Tag Archives smart-card

“It’s a snafu, honest!”

BAHRAINI authorities yesterday claimed to have blocked a number of websites and blogs by mistake.

The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) claimed a technical error resulted in blocking of several sites, but said in a statement it was fixing the problem.


She said her site www.sillybahrainigirl.blogspot.com was blocked on Tuesday after being incorrectly categorised as pornographic, but she was told during a meeting at the IAA yesterday that it would soon be accessible.


Oh yes, we believe that. What’s worse I wonder, their ignorance of how the Internet filters work after spending tens if not hundreds of thousands of Dinars on them, leaving these systems to be configured and run remotely by a foreign power, or this blatant convoluted lie they’ve thrown into the press this morning quoted within the same article above that:

“The increasing number of blogs and websites indicates freedom of expression in the country,” it said.

Huh? There are almost no bloggers left! They’ve either migrated to Facebook or Twitter or evaluated the situation far too tenuous, fickle and dangerous to continue to expose their personal thoughts especially after the apprehension and alleged torture of our dear friend Ali Abdulemam?

If they did really respect freedom of expression, Ali Abdulemam would have never been apprehended, and the thousands of sites blocked at their whimsical behest would have been unblocked. So spare us the violins, we’ve heard this broken record over and over again.

But then wait… while the Information Authority (neé Ministry of Disinformation) is “doing us a favour” and unblocking Amira’s blog, their next door neighbour (by coincidence of course!) the information intelligence agency, which is imaginatively named the Central Informatics Organisation / CIO – has come out in a press conference reported in the very same paper today assuring us that it spending BD800,000 in creating a “single login architecture” for every citizen wishing to access the various government websites and services, will be presumably secure enough too, and hopefully not require too much remote tweaking by the Singaporean vendors.

BD800,000 – that’s 2.1 million greenbacks to the uninitiated – will solve a problem which has never existed! Talk about fixing something that ain’t broke.

I guess as the new new National Authentication Framework – aka, NAF (seriously? did they even look up this unfortunate acronym up?)’s going to:

“The whole purpose of this project is to unify e-services by providing a single authentication profile for users,” Cabinet Affairs Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Ateyatala Al Khalifa told a Press conference at the Mšvenpick Hotel yesterday.

I thought we had the much vaulted CPR number for that, didn’t we? Or is that old hat now and requires some re-engineering, maybe put in yet another uberspychip to make us feel even more secure? What’s wrong with us using our CPR numbers to access those so called services? Didn’t they spend a humengous amount with yet another foreign firm to bring out these new chipped CPR cards which were supposedly going to be the be-all and end-all for personal transactional processing, even – listen to this – using the card to log in to services using the very same chip introduced?


We’ll probably see these schemes mentioned in next year’s Audit Report… along with yet another brand new unneeded scheme dreamt up by the CIO (or a good salesman maybe) to the tune of hundreds of thousands of Dinars.


CIO is gender challenged

You would think that it would be relatively easy for the CIO, who is entrusted to keep more than we like of our private and very personal information, that they would know the gender of a person whom they issue the mandatory Central Population Register (CPR) card, wouldn’t you?

Well, not exactly. With the tens if not hundreds of millions of dinars they evidently wasted since their inception, they still can’t decide what gender a person is. So much for data mining.

Okay, leave data mining; we are required to be present and accounted for right in their premises after taking an “electronic appointment” with them – a process which by all the accounts I have heard is completely and utterly useless – for them not only to finger print the accused, but also take other biometric data, which might or might not include stool and urine samples, blood type, retina scan, sperm count and other bodily fluids, oh and your religious and confessional association – just for their stats package, you know – that the persons who are collecting this data would look up from their keyboards in between them chewing on the miswak, picking their noses, eating some sunflower seed, or all three together – they are multitasking you see – and decide whether to press the “M” or “F” key to record this vital piece of information too.

Not a chance. A friend of mine just got his CPR card issued and on it he is clearly a hermaphrodite!

hermaphrodite cpr

Well done, CIO.


