Explained: The Investigatory Powers Bill


The Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) will completely change up the laws that govern how the police, the government and spies gather communication between citizens and individuals on the internet – that’s me and you chatting on Facebook, that’s you being on this website right now, and that’s also you ordering a cheeky Nandos on the weekend. The new laws are unprecedented around the world and will be a legal first when it comes to the extent of government surveillance powers.

Going Underground: the secret world of the Deep Web

We can only see 10% of the internet, the rest is invisible “Deep Web”. Is this really full of drug dealers, pornography and hitmen?


What is “Deep Web”?

Let’s face it; the internet is vast. Type a phrase into Google (other search engines are available) – it tells you how many results link to that phrase. Even searching your own name can find tens of thousands of results (try it!)

However, what many people don’t know is that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg.

Only around 10% of the internet is “indexed”, which means search engines like Google and Bing can find it.

The other 90% of “hidden” content is the Deep Web.

The deep web has received a lot of negative press recently. Various articles focus on how it is full of dodgy illegal sites selling drugs, passports and weapons. As we’ll see, this isn’t providing the full story.


How does Deep Web work?

Deep Web: a laptop screen, password typed in

Password protected; most pages accessed via a password are part of the deep web

When we google something we’re actually searching an index. Think: a massive library of different web pages.

Stuff like your email inbox, online banking and website databases can’t be indexed. Anything which you go through a login page to access.

Deep web is more difficult to index as information is stored on databases, not specific web pages. Put simply: it’s hidden. With us so far?

So if most of the deep web is just harmless private material, why all the bad press? It’s all to do with people using it to become anonymous. It’s time to go underground;

Now you see me, now you don’t

Deep Web: a tracker puts her nose to the ground and sniffs

Using normal servers means your online activity can be tracked

When you visit a website using a regular browser you access the website data direct from that webpage.

This is quick, but your location and information you download is logged.

Meaning people (the government) can track where you are and what you look at. Creepy or what?

In the 1990s the US government developed a programme for anonymous file sharing.

They called it “Tor”, short for “The Onion Router” (we’ll explain the name, we promise).


This is how Tor accesses the deep web;

Scene from Goldeneye where Natalia tries to access deep web to reach Boris

Tor bounces your request from country to country; making it hard to trace

First you make a request to find a web page. The request to find the intended destination is wrapped in layers of encryption or code – like the skin of an onion. Onion layers, onion router – those computer guys sure had some wordplay skills.

Instead of going direct to the web page your request is bounced randomly across a network relay of computers all across the globe.

As your request arrives at a new location a level of encryption is unlocked. All the relay computer sees are instructions to send the request on to the next location.

In real world language; bouncing across different locations makes it near impossible to trace the user. Meaning you become anonymous. There’s even a version for smartphones. Ooooh, exciting.

Yes, using deep web to surf the web anonymously is legal. However, if you use it for illegal activity… well, go figure.

Is Deep Web the same as “Dark Web”?

Yes, and no. There’s a lot of confusion as “deep” and “dark” sound pretty similar, and lots of people use the terms interchangeably.


Screen shot of Deep Web site Silk road selling drugs, weapons and porn

Silk Road: the Amazon of the deep web.

The dark web is actually a section of the deep web. Dark web is used to describe a specific group of websites which use Tor encryption to hide their location.

Whilst dark web is part of the deep web, it is very different. Simples.

The most famous dark web site was Silk Road, described by the press as “Amazon for criminals”.

It was an anonymous online marketplace selling anything from illegal drugs to plastic explosive.

There’s even been reports of hitmen offering their services on the deep web. Mostly drugs though… or so we hear.

Deep Web: a gif of a cat in a pirate suit

If the deep web isn’t all drugs and porn… does this mean it’s all cat pictures?

Before it was closed by the authorities Silk Road users paid for their goods using an online currency called BitCoin. Rumoured to be the “next big thing” in the currency world, BitCoin also offers some anonymity if you’re clever with computers.

Is the majority of the web filled with pornography, hitmen and drugs? Not really. It’s been estimated that the dark web makes up only 0.01% of the internet.

So although 90% of the internet is deep web, only a tiny fraction of this is naughty sites like Silk Road.

Why all the fuss over people being anonymous?

With stories about spy agencies intercepting images from people’s webcams it’s no surprise that some of us want a little more privacy. Going anonymous can give us that.

Deep Web: activitists in guy fawkes masks protest against internet censorship

Activists use the deep web to spread their message

Despite creating Tor the US government now wants it shut down to stop criminals trading anonymously on the deep web. Oh, the irony.

Yet the dark web isn’t just used by criminals.

Activists and journalists working in China and other countries with strict censorship laws use Tor and deep web to spread their message.

Even Facebook got in on the act. It created a dark web version of the site for those living in countries like Syria and China which ban Facebook.

