Downtime: Don't mention the bugged wheelie bins

The wacky world of IT

Don't mention the bugged wheelie bins

Technology roll-outs can sometimes prompt surprising reactions, but few can have been more extreme than last week's media frenzy about schemes using RFID tags to help measure and record household waste.

"Germans plant bugs in our wheelie bins," screamed one tabloid headline, as if our European partners were enacting some clandestine plot to achieve world domination by looting our leftovers.

The lesson is, no matter how innocuous and helpful technology may seem, if its introduction could be construed as secret or underhand in any way, then someone will be up in arms about it.

Particularly if the supplier comes from a country that fought us in two world wars and (England, at any rate) in a handful of keenly contested football matches.

Don't misbehave - we have your fingerprints

Pioneering London comprehensive Holland Park School has long had a reputation for progressive, liberal schooling, which makes its plan to trial fingerprinting every pupil in an effort to track attendance more than a little baffling.

The school seems set on the £4,500 system, which will see electronic pads installed outside every classroom and children signing in to lessons by placing their index finger on the pad.

The school and the local Kensington & Chelsea Council have so far brushed off all concerns about human rights, data protection and the like - as well as students' worries that it will make them feel like criminals.

Downtime plans to keep a watchful eye on this one. And of course, in the unlikely event that Computer Weekly is required reading at Holland Park School, we would love to hear your views.

Health service bargain hunters head for Zanzibar

Downtime cannot help feeling that the high-profile first purchases on government agency' new e-procurement hub, known as Zanzibar, did not quite have the right big-savings-from-cutting-edge-technology message.

London NHS hospital trust St Mary's was the first to take the plunge with the new system, which is designed to cut procurement costs across the public sector.

And what, you might wonder, were the first transactions that will in time save the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds? Well, since you ask, St Mary's bought three nurses' tunics for £20.

Just how many cut-price tunics does it take to pay for a government e-procurement hub? A fair few, wethinks.

It seems mobile phones also have long memories

Hot on the heels of warnings from the BBC about the perils of dumping our PCs without getting them professionally wiped first, it now seems mobile phones should come with the same health warning.

To make the point, security firm Trust Digital bought 10 phones on eBay and claims to have used widely available software to resurrect more than 27,000 pages of documents from just these devices.

Among the messages uncovered was a racy exchange between a married man and a woman where he warns that his wife is getting suspicious and they need to cool it for a bit. In a less gossipy but more troubling vein, another phone contained information on one firm's plans to win a multimillion-pound government transportation contract, and yet another offered up bank account and password details.

"We found a mountain of personal and corporate data," said Trust Digital CEO Nick Magliato, whose firm may or may not have a vested interest in getting us all worried.

Contribute to Downtime: If you have a funny IT-related story, we want to hear from you. [email protected]

Vote for your IT greats

Who have been the most influential people in IT in the past 40 years? The greatest organisations? The best hardware and software technologies? As part of Computer Weekly’s 40th anniversary celebrations, we are asking our readers who and what has really made a difference?

Vote now at:

Read more on IT risk management