing and implementing their Next Gen consoles. That will affect you a lot sooner than the security services ever will. (Blog: ‘Government ministers, be warned!‘)

It looks almost sanctimonious that people are so shouting at these government actions and after that spread their visions with pictures and reveal all they can (and sometimes with way too much info) using Shutterfly/Instagram and Facebook. When their identities are stolen they will whine that it is ALL the fault of the government on how their identity was not safe.

Seems almost laughable doesn’t it.

When we sit on the fence we do see that there is a responsibility to hold parties to account for what they do. In case of the NSA this is Judge Roger Vinson. So, yes, someone does take a look at what is done. When did you last hear a loud scream on what Facebook is doing with your details? How about never? Only when Facebook had certain plans involving Instagram did the inner demon of personal greed scream out stating that the pictures were not to be open for business. Again we see a show of double standards. Judge Roger Vinson, born in the state where the delicious Forest Reserve Bourbon is from (Kentucky). He is the Federal Judge for the state famous for Pina Colada and cool Mojito’s (Florida). He approved the data request that the NSA made. So, yes there is oversight on this. It is however not needed for foreign requests. Is that bad? We give it freely to Facebook, so why are they stopped from sharing that with the government. Are you having that drink yet?

The NSA, GCHQ, DSD, CSE and a few others need these data streams. They would like to prevent people who are eager to get other people blown up. For you and me to stand on ‘principle’ on one side and then we give away our identity to be marketed and spammed to commercial content is just way too weird.

The world is now visibly changing. It is in my mind a little frightful as we are soon to become part of something different. As the finance markets were not contained, and soon no longer can be contained ever, we see a move away from nations and nationalities. We are about to be reduced to a metadata tag. With an added weighting that is soon to be set to ‘useful’ or ‘waste’. This was not instigated by governments and not even by the intelligence community. It was instigated by corporations behind Social media; and as we openly surrendered our details we are now placed in boxes where we can be approached. When we have moved through all the boxes and we are no longer an asset in any box we will be given the ‘waste’ tag. Then what?

These are my words, but funnily enough I was not the first one to mention this. In the Netherlands there was a New-Age entrepreneur called Luc Sala. Even from the late 80’s he evangelized the dangers of the groups “have” and “have not” and how we were allowing ourselves to be placed in these boxes. I wonder if he ever realised that not only was he correct, but that it could even fade national borders? Consider what you heard over the last months, what we will see in the next 13 months. Prime Minister David Cameron was strong about keeping the UK identity safe, to protect it. He was not willing to step out of the EU for this. That step is now being sought after by UKIP and their leader Nigel Farage.

How are these related? This is a valid question that is forming in your mind. And I have been fighting with these thoughts and especially evidence around this. Without evidence all this is nothing more than a bad level of Conspiracy Theory. You see, all these messages we read in the last few days and the next week are in my mind a smokescreen to some level. We are all so shouting about privacy. Yet, who was up in arms when MySpace started to sell their data in 2010. (Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/191716/myspace_selling_user_data.html).

Did you stop to think about your data on Facebook? Did you think ‘whatever’? So what other ‘evidence’ is there? In that case I point to several blogs I wrote, but more important you should look at more reputable sources like the Guardian and the Wall Street Times, where we faced stories in regards to the pay outs by all towards Greece, Cyprus and other nations to keep the economy ‘alive’. Whilst now we read how the IMF made errors. How a train line sucks up over 7 billion and is presently still not operational in the way it should be. This is a time and place where other nations are now giving aid as budgets are not met in various degrees by nearly all EU nations. So is it such a far stretch to see National borders fade as these issues are ‘resolved’ (read: ‘put on hold’) by group driven options. All this happens whilst we hear ‘voices’ that seem less and less aware of consequences or claim ignorance and error afterwards.

For this train of thought we need to see three parts

In the first part there is last year when this was quoted “The slight uptick is largely due to Europe, which is expected to return to very slow growth of 0.3 percent after the -0.2 percent contraction in 2012” (Source: http://www.conference-board.org/data/globaloutlook.cfm). Yet the guardian in two articles where the 2012 version stated in: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/07/eurozone-growth-next-year-ec the following “with the 17-nation Eurozone eking out expansion of just 0.1% in 2013”. However 6 months later we read in: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jun/06/ecb-eurozone-recession-deepen, where it states “European Central Bank says the Eurozone economy will shrink by 0.6% in 2013 as it considers unconventional policies to kick-start growth”. Numbers change and get adjusted, but the game can only be one of profit by those who have the right numbers (read the better data source). This game is played and replayed, again and again. This has bearing on all the privacy issue in the form of the collected data these predictors require. If the power of voicing the future is based upon data then your privacy is a thorn in the eyes of commerce as they do react to data, but whose data and created how? So as companies are making less, as economic values go down, other paths to revenue must be found and this does have bearing on your privacy, as you are data. This means you are commercial currency, not government currency as such.

This is the other side of data. Many corporations decided to ‘store’ their backup data in some High-Tech solution off-site facility, not unlike the hosting solution Peer1. Peer1 is a Canadian corporation with hosting locations in for example San Antonio (when they acquired ServerBeach). That is corporate data and as such there is an issue in this place. There had been soft voices of concern in those early days on who gets to access these data servers. American linked companies implementing off-site storage options in America from all over their European locations. Was local management realising that they gave their customer base and (financial) details to US insight?

There is NO; I say again NO evidence that these data files were ever ‘violated’ for commercial gain. If we consider the dangers of greed and in the light of what we read earlier, can we be certain that this did not happen, or even whether this is not likely to happen in the near future?

It had been clear that parties like the NSA had access. There is however a side we do need to take proper heed of. If they have access, then who else has access? From corporate documents from these hosts, corporations would have likely read how impossible access was, and how they never give out access. If that part was shown to be ‘violated’, then what other dangers lurk that these companies did not expect? (In this concept violated does not mean a legal violation as the data storage company would have been adhering to their government rules, yet the fact that corporations might not know this is a question for many and as such legal questions should be asked).

So think again, as social media is in their right to sell the data they have in some shape and that it is the price you paid for all these ‘free’ abilities that these places give you. Most do not worry, but then worry about information the government has/looks in to.

For private individuals all this is simply a fake fear.


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You might soon be sold by the banks!

I have heard often, in many situations the ‘that is not how it works’ was stated. How it was all in my mind. No, this morning issues were not just confirmed, I reckon that things are even worse than you think they are.

You see, for the most I do not trust ‘Financial Institutions’. They came in a time when there was an abundance of all, when people, as they were turned away from banks, they were willing to take a ‘chance’. For one part, this is Capitalism at its best! (Or at least that is how it was in the beginning.) Now they have grown, more margins more abilities and as we saw them grow in many fields they gained perspectives the banks in their conservatives states did not.

So, whenever I can, I stay away from financial institution. The main reason, they do not have the muzzle to keep them in place when needed. You think this is strange? Well, read on and prepare for the rudest awakening in a long time.

In the Netherlands there is a company called Equens. Today they temporary abstained from a plan to sell on their financial information. Equens is a payment provider. It processes pass (credit cards, bank cards and so on) transactions. They do so all over Europe and they are not the smallest. With 15 BILLION transactions they own well over 10% of the market. The plan is indeed decently brilliant, but dangerous as hell. They almost pulled in the banks to take their transaction data to market. It would have been quite the revenue, but it is the most dangerous one you will ever personally experience, and the issue with ‘temporary’ means it remains a danger. The initial report on this matter drew too much criticism, even though RABO and SNS Nationalised were interested, they crawled back when certain legal issues rose. It had been raised by the Dutch consumer society and the Dutch political party Democrats 66. I feel certain that this delay is a temporary one, as the issues involving legalities might be resolved over time. This is exactly the issue with financial institutions. Banks have power, but as such they were limited in freedom of movement (as it should be). Their commercial corporate brother named ‘Financial institution’ does not have these strict limits, which gives many of us the dangers currently at play.

Even so, Equens did make the promise that the sold information could not be tracked to any individual. This is where they are (intentionally) wrong in my mind.

You see, this goes beyond their system (and that is how they ‘focussed’ their view. Let me show you how. You buy an item at your usual store. That store processes your payment. You remain anonymous. Yet, your usual store has given you a discount/loyalty pass. NOW there is a connection between the bank card and your personality. So, as Equens data is sold on and on and on, more information can be added as the shop cash register (and therefor their data) has your bank pass and your personal details in the form of a loyalty card. Two numbers that could be connected with the greatest of ease and these cash registers have been collecting numbers for years and years. Now the link of two numbers separates their claim of anonymity and total financial and personal classification.

So look at those facts, now check your wallet and look at those cards you have. Are any of them for the Cinema? A book store? A game store? A fashion store? Do you get mail to your home from any of them? You’ll likely have at least one, and with every addition, you will get classified more and quicker. Soon you are nothing more than a product number. This is the ultimate marketing move! Availability of products, per person, per location. This is not such a future event; this is about to happen to us all.

I reckon that whatever happens will happen fast, and not just in the EU. If Equens is so willing to make this leap with only +10% market share, then who are the bigger players? This is a mega million market and if the Netherlands with 19 million people are so desired, then what about the UK with 68 million? Consider the meeting Equens had and a document they presented in June 2011 (source: http://www.paymentscouncil.org.uk/files/payments_council/npp2011_-_consultation_docs/22.06.11_equens_se.pdf).

The statements like: “However, the single largest criticism of the NPP is that it lacks an overarching business vision on which to drive a coherent strategy that delivers the various elements of the Plan.

So, the National Payment Plan was even more in need of a business vision? To consider those consequences we would need to look at Q42 of that document on page 14. Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) is under scrutiny where it was stated that ”The adoption of SEPA standards and formats should be introduced as quickly as possible. Whilst this will impose a cost on Corporate UK, the benefits of these new standards will take some time to reach fruition if standards migration is done on a phased basis.” So what adoptions exactly, and as such, which ones are less documented but not prohibited? From an IT point of view ‘formats’ reads as changes to interact data on more levels more easily. Why? Costs on Corporate UK! When have they EVER been willing to accept costs without tenfold falling back into their laps? It is simple basic capitalism. I have nothing against it, yet the part where most others get sold is not in those papers, yet it is not prohibited either. Welcome to the open world of financial institutions where we are about to become their product. Even though Equens is now visible, I wonder where a big boy like Schlumberger (Axalto) is at this point, who has a sizeable share.

The NOS reported on their website (www.nos.nl) today that these moves are for now of the table. Quoted was “Aanleiding voor dit besluit is de maatschappelijke onrust die is ontstaan.” (translation: ‘reason for this decision is the social unease that rose‘). I think that they have business concerns which will not allow them to endanger their 10% market at present. Yet, if they thought of it, then so did the other players and as such the next step is only a matter of time, and I reckon that we do not have that much time left before we are part of a sold system.

From there our world of what we need will be transformed into our world as THEY see we need. A small change will become a world of difference for us all.

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