The website Wikileaks was set up by activist Julian Assange to expose government and corporate misconduct. It used deep web encryption so that whistleblowers could anonymously supply evidence.

The problem: though some see whistleblowers and activists as freedom fighters, others see them as lawbreakers.

Seems like this argument will continue going round in circles.


Deep Web learnings; the internet is not just for porn.

Think we missed something? Let us know sor@scenesofreason.com.

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In light of Amazon: 9 to 5 work is dead now anyway


An article about Amazon’s working conditions makes us analyse the modern working world as we know it. 


What’s the story?

Amazon's head office front door. New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

9 to 5 is dead: Amazon’s working conditions have been criticised

Everyone is talking about a New York Times article: “Inside Amazon: Wrestling big ideas in a bruising workplace”. It describes what it’s like working at the retail giant. Apparently the bosses at Amazon are conducting an “experiment” into how far they can push their workers. Employees describe working 80 hour weeks. They are pressured into working nights and weekends. There is a total lack of work/life balance. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos says the Amazon described is “not the Amazon I know”. Right or wrong, the report has got people thinking whether the “9 to 5” working day is a thing of the past.


Working 9 to 5? At Amazon it’s more like 24/7

Large amounts of the NYT article detail the long hours Amazon employees are expected to work. Workers sometimes receive emails in the middle of the night, and are then pestered to answer by text. This seems to sound familiar though? 

Bankers, lawyers, doctors and service industry workers are just some examples of employees expected to work late, or start early. Banking website Wall Street Oasis reports that employees at banks like Rothschild, Barclays and Citigroup work over 70 hours a week on average. The Telegraph reported last year that junior doctors were working 100 hour weeks. These are all professions which have been around a long, long time.

Amazon warehouse. Vox news say things are a lot worse for Blue collar workers. New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Amazon’s warehouse workers definitely don’t work 9 to 5. Why didn’t the New York Times write about this?

So, maybe the viewpoint that “9 to 5 is dead” isn’t so new after all.

Vox News argued that the NYT article focuses on “white collar” workers. Think: office working professionals. Vox claims workers in Amazon warehouses have it a lot worse.  They face tough working conditions, low pay and a constant threat of dismissal. They have less chance of finding employment elsewhere than the “white collar” professionals. However, once the warehouse workers clock off, it’s unlikely their bosses will email them asking them to finish a piece of work. So, at least that’s something.

The NYT report compares how Amazon, Google and Facebook manage their workers. Google and Facebook motivate their staff with rewards (gym passes, meals, sleep pods). Amazon “offers no pretence that catering to employees is a priority”. Who is to say which is better? Amazon is currently worth around $175 billion.  

Journalist Sara Robinson notes that research in the 1980s found that working  60 or 70 hour weeks resulted in short-term gains. However, “increasing a team’s hours in the office by 50 percent (from 40 to 60 hours) does not result in 50 percent more output.” So, regularly getting employees to work longer once they’ve done their 40 hours is “a stupid and abusive way to burn up profits.” Back to the drawing board then. Perhaps we should just see the Amazon article as an insight to a successful (if divisive) company. We are talking about THE leading tech company in the world, right?


Work hard, play hard, work harder seems to just be the norm now

While Amazon is being criticised for its working practices, working harder and longer seems to be the norm for many companies. Other tech companies especially seem to be joining Amazon in demanding more from their workers. Innovation is key, and falling behind is not an option.

An office cubicle wall with post it notes for productivity. New York Times Amazon Report:9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Amazon may have it wrong. Working more than 9 to 5 may not make you more productive

Just how much of our lives do we spend working? According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) the UK average working week is 39.2 hours per week. France introduced a 35 hour working week in 2000. However in 2011, it was reported that French workers were putting in 39.5 hours on average. Mon Dieu!

At 46.7 hours per week on average it would seem the USA works more hours than most European countries. Yet Asian countries work more hours than America. Is it productive? There are many ways to measure how productive a country is. One way is to divide a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the number of hours worked. GDP is the monetary value of all goods and services produced in the country. With us so far?

The ONS say Britain isn’t doing too well in this area. British productivity is 17% less than the average of other developed G7 countries. The G7 contains Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and USA. This “productivity gap” is the widest it’s been in 20 years. Ouch.

The latest statistics say the average Brit works 1,669 hours a year. This is more than France at 1,489 hours and Germany at 1,363 hours. So, we are working longer hours, but producing less. Germany works fewer hours on average, yet they are producing more than us. In fact the UK produces 30% less per hour than Germany and France. Very poor form chaps.

One of the main problems with working out productivity is there is so, so much data to look at. Even when you find what you’re looking for, it will soon be out of date. When researching this article we found that many sources containing average working hours and productivity figure seemed to contradict one another.

