Dutch ebook sellers promise to spy on everyone's reading habits, share them with "anti-piracy" group

Earlier this summer, the German Booksellers Association announced a daft "watermarking" process for ebooks that would introduce random variations in the text as a means of uniquely identifying them. At the time, I pointed out that this was just silly: firstly, it's not hard to detect and vary the watermarks (just compare two different copies of the text using a 40-year-old program called "diff") and secondly, because the fact that a pirate site has a copy of a book with "your" watermark in it doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong. It's not illegal to lose your computer, be hacked, or give your hard-drive away.

What I totally failed to anticipate was that booksellers and publishers would use watermarking as a rubric for tracking and sharing information about everything that everyone is reading. In the Netherlands, ebook sellers have announced that they will retain full reading records on their customers for at least two years, and will share that information with an "anti-piracy" group called BREIN (a group that already has the power to order Dutch ISPs to censor the Internet, without due process or judicial oversight; and who, ironically, were caught ripping off musicians for their anti-piracy ads).

I am not often shocked by the insanity of anti-piracy efforts, but this one has me agog. As a former bookseller, I can't believe that people in the business of putting books into readers' hands would casually spy on their customers' reading habits, and, worse still, turn them over to a sleazy third party with a track-record of bullying, corruption, and censorship. Read the rest

Stolen Picasso, Monet, Matisse believed burned

Romanian prosecutors suspect that the paintings stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery in the biggest Netherlands art-theft in a decade were incinerated. A Romanian museum is analyzing the ashes in Olga Dogaru's stove; Dogaru is the mother of accused thief Radu Dogaru, and she claims that she dug up her son's buried loot and burned it to protect him -- including paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others. Read the rest

Putting party hats on CCTVs to celebrate Orwell's birthday

Yesterday was George Orwell's birthday, and to celebrate, people in Utrecht perched little party hats atop CCTV cameras in public places.

By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.

No one tried this in London, because there are not enough party hats in the universe.

George Orwell’s Birthday Party (via Making Light) Read the rest

Bank pays for costumed flashmob to recreate Rembrandt's Nightwatch in a mall

ING paid to have a group of actors play out a dramatic reenactment of the events depicted in Rembrandt's classic painting The Night Watch.

Astronaut duvet cover

€60 is a lot to spend on your kid's duvet cover, but there's no denying that this astronaut bedding from Snurk is pretty wonderful.

Astronaut (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

ISP blinkenlights synchronized to a sprightly piano

Here's a lovely video shot at the XS4ALL ISP data-center outside of Amsterdam, in which the many twinkling, blinking lights are synchronized to a sprightly piano score.

3D printed house to emerge

A Dutch architecture firm plans on using a D-Shape 3D printer to output a house in the shape of a Mobius strip, a project they estimate will take 18 months:

Dutch architecture studio Universe Architecture is planning to construct a house with a 3D printer for the first time.

The Landscape House will be printed in sections using the giant D-Shape printer, which can produce sections of up to 6 x 9 metres using a mixture of sand and a binding agent.

Architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Universe Architecture will collaborate with Italian inventor Enrico Dini, who developed the D-Shape printer, to build the house, which has a looping form based on a Möbius strip.

Dutch architects to use 3D printer to print a house (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Artist 3D prints replica of his own skull

A Dutch artist called Caspar Berger is producing a "self-portrait" by 3D printing a replica of his own skull, then layering "flesh" atop it.

In this project, Self-portrait 21, the 3D copy of the skull represents the true image (vera icon). This image has formed the basis for a facial reconstruction by a forensic anthropologist, who received the skull anonymously accompanied only by the information that it belonged to a man in his mid-40s born in Western Europe. This facial reconstruction is based on the available scientific documentation of tissue structure, skin thickness and muscle groups. The clay reconstruction has been cast in bronze to be presented as Self-portrait 21, a self-portrait that has not been made by the artist.

Skeleton / Self-portrait 21 (via Beyond the Beyond) Read the rest

Bits of Freedom's annual donation campaign is today: defend digital freedom in the Netherlands!

Ot sez, "Bits of Freedom is organizing its annual donation campaign today. Why? Because privacy and freedom on the internet are under threat and we need to defend our rights online. We can only do so with your help. If you want to help, you can write a blog, use one of our banners on your own site or become a supporter. Thanks!"

Bits of Freedom is the Netherlands' answer to groups like EFF, Open Rights Group, Netzpolitik, La Quadrature du Net, and many others (thankfully, there's more than can be readily enumerated here -- it's a global movement). They really deserve your support.

Bits of Freedom is een onafhankelijke beweging, en dat willen we blijven. We kunnen alleen bestaan dankzij donaties van Nederlanders die geven om hun vrijheid en privacy. Wil jij ook meehelpen om internetvrijheid te beschermen? Word dan donateur.

Met jouw steun kunnen we doorgaan met:

* Schendingen van online rechten signaleren en aanpakken

* Slecht beleid terugdraaien en goed beleid stimuleren. Zowel in Den Haag als in Brussel

* Tools ontwikkelen en kennis delen waarmee jij je eigen internetvrijheid kunt beschermen

* Elk jaar de Big Brother Awards uitreiken aan de grofste privacyschenders

Do your bit! (Thanks, Ot!) Read the rest

Dutch government scraps "weed cards" - foreigners will still be able to smoke weed in Amsterdam's "coffee shops"

The new Dutch government has scrapped plans to issue "weed passes" to permanent Dutch residents, and require these passes in order to purchase cannabis products in Amsterdam's famed marijuana "coffee shops." Other cities will be free to ban foreigners from their own cannabis coffee shops, should they choose, but the national government will not impose this upon them.

