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UK tax authority caught sneaking in plan to sell Britons' private financial records

Just weeks after a plan to sell "anonymized" sets of British health-records collapsed in the face of massive public criticism, a new plan has emerged to sell the country's tax records to companies and researchers, prompting an even more critical response. One Tory MP called the plan "borderline insane," and tax professionals are in an uproar. The plan was buried as a brief mention in the autumn budget. HMRC's defense rests on the idea that the information in the datasets will be anonymized, something that computer scientists widely believe is effectively impossible.

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On knife-crime island, teens are not allowed to buy spoons

The UK tabloid press spent a decade drumming up hysteria about teenage knife-crime, and MPs responded on cue, passing a series of meaningless, overbearing feel-good measures that require shops to refuse to sell anything knife-like to teenagers -- meaning that seventeen-year-old art students can't buy xacto blades, and 16-year-old carpenter's apprentices can't buy utility knives.

This silliness has burrowed deep into the automated systems and psyches of English society. A 16 year old boy who tried to buy a pack of teaspoons at a Tesco automated checkout was flagged for an "age check," and when an employee came to check it out, she or he explained to the teen that he was not allowed to buy any cutlery at all.

Tesco later apologised, but even the kid's stepmum says that she can understand why her stepson shouldn't be allowed to buy forks or butter knives, and the BBC story doesn't question why the state (or Tesco) should be intervening in teenagers' cutlery purchases -- why a kid who is old enough to marry and rent a flat isn't considered old enough to buy cutlery to eat with in that flat.

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Child in wet bathing suit made to stand in -5F weather because school policy forbade her from waiting in teacher's car

Kayona Hagen-Tietz, a ninth grader at Como Park High School in St Paul, MN, says she developed frostbite when she was made to stand in -5F weather wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit. She had been in swim class when the fire-bell rang, and evacuated in nothing but her wet swimsuit. Faculty offered to allow her to wait in a car, but school policy prohibits students from entering cars other than those belonging to family and their delegated help. Eventually, common sense won out, though apparently not soon enough. (via Free Range Kids) Cory 0

TSA agents demand bag-search to look for "Bitcoins"

Davi Barker was flying from Manchester, NH when, he says, he was stopped by two men who identified themselves as "managers" for the TSA, who claimed they had seen Bitcoins in his baggage and wanted to be sure he wasn't transporting more than $10,000 worth. When he asked them what they thought a Bitcoin looked like, they allegedly said that it looked like a coin or a medallion. (via Hacker News) Cory 63

TSA not sure if DC drivers licenses are valid ID

DC resident Ashley Brandt was surprised to meet a TSA agent at Phoenix airport who didn't think that DC drivers' licenses were valid ID, because DC isn't a state. Cory 42

Mall cops freak out over steampunk meetup, call the real cops


A group of steampunk cosplayers arranged to meet up at Westfield Plaza Camino Real near San Diego to ride the mall's Victorian carousel. But Westfield's mall cops were terrified of the cosplayers and evicted them all, escorting them to the door, calling the cops, and making them wait until the police arrived (the police basically shrugged and said, "Look, it's stupid, but it's their mall").

The mall cops -- and their corporate overlords -- cited a variety of dumb policies in support of the action, including a ban on wearing costumes that obscured the wearer's face (which didn't describe the cosplayers' outfits), a ban on gathering in groups larger than three (ORLY), a ban on photography without the subjects' permission (the steampunks, having gathered to have their photos taken, can be presumed to have consented to the pictures). Basically, it's a case of mall cop authoritarianism followed by the usual bland corporate doubling-down.

Of course, kids -- especially kids who happen to be brown -- already know that malls are capricious and fraught replacements for the public square. Mall cops basically hate anything that doesn't accord with their view of what a shopper should be and relentlessly discriminate against anyone they don't like. Back when I was in high school, more than half of my school had been banned from College Park, the mall in Toronto that was across the street from the school, by sneering jerks from Intercon security, who had the full backing of their management and the mall management.

The irony of ejecting people for wearing steampunk clothes in rich: malls are full of steampunk-inflected clothing, as the commodification mills of the fashion industry relentlessly mine subculture for new looks to put under glass. And here, too, is another parallel to the much more widespread discrimination against brown kids, who are often ejected on the pretense of wearing "gang" clothes -- clothes whose styles have been snaffled up, denatured, and repackaged for sale in the stores whose rent keeps the mall in business.

