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Censorship China Communications Politics

Clever Workaround: Visual Cryptography On Austrian Postage Stamps 74

An anonymous reader writes Have you heard of personalized postage stamps? You pay the value of the stamps plus a fee and the post office prints official stamps usable for postage which show (almost) anything you can put into a jpeg file. An Austrian Tibet supporter found out what 'almost' means. He submitted a picture of the Dalai Lama with the text 'His Holiness the Dalai Lama,' but the Austrian post office refused to produce these stamps. Stampnews and the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (autotranslation) reported that this had been due to pressure from the Chinese embassy in Vienna. Now there is a video showing how visual cryptography has been used to get around this attempt at censorship [caution: organ music] .
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Clever Workaround: Visual Cryptography On Austrian Postage Stamps

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  • I had to squint really hard to see anything at all.
  • Sure, but the post office could still reject this custom crypto-stamp based of the fact that it's obvious something covert is going on. And you can bet that when that envelope arrives in China, they will take great interest in it, and its unfortunate recipient.

    • I doubt they would bother. Stamps are not translucent and you need at least one of them to be if you ever hope to recombine them to see the message.

      They would have probably been better of just having fhe letters printed in pairs and the end user just stack a few together in the right sequence. With this, you need to know what to look for, scan it into something with the ability to manipulate images to combine them and see the nessage.

  • China (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @05:20PM (#47643575)

    He submitted a picture of the Dalai Lama with the text 'His Holiness the Dalai Lama,' but the Austrian post office refused to produce these stamps. Stampnews and the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (autotranslation) reported that this had been due to pressure from the Chinese embassy in Vienna.

    And this is why we should refuse to do any business with dictatorships. Not only do we help fund the oppression of the Chinese by their government, but that oppression also spreads like a disease and infects our countries as well. And all for the sake of corporate profits, yet even those who reap them ultimately risk reaping Chinese-style political trials and subsequent executions as well.

    • My guess would be that even without the Chinese conspiracy theory, the stamps would be rejected.

      Putting the Dalai Lama on a stamp surely constitutes the advocation of a religious figure. I'd be pretty surprised if they didn't have rules to stop you from doing that.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Well, I have no idea what protections are in the Ozstitution, but you'd have to be nuts to see it as endorsement of a specific religion. As long as anyone can put the religious icon of their choice on the stamp, the government's clean IMO. At least in the US, there's no constitutional protection from ever being exposed to religion.

        Now, I could see an objection to putting a foreign head of state on a stamp, but the Dalai Lama, cool guy that he is, declared himself no longer the ruler of Tibet years ago, an

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by fnj ( 64210 )

      How did you decide that the People's Republic of China is a dictatorship? Most consider it a representative democracy. It certainly considers itself such. Nominees for Local People's Congresses can be selected not only by the Communist Party, but also other parties, and even by individual voters, properly seconded. The popular election of same is then made by secret ballot. Recall elections are provided for. The Local People's Congresses in turn elect the National People's Congress, and the NPC in turn elec

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So we define a democracy as something that calls itself such? Deutsche Demokratische Republik, Democratic People's Republic of Korea?

        Usually its a damn good sign of what it is not...

        Regardless of that, its not all that bad. I lived there for quite a while. And there is plenty of voting and such, as long as you adhere to the general party ideology. Officially there might be other candidates, but in practice, forget about that (like the US with its 2 party system).

        And if you want to be succesful, you

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Um, nobody considers China a democracy.

        It's difficult to categorize the PRC. It's a single-party state, that much is indisputable. As a single party state, the party controls who gets to run for office. And the party is not run as a democracy.

        Ergo it's not a democracy.

        Its more like a syndicate. But really it's its own thing. It's huge and complex.

        But democratic... not even remotely. That voting takes place is not evidence of a democracy.

        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          By that logic, US is not a democracy. It's a one party state with two branches of the same party competing, and people only getting to vote for candidates pre-selected by elite of the each branch.

      • by kbg ( 241421 )

        So the "Federal Republic of Somalia" is a republic? Or "Federal Republic of Nigeria"?

        Here is a hint to you. Any country that includes republic in it is title is not a republic. Any country that does not include republic in it's title is a republic.

        • That's rather a sweeping statement. Republic of Ireland anyone?

          • by kbg ( 241421 )

            From Wikipedia:

            "The Constitution of Ireland provides that "[t]he name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland". Under Irish statute law, Republic of Ireland (or Poblacht na hÉireann) is "the description of the State"[16] but not its official name."

            • Now I didn't know that - I suppose that I'm just used to using Republic of Ireland (rather than "Southern Ireland", which really grates at me)

    • Try asking the US Post Office to print stamps with the flag of jihad and see what happens.

    • And this is why we should refuse to do any business with dictatorships.

      That might backfire if other governments decide to do the same thing.

      Anyway, if you look at the past 70 years, America just loves dictators. Most of them have luxury condos in Manhattan, anyway.