The bottom line: a country’s efficiency isn’t just to do with how many hours they work. But it seems the UK has something to prove when it comes to productivity. Increasing working hours may not be the answer.


If 9 to 5 is dead, what’s the new trend?

Millennials are those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. They are the new workforce, and research says that compared to previous generations, they have a different approach to work.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 To kick off our prep work for the Global Youth Summit, the ITU hosted special one-day MILLENNIALS JAM WORKSHOP at its ICT Discover Center, with an exclusive and select group of 40 entrepreneurial young people. The objective of this unique one-day event is to crowd-source a more detailed framework for the Summit where approximately 25,000 young people will input their ideas for the post-2015 global development agenda. ITU/Rowan Farrell New York Times Amazon Report: 9 to 5 is dead now anyway

Be your own boss: Millennials are ditching 9 to 5 to start their own businesses

The Intelligence Group is a research company focusing on young people. Forbes reports on The Intelligence Group who found that Millennials want to feel their work matters. They want flexibility in their work schedule. They want “to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably a place that itself makes a difference.”

Job website Timewise says that 14.1 million Brits want flexibility in their work schedule. But when looking at 3.5 million job adverts they saw that only 6% offered flexibility and a good salary. London was the worst. Does this mean the UK is following the Amazon style of work: long hours and little flexibility? If so, the Millennials don’t seem too fussed. Self-employment and freelancing is on the rise.

Millennials were either studying or entering work at the time of the financial crisis. Perhaps this means they see a job differently to previous generations: not for life, but an opportunity to learn new skill sets and build a network of contacts.

According to research by the Kauffman Foundation over half of 18 to 34s want to start their own business. They are adept at working remotely – from home, in coffee shops or “hot desking”. They also want to work in collaborative environments. This is potentially why so many companies are replacing offices and cubicles in the workplace for an open plan design. Advertising agency Grey even created a “Millennials only” section to their office.

Millennials want flexibility and to work remotely. Don’t make the mistake of calling them lazy though. A separate study found that 89% of Millennials admit to checking work emails “out of hours”. Though, with 9 to 5 seemingly out the window, is there such thing as out of hours anymore?

By 2020, around 40% of the US workforce will be made up of Millennials. Eventually bosses will need to adapt to the needs of this generation. Let’s start by busting the myth working longer makes you more productive.


Learnings: 9 to 5 is dead

It’s time to start embracing change, and with that in mind let’s be specific about what we are crucifying Amazon for. Feeling like you’re working too hard? Sharing this post will definitely make you feel better.


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Throughout history lots of companies have made money from wars. But would a government ever make the decision to go to war for economic gain?


What is War Profiteering?

Scene from Iron Man starring Robert Downey Junior as Tony Stark, accused of War Profiteering

Tony Stark; War Profiteer?

War Profiteers sell weapons, services or other goods to groups at war in order to make a profit. In other words: making money from war.

War Profiteers can be arms dealers, scientific research groups, and companies selling commodities like oil. Private Militaries (mercenaries) also make money from war. Why fight when you can pay someone else to do it?

States or countries can also benefit from war by winning territory and gathering resources, and also strengthening themselves politically, strategically and geo-politically.


Wars means Weapons

A missile is fired from a jet. Selling weapons to both sides could be considered war profiteering

Is selling weapons to both sides wrong?

Arms dealers are often accused of war profiteering, which is fair given that is basically their job. Think; Tony Stark in Iron Man. War means fighting. Arms companies produce weapons and make a profit from the selling them.

Sometimes arms companies will even sell weapons to both sides in a conflict. Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade describes how international missile systems company MBDA “sold weaponry to the Gaddafi regime in 2007, its missiles were extensively used by the UK and French military in the 2011 war as well as being supplied to rebel forces. In this case they had sold weapons to both sides.”

Double sales equal profits. Great for business but morally questionable?



SIRI, the iphone helper is an example of war profiteering. It was developed using military funding

“SIRI, tell me what war profiteering is?”

Companies profiting from conflict can sometimes create something useful.

Fun-fact of the day: SIRI, the iPhone “helper” was originally developed by SRI international. They took money from a military research group in the US department of defence in order to create SIRI. In fact according to military expert David Brown most of the tech in your iPhone comes from a military research background.

You can also thank military research for creating computers, GPS systems and the internet. Indirectly, the developers of this technology profited from war. Is this wrong, or is it OK because they made cool stuff that was eventually used by everyone?

Commodity, Oddity.

Oil fires up from a well in "There Will Be Blood". Oil companies have been accused of war profiteering

Oil; the number one commodity

Say commodity – think goods, or items that you need… or want.

Wars disrupt production of goods, and generally mean commodities are harder to come by. This usually means the price goes up.

