Why did so many of those at Scrambling for Safety yesterday think they should also be in combat with the authors of the report of the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection. If the battle is between "techies for responsibility avoidance" and "parents for informed choice", I know whose side I would be on.
On Thursday I attended the launch of the report of the Inquiry into Online Child Protection so I had heard
what was said, not just what was reported. I recommend you read the report in full before
jumping to conclusions. I also listened to the Today Programme this morning. The trailed cat fight between Belle du Jour
and Claire Perry MP, with Sarah
Montague as umpire, did not materialise. They were clearly on common ground. Even so, the report for the BBC website contrived to turn it into the adversarial discussion the editors had wanted.
complain about calls for action that are not based on conclusive evidence as to the harm done
by the uncontrolled exposure of children to sado-masochistic sexual
violence should re-read what what was actually proposed at the end of
the Parliamentary Inquiry. Claire Perry did not get a Harvard
MBA and jobs with Bank of America, McKinsey and Credit Suisse by taking a
attitude to evidence. Her comments about "a social experiment without
knowing the consequences" are most apposite. The recommendations are a
well-crafted and practical compromise across many deeply-held convictions.
They should also listen to what was actually said by Dr Magnanti, who is now a research scientist at the
Bristol Institute for the Research of Child Health.
At a time of recession Internet enthusiasts need to appreciate the potential cost of their patronising attitudes to those who pay to go on-line: whether by subscription or by providing their personal details to who-ever wants to sell whatever to them and their children. It is not just the threat of regulation that is almost certain to achieve the opposite of what is intended. It is also the loss of reputation and market share on the part of those ISPs and on-line advertisers and retailers who pay for their "expert" services.
We need to work together to avoid unconstructive conflict between two crusading groups.
· those concerned to separate benefit from risk and ensure that the new technologies are used to serve us, not enslave us
those concerned with the social and sexual, not
just technical, education of our
children so that they grow up to love and appreciate, not exploit and degrade, the opposite gender
We need to identify "least risk" courses of
action in the absence of clear
or conclusive evidence. Given that one of the areas of agreement appears to
be that we cannot trust governments and regulators to understand what they are doing, let alone get
it right, that means doing the unthinkable: helping customers to make well informed choices.
That goes against the grain of all respectable academic and professional opinion. We
"the experts" know what is good for them.
Most of us share
the ignorant arrogance of the Civil Servants and the major consultancies
they employ to rationalise the status quo, bolstered by currently
fashionable theories - albeit I like to think that, as a Peterhouse Historian
(as well as sometime Acting Vice President of the British Computer
Society and Principal Consultant at the National Computing Centre) I follow in the footsteps of those who earned Cambridge its reputation as the "Devil's Flamethrower" .
"Grab them by the b***s and their hearts and minds will follow" has its technology equivalent "Grab them by the wallet and their marketing spend and development budgets will follow".We should give priority to mobilising industry support for recommendations 2 and 3 of the all party report:
- ISPs should provide better support for internet safety education and initiatives such a Parent Port and improve signposting for these services from their own web domains
- Government and industry representatives should draw up guidelines for improving the communication of existing internet safety settings, improving training for retailers, developing a family friendly kite-marking scheme for manufacturers and retailers and improving signposting to pre-installed security settings during device configuration
I believe we need two parallel and complementary campaigns in order to achieve results.
first is to use customer and consumer boycotts to ensure that business
migrates to those ISPs who take safety and security seriously.
Where are the links from most ISP websites to ParentPort , Get Safe On-Line or the Childnet material being used in the Cyber Champions initiative which uses young information security professionals to help turn children from potential victims into on-line prefects and potential cyberwarriors?
Where are the links between ParentPort, Get Safe On-line and Childnet?
As Chairman of the Security Panel of the IT Livery
Company I recently hosted a
round table to look at using support for the Cyber Champions programme
to help draw the Banks and those running On-Line Payment
and Transaction services into supporting a rationalisation of our
fragmented and under-funded on-line safety awareness programmes. That exercise is expected to begin under the
aegis of the Information Society Alliance www.eurim.org.uk and to focus on the business case for
using better advice and guidance as a core part of marketing strategies for protecting market share and winning new business at a time of recession. The success of Talk Talk "Active Choice" already shows the potential.
I referred above to the need for a two campaigns.
The second is to harness the driving forces behind
the planned legislation to "update" RIPA and force ISPs to retain
communications data to better purpose.
It is not enought to simply reveal why the current
proposals are as they are - despite the mounting evidence that what is
proposed is a expensive way of weakening security. We have to
demonstrate that there are better, cheaper ways of achieving the
I hope to make time to blog on some thoughts for
the second campaign shortly. I plan to link some of the more
constructive discussions in the bar after yesterday's Scrambling for
Safety to what I have learned recently about the scale and nature of
some of the commercial monitoring services used by major ISPs and
On-line transaction and payment services around the world, not just
within the UK, to protect themselves and their customers.