Bandargate fallouts are starting to happen

In a move that will surely put smiles on a lot of faces, and more importantly go toward more transparent elections and referendums, the king has given his royal order to break-away the Electoral and Referendum Directorate from under the Central Informatics Organisation and attach it to the newly independent Legal Affairs Unit.

There is no doubt that this move has happened due to Bandargate, so this is the first effect of the silver lining in that damning report.

Electoral and Referendum Directorate to be under Legal Unit jurisdiction

Manama, Oct. 8, (BNA) — His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered that the Electoral and Referendum Directorate be under the jurisdiction of the Legal Affairs Unit which became one of the kingdoms independent bodies, the minister of Royal Court announced today.

In implementation of the royal directives, specialized bodies shall begin taking the necessary legal procedures to amend effective laws in order to ensure the independence of the Legal Unit and restrict the authorities of the Central Informatics Organization to the information it should provide to the Unit, he noted. These amendments will be laid for discussion by the legislative authority after the next elections to complete legal procedures, issue and enforce them.

With the most important directorate now taken out of the clutches of the CIO, the latter’s role is (should) now limited to providing information to the various government organisations as well as the public, and maybe when the CIO wakes up to its proper role of a service organisation rather than an executive one, they will put plans in place to inculcate transparency in all of its facets, least of which is providing all public domain information easily and within reach of the people who request it.

The next step should be that the king should remove all those implicated in Bandargate from all public duties until a full, thorough and transparent investigation is mounted and its results made public and those implicated punished appropriately. It’s not like the CIO will cease to function, it was working well enough prior to Ahmed Attiyatallah taken the helm so they do have some good people who can drive that organisation quite capably; give them the chance to do so, while set up a review board of the CIO’s real functions and limit its operation to those alone.

For instance, the CIO should cancel the majority of the purported functions of the “smart card” and limit information stored within it to the minimum required to identify the holder. In my estimation, that should be the name, CPR number, age, address, driving license status, blood type and next of kin to contact in case of emergency. All other information that they want to include like medical records etc are really unneeded at this stage.

This is Good News™ for a change, so I hope that more of Al-Bandar’s report will be studied and solutions implemented to save this country and ALL of its people from strife.


One down, several to go to regain confidence

e-Voting has been shelved until 2010, where the same arguments will take place unless voter confidence is regained in the wake of Bandargate. The government has been keeping mum about the situation, probably praying that it too will be forgotten. After all, other scandals have. Do you still remember what happened with the Social Insurance? And that has been “investigated” by parliament no less, yet, no criminal charges or charges of any kind have been levied at those in the wrong, and they haven’t even been relieved of their positions yet.

So can we expect that Bandargate will result in anything concrete? Of course not. It’s been three weeks now since that report has been released and all we got is continued bluster and the people named and shamed in that report still report to work quite diligently, completely secure in the knowledge that someone is protecting their backs. In fact the only hilarious thing that has happened – in the way of a response if you will – is the release of another Bandar report last week, but that one stunk quite badly.. “someone” decided in their (hasty) and (finite) wisdom that they should release another version and list some opposition names so that they can muddy the waters a bit. More proof that whoever did that should have been drowned at birth and thus save Bahrainis a further humiliation. That brainfartist included illustrious and much respected names like Dr. Abdulaziz Abul, Ibrahim Sharif, Muneera Fakhro, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, et al.

Bahrain's smart cardThe CIO, that much beloved organisation at the centre of Bandargate, held a press conference yesterday morning to tell the press and political societies their amended view on electronic voting. They initially said that they will limit the voting percentage wise and use Internet voting to a certain number of Bahraini expatriates. Incredulous? Perfectly so, but being an Arab I knew that was nothing more than a face saving gesture.. if they actually have any face left to save that is. Well, the first thing is that 8 political societies boycotted that meeting! Then, when the news came out of this “face saving gesture” activists hit the roof.. much more importantly; however, it seems that the king has too! So, he slapped Shaikh Ahmed down, the result of which he (or some of his minions) called the national press around 9pm last night and told them that

“We have referred a recommendation following the meeting to the executive director of the elections process not to use the e-voting system in the 2006 elections and rely on the mechanism used in the 2002 elections,” Shaikh Ahmed said.

