Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ofcom net neutrality consultation

Ofcom asked me to speak this morning at their stakeholder consultation event on net neutrality; my slides are below. The other two speakers said what you would expect. BT (plus mobile network 3 in the audience) asked for evidence of harms that neutrality regulation would "fix", and complained of the difficulties of defining a minimum acceptable level of Quality of Service. Skype described how restrictive some mobile data packages are, blocking access to Voice over IP and most other peer-to-peer, audio and video applications.

Everyone agreed that the "open and neutral" Internet the European Commission and Parliament wish to see involves much wider issues of public policy than communications competition regulation. This heated discussion is likely to continue for several years, much of it in Brussels rather than London.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another database bites the dust

Our Database State report strikes again:
ContactPoint will be switched off on 6 August, ministers announced today.

In a ministerial statement, children's minister Tim Loughton said from noon that day users would no longer have access to the database that was set up to allow authorised children's services professionals across England to see who else was working with a child or young person. The data itself will be destroyed within two months of the closure.

ContactPoint was one of eleven systems we judged "almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law and should be scrapped or substantially redesigned. The collection and sharing of sensitive personal data may be disproportionate, or done without our consent, or without a proper legal basis; or there may be other major privacy or operational problems."

Cyberwar and other global risks

The Defence Secretary has told Parliament he will need to switch resources from conventional military tasks to tackling cyber threats:
Pressure on the defence budget required the government "to sacrifice things we can see for things we cannot see", he told the cross party committee of MPs, referring to the hidden danger of cyberwars.

Here is the presentation I gave last month to an OECD workshop on this subject:

Friday, July 02, 2010

Making the citizen heard in security research

During the 7th Framework Programme, the EU is spending €1.4bn on security research. Since the coming into effect of the Lisbon Treaty, the European institutions have a duty to ensure this research supports fundamental rights. The Commission is also keen to avoid the negative media coverage that has resulted from previous research that was less careful of citizens' privacy.

Yesterday I spoke and chaired a panel at a Commission conference on these societal security issues. I was interested to hear from one of the assistant chief police officers present that the Commission is still funding research that does not provide meaningful security tools to end-users, but has the potential to be extremely invasive.

One of my own suggestions was that in future the annual work programme be subject to ethical review before a call goes out for such proposals. I also suggested mechanisms for better institutional oversight of the security programme: