Skip to main content

Photo Call

With the risk of a terrorist incident now raised to the level of 'Severe', I've come out from under my desk long enough to write this short blog entry, before returning to cover my windows in brown paper.

What this heightened state actually means in real terms is hard to fathom and the Home Secretary doesn't appear to be any wiser either. What he can't say of course is who might be responsible or indeed, whether 'they', whoever 'they' might be, may have returned from any recent adventure holiday break to Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia.



I'm pretty sure though, that if you went down to the bookmakers and placed a bet, call it risk profiling if you like, based on actual incidents over the last ten years, you would get pretty short odds on the suspects, leaving one to wonder why Auntie Mabel really needs to experience the indignity of airport body scanning, now she's passed the age of seventy.

So for now, we all have to treat each other with equal suspicion in what is yet another paragraph taken from George Orwell's novel, 1984, just in case….

"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

I heard on the BBC news this morning that Kent Police want to use BAE systems 'drones' – rather like the 'Predator' in Afghanistan but without the impressive weaponry' – for a range of different tasks which include traffic policing. Forgetting the enormous expense for one moment, I've a personal objection to unmanned aircraft buzzing around the world's busiest airspace. Last summer I was prevented from flying a banner over one of the V-Festivals in the north of England by the police and subsequently discovered the reason, that they were testing an unmanned drone, sitting over the stage at 2000 feet, watching and photographing the crowds. While I'm sure that the intelligence these systems offers can be extremely useful, the Kingsnorth power station demonstration would be an excellent example, I worry that the system would be abused; isn't it always, and the costs would detract from the investment to police communities properly, which is what people really want rather than 'RoboCop'.

Unfortunately, with 2012 and the Olympics fast approaching, I can promise you that RoboCop and much more is what we are going to get as the authorities become increasing paranoid and security conscious in the period between now and the games. But when the Olympics are over, the security infrastructure will remain in place and like proliferating CCTV, is most unlikely to be dismantled, ever.

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 …