“We will work together in the next four years to prepare the community and the political societies on the e-voting system and we hope that it will be welcomed by all.”

Yeah sure.. the other one plays Jingle Bells quite nicely when pulled!

So it’s dead and buried. That’s one thing that the king has graciously taken care of finally, thank you your majesty. Please do not stop there; though, your citizens require a few more steps to get them to re-believe in the country and your government. The least of which is sending Shaikh Ahmed on an extended holiday somewhere nice, and as he will be on sabbatical after the long and arduous work he has thanklessly done – especially through signing so many documents of the half-A5 size – he deserves the break. And while we’re at it, why not cancel that smart card thing? Okay okay, you’ve spent far too much money on that thing so far, but at least it’s a lot less than what Shaikh Ahmed has buying prospective members of parliament (yes, including the illustrious and very cheap Jamal Dawood who once wanted all websites to register at his department at the Ministry of Disinformation) and their likes. Or at least reduce the amount of information stored on it to the minimum until proper laws protecting the privacy of information are coded.

Much more important than all of this of course is the formation of a investigative committee into Bandargate and ensure that they get access to whatever and whoever they need and publish their findings transparently and bring charges to all those involved in such a heinous and evil plan.


I think the time is very right to re-establish the trust of Bahrainis in their government; as everybody I spoke to, and judging by most of the articles in the national papers, that trust has all but disappeared and it requires YOUR radical intervention to allow us all to turn a new page before the elections come about.

Because if reparations are not made before then, you will probably find that people just couldn’t care less about the elections.


Special Signal 7

Do we even care for privacy in Bahrain at all?

I honestly don’t think so, and the biggest culprit is our government.. the very same one that has been assuring us that with them forcing the issue of “smart cards” which not only contain biometric information, but your criminal, financial, and medical records amongst others which could very easily be open to abuse without the legal framework to protect this information and criminalise its abuse; the very same government that is bending over backwards to assure us that the “electronic voting” they are ramming down our throats is a safe and proper thing to do “in a democratic country”; the very same government who openly stack thousands of patient files out in the open and readily available to any passer-by to browse through, has now gone one better. Yes, it is unbelievable but true.

A good friend of mine went to buy some khobbiz (unleavened Iranian bread, one of the staple foods in our community) this morning, and like any khabbaz (baker) offered him the freshly baked bread on a piece of paper. Traditionally, that piece of paper was until recently a page out of a newspaper or magazine, but as the ink sometimes adds to the flavour of the bread, they opted to now put the bread either in a nylon bag or on plain paper. That plain paper could be – quite frequently it seems – taken from reams of perforated paper used in dot-matrix printers, as they can put the bread on the unprinted side.

That paper could contain anything imaginable of course. But considering the organisations that still do use dot matrix printers would indicate the nature of those printouts.

If you would spend a little time thinking about it, you would probably have arrived at the conclusion that it must be an organisation which has to handle a huge volume of data, and that printout could be used as the output of a big data-mining operation. The organisations who do this could either be a financial institution, or the government.

As financial institutions, we hope, have very strict confidentiality procedures, they would naturally either shred or burn any printout they generate. In fact I know this is what they do. The government however seems to be uncaring for this privacy thing. So rather than properly disposing of printed information, they just recycle the generated and expended paper by giving that to other users in the community, like bakers for instance!


But what of the information printed on them? Surely that could not be of a sensitive nature, right? I mean, that information cannot even be worse than a bunch of x-rays with full medical records left in corridors of hospitals for any passer-by to pick up and know the most intimate details of patients past and present, could it?

YES, unfortunately it could.

Click on the following picture for a larger version for instance. Unlike the government, I have chosen to conceal the identity of the affected persons and their addresses thus respecting their privacy (I have the original paper, should an official want to view it, but then, they could just as easily go to the Barbar khabbaz and pick up inches thick reams of the same thing for themselves, and get good bread while they’re at it):

Special Signal 7 - small
A printout dated 20 Jan 2004 from the Ministry of Electricity detailing
List of Poor Families Accounts of Special Signal 7″

What does this particular page show? Well, records of what seems to be “makramahs” or “gifts” given by the King or the Prime Minister to the poor families in Bahrain which wipes out their electricity and water bills, complete with full names, account numbers, amounts given and full addresses of their homes! Thus, shaming those needy people and treating them like dirt: we’re going to bestow our graces on you, and then kick you in the nuts as you bend down to collect them. We’re going to give you a charitable donation, but will be at pains to publish your unfortunate circumstances to the public. We’re going to shove your faces in the dirt while receiving our benevolence. We’re going to make sure that you understand what a worthless piece of turd and what a useless waste of space you actually are.

Is this what “Special Signal 7” actually mean? Demeaning your own citizens and countrymen by publishing their unfortunately circumstances like this? Completely disrespecting their honour and dignity by not having the correct procedures to ensure the destruction of records once they are printed and become unneeded? Especially records of such a sensitive nature?

Even if my gut feeling about this is completely off base, and “Special Signal 7” is an innocuous internal phrase or code used in the computer program which spewed these pages out rather than the code for Royal handouts given to the poor from time to time, would a document that is labeled “Poor Families Accounts” be just given away in such a manner?

Is this a way to run a shop, department, company and government ministry for goodness sake?

Shame on you.

Shame on the government, and shame on the Central Statistics Organisation, and shame on the Ministry of Electricity and Water, and shame on that useless and decrepit parliament that aided and abetted you in demeaning people like this; by caring more about their pension than they did about privacy laws, about press laws, and about criminalising the abuse of private information.

Charity, when given, should not be done in a way that demeans the receiver. How else could the dignity of the person be maintained?

Shame on you.


Swedish Cookies

In Sweden, a website cannot use cookies by law unless the site offers the user the option not to use them. A dislaimer must be shown on any site so that the visitor’s privacy is protected:

Today, July 25, 2003, the Electronic Communication Act (“the Act”) enters into force. A practical effect of the Act is that the use of cookies, that is local data files storaging information about a certain user and browser, will be regulated (the Act, chapter 6, clause 18, based on Article 5.3 in the EU communications directive).

in English, this is better explained as:

Here is the obligatory cookie information, as required by Swedish law: this site uses cookies to store the name, email address and URL you enter in the comment form. The information is only stored locally on your computer. Using this feature is optional. If you have JavaScript disabled, no cookies will be stored. If you check the “No” button in the form, no cookies will be stored and any existing cookies set by this site will be erased. — 456 Berea St.

Of course in Bahrain, they STILL want us to register websites, and accept a national smart ID card down our throats.. the MPs and their impotent parliament are still in slumber, with a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign permanently hung on their chamber’s doors.


The usefulness of the “smart card”

I’ve been going on for a while about the smart card and people have just been scoffing the fears I harbour. “It’s just like the CPR” they say invariably, “and we’ve been living with it since 1984, so what’s the difference? It’s going to make our life better!”

Sure it’ll make our life better. If we had proper legislation against fraudulent use, against trafficking in private information, against identity theft, and against mis-use or even a law to protect our private information.

But we don’t.

So expect a not too distant future like this.

Now can you afford not to take action?

Start by writing your MP to stop this fiasco before it’s too late.


Want a public office? How much are you worth?

There is a movement in the parliament to at last address an issue that is important. The “Minbar Islamists” have tabled a motion to force all public officials to declare their worth before they take office, and then audit them when they leave.

Excellent. At last something useful.

They shouldn’t stop at the public official him/herself, that law MUST be extended to audit his direct family as well and raise a red flag whenever that official registers a commercial registration, buys a building, a car or whatever. This is extremely important to increase the government transparency and ensure that no public funds are misused for self-enrichment and lessen the huge problem of corruption we have in government and have had for centuries.