Incoming Dutch government ditches 'weed pass' plan (via Reddit) Read the rest

Dutch government gives itself the right to break into your computer and destroy it

Ot from Bits of Freedom sez, "On 15 October, the Dutch ministry of Justice and Security proposed powers for the police to break into computers, install spyware, search computers and destroy data. These powers would extend to computers located outside the Netherlands. Dutch digital rights movement Bits of Freedom warns for the unacceptable risks to cybersecurity and calls on other countries to strongly oppose the proposal."

Three new powers: spy, search and destroy

The proposal (Dutch, PDF) would grant powers to the Dutch police to break into computers, including mobile phones, via the internet in order to:

* install spyware, allowing the police to overtake the computer;

* search data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries; and

* destroy data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries.

If the location of the computer cannot be determined, for example in the case of Tor-hidden services, the police is not required to submit a request for legal assistance to another country before breaking in. Under the current text, it is uncertain whether a legal assistance request is required, or merely warranted, if the location of the computer is known. The exercise of these powers requires a warrant from a Dutch court.

Dutch proposal to search and destroy foreign computers (Thanks, Ot!) Read the rest

European Directories sends legal threat to guy who wants to make it easy to stop receiving phone books

Branko sez,

Everybody in the Netherlands still receives the paper phone guide once every year, whether they want to or not, even though in these days of Google and the Internet it is nothing but a vehicle for advertisements.

To help stop this form of harassment, a guy called Alexander Klöpping has registered a URL called sterftelefoongidssterf.nl (diephonebookdie) which redirects to the phone book cancellation form. In other words, if you want the phone book to be eliminated (‘die’) from your life, follow that link. (Actually don’t follow it, De Telefoongids are known to ignore your cancellation request anyway.)

Last Monday Klöpping received a threatening e-mail by the publishers of the phone book, a subsidiary of European Directories, that tells him he is engaged in trademark violation and that he must cease and desist.

Phone book publisher tries to silence critic with legal bullying (Thanks, Branko!) Read the rest

Dropped infected USB in the company parking lot as a way of getting malware onto the company network

Workers at the Dutch offices of DSM, a chemical company, report finding USB sticks in the company parking lot, which appeared to have been lost. However, when the company's IT department examined the sticks, they discovered that they were loaded with malware set to autorun in company computers, which would harvest employee login credentials. It appears that criminal dropped the keys in the hopes of tricking a employees into getting them into the company network.

Cybercriminelen doen poging tot spionage bij DSM

Cybercriminals do attempt to commit espionage at DSM (Google Translate)

(via /.) Read the rest

Lego Turing machine

Some more wonderments in honor of the Alan Turing centenary: Jeroen van den Bos and Davy Landman from the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam have created a working Turing machine out of Lego. It is both inspired and an inspiration:

Our LEGO Turing machine uses a tape based on a classic interpretation of computer memory: switches. Additionally, it uses a light sensor to determine the value of a switch: if the switch is on, the sensor will see the black colour of the switch's surface. But if it is turned off, the sensor will see the white colour of the LEGO beam, making it possible to distinguish between the states. Finally, a rotating beam mounted above the tape can flip the switch in both directions.

Alan Turing's original model has an infinite tape, but LEGO had a slight problem supplying infinite bricks. So we chose to fix our tape size to 32 positions.

A Turing Machine built using LEGO In honor of the Alan Turing year 2012 Read the rest

Catcopter artist explains all

In the event that you were wondering about the motives of the Dutch artist Bart Jansen, who attained notoriety by taxiderming his dead cat and retrofitting its corpse to serve as a quadcopter, wonder no more. The CBC's As It Happens recorded an interview with Mr Jansen, and it is one of the strangest, finest interviews in that show's august history. The producers were kind enough to provide us with an MP3 for your listening pleasure. Read the rest

Dutch Masters portrait subjects clothed in foam packing sheets

Netherlands artist Suzanne Jongmans has created a series of portraits in the style of the Dutch Masters, creating the costumes out of soft packing foam sheets. She needs to team up with the artist who creates 15th century Flemish self-portraits using airplane toilet tissue and seat-covers. Together, they will rule the atemporal world.

Referring to both vulnerability and impermanence, I am investigating the texture and feel of both the present and past. Since 2007 I have been working on the series 'foam sculptures': caps and collars, inspired by 16th and 17th century paintings, made from materials currently used for packaging and insulation. This is also an inferior material which is often discarded after use. By using this material I make a reference to consumerism and the rapid circulation of materials. With these foam sculptures, but also an i-pod, a tattoo and a foot in plaster, we end up in the 21st century.

The portraits are a certain reference to Holbein, Clouet, Vermeer and Holland's Golden Age. It is no coincidence. In fact, in the 16th and 17th century, laid the foundations for photography. Call it the prehistory of photography. It appears that the artists have used photographic images, they could not yet capture. In fact, there was the phenomenon of photography so much earlier. This is an atavism of the Golden Age and the early days of the invention of photography.

I use the elements in the present as in the past, the objects in my work are used as symbols of values.

Read the rest

Netherlands becomes first EU nation to enshrine Net Neutrality in law

Ot from the Dutch technology activist group Bits of Freedom writes, "Good news from The Netherlands: on 8 May 2012 The Netherlands adopted crucial legislation to safeguard an open and secure internet. It is the first country in Europe to implement net neutrality in the law. In addition, it adopted provisions protecting users against disconnection and wiretapping by providers. Digital rights movement Bits of Freedom calls on other countries to follow the Dutch example." (Thanks Ot!) Read the rest

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