Oil is one of the most important commodities in the world. So it’s no wonder that oil is linked to the most infamous military action in recent history;

Case Study: the Iraq War

Oil fields. Iraq's oil used to be nationally owned, the companies brought in have been accused of war profiteering

For Sale: Iraq’s oil fields

In an article for CNN, journalist Antonia Juhasz describes how the Iraq War in 2003 was “a war for oil, and it was a war with winners: Big Oil.”

Before the war, Iraq’s oil was controlled by the Iraqi government. Today, foreign companies control most of the oil. Juhasz describes how the invasion of Iraq got rid of the two things stopping Western oil companies from setting up shop there. First Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain was removed. Then the USA pushed the new US-friendly Iraqi government to pass laws allowing foreign companies to get in on the oil.

So despite then-Prime Minister Tony Blair describing Iraq as “the central security threat of the 21st century,” some argue that it was all just about money. Several US military high-flyers have even admitted openly that the Iraq War was basically over oil.

Ex-Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney used to be CEO of contracting company Halliburton, which earned billions from the reconstruction work needed in Iraq after the war. Before the war, Cheney chaired a committee that published a report suggesting that the Middle East should “open up areas of their energy sectors to foreign investment.”

Translation: stop hoarding all the goods! Quite ironic, when you think that later his old company would pocket $278 million in a deal to dig oil wells in Iraq.

These examples don’t necessarily mean that political decisions on military matters are influenced by potential income, but it does raise the question of who calls the shots.


How much influence do private companies have over Politicians?

The Independent reports how the UK government made £12.3 billion granting export licences for weapons. The licences allow the export of weapons to countries listed as having human rights abuses. So the UK government considered these countries to have a dodgy record, but still allowed weapons companies to sell their goods there.

Perhaps this is due to pressure from the arms companies themselves. Andrew Smith explains that “politically, the arms industry/pro military lobby has always enjoyed a loud voice in the corridors of power. This is not least because of the revolving door between parliament and the arms trade.”

Ex-Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was suspended from the Labour Party after offering influence in Parliament in return for cash. Owen Jones describes that when Hoon was an MP, military helicopter company AgustaWestland were given an order worth £1 billion for 16 helicopters. He writes that “they were obviously grateful: now out of Parliament, Hoon earns his way as the company’s Vice-President of international business.”


So would the UK ever go to war to make money?

War Profiteering - soldiers marching to war

Before we go to war we should really know why we’re fighting

Dr. Jonathan Gumz, a senior lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham thinks that “getting a government to go to war purely for economic profit is not something that takes place in reality.”

He expands; “certainly, all wars start for a reason with a political gain in mind. But…with rare exception, few statesmen actually want wars but they miscalculate and then feel forced into a point where war becomes a more reasonable option.”

So, it’s unlikely the UK would ever go to war just in the interests of money. But even if countries are neutral (not involved in conflict) that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from other conflicts around the world. A paper published by Dartmouth University argues that “the costs that wars impose on neutral countries are usually greatly exaggerated; in fact many neutrals profit slightly from the economic changes caused by war.”

“Neutrals fare well during wars because the economy—especially in this era of increased globalization—is inherently flexible and resilient.”

The paper argues that though wars are likely to disrupt trading patterns between neutral countries and countries at war, new agreements are quickly established. This is because during conflict, the country at war “cannot efficiently produce everything they need…and countries at war can least afford to ignore more efficient international sources of supply.”


Is War Profiteering wrong?

Is War profiteering immoral or not?

Is war profiteering immoral?

We’ve seen how military research has led to technological advancements such as SIRI. So far there is no proof that a decision to go to war was made solely to make money for the country, not that anyone would admit that. So does it matter if a few companies make money from oil or selling weapons?

War means people will be killed, and seriously injured. The argument against war profiteering is that nobody should benefit from the suffering of others.

Andrew Dey from War Resisters International believes that “if you build something and sell it to someone, you have a moral responsibility for what happens with that weapon.” So if you sell a gun, you are partly responsible for what is done with it.

The largest buyer of UK arms is Saudi Arabia, which has been described as one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. UK arms have also been linked to attacks against innocent people in Egypt, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Kuwait and other countries in recent years.

Andrew Smith says “government ministers and arms companies can’t simply abdicate themselves of responsibility for this.”

Even if you profit indirectly, like the scientists whose research into SIRI was funded by the US defence department, you are still taking money and benefiting because somewhere in the world people are dying.

It’s easy to suggest that perhaps arms companies should take a close look at who they do business with. We asked UK arms manufacturers BAE Systems whether they have a specific policy about who they deal with. They replied stating that they operate to “high standards of ethical business conduct as a responsible and trusted partner” and “trade only with legitimate governments and comply fully with UK and international export regulations.” Don’t know what other answer we would have expected though to be honest.

War Profiteering Explained; companies making weapons are likely to make a killing.

Is war profiteering ethically wrong? Or is it fair game? Let us know in the comments below.


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