Laws should also be put in place immediately (the motion included 13 articles which I didn’t read yet as well as an explanation memorandum) severe penalties on convicted officials. If a hand goes into a cookie-jar, chop it off and I’ll volenteer to do that myself!

Well done Parliament. These are the issues you should concentrate on rather than allowing police to grow their beards, allowing veiled women to drive or banning a singer’s performance.

While you’re at it, scrap that “smart card” initiative. Or if you can’t /won’t at least put in place serious laws penalising abusive uses of personal information.


Let’s all stick with Microsoft because this is what we know…

One of the leading “opposition” newspapers[arabic] published today two big pieces on Linux on page 14 which deals with “technology” and what you get from those articles is the a clear smell that Microsoft or one of its agents has actually written or inspired those articles.

The issue is that the Bahraini government, specifically the Central Informatics Directorate has decided to use Linux for their central servers[arabic] rather than Microsoft’s products. It is possible that they will even use MySQL to hold the data rather than one of the big names – but I cannot confirm that. What the articles are doing is completely attacking that choice and pointing the finger (more like blackmailing) the government under the guise of that we do not have any Linux expertise on the island so that we will have to depend on “untrustworthy foreigners who do not love Bahrain as we the locals do to handle very sensitive information.”

Well, I don’t agree with the government’s steps on introducing a smart card that will hold all of our private information, I’ve detailed my objections on this issue on these pages. However blackmailing the government to do away with Linux because we don’t have “experts” hence we must use Microsoft only is just down right ugly.

What the writer fails to realize is that we have to start somewhere, and if this is the first step the government takes on the road of Microsoft independence, then I am fully behind them.

The articles also stress that the university and government training institutes do not have Linux training in their curriculum. I say “wake up and smell the humus!”

I’m not sure what the writer wants as he just criticizes the government’s choice of Linux without offering solutions other that “stay with our friends Microsoft.” The irony is an article on the very same page which clearly states that Germany, Brazil and other countries have adopted Linux and its solution to run their countries and/or cities. What he should have concentrated on is to support the government’s move because this is one thing that is done in the national interest and encourage the government to sponsor Linux training and creating job opportunities relating to Linux.

A few weeks ago, the IBM training centre in Bahrain has received Red Hat certification, so they can certainly be commissioned to train young Bahrainis in Linux system administration, programming and support.

There is no pleasing some people.. I hope that Al-Wasat is not going to be yet another “brown envelope newspaper!”


The National ID “smart card” idea continues to take hold

yet no answers to the questions I asked are forthcoming, even though the same article has been sent twice to the national papers in Bahrain. No one seems to be interested in protecting their most basic of human rights: privacy. Amazing.

Now the BDF (Bahrain Defence Forces) Hospital which is one of the leading hospitals on the island just signed a contract to use these cards to access patient records, lab tests and various other information.

DOCTORS and paramedics will soon have instant access to life-saving information on patients, thanks to Bahrain’s smart card system.

BDF Hospital yesterday signed an agreement with the Central Informatics Organisation, which will make it the first hospital to implement the system.

People’s medical records will be saved on the new “smart” Central Population Register (CPR) cards, which will be introduced early next year.

This will give doctors, paramedics and other medical staff instant access to vital information, said Royal Medical Services commander Brigadier Dr Shaikh Salman bin Atiyatallah Al Khalifa.

“Paramedics will be able to get the medical information of the patient’s smart card and that will help them determine the best course of treatment,” he said.

“They could also inform the hospital en route of the patient’s condition electronically, by using a GSM device that will be installed in the ambulance, helping staff at the hospital to assess the condition more accurately.”

Great. Although it can and most probably will save people’s lives because doctors will have information about the patient at their fingertips through this smart card, we still don’t know – and it appears that we never will know – how that information is stored, secured and accessed. Who has access to what information stored on the card?

Next step… take this complaint to the parliament.