August 2009 Archives

Remember the political cave-in that blocked realistic penalties for privacy abuse

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The Guardian today carries part of the story behind Operation Motorman, the exercise that bankrupted the Information Commissioner Office and, after a botched prosecution and derisory sentance, led to a consultation on "Increasing penalties for deliberate and wilful misuse of personal data" . The responses to that consultation showed clear support for custodial sentances. On 7th February 2007 the government announced it would take action.

Will we now see stories on the scale and nature of the back door lobbying from the customers of Mr Whittamore and his competitors that secured the subsequent U-turn?  

Is the Guardian story a one-off - or the first salvo in a campaign?

Either way it will be interesting to see whether Project 14 "Personal Internet Safety", in the Digital Britain Implementation Plan is left as it is, or suddenly beefed up, with the necessary changes to reflect public opinion on this issue included in the Queen's speach.   

P.S. Do read the rest of the plan as well and consider what else has been left out as well as the hooks for additional action. 


Which are the most dangerous digital divides?

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In 1968 I joined STC Microwave and Line Division as their first graduate trainee computer prgrammer and found myself in a hostel of communications engineers. They too were programming computers, but they called them switches. "Mine" had an air-conditioned room and spent a day a week off-air for "maintenance". "Theirs" were going to sit on a mountaintop in Brazil and be visited once a year, if that.  

The Ofcom Consultation and the future of Digital Britain

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HMG has just launched a consultation to extend the remit of Ofcom to promote "efficient investment in infrastructure". The six week timescale is determined by the need to legislate before the next government reviews the very existance of Ofcom. But can we afford a two year wait for a proper review of the UK communications infrastructure, given the stress tests it will face in 2012 if not before? And can we afford to leave that review to Ofcom? 

A demonstration of the ease of silencing online dissent

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If it is true that Twitter, Facebook et al were taken off air to silence a pro-Georgian blogger, then we have just received a chilling lesson in the vulnerability of the cut-price on-line world to old-fashioned power politics. We need clarity of thought on how to fund secure and resilient systems before we face a mix of network chaos and de facto censorship. 

Has Ofcom passed its sell-by date?

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Those involved in the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Communications Act 2003 which created Ofcom were well aware of the need to subsequently review implementation and perfomance. There were various ideas as to how to achieve this: including a joint committee of both Houses. None came to pass.

Is your information system a strategic asset or a toxic liability?

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The next few weeks will to see a rash of worthy political pronouncements and initiatives that fail to balance the conflicting pressures for data protection, sharing and security. The focus on protection commony obscures the need for the information to be fit for purpose: accurate and available in usable form to those who should have it, when and where they need it.

Smash the windows tax

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This is not an attack on Microsoft. I have just been directed to a Convergence Conversation blog entry on the insanity that is the current punitive UK taxation on fibre to the home or business. It can be directly likened to that other tax on glass, the 1696 Windows tax, which led to the bricking up of windows across England until its repeal in the 19th century.    

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