A bit of politics

It was interesting earlier today to watch Charles Clarke and John Prescott on the BBC’s Politics Show talking about the future of Gordon Brown and the Labour party. On hand Charles Clarke is a Brown sceptic and wants there to be a leadership contest to take us into the next European and General elections whilst John Prescott argues this would take too long and lead to defeat in those same elections so the Labour party should rally around Brown for the next two years until the General election is won. Both want the Labour party to win the next election so hearing  from the both was quite educational – far more so than the usual Labour vs. Conservative debates.

The whole thing can be watched on the website (for now at least).

Opentech 2008

It’s been a long, long day, but at least I got to watch the final episode of Dr Who when I got home.

I wasn’t as inspired by the talks as other people seem to have been – the ones I attended seemed reasonably prosaic, although I did make a couple of notes to follow up on later. I think this means I need to change the criteria I use for choosing which talks I go to.

The social aspect was great though; the attendees, both speakers and audience alike, were awesome – a real cream of the crop. It might always be like that at London gatherings, I don’t know but it seemed great to me! Of couse, my view is probably tainted by the fact that I got to shake hands with Ben Goldacre (as I simpered like a girl).

Things I learned:

At the moment there are only two of the dozens of presentations on slideshare, but I hope they will be gathered together somewhere at some point soon.

Incidentally, Sir Bonar has written an excellent summary of the day.

Are pensioners the new revolutionaries?

I realise I’ve probably come to this a little late, but after reading the story of the chap in Bristol who chained himself to a lamppost in order to stop the council from taking it away who said “Retired people like me are going to lead the revolution”, it now seems obvious that this really is going to be the case in the future.

A sign saying 'Caution seniors'
Watch out old people!!
© Calamity Meg // CC

After all, people are living longer and birth rates are down, so we know that the population of pensioners is going to keep increasing while there are ever fewer employed people to sustain them. I think it’s fair to say that the UK sees political apathy on a massive scale, particularly amongst people under thirty, and with the two major parties so seemingly similar it only serves to drive up indifference. This means that we’ll have more than ever of what is normally considered the most politically motivated demographic (note: I can not find any statistics to back any of this up, the Electorial Commission seems to be lacking this kind of analysis) – and in particular those who have already retired will have the most time on their hands to wage whatever campaigns they see fit with no serious fear of reprisals (and it’s not as if they’ll have to take time off work).

Of course, there are some potential downsides:

  • retirement age is going to go up
  • cost of living will go up (a leverage point since the UK Government controls the state pension)
  • old people can’t get about as much or as easily – hopefully terminator-style bionics will fix this

Anyway, sounds good to me, viva la revolution! Now, where did I put my glasses?

Dear Parliament, you will lose

television proceedings and subsequent use on Members’ websites are undertaken subject to a licence issued by the Speaker. The licence stipulates that material must not be hosted on a searchable website and must not be downloadable. The reason for that is to ensure that it is not re-edited or reused inappropriately for campaigning or satirical purposes.

I’m not sure how much more of a fall you could set yourself up for.

On a related note, my MP, Kerry McCarthy, who has never voted for a transparent Parliament, had the 45th highest expenses of 645 MPs last year.

Safeguarding our data

Danger! Mental dumping ground ahead!

Like loads of other IT people in the UK, I’ve been pretty worried about the forthcoming compulsory centralised ID database in the UK. I’ve previously written to my MP, joined ORG and tried to spread the word.

In recent months there have been at least five large-scale (10,000 people or more) data security breaches where carelessness has put unencrypted data into what is effectively the public domain.

The press have been really picking up on this and running an awful lot of related stories. The BBC at the moment are running a “Have Your Say” on the subject of “How can we safeguard our data?” (yes, I know about its general quality, thanks), and there are a worrying number of comments like this one:

The nation should have a referendum now on whether this Government is fit to remain in power.

peter gallagher, london

Recommended by 82 people

In every one of the security problems to date, its not been the direct fault of the Government, but the Civil Service. That is to say, it’s not as if Gordon Brown’s been handing out people’s details on memory sticks; regardless of who we vote for, we’ll always get the Government. Even then, you can expect things like this to happen from time to time – they’re just people after all. It’s just that there are so many things that they could have been doing for years to make life easier for themselves such as routine encryption, file transfer by internal network (such as the Government Secure Intranet), strict laptop carry-out procedures and so on (also see the Cabinet Office’s page about risk management in the public sector). I’m sure they must live with a mountain of similar procedures already for their paper assets, the same needs to apply for their electronic ones as well.

Stuart Langridge recently asked a question along the lines of “Is it my fault if I make some piece of information public, and it is used against me?” – my worry with data security isn’t that I make something public, but that someone else, like a governmental body, does it for me. What rights do I have to make sure that my data is always encrypted? What rights do I have to withdraw data from their databases? What rights do I have to be informed if my data is leaked? (OK, this last one is currently up for debate)

If the government is at the stage where it thinks it can successfully roll out large single-centre data centres (which AFAIK it hasn’t managed to previously), all these details have presumably been dealt with already. Documents like the

Data Sharing Review Consultation suggest not.