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Republicans against evolution

Republicans are increasingly skeptical of evolution. All in all, a third of Americans reject evolution. Cory 104

Manchester cops trumpet seized "3D printed gun" -- turns out to be parts for a 3D printer


Police in Manchester, UK made a huge show out of having seized a "3D printed gun." Then, it turned out that they'd just seized parts for a 3D printer. But it's still very scary, as Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood copsplains: it might have been a 3D printed gun, and they had "intelligence" about a 3D printed gun, and if we search the computers we stole, we might find plans for a 3D printed gun, and also, our botched, humiliating cockup "opens up a wider debate about the emerging threat these next generation of weapons might pose."

Thanks, Officer Hypothetical, for saving us from this dire threat!

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UK lollipop man quits over ban on high-fiving the kids

Bob Slade, a 65-year-old retired British dockworker who's served for four years as a beloved crossing guard ("lollipop man") has quit because his bosses ordered him to stop high-fiving the kids. The local authority -- which initially counselled him to make contact and socialise with the kids -- says that high-fiving kids means that his attention is taken off the road, and they complained that while he high-fives the kids, his hand is not being sternly held aloft, stopping cars. The lollipop lady we used to meet every morning on the way to my daughter's daycare knows the name of every kid who crosses at her street -- and she still recognises me, a year and a half later, and asks after my daughter by name. They're quite a remarkable bunch.

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New York Comic-Con hijacks attendees' Twitter accounts to send out shilling tweets

Attendees at New York Comic-Con were required to register their new, RFID-bugged badges online, in a process that encouraged them to link them to their Twitter accounts. Little did they suspect that NYCC would use their signups to send tweets from attendees' Twitter accounts, in a loose, conversational style ("So much pop culture to digest! Can't. handle. the. awesome."), linking back to NYCC's website, without any indication that they were spam. I'm reasonably certain that the fine-print on the NYCC signup gave them permission to do this stupid thing, and I'm also certain that almost no one read the fine-print, and that rather a large number of attendees objected strenuously to having their Twitter accounts used to shill for a service that they were already paying a large sum to enjoy.

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Sticking a knife in a toaster


If you've wondered what happens when you stick a knife in a toaster (and really, who hasn't?), here, in six seconds, is a Vine clip demonstrating the inadvisability of this course of action. Let this be a lesson to us all.

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UK gov't wants to ban dirty words in UK domain names; tell them to #£@* off


Tony sez, "The UK Department for Culture, Media & Sport is supporting a review of the .uk domain name registration process, suggesting that restricting offensive words in .uk domain names will help to prevent abusive behaviour on the internet. Nominet has already done a great job of debunking why this is not an effective solution and is now seeking comments from the public."

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Guy who preemptively shot his BBQing neighbors says that self-defense includes killing people who pose "imminent" danger, like Saddam and drone-victims

You know how Obama and GWB's spin-doctors redefined "imminent" (as in "we attacked pre-emptively to prevent an imminent attack")? Well, if it's good enough for the Prez, it's good enough for Florida's neighbor-shooting yahoos. The yahoo in question is William T. Woodward, whose lawyer argues that he shot his neighbors while they were having a backyard barbecue because they were going to attack him. Eventually. Which is to say, imminently. And that, argues Mr Woodward's lawyers, is just self-defense as defined in Florida's "Stand Your Ground" laws.

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Nova Scotia's insane cyber bullying law

Jesse Brown writes, "Boing Boing readers may remember Rehteah Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who, in news media shorthand, was driven to suicide last April by cyber bullies. The public's understandable shock and outrage over her death, and the lack of any charges being laid against her abusers* has resulted in Nova Scotia's Bill 61: the Cyber Safety Act. But pre-existing laws could have brought Rehteah justice while she was alive- they just weren't enforced. Rehteah may have been cyber bullied, but more descriptively, she was (allegedly) gang-raped while severely intoxicated and chronically harassed. But the RCMP closed her case without interviewing the four boys accused, despite the existence of photo evidence."

*The RCMP re-opened Rehteah's case under pressure from the Prime Minister. This morning, they finally laid charges against two individuals, assumedly not under Bill 61, which of course did not exist at the time of the incident.

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Pro-tip for jurors: don't write on Facebook about your intent to convict defendant

Two jurors in England will spend August in jail after one asserted a defendant's guilt on Facebook—"I've always wanted to Fuck up a paedophile & now I'm within the law!"—and the other blabbed to co-jurors about researching their case online. [BBC] Rob 11