    • Authoritarianism applies to democracies and dictatorships as well as communism, socialism, and corporatism (which Mussolini called Fascism which is not the same as Nazi Fascism which is not definitive Fascism.)

      China is quite corrupt but they've long used the democratic process. Communism doesn't exclude using the democratic process; there are lots of ways it can be done, limited, etc. Look at religious states like Iran or arguably Israel who are democracies but have hugely powerful religious forces at play

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        Strict constructionists (in the US) know that the Constitution promises that each state will have a republican form of government, not a democracy. It sure doesn't promise that everyone will be allowed to vote, as most of the founding fathers believed that only men (i.e., not women) who owned property should be allowed to vote, and some of them wanted the restrictions to be tighter than that. (I'm not sure what their stance was on free Negroes that owned property. I've never encountered any direct quotat

        • Plus senators are elected by the state and not the voters. I'm not sure that it was such a good idea to let the voters decide. Doesn't seem like much changed other than it became more typically political; with a state appointee the political game is significantly different because it's all internal. A divided state gov would elect interesting senators-- while a 1 part state gov would elect insiders who are likely corrupt... which is why it was switched to a public vote. But arguably a proper selection sys

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2014 @05:25PM (#47643589)

    It says

    HH THE

    when you overlap the two stamps (and it's pretty difficult to see that). That's neat and all, but you would have to know to remove the stamps, remove them cleanly, overlay them, and shine a light through them to even see it. And there's no message at all if you have only one stamp. I think the censorship was still basically achieved.

    • Wasn't "HH" forbidden in Germany? Arguably Austria too?

    • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Sunday August 10, 2014 @06:18PM (#47643833) Homepage
      I think it would have been simpler to just make a QR code to the DL's wikipedia page. And probably as successful.
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        I would say the QR code would be mush more likely to deliver the message. Many people recognize them and know how to read them. Few would guess about the stamps even if they happened to have one of each handy.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          I would say the QR code would be mush more likely to deliver the message. Many people recognize them and know how to read them. Few would guess about the stamps even if they happened to have one of each handy.

          Given that they're personalized stamps that you have made for yourself, I'm pretty sure those who get those stamps might know to do something interesting with them.

          If it was a general issue stamp, yes, most people won't get it. But it's specially designed stamps for individuals who can choose to use th

      • Do you think the DL's wikipedia page is accessible in China?

        • by Megane ( 129182 )
          I'm sorry, I missed the part that said these stamps were either made in or used in China. Could you point me to the relevant part of the article?
    • Could you place the stamps next to each other and focus behind them? Like looking at a 3d stereo-gram?
  • At least initially: Video not available, click here to see why (or similar) - this BS happens often.

    Now it works.

  • really stretching the definition here...

  • Erm okay? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 10, 2014 @06:28PM (#47643875)

    Is it a slow news day? The two linked articles are from years ago and don't actually mention anything about this design your own stamp attempt.

    Most places won't allow you to generate products like these stamps with pictures of famous people on them as they don't want to get sued by said person. Royal Mail definitely won't as they've got two explicit rules that cover it so should be start screaming about censorship there also? "2.2 you have obtained the permission of any person (or their parent or legal guardian) who appears in the material, for their image to be reproduced." and "4.5 it promotes any particular religious beliefs or may offend against any person’s religious beliefs;"

    Anyway, does it even count as getting around censorship when you need to do something obscure to see the result? Just writing under the stamp would have been easier and much easier to read than the final result. This is like a schoolkid method of trying to get one up on somebody else. "Tee hee. They don't know that if you combine my two stamps then you get something that they don't like!"

  • I want a postage stamp with a portrait of Iggy Pop.

    In fact, a series of 70's punk rockers would be great. Iggy Pop, each of the four Ramones, Johnny Rotten and maybe a group photo of the New York Dolls.

    I wonder if this has already been done by some Micronesian country where these guys are worshiped as gods. That would be cool. Easter Island statues in the likeness of Iggy.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      No. But a stamp series featuring KISS would be interesting. I doubt, however, that I'd pay extra for it.

  • Here's a nice anecdote for all you 'dotal subversives.
    Used to be that the Royal Cunt of The Netherlands (the one possessed by you [didn't] know whom) was 'off limits'. Taboo. Verboten. As in burn the entire edition.
    These days however that concept is nearly a physical impossibility.
  • Censorship creates clever communications.

    There are many clever ways to override the censors. It's an arms race the governments never win.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      This depends entirely on their purpose. If the purpose is to have an arbitrary reason to harass people it works fine.

  • Groan. Something about this reminds of the scene in Monty Python's 'The Holy Grail', where a rather pestilential peasant is yelling 'I'm being oppressed'. Look, it's not always censorship when some company or government service refuses to be the medium for somebody's political propaganda; or if you insist on calling it censorship, then I have to say that not all censorship is bad.

    But I don't think it applies in this situation - nobody has a right to have things printed for them, not even in a news paper. An

  • This may be a stupid question, but why is the Austrian government calling up the Chinese embassy in Vienna to ask permission to print an Austrian citizen's image on a custom postage stamp?

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?