Skip to main content
Use Invisible Ink

Quite unused to sensible comments on matters of technology from anywhere in the vicinity of Westminster, I was quite surprised to have seen two MPs, from opposite sides of the House, in the space of a single week, actually introduce useful arguments involving IT and its legislation.

First it was Labour MP, Derek Wyatt, who, after reading ‘Thought for the Day’ on the rising Spam plague, told me that he now plans to start a lobby group to campaign against this rapidly growing and seemingly unavoidable menace, responsible for clogging up our in-boxes with the worst kind of intrusive behavior.
Hard on the heels of Mr. Wyatt, comes Tory MP Michael Fabricant, who has reached the welcome conclusion that reading other people’s email, even if they happen to be your employees, just isn’t on.

In the wake of the RIP legislation, a new software industry has grown-up around an unrestricted license to snoop and only last month, a company released a thinly-disguised ‘Trojan’ product, aimed at Hotmail accounts, which for only $99 can invisibly forward all Hotmail and Instant Messaging traffic back to a third-party’s account.

While employers may have a legitimate interest, in very special circumstances, to intercept private email correspondence or even telephone calls, I believe that the emphasis has swung too far towards giving business ‘Carte Blanche’ to trawl at will. Personal privacy is a concept which has become increasingly threatened under this government and a new survey has revealed that one in five companies now monitors employees on a daily basis. Such news makes me increasingly apprehensive over the speed at which we appear to be embracing a ‘Big Brother’ society, a worry which is obviously shared by Michael Fabricant, who wishes to afford the same protection in law to email as exists for telephone calls and the post.

Whether either MP can exert influence over these two separate problems, is open to question. Spam is a global annoyance and email doesn’t respect EEC legislation, so cutting-off the Spam at source may be an impossible task. The solution can only lie in better and more powerful filtering and whose responsibility, I wonder, should that be?
And as for reading other people’s email, I very much doubt that this government would entertain any legislation that would encourage vigorous debate over the question of personal privacy; in the workplace or anywhere else. If one happens to follow the work of Privacy International or The Foundation for Information Policy Research, then it becomes abundantly clear, that thanks in part to a fear of terrorism and the introduction of new technology, we are losing civil liberties at Internet speed.

So don’t expect any sudden changes in the law. Stay at home, hide under a duvet and write your letters in invisible ink!


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …